Learjet: Why the legendary plane is no match for today’s jets
(CNN) – Learjet. For generations the name has been synonymous with business jets, with over 3,000 small private jets delivered since the first Learjet 23 flew in 1963.
In an era of few non-stop flights, long connections, and irregular schedules – and Zoom encountered more “Star Trek” than reality – the Learjet has become a staple for businesses that need to transport executives to. across the world, and for Hollywood stars gush from place to place.
With a pure lineage from an experimental Swiss fighter jet, the Learjets hovered 50,000 feet above the earth, taking their name from aviation and electronics pioneer Bill Lear (who would also quickly develop the 8-track tape, a precursor to cassettes).
Bigger cabins mean bigger jets – and bigger profits
The Learjet was the height of time-saving glamor in the 1960s and 1970s.
Courtesy of Bombardier
The Learjet was hugely innovative in its early days, with its neat little aircraft cabin providing an experience similar to sitting in a comfortable family car. But as is often the case, bigger was better when it came to business jets.
Review of the Learjet – and these are first-class issues – included its cabin height of 4’4 ” (1.32 meters). It might have suited smaller 1960s executives and celebrities, but it’s not quite up to the mark today. By comparison, Bombardier’s Global 7500/8000 aircraft offers a cabin height of 6’2 ” (1.8 meters).
Bill Lear, who died in 1978, is said to have had a famous response to criticism: “You can’t stand in a Cadillac either.”
In the 1960s and early 1970s, the goal of business aviation was to save time and hassle for flights within hours of distance, by throwing smaller airfields closer to homes and offices. rather than having to stay in traffic to get to the bigger ones. commercial airports, then connection.
For that, people were happy to make the compromise of essentially replicating a ride in a comfortable luxury car, while crossing the sky.
But as the global economy changed through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, what private jets had to do, inside and out, changed. As the world went global, so did business aviation – to the name, with the arrival on the scene of the large Bombardier Global Express business jet of the 1990s.
Rather than the less than 2,000 mile range of the original Learjet, the latest jets can fly for over 12 hours over 6,000 miles, easily across the Pacific. And if you are traveling for 12 hours, and especially if you are paying a lot of money for it, you want to be comfortable.
The business jet, says Bombardier’s Mark Masluch, “has gone from that tool to get you from point to point, now really an office, workspace or home space in the air where you can. seamlessly get on the plane and get on with your day. as if you were still on the ground. “
Huts today are so big they have zones
The private suite of a Global 7500.
Courtesy of Bombardier
Today, business jet cabins mean “floating on a jet, having a very smooth ride,” Masluch explains. It’s not just about the structure of the plane – as a general rule, the bigger the plane, the smoother the ride – “but being able to go on with your day seamlessly, whether it’s connectivity. , preparing meals, sleeping ”or even in some cases a shower on board.
And a lot of that just can’t fit into a smaller aircraft like a Learjet.
“This is ultimately why we focused on medium and large jets,” such as Bombardier’s Challenger and Global families, says Masluch. “Because even charter people entering space are always looking for that expectation of, ‘well I can sit on a plane, I have the comfort of getting up, I have everything. Wi-Fi, I can cook a meal like I’m on the floor, I can have a full daybed, I can take a shower if I’m on a transatlantic or transpacific trip. ‘”
These medium and large jets are where Bombardier sees about 90% of business aircraft revenue and where it has about 30% of a market where it competes with Gulfstream, which offers its larger G650 family, and Dassault, which just flew its biggest business jet, the Falcon 6X.
Large jets like these have three or four areas inside, each with finely convertible areas with chairs that convert into beds, full-size tables that disappear, “Star Trek” style swing doors, and even more.
Cabins start with a crew area up front with the galley-style butler’s pantry, then maybe a club lounge area also used for dining, then more seating that converts into a bed full double, with toilet and shower at the back. Of course, everything is fully customizable to your personal desires, from the color and shine of each surface to where you want each individual seat.
The next big business jet: zero gravity (sort of)
With large cabins, there is more room for innovation, and there is incredible technical development going on with these 180 degree seats. It’s 180 degrees in multiple directions, be careful: not only do the chairs recline on fully flat beds, they also swivel so you can chat with your assistant in one direction and then swivel to dine with the family.
But even more angles come into play with Bombardier’s new Nuage seat (which means cloud), which has additional pivot points so that the seat plunges you into a weightless relaxation position as you recline.
There’s also the Nuage chair, where what looks like a buffet splashback has a hinged cushion structure that converts it from a perch point for meetings or dining into a fully adjustable lounge chair. It can of course also be used as a bed.
It’s a long way from the Learjet, that’s for sure. But that’s kind of the problem: As our world changes, the way we navigate it changes too.