“[New billionaires in fast-growing countries] have to buy longer-range airplanes. If you’re flying from Mongolia to Nigeria, it’s either a three-day journey flying commercial or a nine-hour flight on your jet.”
Bombardier's Learjet 40XR
Cut two feet off the Learjet 45's fuselage, throw out two passenger seats, drain 100 gallons of fuel and this is what you get: a $9.46 million bullet that is sexy, leggy and fast. It's called the Learjet 40XR.
Unless you view this airplane through engineering and manufacturing lenses, it's easy to be skeptical about it. When Bombardier was looking for a successor for the Learjet 31A, it saved a pile of money by essentially taking the Model 45 to the chop shop rather than developing a true "clean sheet of paper" airplane. The Learjet 40 shares the 45's engines, avionics, wing, cockpit and fuselage cross-section, but it costs $2.4 million less.
It's easy to see the marketing logic in this. After an extremely difficult gestation period, the nine-passenger (plus two pilots) Model 45 turned out to be a fine airplane and offered the market a unique value proposition: midsize-cabin capability like you'd find in a Hawker 800XP or Cessna Citation XLS mated to the direct operating costs of a smaller Citation Encore or Beechjet. That, and (as our friends in England would say) it was faster than stink (464 knots). But to get full range (2,032 nautical miles) from the 45, you can take only four passengers with full fuel. Five seats (if you count the belted potty) are basically wasted.
Work began on the Learjet 45 in 1992 and deliveries started in 1998. More than 350 currently are in service. When Bombardier announced the 40 in 2002, it already had a big body of knowledge on its key systems and performance, thanks to its experience with the 45. Deliveries of the 40 began in 2004.
Later that year, Bombardier started deliveries of a longer-range variant of the 45, the Learjet 45XR. The aircraft features a 1,000-pound increase in maximum takeoff weight, slightly more fuel capacity and a pair of up-rated Honeywell TFE731-20-BR engines that reduced balanced field length at higher temperatures, improved time to climb and delivered better high-speed cruise. Under certain circumstances, the 45XR's performance improvement is dramatic. For example, out of Aspen, Colo., the 45XR with eight passengers will fly almost 1,000 nautical miles farther than a standard Learjet 45. The 45XR also had a restyled cabin with more comfortable seats, additional legroom and better lighting.
Those changes, including the engines, were incorporated into the Learjet 40 beginning in 2006 and retroactively to older models via compliance with a company service bulletin. These airplanes are known as the Learjet 40XR. As in the 45XR, the up-rated engines deliver dramatically better performance in high/hot conditions. For example, taking off from Jackson Hole, Wyo., with full fuel and six passengers, a
40XR will fly 936 nautical miles farther than a Model 40. Time to Teterboro, N.J.: three hours and 39 minutes.
The 40XR's maximum range increased to 1,808 nautical miles and maximum takeoff weight to a healthy 21,000 pounds. Payload with full fuel is a respectable 2,014 pounds. That's 200 miles more range than a Cessna Citation Encore offers and 45 knots faster cruise speed, but the same speed and slightly less range than a Beechjet provides. The 40XR's time to climb to 43,000 feet is a brisk 23 minutes and it has a ceiling of 51,000 feet. It can comfortably operate out of 5,000-foot runways with full loads. The electronic braking system, trailing link main landing gear and massive Dee Howard thrust reversers combine for soft landings and sure-footed and smooth stopping power. At maximum landing weight, the 40XR will stop in less than 2,700 feet.
The flat-floor, oval-shaped passenger cabin measures 17 feet, 9 inches long and has a cross-section of 4 feet, 11 inches high by 5 feet, 1 inch wide. Overall cabin volume is 363 cubic feet. You'll find a small closet and a refreshment center opposite the main entry door. The six individual reclining passenger seats are arranged in a forward club-four configuration with two forward-facing seats behind them. The seats have in-base and floor tracking and slide and swivel motions, and you can raise or lower the outboard seat arms. One operator who flies both the 45 and the 40 said the latter has more passenger legroom.
Foldout tables deploy from the cabin sidewalls. A large lavatory with sink, belted flushing potty and 15-cubic-foot wardrobe is in the aft cabin.
The airplane has no auxiliary power unit and its single-zone air conditioning is controlled from the cockpit. The cabin has iPod connectivity and can be equipped with XM radio, CD and DVD players and 12-inch forward and aft cabin monitors.
Other than those in-flight entertainment components, the 40XR has few cabin options, save upgraded carpets, veneers and plating.
The cockpit is built around Honeywell's Primus 1000 avionics system. All flight and navigation information is displayed on four eight- by seven-inch screens that incorporate engine and crew alert data. The system allows maintenance crews to download diagnostic information directly to laptops, which lets them troubleshoot the avionics and engines more quickly. Unlike the Encore, the 40XR must be flown with two pilots.
Northern Jet Management in Grand Rapids, Mich., operates three 40XRs more than 400 hours each per year on trips averaging 800 miles. Company president Chuck Cox said that even customers who are used to bigger airplanes like Hawker 800s find the 40XRs comfortable. "Customers love the airplane," Cox added. "It has a much bigger feel than what they expect."
Cox also said that, thanks to Bombardier's Chicago parts depot, his company gets good parts support and service. Because of the airplane's fast cruise speed
and high service ceiling, he noted, his hourly operating costs are in line with those of slower, smaller airplanes.
At a Glance
Price (2009 dollars): $9.46 million
Passengers (standard): 6-7
Range: 1,808 nm
Maximum cruising speed: 465 kt
Maximum takeoff weight: 21,000 lb
Fuel capacity: 802 gal