It was no ordinary business jet delivery ceremony at Bombardier Learjet on Friday.
This Learjet 75 delivery at the company’s facilities on the west side of Wichita Eisenhower National Airport was attended by 1,300 people — most of whom were employees. But there also were retirees, Gov. Sam Brownback, U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, executives from the company’s Montreal headquarters and founder Bill Lear’s daughter-in-law, Brenda Lear.
They were on hand to celebrate two milestones: the delivery of the 3,000th Learjet business jet, and the 100th delivery of the Learjet 75.
Leggett & Platt, a Missouri-based diversified manufacturer of industrial and residential products and furniture, was the recipient of the milestone jet, its second Learjet 75.
“I think what’s touched me today the most is to see the outpouring of people that wanted to be here when they heard about this event coming,” said David Coleal, Bombardier Business Aircraft president.
“It really shows … the passion and the pride that this iconic brand instills in all of us every day.”
The first Learjet, a Learjet 23, was delivered in 1964 to Chemical & Industrial Corp. in Cincinnati, said Al Higdon, one of Learjet’s early employees who attended Friday’s event. Higdon, co-founder of advertising agency SHS, was part of a public relations team charged by Bill Lear to make his new Learjet airplane synonymous with business jets.
Since that first delivery, the Wichita site has produced 14 Learjet types, including the current Learjet 70 and 75.
Under Montreal-based Bombardier, which acquired Learjet in 1990, the company has introduced four of those models and a variant of one of them, the 45XR.
Coleal, who led the Wichita site from 2008 to 2011, also used the event to highlight the Wichita site’s diversity. In addition to Learjet, the site is also home to the Bombardier Flight Test Center, a service center that in the past couple of years has expanded to include maintenance, repair and overhaul of the company’s largest business jets — the Global 5000 and 6000 — and the Special Missions Group tasked with performing modifications to Bombardier business jets used for military and other specific applications.
To that end, the company had on display a C Series CS300 airliner and a Global 7000, both of which are undergoing flight testing, as well as a Learjet 75, Learjet 40 test aircraft and a Challenger 605.
“The Wichita site has become a key pillar in Bombardier’s future,” Coleal said. “The site has diversified and expanded, and truly represents what makes Bombardier exceptional.
“With all that said, our roots will always remain with Learjet.”