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After revolutionizing the private jet market with the Learjet 23, Robert Lear’s creation went on to have multiple variants throughout the company’s many ownership changes. The most popular and easily recognizable one will forever be the Learjet 35.
A sleek and nimble business jet with a small profile, fighter wings, and wingtip tanks, it became forever associated with luxury flying even after its production run ceased in 1996. While the youngest Learjet 35 approaches three decades of age, nearly 500 of them remain operational – over two-thirds of the total produced. Thanks to their sturdy construction, good reliability, and low costs, the Learjet 35 fleet is predicted to continue flying for many years to come.
Learjet 35 / Specs
The Learjet 35 family typically seats up to eight passengers in its typical configuration. The cabin is pressurized and has a height of 4.33 ft (1.34 m), its short stature being common to most of Bill Lear’s original Learjet line in exchange for performance.
It is also 4.75 ft (1.45 m) wide and 12.75 ft (3.88 m) long. The relatively compact fuselage dimensions have their roots traced to the original Swiss P-16 strike fighter design, which prioritized speed and therefore required a small cross-section to minimize drag. The total height for the aircraft is 12 ft 3 in (3.73 m), owning to this. Fuel tanks are installed on each wingtip, with a total wingspan of 36 ft 6 in (12.04 m).
Empty weight for the Learjet 35 family is 9154 lbs (4152 kg), with a maximum take-off weight of 18300 lbs (8300 kg) and a generous 40 cubic feet (1.13 cubic meters) of baggage space, equivalent to eight medium-sized suitcases. In the Learjet 36 version, it carries up to 1100 gallons (4200 l) of fuel.
Learjet 35 / Prices
During its production run, most Learjet 35 were sold for around $4.8 million, with no significant price tag fluctuation between the standard Learjet 35 and Learjet 36 long-range models.
Learjet 35 / Performance and Handling
Cruise speeds for the Learjet 35 are 436 kts for the original models and 464 kts for those with the newer TFE731-2-2B engines, installed on all newly built aircraft from 1976 onwards. Jetting around at Mach 0.81 is something not all competitors can offer. The Learjet 35 also has a blistering rate of climb with the ceiling to match – 3500 ft/min, with a service ceiling of 51000 ft!
The maximum range for a Learjet 35 in typical capacity is 1790 nautical miles. On the long-range Learjet 36 version, this grew to 1990 nmi thanks to the installation of an additional fuel tank at the expense of two seats. When Learjet changed the aircraft’s powerplant, this brought a significant increase to both lines – the Learjet 35A has a range of 2410 nmi, and the Learjet 36A can reach 2870 nmi.
As with most models until Bombardier’s takeover, the Learjet 35 series is a surprisingly nimble aircraft. This is largely owed to the overall aerodynamic configuration inherited from Switzerland’s failed FFA P-16 fighter, particularly the wing which, while expanded in the Model 35, still had the same structural layout. For most pilots and passengers, this translates into fast flying and a comfortable ride. However, a few daredevils like Clay Lacy and Boabby Younkin have pushed the Learjet’s envelope to the very limit by flying specially modified variants on full aerobatic displays.
Aileron rolls have been more common than most maneuvers in Learjets, though the results of this on regular models have not always been successful. In 2007, a Learjet 35 flying for Airnet Systems suffered substantial structural damage when the crew attempted such a stunt. Performing a roll on a Learjet 35 series incurs significant altitude loss, which may have forced the pilots to overstress the airframe to avoid a crash.
Pilots regard the Learjet as easy to fly. The Learjet 35 inherits the responsive controls of the earlier Learjet 20 series. Still, thanks to the expansion of both the wing and fuselage forced by the move from the initial turbojets to the Garrett turbofan engines, it has more docile low-speed handling as well, remedying one of the few complaints anyone had about the Learjet’s handling.
Learjet 35 / Maintenance Schedule
Like most members of the Learjet family, the Learjet 35 series is famous for being reliable and undemanding in terms of maintenance. The popularity of the Learjet 35 and its derivatives has turned it into a very safe aircraft, as today, most issues that could concern owners in terms of maintenance or flight safety have been worked through.
