Bill Lear founded Learjet in the late 1950’s as the Swiss American Aviation Corporation. Lear had a vision to build a jet powered business airplane because business aircraft during this time period were mainly piston powered and slow. He began laying out plans to build a jet powered business aircraft based on the P-16 Swiss Fighter. Because he ran into opposition from the company board of directors to build this aircraft he sold his controlling interest to the Siegler Corporation for $100 million to finance the venture.
The tooling for building the aircraft was purchased and moved from Switzerland to Wichita, KS. LearJet opened in September 1962 while the plant at Wichita’s airport was under construction. Assembly of the first Learjet began in 1963. The norm for a new concept aircraft was to hand build a prototype for flight testing. Lear decided to take a huge risk and skip this step and move directly into production. This was extremely risky because the designs could fail forcing redesign and retooling that would force the company into bankruptcy. Lear took the risk in order to beat the competition.
The risk paid off. The Learjet 23, a six- to eight-seater, first flew on October 7, 1963, with the first production model being delivered in October 1964. Despite a healthy backlog of orders Lear didn’t have the capital necessary to begin production. In order to resolve this issue Lear sold a portion of his holdings to the public making it a public owned corporation. Several models followed, with the Model 24 first flying on February 24, 1966 and the Model 25 first flying on August 12, 1966. On September 19 of the same year, the company was renamed Lear Jet Industries Inc.
In 1969 Learjet merged with Gates Aviation and was renamed Gates Learjet Corporation. Production of aircraft then began in Tucson as well as Wichita. Company headquarters moved to Tucson, AZ in 1986. In 1987 Gates Learjet was bought by Integrated Acquisition and renamed Learjet Corporation. All aircraft production was moved back to Wichita. Integrated Acquisition filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990 and Bombardier then stepped in to purchase Learjet. It has been a subsidiary of Bombardier ever since.
The Learjet 45 was the first completely new model, since the original Learjet 23. It is larger than the Learjet 31 and smaller than the 60. The cabin is seven feet longer than the 31 and has more head and shoulder room than any other aircraft in its class. The cabin has double club seating, a galley and a full aft lavatory.
The cockpit has a Honeywell Primus 1000 integrated avionics suite and the Honeywell TFE 731-20BR engines are FADEC equipped.
The Learjet 45XR was certificated in 2003.
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