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Aeronautics News | The Wichita Eagle Headquartered in Mildenhall, England, the Air Refueling Wing (100 ARW) fills up a B-52 during an Arctic mission. AeroSystems hopes to be part of an aero exchange programme for the ageing aircraft. When 53 non-delivered aircraft were left in front of Boeing's Renton, Wash, last weekend, from just over 40 a little over a month ago, the shop floor employees felt the pressures of continuous hours of extra work and a relentless rise in work in progress.

Although the firm reassured Wall Street analyst Seattle that the Boeing 737 jet pile-up had reached its peak and will be resolved by the end of the year, some frontline staff were less upbeat.

Withdrawal of the Learjet in today's saturated business aircraft market

However, with the latest wave of corporate planes coming onto the scene in recent years, such as the Cessna Citation Latitude and Longitude, Dassault Falcon 7x and Bombardier Global 7000, there is one plane that will not see a new type on the scene, the Learjet. Once one of the first to provide a commercial airliner the Learjet was an important component for small corporate planes.

The LearJet was founded in 1962 when William'Bill' Powell Lear, the company's founding father, relocated the American Aviation Corporation from Altenrhein, Germany, to Wichita, Kansas, in an effort to lower manufacturing cost. Lear envisioned developing a corporate jet for companies to use instead of using airliners to do the work.

Learjet's initial model was the Learjet 23, which was a six - to eight-seater plane with a cruising distance of 1,830 nautical miles at 518 milliph. Whereas the plane was not the greatest hit with only 100 orders, the later LearJet 24 and LearJet 25 were much more successful as the two models sold 259 and 369 more.

Though the Learjet 23, 24 and 25 would be an early hit in the early sixties, the jetbuilder would reach its climax in the seventies with the Learjet 35's inauguration. Originally the Learjet was already ten years old and the competitors from the Dassault Falcon 10 and Cessna Citation I would result in a new variant of the Learjet 25.

The Learjet 35's flying test began in 1973 and the plane became a great hit, surpassing both the Dassault and Cessna originals with 738 orders in 20 years. From a statistical point of view, the plane was far ahead of the competition and offered the best reach, the highest servicing blanket and the highest take-off mass. And the only statistics the Learjet ever suffered was the top velocity that went to the Falcon 10 with a top velocity of 566 cph.

Learjet had seen the initial designs selling over 1,000 shots since the founding of the firm, but the manufacturer wanted to develop a new plane from the ground up. Given that Beechcraft and Cessna are the only names on the Wichita markets to offer numerous competitions for corporate jets, Learjet presented its new concept: the Learjet 55.

Aeroplanes would be sacrificing cruising distance and airspeed for cabins' convenience and refuelling efficiencies, hoping to rival the bigger Cessna Citation and Bae 125 hull. It would also see changes to the airfoil texture by taking away the wingtip tankers, placing them in the broader part of the airfoil and substituting the ends with a winglet.

Although the Learjet 55 was not as loved as the Learjet 35, the firm chose to develop the Learjet 55 further, and as soon as orders for the 35s were close to being completed, it launched its latest version, the Learjet 45. It had to react to the great triumph of Cessna Citation, which established Citation II, III, IV, V Encore, VI and VII in the early 1970' and 1980' and received a combined order book of 2,887 over 13 years.

Knowing that the 55's designs were the company's bright side, at the end of the 80's work began on the designs to build a new plane equipped with modernized engines and three additional legs body. Learjet 60 would make its maiden voyage in 1990 and begin delivery in 1993.

Still not as successful as the Learjet 35, the aircraft only won 400 orders in its 20-year construction phase. Among the causes of the Learjet fights in the 1960s was the spate of corporate aircraft on offer in the 80s and early 90s, with their inter-airport competitors designing the Citation Excel, Mustang, X and CitationJet and receiving a further 2,000 orders for these aircraft.