The numbers speak volumes about the Model 35 and its derivatives – an incredible 498 units are operational worldwide as of 2021, of which 419 are Learjet 35A models. For an aircraft that was built between 1973 and 1993, to have two-thirds of its production run in the air many decades later is nothing short of a testament to its quality, reliability, and owner-friendly operational costs. Reported flight hour costs for the type’s average profile are $2500, with annual costs hovering between $400000 and $500000.
Learjet 35 / Modifications and Upgrades
Between 1973 and 1993, the Learjet 35 was produced in four different variants. The distinguishing features between them are the fuel capacity, number of seats, and the powerplant. The baseline Learjet 35 was the result of a project to re-engine the Learjet 25 with the quieter and more fuel-efficient Garrett TFE731 turbofan engines. The name initially intended for this modification was Learjet 26. As the project progressed, it became clear that the airframe required some significant changes to accommodate the new engines. This came in the shape of a 13-inch extension to the forward fuselage, plus an additional two feet to each wing.
The first entry on the series was the Learjet 35, equipped with a pair of TFE731-2-2A engines with a capability of up to eight passengers. A total of 64 Model 35 airframes were completed between 1973 and 1976 before Learjet opted to upgrade the engines.
Owning to the long-range required by certain operators, Learjet introduced a special version of the aircraft with an enlarged fuel tank starting in 1974. The Model 36 was externally identical to the Model 35, with the additional fuel taking up space previously dedicated to part of the passenger cabin. This change reduced the capacity from eight to six passengers but allowed the Learjet 36 to conduct transatlantic operations.
Model 35A and Model 36A
Starting in 1976, all new aircraft were built with the upgraded TFE731-2B engines. This engine brought dramatic improvements to the Learjet 35 performance: they burned less fuel while also offering more thrust, which greatly expanded the aircraft’s range and increased its take-off weight without major modifications. The upgrade was applied to both the Model 35 and Model 36, which were named the Model 35A and Model 36A, respectively. A total of 419 Learjet 35A and 35 Learjet 36A are operational around the world today.
While the TFE731-2B’s addition is widely regarded as the main change in the Learjet 35’s production run, it was not the last. To lower stall speeds, improve low-speed handling and shorten runway length requirements, Learjet introduced the Century III wing modification package in the late 1970s. This add-on was further refined in 1979 with the SoftFlite wing. The wing improvements were incorporated into the newly built Learjet 35s after their introductions. However, the company also offered them as aftermarket add-on packages.
Outside of manufacturer creations, the Learjet 35 series were targeted by many third-party modifications that aimed to capitalize on its great audience. One of the most popular suppliers of Learjet upgrades is Raisbeck Engineering, which produced the ZR Lite aerodynamic conversion package to improve performance during take-off, cruise, and descent, and a new fuselage locker that can be accessed from outside the cabin for easier loading and unloading.
Avcon Industries have worked on the aircraft’s wings, offering delta fins for improved handling, and expanded wingtip tanks to boost the aircraft’s range further. The latter is a great option for Model 35 owners who do not wish to give up the two seats in the fuselage but are also attractive for Model 36 operators to extend its already great range.
After absorbing Garrett’s parent company, Allied Signal, Honeywell introduced the TFE731-2C version of the engines as an upgrade kit. The main advantages of the -2C turbofan modification are increased reliability and durability, reducing long-term ownership costs.
Many modern avionics suites have been certified for use on the Learjet 35, including full-glass cockpits.
The Learjet 35’s performance and versatility did not go unnoticed around military circles. Some countries operate off-the-shelf models as utility or executive transports, while others opted for deeper modifications to fit their specific needs. Notable examples include Japan’s U-36A (Learjet 35A with avionics to simulate cruise missiles) and Brazil’s R-35A and R-35AM (Learjet 35 with photographic, infrared, and radar reconnaissance equipment). The Learjet 35 had its baptism of fire in the Falklands War of 1982, where Argentina lost a Learjet 35 to a British Sea Dart surface-to-air missile (SAM) during a reconnaissance mission.
