New Learjet 85 Will Be All Composite

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Bombardier confirmed, as first reported in Flying, that the company's next generation Learjet will be built entirely from composite plastics. The new Learjet 85 would be the first transport category airplane with an all-composite airframe, and is the first in the Learjet, Challenger or Global Express line from Bombardier to use composites for primary structure of wings and fuselage.

A surprising aspect of the announcement, which was made in January, is that the Learjet 85 will be developed by Grob Aerospace of Germany. Grob has built more than 3,500 composite airplanes, mostly gliders, over the past 30 years. Grob will work with Learjet engineers to design and build the first three prototype Model 85s, but no announcement on which company or where, actual production of the airplane will take place.

Grob has been developing and test flying its own composite twin engine jet, the G 180 SPn, over the past several years, and expects certification sometime later this year. The SPn is smaller than the midsize Learjet 85, more modest in performance, and Grob expects certification in the less demanding commuter category instead of the transport standards required for larger jets. The only other all-composite turbine business airplane so far certified is the Beech Starship twin turboprop, which was also certified to commuter category standards.

Bombardier announced the new Learjet program in October of 2007, but offered few details and did not indicate in any way that the airplane would be built from composites. Flying's sources at that time reported that it would be a composite airplane, but the Grob involvement was new to us. Bombardier has yet to reveal specifics of the Learjet 85 other than to say that design targets include a high-speed cruise of Mach .82 (470 knots true airspeed), maximum range of up to 3,000 nm, and that it will have a larger and more comfortable cabin than other midsize jets. Yet to be revealed are expected dates for entry into service and a price.