Bombardier Monitoring Learjet, Light Jet Segment

Credit: Bombardier

The COVID-19 pandemic may create momentum in the light business jet segment should it lead to what some expect will be an increase in passengers turning to private aviation. 

“Will this trend to have more people wishing to travel aboard private jets recreate the momentum for the ‘light’ aircraft segment, as we say, that is the Learjet segment,” Eric Martel, Bombardier president and CEO, said on a recent call with reporters regarding Bombardier’s first-quarter financial results. Martel was responding to a question about Learjet’s future. 

“So, it remains to be seen,” Martel said in a translation of his French reply. “Today, it’s only a theory, but sometimes strong trends, like the fear of viruses and all that, could recreate the momentum in a segment like this one.” 

The light jet market suffered during the recession that began in 2008. 

“Speaking about the light jet segment, which is more our Learjet segment, that market went through a rather rough time,” Martel said. “Since 2008 … that market has declined and never really recovered in the last 12 years.”

In previous economic downturns, Bombardier’s large aircraft segment has been more robust. “And obviously, it’s become really quite significant for us. It’s a vast majority of our deliveries,” he said. 

In 2019, Bombardier delivered 12 Learjet light business jets, compared to 12 in 2018, 14 in 2017, 24 in 2016 and 32 in 2015, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. 

In 2008, business jet manufacturers delivered 371 light jets. By 2015, light jet deliveries decreased to a low of 70 before steadily increasing to a total of 162 in 2019. 

In contrast, manufacturers delivered 195 large jets in 2008, which rose to a high of 249 in 2013. In 2019, large jet deliveries totaled 207.  

Over the next months and years, Bombardier will take time to evaluate how trends in the Learjet and light jet segment evolve, Martel said. 

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.