Learjet 35 / Where to Find Replacement Parts
As a widespread model across all continents, the Learjet 35 series boasts an easily accessible supply chain in most countries. Local shops and suppliers are within reach of most operators, and owners also enjoy the option of Bombardier’s own support system. The company, as the last owner of the Learjet brand before the decision to shut it down by the end of 2021, remains responsible for keeping all members of the Learjet family flying, and this extends to the Learjet 35, despite it not being an in-house Bombardier design.
Learjet 35 / Common Problems
Over time, certain issues like pressurization problems have been identified but also corrected by Gates, Learjet, and most recently Bombardier, either directly on the production line or through the issuing of ADs (airworthiness directives) that mandated the required fixes to be implemented before the type could be operated again. Fixes for the pressurization issues have been incorporated into the fleet since 1995.
As the Learjet 35 fleet ages, some operators have reported difficulties in obtaining spare parts in a timely and consistent manner from the suppliers. Workarounds reported by owners are to inquire with different companies to widen the sources, though this may prove to be more time-consuming for operators outside North America.
Learjet 35 / Insurance Options
Due to the family’s good safety record, the Learjet 35 enjoys good insurance costs for its class. Most brokers will insure an aircraft from this family for $15000 to $20000 per year, which is in line with numbers quoted for latter Learjet models or comparable aircraft like the lighter entries in Cessna’s Citation range.
Learjet 35 / Resale Value
On average, a Learjet 35 holds onto its value better than some of its competitors like the Falcon 10 or the Citation I. A Lear in a good state can be sold for prices between $800000 and $900000.
Learjet 35 / Owner Reviews
As the most famous member of the Learjet family, the Model 35 and its derivatives have made a good name for themselves, with over 700 aircraft sold during the two decades, it was produced for. One of the advantages of it compared to competitors is that, despite its diminutive fuselage, the Learjet does not feel cramped. A great amount of work went into ensuring the passenger cabin was comfortable and ergonomically sound, and those who have owned or flown aboard a Learjet 35 can attest to that.
The TFE731 turbofan engine abides by modern noise abatement regulations in all of its variants, which makes the Learjet 35 a neighborhood-friendly jet while also keeping the cabin quiet. As an aircraft, its performance and comfort levels are on par with first-class travel aboard commercial jets. Passengers enjoy a smooth ride and arrive on time at destinations across the world without the expenses and excesses associated with large business jets.
One of its chief advantages is the low fuel burn rate, allowing the Learjet 35 to greatly exceed its competitors’ range while lowering operational costs. It also has a larger useful payload than any jet in its class.
Learjet 35 / Similar Aircraft
Prospective owners looking for similar aircraft may find alternatives in younger planes within the same class. Bombardier’s clean sheet Learjet designs like the Model 40 and Model 45 can offer similar performance, albeit at a higher price point for acquisition. Another popular alternative is Embraer’s Phenom 100, which is broadly seen as the Learjet’s spiritual successor in terms of cost and capability. The Cessna Citation line has certain offerings which are comparable, including the venerable Citation I, introduced around the same time as the Model 35.
Learjet 35/Clubs You Can Join
As is the case with many business jets, the reduced numbers and comparatively high costs have limited the appearance of type clubs for the Learjet 35 family. This can be attributed to the aircraft being more often operated by companies rather than private owners, unlike general aviation aircraft where owners are also their primary operators.
Question: What is the Learjet 35?
Answer: A low-cost turbofan-powered light business jet that can seat up to eight passengers and can fly transatlantic legs in certain configurations.
Question: When was the Learjet 35 Introduced?
Answer: The first Learjet 35 orders were fulfilled in 1974, the same year of its certification.
Question: Is the Learjet 35 Single-Pilot Certified?
Answer: No, a crew of two is required to fly the Learjet 35 series.
Question: How many Learjet 35 Variants are there?
Answer: There are four original variants – the Learjet 35, Learjet 36, Learjet 35A and Learjet 36A. However, military customers have modified the aircraft after acquiring them and assigned new designations in line with local conventions.
Question: Is the Learjet 35 a Troublesome Aircraft to Own?
Answer: No, it is not. The Learjet 35 is widely regarded as one of the most owner-friendly business jets, blending the attractive costs of a light aircraft with the fast cruise speeds and long ranges typically associated with larger jets.