This month Bombardier commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Learjet’s first flight even as the company struggles to launch a larger new flagship, the Model 85, and switch to composite airframe construction. Since 1963, Learjet has become one of the world’s most iconic brands, often generically misused to describe any make/model of private jet, and a conspicuous sign of affluence.
The 50th anniversary of the first flight of the first Learjet, the Model 23, on Oct. 7, 1963, begged to be celebrated and Bombardier obliged with gusto, holding two events at the company’s main assembly facility in Wichita on October 4 and 5 and inviting current and former employees and their families, a few special guests and owners and operators who brought examples of almost every Learjet production model. Only the Learjet 55 was absent, as the aircraft planned for the celebration could not make it at the last minute.
This month Bombardier commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Learjet’s first flight even as the company struggles to launch a larger new flagship, the Model 85, and switch to composite airframe construction. Since 1963, Learjet has become one of the world’s most iconic brands, often generically misused to describe any make/model of private jet, and a conspicuous sign of affluence. Early Learjet owners included crooner Frank Sinatra and industrialist Louise Timken, and their aircraft were a far cry from the comfortable cabins of today.
Piper Aircraft has announced several leadership changes. President John Becker resigned from the company and was succeeded by Kevin Gould, who retained his title of CEO. Jeff Barger, formerly senior director of manufacturing, has been promoted to v-p of manufacturing operations, while Dr. Dennis Olcott, previously the company’s senior director of engineering, has been named v-p of engineering.
“Five hundred years from now, you’ll want to be able to pop open something on the aircraft and see how it worked,” noted David Hahn, acting collections manager for the Science Education Center in Richmond, Va. For the past 13 years Hahn has cared for N802L, the Model 23 Continental that was the first production aircraft from Lear Jet. Now N802L has come home, as a wave of artifacts arrive each day for reassembly at the Steven F.
Moya Lear, wife of aviation visionary Bill Lear and a visionary in her own right, died December 5 at her home in Verdi, Nev., just outside Reno. She was 86. A year ago, she had undergone surgery on a cancerous lung tumor, which was found to have returned last July.
With 600 now in service, the Bombardier (née Canadair) Challenger is assured a place in history 25 years after its first flight on Nov. 8, 1978. A further almost 20 examples of the latest variant, the Challenger 300 (neé Continental), were in production at Bombardier’s Wichita factory at the start of last month, according to AvData.
Learjet–arguably business aviation’s most enduring brand name–turned 40 last month. At the NBAA Convention, Learjet team members and customers, both past and present, gathered to hail the anniversary of the Lear 23’s 4 p.m. first flight on Oct. 7, 1963. And, with the looming service entry of the new Learjet 40 and 45XR models, Bombardier is determined to ensure the 40-year-old avoids any sort of midlife crisis.
When Bill Lear visited Switzerland more than 40 years ago, he was introduced to the P-16 fighter and became especially captivated with the wing design. That led to the design of the wing of the Learjet 23 and its first flight on Oct. 7, 1963. The rest of the story, as it is said, is history. The 40th anniversary of the first flight of the Learjet 23 falls, coincidentally, on the first day of this year’s NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla.
In a world where many marriages barely last a year and political alliances often don’t survive the night, a successful business relationship of 30 years is at the very least remarkable.
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