20/Twenty: Learjet 70/75

During its quarterly earnings report in February 2021, Canadian manufacturer Bombardier announced its decision to cease production of the Learjet 75 Liberty by the end of the year, closing out the latest model of a renowned line of business jets that first entered service in 1963.

Part of a company-wide restructuring that will see Bombardier shed 1,600 positions in Canada as well as in the U.S., the phase-out of Learjet will cost 250 jobs at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, where Bombardier builds and services the Learjet line and also services Challenger and Global models.

“This is a decision we did not take lightly,” said Bombardier President and CEO Eric Martel. “With more than 3,000 aircraft delivered since its entry into service, the iconic Learjet has had a remarkable and lasting impact on business aviation…Of course, we will continue to fully support the Learjet fleet well into the future.”

Along those lines, Bombardier introduced the Learjet RACER remanufacturing program for Learjet 40/45s, which is expected to increase the residual value of those jets. The program includes interior refurbishments, the Honeywell DU-875 Primus Elite avionics upgrade, and installation of the Gogo Avance L5 4G air-to-ground connectivity system.

The Wichita operations, which Bombardier acquired in 1990, will continue to serve as the company’s primary flight-test center and become a center of excellence for special mission aircraft, said Martel. On June 1, the U.S. Air Force said it had awarded the Learjet subsidiary an indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity contract to outfit up to six Bombardier Global 6000s as Battlefield Airborne Communications Node E-11As, an agreement worth up to $464.8 million.

Having sold its CRJ Series regional aircraft program to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in June 2020, its certain aerostructures and aftermarket services to Spirit AeroSystems in October 2020, and its rail business to Alstom in January this year, Bombardier has recreated itself as a pure-play business aviation company. The manufacturer says it is committed to ongoing support of the Learjet line, but is focused now on its Challenger and Global-series jets, including the flagship, 7,700 nm-range Global 7500, which entered service in December 2018.

Bombardier delivered 11 Learjets in 2020, down from 12 in 2019. The Learjet 75 Liberty faces competition in the light jet segment from the Embraer Phenom 300, Citation CJ4 Gen2 and Pilatus PC-24—each of which is advantaged by being single-pilot certified, whereas the Learjet is a two-crew aircraft. Market leader Embraer Executive Jets delivered 50 Phenom 300s last year.

“We believe right now that we have an amazing product on the Learjet, but the product [has] a lot of competition,” Martel told analysts. “This is not the market segment that brings profitability right now. We are basically saying: let’s focus on where we [have] a leading product and where we believe that the margin will be better moving forward.”

Bombardier’s attestations notwithstanding, the impact of its not unexpected decision on the market for pre-owned Learjets remains to be told. “The Lear name in general has been hurt by the fact that they’ve discontinued Learjets, officially this year,” remarked Ventura Air Services CEO Nick Tarascio, whose jet charter and management company operates a fleet that includes Learjet 35As and 55s.

There are two possible directions the market can take, said Geoff Carlyle, director of business development with Skyservice Business Aviation, an aircraft sales, management, maintenance and charter company and FBO with headquarters in Toronto and facilities across Canada.

“Whenever an OEM decides to remove an aircraft from production it does two things: it makes some [people] leery about future support and the possibility of increased costs for parts,” Carlyle told BCA. “After Beechcraft went into receivership and was purchased by Textron, I remember seeing the Beech Premier’s fate sealed, and one of our customers at the time ended up paying huge increases for parts support.”

Carlyle continued: “Alternatively, it makes certain people want [an aircraft] more. Learjet is an iconic brand and has been around since 1962. When the layman speaks of private or corporate jets, the household name is ‘Learjet’ and has been for six decades. I believe there are a great deal of Learjet loyalists still out there who not only believe in the brand but also see the benefits of the performance capabilities and will continue to seek the brand.”

As of June, there were 144 Learjet 75s and 14 -70s operating worldwide, according to the Aviation Week Network Fleet Discovery database. Carlyle reported two Learjet 70s for sale, with an average asking price of $4.7 million. There were six Learjet 75s for sale, with asking prices ranging from $5.5 million to $7.9 million, he said.

