Another great addition to this aircraft is the Honeywell APU, located above the baggage compartment. When operating in the boonies, where conditioned air and electrical power carts are often scarce, an APU makes you more self-sufficient. It is approved for use only on the ground, burns just 150 pounds of fuel per hour, provides electrical and pneumatic power, and can easily precool or preheat the 410-cubic-foot cabin before passenger arrival. That's a big deal for corporate pilots dedicated to passenger comfort.
The Lear cockpit is tight, requiring a bit of dexterity to step over the center console, around the floor-mounted control column and into the seat - without banging your head. The rudder pedals are electrically adjustable, and the pilot seat is adjustable both vertically and horizontally. Many Lear pilots, including Chris, sit a little below the optimum eye height to give themselves more headroom. You sit quite close to the sharply swept windshield, which provides excellent visibility, but I bumped my head several times on the left side of the headliner as I adapted to the limitations of my new cockpit space.
Engine starts are simple. Just press and release the guarded start button for each engine and monitor as the DEEC schedules the proper amount of fuel; if the start goes badly, the thrust lever is lifted and pulled aft.
This aircraft has digital nosewheel steering, which, admittedly, takes some getting used to; the variable-rate system allows 60 degrees of steering authority at slow speeds and is limited to just seven degrees of travel at more than 70 knots, which prevents overcontrolling. When moving slowly, full-scale application of rudder coupled with pressure on a sensor in the pedal allows the pilot to make very tight turns in confined ramps. At first, the system seems too sensitive, but with attention and finesse you can soon master it. Maybe even love it.
The landing gear is a beefy, dual-wheeled, trailing-link arrangement, designed for an airplane weighing 36,000 pounds. It utilizes BBW (brake-by-wire) carbon brakes, and, as in any BBW system, the brakes don't feel like "real" (hydraulic) brakes because the feedback to your feet is through springs instead of hydraulic pressure. This takes some getting used to, and exerting maximum effort for braking, it feels rather indefinite. But the carbon brakes are powerful and contribute to the aircraft's impressive stopping and balanced field-length numbers. Chris claims the jet will stop in 800 feet at light weights, but on my two maximum-performance landing attempts, I didn't get anywhere near that mark — I didn't want to abuse Lear's nice, shiny demonstrator. I did, however, turn off Wichita's Mid Continent Runway 19R at the same intersection I had used in my Cessna 185 when landing just hours before.
The aircraft I flew was equipped with a small galley behind the pilot seats, a double-club seating arrangement with eight leather passenger seats and a fully enclosed potty, which can be used as an additional legal seat if needed. Opposite the potty is a handy, 15-cubic-foot, in-flight-accessible baggage area.
Though its demonstrator didn't have it, Learjet will soon offer SwiftBroadband Internet access, color cabin management system touch screens, an iPod docking station, newly redesigned crew seats, wireless electronic EFBs with optional GPS and XM Weather, and better Rosen visors in the cockpit. All interior appointments on this aircraft were elegant, with fit and finish appropriate to an aircraft costing more than $12 million. Learjet does all of its own interior completions in Wichita.
The Lear 45XR is equipped with a four-screen Honeywell Primus 1000 avionics suite, with TCAS and EGPWS. The system is very intuitive and well-organized. All autopilot functions are controlled through the glareshield control panel. A centrally located EICAS (Engine Instrumentation and Crew Alerting System) calls the crew's attention to system operations and abnormal alerts. WAAS capability and electronic flight bags are available as options, though this aircraft didn't have them installed. No paperless chart option is available yet.
One of the unique features of the Honeywell Primus system is called "third cockpit." In the unlikely event that both generators fail and the ship's battery is depleted, small, centrally located screens, called RMUs, or radio management units, display engine and system information and allow you to select VHF radios and even shoot an ILS.
With two pilots and two passengers aboard and full fuel, our takeoff gross weight on Wichita's 10,301-foot Runway 19R was 20,450 pounds, about a thousand pounds below maximum takeoff weight; balanced field length was 5,530 feet. We could have taken five more 175-pounders and flown to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with 1½ hours of reserve fuel — or flown anywhere in the continental United States with generous reserves.
One area in which the aircraft really shines is the ability to lift loads from a high-altitude airport and transport them a long way. For example, on a 72-degree day in 7,820-foot-elevation Aspen, Colorado, the 45XR can fly eight passengers anywhere in the continental United States. It could fly those same eight passengers to the West Coast at temperatures up to 90 degrees.