Bombardier’s Wichita Facility ‘Alive’ And Under Transition

Learjet site
Credit: Molly McMillin/AviationWeekNetwork

DORVAL, QUEBEC-Bombardier is transitioning the Wichita facility, retraining its staff and growing its service business as it prepares to deliver its final Learjet off the production line early in 2022. 

The company stresses that it is not abandoning the Learjet brand or its Wichita presence. A transition is underway. 

The site is very much alive and well, officials stress.

“What do we do with Wichita was a key question for us because this is a group of talented people we have there,” Eric Martel, Bombardier president and CEO, told The Weekly of Business Aviation  ahead of its unveiling of the Challenger 3500 business jet at its Dorval, Quebec site. “We have engineering capability–a lot of knowledge.”

Bombardier, which employs about 1,000 in Wichita, is establishing a Center of Excellence in Wichita for missionized aircraft, such as air ambulances and aircraft for military surveillance systems. It also operates a flight test center and expanding its service center to maintain Learjet, Challenger and some Global business jets and doubled its service center staffing.

Bombardier announced in February that it planned to stop production on the Learjet to focus on its more lucrative medium and large business jet segments. 

“So, what we see in our Wichita site is really the ability to bring engineering, parts fabrication, parts storage, service, center of excellence and custom design capabilities all together in one site,” says Christopher Debergh, vice president of OEM parts and service in Wichita. “Frankly, (there) isn’t really within the Bombardier network another site that has this level of capability.”

Its largest capability on engines anywhere in the network is in the facility with multiple approvals to work on multiple platforms. Its field assistants and engineering support teams are in place and it has added a large wheel and tire shop in the past year. 

The company will continue to support the iconic Learjet brand. More than 3,000 have been put into service since 1963 and more than 2,000 are flying today.

“When someone outside, other than Bombardier, needs engineering help on the Learjet, they come to us,” Debergh says. “They need a special part fabricated? They’re typically coming to us. We really are pulling all this into one site.”

Today, 130 – 150 technicians are at work assembling the Learjet 75 Liberty light jet and have been with the company for 15-25 years. The company has been helping them retain to become certified airframe and powerplant mechanics, a natural move. 

“The other thing about Wichita is that Wichita really is the heart of our Learjet engineering capabilities,” Debergh says. “So, we have engineering there. We have a trained workforce in our technicians there.

That isn’t going away.”

It plans to turn its manufacturing warehouses into spare parts facilities. It also will expand into two additional hangars in the next two months and two more hangars early in 2022.

One advantage for the site is its location in the center of the country making it easy for aircraft owners to bring their aircraft for service. 

With two paint shops, it can paint Learjets along with most of the Challenger fleet, perform inspections and work on back shop activities, such as landing gear overhauls, avionics upgrades and interior reworks Debergh says.

The site is the home base to support NetJets’ fleet of 150 Bombardier aircraft. 

And it is central to Bombardier’s “Racer” remanufacturing program for Learjet 40 and 45 aircraft, which provides interior and exterior refurbishment.

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.