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When Bill Lear’s first Learjet model took to the sky in the early 1960s, it was hard to imagine that it would spend three decades in serial production without suffering major departures from the original design.
The original Learjet survived multiple changes in ownership and name, sticking to the tried and tested basic layout of the Model 23, a revolutionary aircraft that essentially created the business jet as we know it.
The long production streak of Learjet 23 and its derivatives was finally ended in the 1990s after Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier acquired the Learjet Company.
The Learjet 45 was the family’s very first clean-sheet design, keeping only the basic layout of its predecessors. The mission set out by its creators was simple: break all the chains to the older models which were holding back the family and build a Learjet model that was fit for another three decades of market dominance in its category.
Development work began as early as 1989, but Bombardier only revealed the project to the public in 1992. The Learjet 45 prototype took to the skies on October 7, 1995, a symbolic date for the family as it marked the anniversary of the first flight of Bill Lear’s Model 23 back in 1963.
The Model 45 was built according to FAR Part 25, a much stricter set of regulations than FAR Part 23 used in all models since 1963. The core difference between the regulations is that Part 25 concerns transport aircraft, while Part 23 is geared specifically towards business jets.
The new target set by Bombardier in the Learjet 45’s design required more redundancy between core systems, but meeting Part 25 requirements gives the owners greater freedom of choice in the commercial use of the aircraft, on top of the inherent increases in-flight safety.
Learjet 45 / Specs
|Aircraft||Model 45||Model 40||Model 45XR||Model 40XR|
|Length||58 ft / 17.68 m||55 ft 6 in / 16.92 m||58 ft / 17.68 m||55 ft 6 in / 16.92 m|
|Wingspan||47 ft 10 in / 14.58 m||47 ft 9¼ in / 14.56 m||47 ft 10 in / 14.58 m||47 ft 9¼ in / 14.56 m|
|Height||14 ft 1 in / 4.30 m||14 ft 4½ in / 4.38 m||14 ft 1 in / 4.30 m||14 ft 4½ in / 4.38 m|
|Empty Weight||12,850 lb / 5,829 kg||12,740 lb / 5,779 kg||12,850 lb / 5,829 kg||12,740 lb / 5,779 kg|
|MTOW||21,500 lb / 9,752 kg||20,350 lb / 9,231 kg||22,500 lb / 10,206 kg||21,350 lb / 9684,197 kg|
|Fuel Capacity||905 gal / 3,430 L||905 gal / 3,430 L||905 gal / 3,430 L||905 gal / 3,430 L|
|Thrust Rating||3,500 lbf / 16 kN||3,500 lbf / 16 kN||3,500 lbf / 16 kN||3,500 lbf / 16 kN|
|Maximum Speed||Mach 0.81||Mach 0.81||Mach 0.81||Mach 0.81|
|Cruise Speed||434 kts / 804 km/h||434 kts / 804 km/h||465 kts / 861 km/h||465 kts / 861 km/h|
|Maximum Range||1,710 nmi / 3,167 km||1,710 nmi / 3,167 km||1,710 nmi / 3,167 km||1,710 nmi / 3,167 km|
|Service Ceiling||51,000 ft||51,000 ft||51,000 ft||51,000 ft|
Learjet 45 / Prices
The original asking price for the jet during its production run was $10 million.
Learjet 45 / Performance and Handling
The Learjet 45 is classified as a mid-sized business jet. It was first produced and flown in 1995, and between that and the line closure in 2012, a total of 642 units were rolled off, distributed among four variants.
It was replaced by its Learjet 70 and Learjet 75 derivatives introduced in 2013, which ended up being the very last newly built Learjet models when Bombardier announced the series would come to an end in 2021.
The market segment it was aimed at is the super light one, shared with the Cessna Citation Excel. The Model 45 has a vertically oriented ‘oval’ shape to mitigate this problem somewhat. The passenger cabin has provisions for up to eight passengers arranged in four face-to-face seats, plus a closed toilet and a cabin baggage area, in addition to a separate isolated cargo hold.
It aimed to blend the costs of lighter jets such as its Learjet predecessors with the comforts and performance associated with larger competitors. It has a maximum range of 1,971 nautical miles, with a top speed of Mach 0.81.
To achieve such high performance, the designers at Bombardier stuck to a ‘classic’ feature of the whole Learjet family: a flat-floor passenger cabin with little headspace to reduce the fuselage’s cross-section and reduce drag, allowing for better performance with the same engines.
The Model 45 is powered by a pair of Garrett (now Honeywell) TFE731 geared medium-bypass turbofans, an engine that has been a fixture in Learjet models dating back to the 1973 Learjet 35 series.
Unlike the versions installed on the original models, though, the TFE731-20-AR variant came with FADEC (full authority digital engine control) for more efficient and safer operation and inherited twenty years of work on lowering fuel consumption while increasing thrust output and time between overhauls.
The new wing has a sweep angle of 13º and is optimized for cruising at Mach 0.78. Unlike most previous Learjet models, it has no wing fences and also omitted leading-edge slats, opting instead for more compact devices like vortilons to improve handling at low speeds.
