Bombardier Aerospace celebrates 40th anniversary of Learjet first flight

A milestone event in the history of business aviation

The manufacturer of Learjet* aircraft, Bombardier Aerospace, today celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first flight of a Learjet business jet, an event that launched the legendary Learjet product line and sparked a revolution in the business jet aviation.

Bombardier marked the aviation milestone during a 4 p.m. ceremony at the National Business Aviation Association 56th Annual Meeting & Convention in Orlando, Florida, exactly 40 years after Learjet 23, s/n 001, took off from Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport at 4 p.m., October 7, 1963. Pilot Bob Hagen and co-pilot Hank Beaird, who guided the aircraft for its maiden flight, both participated in the commemorative event, as did Shanda Lear, daughter of Learjet founder Bill Lear.

More than 2,300 Bombardier Learjet aircraft have been delivered worldwide since the landmark first flight with more joining the fleet monthly as Bombardier continues to develop the Learjet family of business jets. Its newest high-performance models, the Bombardier Learjet 40 and Bombardier Learjet 45 XR, are scheduled to enter service within months.

“The first flight of a Learjet was a watershed event for business travelers,” declared Peter Edwards, president, Bombardier Business Aircraft, speaking at the event attended by media and guests. “Until Bill Lear designed and built a jet airplane specifically for business use, corporate travelers either had to fly modified military aircraft, fly with commercial airlines, or use small slow, noisy, piston- and turbine-propelled planes. The Learjet 23 changed all of that, in spectacular fashion. It’s not an overstatement to say that the first flight launched more than a product line – it effectively launched the business jet segment of the aviation industry.”

Learjet 23 first flight co-pilot Mr. Beaird noted that he was immediately impressed by the first Learjet’s design and performance capabilities. “It was obviously built to a high standard that would support its high performance,” he recalled. “On that first flight, the airplane flew beautifully. When we landed I told a reporter that the airplane was amazing, and it was. I expected it to be a rocket, and it was better than that.”

Following the momentous first flight, the Bombardier Learjet family of business jets, which currently includes such popular models as the Learjet 45 and Learjet 60, has since continued to break new ground in the business jet segment through constant innovation and performance enhancements. Bombardier Learjet aircraft have set numerous world records, both for speed and altitude performance, and set the standard in their respective segments for cabin comfort.

A proud history

Learjet Inc., founded by noted inventor and entrepreneur William Powell Lear, began operations in Wichita, Kansas in 1962. Mr. Lear, who already held patents for numerous innovative products, including AC-DC converters, car and aircraft radios, an autopilot, the Lear-O-Scope aircraft direction finder, and an eight-track stereo tape system, invested $US12 million to develop a personal business jet based on the design of the Swiss P-16 fighter.

Manufacturing began in a plant adjacent to Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport at the end of 1962 and a decision to skip the prototype stage and go directly into production tooling allowed the first flight of the Learjet 23 to take place less than a year later. The aircraft was certified on July 31, 1964, and the first production model, s/n 003, was delivered to the Chemical Industrial Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio, less than three months later. More than 100 Learjet aircraft were introduced into service in the company’s first three years alone.

Bombardier Inc. acquired Learjet on June 29, 1990 and immediately began to infuse new energy and resources into product development. Bombardier has launched five new Learjet aircraft since that time – the Learjet 31A, the Learjet 60, the Learjet 45, the Learjet 45 XR and the Learjet 40. The Bombardier Learjet 45 went on to become one of the top-selling business aircraft model in its class and the first business jet to receive type certification from the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA). The new Bombardier Learjet 40 and 45 XR business jets were introduced at the 2002 Farnborough Air Show and represent the latest step in the Learjet family’s evolution.

Bombardier Aerospace, a unit of Bombardier Inc., is a world leader in the design and manufacture of innovative aviation products and provides services for the regional, business and amphibious aircraft markets. It also offers Bombardier Flexjet* and Bombardier Skyjet* business aircraft programs, technical services, and aircraft maintenance and pilot training for business, regional airline and military customers.

Bombardier Inc., a diversified manufacturing and services company, is a world-leading manufacturer of business jets, regional aircraft, rail transportation equipment and motorized recreational products. It also provides financial services and asset management in business areas aligned with its core expertise. Headquartered in Montréal, Canada, the Corporation has a workforce of some 75,000 people and manufacturing facilities in 25 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Its revenues for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2003 stood at $23.7 billion Cdn. Bombardier shares are traded on the Toronto, Brussels and Frankfurt stock exchanges (BBD, BOM and BBDd.F).

* Trademarks of Bombardier Inc. or its subsidiaries.

Leo Knaapen
Bombardier Aerospace
Cell : (514) 918-9352