Further planes that were selling well at that period were the new Hawker 800, the Bombardier Challenger and the new Dassault Falcon 900 and 1000. The Learjet 45 would lag behind in performance, while the next version would revitalise the business one last year. The Bombardier Learjet had the Learjet 60 equipped with new single jets and replaced its Pratt & Whitney PW305A turbocharger with specially developed Honeywell TFE731-20 turbochargers.

The changes would result in the company's newest Learjet 45, and the first of 642 planes would go into operation in 1995. Due to the high price of Gulf War fuels and the lower piece costs, the 45 was more appealing than the Learjet 60, and at $13.2 million, over $1 million less expensive than the 60.

The Learjet 45 floated under Bombardier's command and in 2003 the plane was converted into the Learjet 40, which featured a shortened body and extended-range model for both the Learjet 40 and the 45. Because of its greater cruising distance, the Learjet 45XR's max take-off mass and new dashboard displays, it was much more beloved.

Unfortunately, the Learjet 45-XR would cause the fall of the Learjet. Aircraft manufacturer would be offering a similar Learjet 60-XR in the latter 2000', which would be poorly sold due to the financial crises and would result in an "interruption of production" of Learjets 45 and 60 in 2012. Though Learjet had problems, they were not alone.

All Cessna, Beechcraft and Hawker had fused to form Textron Aviation, and in 2013 Textron decided to abandon the Hawker name. In addition, the sale of the Cessna Citation Sovereign decelerated and the Cessna Citation Columbus was cancelled before it even got off the drawboard. In addition, turnover with other corporate aircraft such as Embraer Phenom and Dassault Falcon decelerated as a result of a decline in market conditions.

The Learjet, however, would never recover as strongly as others. In 2013, the airline would begin flying tests on the Learjet 75, hoping to produce several hundred order lists like previous series. The only changes to the Learjet 75, however, were a new Bombardier Global Express styled nose cone and wings, an enhanced Honeywell TFE731-40BR motor and additional outreach.

Apart from the small changes, the plane was exactly the same as the Learjet 45. Learjet 75 didn't go so fast. In 2013, the company's newest aircraft was type-certified and in its four years of launch last past last season has just won 100 shipments, and shipments have already been exceeded by its competitor Cessna Citation Latitude, which was launched one and a half years after the Learjet.

In the face of tight budgets and growing demands for the Learjet 75, the airline made a last effort to resell the latest Learjet with a modification named Learjet 85, which was heralded in 2010. The PW307B from Pratt & Whitney had been approached again by Bombardier in order to drive the plane, which was to be the first of its kind to be made mainly of coal fibre.

Because of the lightweight and powerful nature of the plane, it would provide an additional 300 nautical mile range compared to the Learjet 75. Learjet 85 would make its maiden voyage in 2014, but its solar period would not be so long. Consequently, Bombardier would also reduce 1,000 jobs related to the Learjet and decelerate the Learjet 75 output in the hope of prolonging the life of the Wichita line.

Whilst Learjet's predicament looks gloomy, the competitors have experienced some better days. The Cessna has already achieved Citation Latitude successes and began flying tests with her Citation Longitude sibling. Long haul aircraft are enjoying increasing popularity as Cessna designed the long haul Citation Hemisphere and Dassault and Gulfstream aircraft, both of which had the Falcon 6x and respectively the Falcon 500 in the pipeline.

In addition, new smaller and more diverse aircraft such as the HondaJet and the Pilatus PC-24 give the already congested corporate Jet scene a new face. Since there are no drafts in the works and Bombardier hopes to launch the Global 8000 soon, Learjet will only have to hopefully bring in 75 orders until a new small commercial aircraft is needed.

In the overcrowded corporate aircraft market, however, this job is much simpler said than done for one of the oldest corporate aircraft manufacturers ever. With more than 40 hrs Cessna 172, Diamond DA-20 and Piper PA-28 he is a professional rider.

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