Learjet 70 cockpit
Announced in 2012 as successors to the Learjet 40XR and 45XR, the Learjet 70/75 comes equipped with the Garmin G5000 avionics suite, featuring high-resolution widescreen displays and touchscreen controls. Credit: Skyservice Business Aviation

Bombardier announced the Learjet 70 and 75 twinjets at the EBACE 2012 conference in Geneva as longer-range, updated variants of the Learjet 40XR and 45XR. The successor 70/75 are fitted with the Garmin G5000 avionics suite, featuring high-resolution, widescreen displays and touchscreen controls; new canted winglets; and more powerful Honeywell TFE731-40BR turbofan engines, each rated at 3,850 lb. takeoff thrust. Both have the same maximum takeoff weight (21,500 lb.), but they differ in cabin length and range/payload capability.

The Learjet 70 cabin measures 17 ft. 8 in.in length; it seats six passengers, with range of 1,849 nm including NBAA IFR reserves and all seats occupied, or 2,060 nm maximum with two pilots and four passengers. The Learjet 75 cabin measures 19 ft. 7 in. and seats eight passengers in double club configuration. The jet’s advertised range is 2,040 nm carrying four passengers and IFR reserves. Both the 70/75 have a belted lavatory for an additional passenger. 

Learjet 75 cabin
Double club seating configuration of the Learjet 75. The Liberty version of the aircraft replaces two seats in the forward cabin with two fold-down ottomans, creating an “executive suite” forward. Credit: Skyservice Business Aviation 

Passengers like the ability to quickly travel to altitude, well above traffic and weather and cruise at max speeds of 520 ktas (Mach 0.81),” said Carlyle. “The cabin is comfortable with a flat floor, and it has amenities such as a forward galley and aft enclosed lavatory. Optional items include Wi-Fi connectivity and entertainment systems.”

The Learjet 75 payload with full fuel is 1,798 lb. Charter and corporate operators “like having the ability to ‘fill the tanks’ and still carry eight passengers,” said Carlyle. “Not to mention the simplicity and intuitiveness of the Garmin 5000 avionics suite, combined with the quicker climb to altitude and hot and high performance, all thanks to the Honeywell TFE 731-40BR-1B [engines] and canted winglet design,” he added.

Maintenance intervals on the Learjet 70/75 are at 12, 36, 72 and 108 months, with the landing gear inspection every eight years. The Honeywell engine time before overhaul is 6,000 hrs., with hot-section inspection at 3,000 hrs.

In July 2019, Bombardier announced the price-reduced Learjet 75 Liberty, which was “rescoped” with fewer passenger seats (6) to make for a more spacious cabin, and optional instead of standard auxiliary power unit. The factory-new list price of the Liberty is $9.9 million, according to the summer 2021 edition of the Aircraft Bluebook, compared to $13.8 million specified for the Learjet 75. The manufacturer delivered the first Liberty to Syracuse, New York-based auction firm Alex Lyon & Son in October 2020.

The Liberty replaces two seats in the forward cabin with two fold-down ottomans and fold-out tables, creating an “executive suite” forward with four-place club seating aft. Maximum range increased by 40 nm to 2,080 nm at Mach 0.76 cruise speed with four passengers, two crew and IFR reserves, according to Bombardier.

“I believe that the Learjet is still excellent value and will continue to be supported by Bombardier, which has seen nothing but growth in the last few years with its focus seemingly on the Challenger 350/650 and Global line-ups,” said Carlyle. 

Of the customer base, he added: “I think there are a lot of loyal Learjet people out there, people who have stayed in the product line because it served them well. The people who are looking at one of my pre-owned aircraft right now are coming out of a 45XR. The aircraft served them very well, they just wanted to get something newer. But they liked the range, they liked the number of seats, they liked the payload capability. I think I’m going to get an offer today.”

Bill Carey

Based in Washington, D.C., Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.