Black LearjetAmerican Learjet
The first Learjet 28 Still fantastic
First Learjet 28 Longhorn (serial number 28-001) drove at 50,000 ft somewhere between Allentown, Pa. and Mattoon, Ill., when the thought struck me. Dead Neil Armstrong, the first man to go to the moon, had that plane flying and here I was driving in the Cab.
When Armstrong, then Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering (and member of the Gates Learjet Bord of Directors) and Learjet test driver Pete Reynolds broke five grade record flights of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and National Aeronautic Association on February 19 and 20, 1979, it was 28-001, then a Learjet prototyping aircraft, that made it to the top of the world.
And two of the record (for elevation and continuing elevation in the hover flight) were established on a trip from Wichita to Elizabeth City, N.J., while the fast prototyping jets crossed at 15,534. However, the Learjet 28 at 50,000 ft was a more private one. Further pictures of the Learjet 28 can be found here.
Head of Service, Phil Burkert, was sitting on the front seats front row leftside, his legs stretching out on the air staircase doors of the Learjet. On our way to Wichita, we exhibited 28-001 at Bombardier's "Learjet 50 Years of Flight" show, which celebrates the fiftieth birthday of the first Learjet ever, October 23, 1963, on October 7, 1963.
Plans were made to make the flyers available to Learjet staff, their family and other invitees. Inside is a photograph of Armstrong and Reynolds in the small dashboard of the turbojet-powered aircraft, their shoulder almost hitting each other and brilliant light rinsing out part of the dashboard.
Dinan and Dietz didn't look much different from Armstrong and Reynolds from my booth location, and many of the "steam knife instruments" still on the screen are the same as in the picture. I could easily conceive that Neil and Pete would fly the plane the other way during their record-breaking mission.
"I said, Neil Armstrong went to the moon," in an unnecessary muffled squeak. Like Armstrong, my dad was a former Navy pilot, and I saw this historical incident on black and red television. With this Learjet 28, Armstrong had made story again. Here I was in the same plane, almost at the same height and (as I imagined) possibly in the same air space.
The LR Services manage 28-001 for its owners, who permitted chartering until 2010. However, when the price of petrol became so high that the running cost of the 28s pushed the break-even chart rates beyond what the aircraft could support, the owners ordered LR to put the aircraft down. Turbines combust the propellant amazingly in comparison to today's state-of-the-art turboprop power plants, especially at lower elevations, and the 28 General Electric CJ610-8As are no different, combusting about 1,400 lbs per hour whether at height or on the airstrip.
The plane's getting up! In my opinion, on the way back from Wichita we just five min after take-off went through 15,000ft. The 28 is a fast Mach 0. 81-max plane. In the meantime, the aircraft still has the possibility for the aircraft to be sold, perhaps to a collectors, or to be licensed only for use on an air show.
He has to do something, unless he wants to return it to permanent parking, because as of January 1, 2016, the 28 (a level 2 aircraft) will no longer be allowed to fly in the neighboring U.S. Another possibility would be to include interference suppression devices in the engine as provided by Avcon Industries for the Learjets of the 20 series.
As Burkert tells me, after the aircraft was left by its owners for the first year, he took charge of the calendar-based controls, but then let them expire. Much of the money was spent on changing empty battery in standby lighting, and it seemed useless to buy new ones if the plane was not in use.
Learjet LR eventually approached Learjet to bring the plane to Wichita for the 50-year jubilee ceremony. It performed all A to B tests, as well as the next hour-based test (28-001, constructed in 1979, recorded about 8,400 flying hours). The Learjet 28 turned out to be one of the greatest landmarks at the 50-year jubilee celebration.
A lot of people were attracted to the unknown 20-series helicopter, which was the world's first serial winglet plane, and amazed by its story with Neil Armstrong. Out of all the Learjets and Challengers and Globals exhibited (admittedly many test planes and others were in assembly) the only other open doorship for walkins was a Flexjet powered Learjet 40.
Whereas headwind on our Sunday trip to Wichita required a refueling stop, which we did a little more than half way at Coles County Memorial Airport near Mattoon, the way back to KABE was non-stop. 28-001 no longer a fame, 28-001 looks like any other commercial aircraft on a runway anywhere in the can.