It was sad news for all aviation fans last week, when Bombardier announced it will end new production of the Learjet line later this year. The longstanding and original private jet brand has seen over 3,000 deliveries in its nearly 60-year history, with recent models including the Learjet 75 still active and popular in the private jet charter market.
Bombardier’s CEO Éric Martel said the decision to end production wasn’t taken lightly: “The iconic Learjet has had a remarkable and lasting impact on business aviation”, he said. However, he recognised how the brand has struggled to compete with rivals in recent years, attributing the decision to “the number of new entrants in the light jet segment and the challenging market dynamic”.
And the Learjet range certainly has its downsides versus rival models in the light and midsize jet market, notably Embraer’s highly-successful Phenom 300 and Cessna’s Citation XLS. It is more expensive for one, and passenger feedback can be mixed, with some feeling it has a less spacious feel to the cabin, and more limited baggage space.
But the Learjets certainly do have speed and range on their side – they are fast and sleek, and often able to go further than the competition. And they are popular amongst pilots, who enjoy their high performance.
In addition to the Learjet, Bombardier’s private jet line-up includes the larger Challenger and ultra long-range Global families. And it seems that the Canadian manufacturer wants to focus its attention on the larger and more profitable end of the market. Both ranges have significantly outperformed the Learjet in recent years. The Global 7500 is the world’s largest and longest range business jet, and the Challenger 350 has been a consistent sales success.
But the legacy brand value of the Learjet will certainly be a loss for the company – with the name synonymous with private jets since the 1960s.
History of the Learjet
The original Learjet 23 was created by serial entrepreneur Bill Lear and took off in October 1963.
The Learjet set the standard for private jets for the next two decades. There was nothing in civilian aviation that could compete on performance. Fast and effective, it offered a level of convenience and accessibility that set the bar high.
Over the following twenty years, models such as the Learjet 40, 45, 60, 70 and 75 proved very successful, until Textron-owned Cessna began to dominate the light jet market with its Citation range from the 1980s onwards. Brazilian manufacturer Embraer also joined the race in 2007 with the launch of the Phenom 100 and later the Phenom 300.
Bombardier re-engineered the Learjet 75 in response, and later the lighter and less expensive Liberty version, but neither was able to change the direction of travel for the brand.
The Learjet brand will live on in the charter market
The good news for Learjet fans is that despite the end of new production, some Learjet models will continue to be available in the private jet charter market for years to come, including the Learjet 75 and 45 models which remain popular with many PrivateFly clients.
Bombardier stresses that it will continue supporting and servicing Learjet models and has also announced a “Racer” remanufacturing program for Learjet 40 and 45 aircraft, with a bundled set of enhancements.