Bombardier will significantly increase the annual production rate of its midsize Learjet 60, the company announced at NBAA last week. The move is in response to strong demand from traditional and fractional ownership markets.
The Learjet manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kansas, will increase the production rate from two to three aircraft per month effective in 2000.
The production rate increase will be accomplished with an investment at the Learjet facility in Wichita and the Bombardier completion center in Tucson, Arizona.
Bombardier has delivered a total of 168 Learjet 60s so far, capturing more than 30% of the midsize market category.
As of mid-September some 40 Learjet 45s have been delivered to customers worldwide. About 10 more are in final stages of completion, says Bombardier.
"We can safely state that deliveries are outpacing its nearest competitor and sales are exceeding our internal forecasts," says Bombardier Business Aircraft president Robert Gillespie.
The Learjet 45 has captured a 55% share of deliveries in the super-light business jet category after less than two years in service. From May 1998 to the end of June 1999, a total of 23 light business jets were delivered.
The first Learjet 45 joined the FlexJet fractional ownership program this year with 16 projected to be in the fleet by 2000.
The Learjet 45 has set nine world records for speed since its introduction into service last year. The fleet has chalked up in excess of 8,000 flight hours with a dispatch reliability record of 99.6%, Gillespie says.
Bombardier is expected to deliver the 50th aircraft into corporate service by the end of this year.
Bombardier introduced a series of improvements to the Learjet 31A light business jet at the NBAA show last week. The enhancements should offer operators better mission flexibility and a revised inspection program that will help reduce maintenance down time.
The changes include a 700-pound increase in maximum landing weight to 16,000 pounds.
"This increase will offer a substantial improvement in the Learjet 31A's multi-hop capability and further confirms its position as offering the most mission flexibility in its class," Gillespie says.
The standard MTOW is also being raised by 500 pounds to 17,000 pounds for added payload flexibility. The new maximum payload with full fuel will be 1,936 pounds.
Other enhancements include: standard thrust reversers; new dual R134a cooling system; standard universal UNS-1C flight management system; improved winglets; new N1-DEEC engine controls; lighter and more reliable dual Attitude Heading and Reference System.
These changes will be standard beginning with aircraft 31A-194.
The new maintenance schedule will offer a 30% reduction in maintenance man-hours and downtime while increasing aircraft availability over a 2,400-hour cycle. There will also be an escalation of more than 140 inspection tasks, and the company will move some environmental tasks, such as corrosion inspection and bacterial growth in fuel tanks, to a straight 24-month calendar.
The program has been tested on Wal-Mart's corporate fleet of 15 Learjets with excellent results, says Gillespie.
Bombardier announced a significant avionics upgrade to the Challenger 604 widebody business jet, starting with deliveries of green aircraft in early 2001.
The upgraded Rockwell Collins Pro Line 4 avionics suite will now be retrofittable for in-service aircraft through service bulletins available throughout Bombardier's business aircraft services unit. It's now standard equipment on new aircraft.
The upgrades also include: automatic look-up of takeoff and approach and landing speeds, missed approach speeds, weight limits, runway lengths and climb gradients; automatic look-up and display of thrust settings for takeoff, climb, cruise and go-around; FMS blending of actual observed wind and entered wind; and improved information required for North Atlantic waypoint reporting.
Optional features will include: a 3-D profile map display; long-range and high-speed cruise speed; automatically generated waypoints to fly fixed search patterns; and expanded Flight Data Recorder function.
Bombardier is also investigating a number of potential enhancements for Global Express operators.
"We are moving forward to explore potential modifications in aerodynamics, performance, weight savings and increased weight takeoff capability," said John Holding, executive vice president, engineering and product development.
These possibilities were discussed by Bombardier during the performance flight test program last spring. As the only aircraft in its category resulting from a clean sheet design, the Global Express is the ultra-long-range business jet with the best growth potential, Holding says.
Upgrade plans include VNAV, windshear detection improvements and Category II capabilities, which are scheduled to be available in early 2000.
An increased MTOW option will also be forthcoming. Currently certified at 95,000 pounds, Bombardier has successfully tested the Global Express for 96,000 pounds. Certification is planned for December. This requires no change to the basic airframe, and is a retrofittable option, Holding says. This option is offered for interiors that may be heavier than standard ones. Bombardier does all the completion work on its business jets.
There are plans to improve low-speed performance, which Bombardier didn't do during the original certification. These modifications will be introduced next year resulting in expected improvement in takeoff distance up to 500 feet.
Bombardier also plans to increase the range of the Global Express by 150-200 nautical miles.
The Global Express orderbook currently stands at 105, Bombardier says, and three aircraft are currently in service.