Learjet 45 / Maintenance Schedule
Compared to its predecessors, the Learjet 45 incurs significantly lower operating costs as it was built around more modern procedures that made maintenance intervals longer.
In 2013, Bombardier furthered this with a major overhaul of maintenance schedules for most of its business jet portfolio – the Learjet 40, Learjet 45, Challenger 300, Challenger 604, Challenger 605, and Global. The change was aimed at making maintenance cheaper and more flexible.
The practical changes for the Learjet 40, Learjet 45, and their XR variants were a potential decrease of almost 50% in costs, with an increase in availability by 250 days over a 20-year period for typical annual usage.
These protocols have long received final certification by the FAA, Transport Canada, and the EASA, making them applicable to the vast majority of Learjet 45 family customers.
Here is how the so-called Evolved Maintenance Programme (EMP) compares with the standard maintenance schedule in terms of task count per inspection:
- 300 hour/12 month: 36 from 62
- 600 hour/24 month: 24 from 67
- 1200 hour/48 month: 40 from 71
- 2400 hour/108 month: 14 from 54
- 4800 hour: 8 from 67
Beyond that, the 9600-hour inspection was replaced by a 10000 hour one, with 74 tasks instead of the previous 78.
A major departure from the previous Learjet series is the wing design. Before the Model 45, all Learjet aircraft still used the core wing structure of the Swiss FFA P-16 fighter.
Because of its design as a fighter capable of supersonic flight and with full aerobatic capability, the wing had multiple wing spars and an overall reinforced construction. While it brought great reliability and robustness to the older Learjet models, for a light business jet, this design proved to be well beyond the operational needs of most operators.
The Learjet 45 incorporated a brand-new structure with fewer spars, which reduced its sturdiness to an extent but brought along many desirable qualities felt to be more important by owners. Reducing the number of components in the wing drastically reduced the maintenance and operational costs.
The man-hours needed for inspections, overhauls, and even routine maintenance was drastically reduced, but this change had positive impacts in flight as well: the overall structure became lighter, which allowed Bombardier to increase the passenger and cargo capacity and increase fuel efficiency at a relatively small cost.
Learjet 45 / Modifications and Upgrades
Four major Learjet 45 variants were produced by Bombardier between 1998 and 2012. These are the baseline Model 45, the Model 45XR with improved performance, the shortened Model 40, and the Model 40XR, more compact but with longer legs than the Model 45.
The first derivative to be introduced was the Model 40, first flown in 2002. The Learjet 40 shortened the Model 45 fuselage by 24.5 inches, which trimmed the passenger capacity to a maximum of seven.
The option to carry an auxiliary power unit was omitted from it, as the shorter fuselage left no room to house it. This was Bombardier’s bid to fill in the gap left behind the Learjet 31 series ceasing production.
Owning to limitations found in some areas, Bombardier introduced a performance improvement program by the name of Learjet 45XR introduced in 2004. This variant relied largely on modifications that brought the engine up to the TFE731-20-BR standard for its features.
The change in powerplant brought substantial advantages to the Model 45XR compared to the baseline. Maximum take-off weight was increased by 1,000 pounds, which allowed the aircraft to exploit its range without compromising on cargo or passenger capacity.
Another improvement was the short field performance: a Learjet 45XR can safely operate from 4,000ft runways with a significant payload, making it one of the best in its class.
The TFE731-20-BR is able to meet its thrust rating across a much wider temperature and density altitude range than the TFE731-20-AR, making the Learjet 45XR a viable choice for owners living in mountainous or hot regions.
The cabin floor was slightly rearranged in newly-built Model 45XR units, packing more comfortable seats, improved lighting, and more legroom for passengers.
The popularity of the shortened Model 40 created a market for improvements. As it shared the same shortcomings of the Learjet 45, the change to the TFE731-20-BR engine was also implemented in it. Performance gains were similar, which made the conversion highly recommended by Bombardier.
Learjet 45 / Where to Find Replacement Parts
By virtue of being an indigenous Bombardier design, the Learjet 45 has enjoyed good support from its manufacturer, thanks in part to the commonality with the last Learjets, the Model 70 and Model 75, which stayed in production until 2021.
In recent years, Bombardier took an extra step towards parts availability by hosting its own global part inventory index. This allows owners and operators to check the situation at a glance and place orders from the same portal.
The decrease in middlemen and integrated approach has partially solved some supply issues that plagued previous Learjet models. Details and the access link can be found here for clients with a Bombardier online account.
Aiming for a more stringent safety standard was not without problems. The Learjet 45’s development cycle took longer than expected by Bombardier, and while the aircraft received the FAA’s initial approval in 1997, it only completed Part 25 certification in 1998.
The delays in testing cascaded into the production and delivery schedule, pushing certain orders back as far as two years, which led to complaints and some cancellations.
The early days of the Learjet 45 series were marred by issues best described as growing pains. Shortly after its introduction, operators were reporting numerous electrical issues that cropped up early on.
These are mostly related to cockpit alarms lighting up unintendedly and damaged power distribution panels. Other common complaints were the detection of windshield cracks and pressurization problems.
