The 50th anniversary yesterday of the maiden 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 its main assembly facility in Wichita over the weekend. Invited were current and former employees and their families, several special guests and owners and operators who brought examples of almost every Learjet ever produced.
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.
Bombardier apparently held a private “production rollout” of the all-composite Learjet 85 on September 7 at its Wichita facility, according to a YouTube video posted about a week after the event but removed yesterday shortly after AIN’s inquiry. A Bombardier Business Aircraft spokesman said he could not authenticate the video, even though it appears to have been professionally produced and includes titles with logos and typefaces, as well as music, consistent with other Bombardier-produced videos.
Beechcraft is nearing the sale of its Hawker 4000 and Premier I/IA assets, a step agreed to earlier this year as part of the Wichita OEM’s emergence from bankruptcy. The sale includes items such as type certificates, parts and tooling, as well as the composite manufacturing facility in Wichita known as Plant III. A Beechcraft spokeswoman said potential buyers are currently performing due diligence, and CEO Bill Boisture told AIN that he is “confident” the deal will happen by year-end.
Normally, when a sports arena reaches the end of its life, it’s torn down. In Wichita, self-proclaimed “Air Capital of the World,” however, it’s renovated and converted into a state-of-the-art full-size aircraft test facility. Last month the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University (WSU) finished the transformation of the former Britt Brown Arena/Kansas Coliseum into the brand-new Aircraft Structural Testing and Evaluation Center (Astec for short), one of four Wichita-area aviation test facilities currently operated by the school.
Pilots planning on overflying Kansas this summer, specifically through the Salina area and the nearby Smoky Hill Air National Guard Weapons Range, would do well to attend the pilot safety briefing about the range to be held on Thursday, June 6, at the Salina Airport Authority’s Hangar 600 at 4:30 p.m. Representatives from the Smoky Hill Air National Guard Weapons Range are due to present an update on the range’s activities.
Bombardier has pushed back certification of the Learjet 70/75 to the fourth quarter of this year, from what had been planned to be an early-2013 entry into service. “Our supplier, Garmin, encountered some difficulties in delivering its avionics hardware and software,” a Bombardier spokeswoman told AIN. The Learjet 70/75 were slated to be the first jets certified with Garmin’s G5000 flight deck, although Cessna’s Sovereign might now enter service before the new Learjet.
Textron, parent company of Cessna Aircraft, held its first-quarter 2013 earnings call yesterday, and the news was not particularly uplifting for its Wichita-based business segment. Customers in the light jet market, who tend to be small business owners, continue to defer purchase decisions, “reflecting continued concerns about their financial outlook,” said Textron chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly. As a result, he continued, Cessna delivered 32 new jets in the first quarter, six fewer than the same quarter last year, “resulting in a segment loss in the quarter of $8 million.”
Cessna is making rapid progress with its efforts to operate in China through joint ventures formed with China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. (CAIGA), the Wichita-based company said today at ABACE in Shanghai. The joint venture with CAIGA involves building Cessna 208 Grand Caravan EXs in Shijiazhuang and Cessna Citation XLS+s in Zhuhai for the Chinese market.