Bombardier Maintains Learjet 85 Pace

Feb 26, 2009

Bucking the gloom gripping business aviation, Bombardier is pouring more resources into development of its new Learjet 85 mid-size jet. Part of the increase was planned, as the aircraft advances towards detail design. Part was unplanned, a response to the insolvency of Grob, Bombardier's original partner on the all-composite airframe.

Since announcing in September it was dropping Grob from the program, Bombardier has transferred responsibility for Learjet 85 detail design, structural certification, prototype manufacture and initial production from the German firm to its own plants in Montreal, Wichita and Mexico.

At the same time, says Learjet 85 vice president Ralph Acs, Bombardier has completely changed the composites technology, from the wet layup used by Grob and familiar to the European certification authorities to the prepreg material with which US industry and the FAA is more accustomed.

Material certification and structural testing, meanwhile, has been subcontracted to the National Institute for Aviation Research (NAIR) in Wichita, close to the Learjet plant where the aircraft will be assembled and flight tested. "NIAR has a good relationship with the FAA and has been instrumental is choosing the materials," he says.

The switch in materials technology followed input from an advisory council of composites experts, which has met twice since December. Several different composites will be used, but the material system selected for the overall airframe is a low-pressure oven-cured "out-of-autoclave" carbonfiber, says Acs.

Originally Bombardier had entrusted everything from structural definition to initial production to Grob, and the FAA had delegated structural certification to its European counterpart EASA. Now the company will work directl.

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