In 2007 Business Jet Traveler reported that initially, most owners had to ground their Model 45 and Model 40 airframes at least once a month for corrective maintenance related to these and other issues.
The frequent unavailability and works added significant costs, particularly to commercial owners who were unable to bring in revenue with their jets on the ground.
While most of the Learjet 45 issues could be described as minor, in August 2003, an FAA investigation found a critical failure that made the family unsafe to fly until the problem was remedied – the entire Learjet 45 and Learjet 40 fleet worldwide was grounded. The issue stemmed from a screw-and-nut assembly holding the horizontal stabilizer.
The FAA’s work found it did not meet specified resistance requirements and was prone to breaking during regular use. If that were to happen in flight, the aircraft would nose over into an unrecoverable dive, and the crew would have no way to control the aircraft’s pitch to counter that.
Bombardier engineers spent great effort developing a fix for the issue, and within a month, the corrective procedure began reaching operators.
A month of suspended operations does not seem as dramatic in light of Boeing’s long struggle with the 737 MAX, but at the time, it was one of the longest in mass-produced aircraft, comparable with the 37-day grounding that damaged the Douglas DC-10’s reputation beyond repair in 1979.
Avionics are a weak point of the Model 45: it inherited the Honeywell Primus 1000 EFIS from the Learjet 60, which was a very capable suite but still used CRT screens at a time where most newly built aircraft already packed LCD ones.
If the difference is not as pronounced to the pilot, the owner would beg to differ – maintenance for CRT screens is both more time-consuming and costlier in terms of parts, which greatly increased the lifetime expenses of Learjet 45 operations for no clear benefit.
This shortcoming was recognized by Bombardier and authorized maintenance centers, which began offering a program to install LCD displays.
The original Learjet 45 has relatively poor take-off and landing performance at high-density altitudes, but this problem has largely been resolved with the introduction of newer TFE731-20-BR engines. Many Model 45 operators have opted to replace the original powerplants with the upgraded ones during major overhauls.
Due to its Part 25 build, relatively young airframes, good reliability, and safety record, the Learjet 45 family does not face significant insurance problems. A study by Charlie Bravo aviation found the Learjet 45XR can be insured for $19,318.65 per year, higher than insurance costs for a similarly-classed Citation, priced at $15,210 per year.
The Model 40 and Model 45 have held their value very well, occasionally seeing rises in prices even at times of fleet-wide issues. A Learjet 45 was originally sold for $10 million, but now the asking prices average $1.5 million. Beyond the state of the aircraft, the add-ons, upgrades, and configuration specifics alter the price.
The price bracket for the Learjet 45 family is relatively small. The most expensive listing in the market is $2.2 million, while the cheapest is $1.1 million. Most deals are closed at slightly lower values, though, between $900 thousand and $1.5 million.
A 2017 survey showed the Learjet 45 and its derivatives were some of the most highly regarded business jets in operation, loved for their unique blend of high performance, low costs, comfort, and reliability.
Even while teething problems marred the fleet, surveys showed Learjet 45 operators never had any intention of trading the jet during the crises – even when accounting for the unexpected maintenance costs and losses, the Model 40 and Model 45 had acquisition operational costs well below anything with comparable performance and comfort, with prices for the type rising for most of its time in serial production even in the pre-owned market.
After early kinks were ironed out, the Learjet 45’s popularity with its owners soared further. It provided a low-cost, low-maintenance, low-footprint jet that remains competitive with emerging market leaders to this day.
There have been some problems with spare part procurement throughout its operation, but Bombardier has committed to rectifying those to guarantee the series’ longevity after Learjet production ceased in 2021.
The Learjet 45 and its derivatives share a market with the Cessna Citation III and VII, the Embraer Phenom 300, Legacy 450/500, and Praetor 500/600, the Gulfstream G100, the Hawker 800XP, and the Pilatus PC-24.
While Bombardier’s classic compares favorably against them in many aspects, the recent closure of the production line has created concerns over long-term parts availability, a problem that already plagues certain Learjet models designed before the Bombardier takeover for similar reasons.
Question: What is the Learjet 45?
Answer: A high-speed mid-sized business jet designed from the ground up by Bombardier Aerospace.
Question: When was the Learjet 45 Introduced?
Answer: Its first flight was in 1995, but the first customer delivery happened in 1998.
Question: Is the Learjet 45 still Being Produced?
Answer: Production ended in 2012 in favor of the Learjet 75, which was the last Learjet produced by Bombardier in 2021.
Question: Is the Learjet 45 Single-Pilot Certified?
Answer: A crew of two is the bare minimum required to operate the aircraft.
Question: How many Learjet 45 Variants are there?
Answer: The baseline Model 45 and the shortened Model 40, plus the uprated Model 45XR and Model 40XR, re-engined versions of the first two.
Question: Is the Learjet 45 a Troublesome Aircraft to Own?
Answer: Not anymore. Issues identified during its earlier years were quickly rectified by Bombardier, making the Learjet 45 family a very reliable and affordable aircraft for its class.