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The Learjet 55 ‘Lonhorn’ is almost 45 years old, but it is still a workhorse.
The Learjet 55 longhorn was the amalgamation of all the developments that the Learjet company had made to the original Learjet 20 series. The Learjet 55 was first announced at the 1977 Paris airshow and was the company’s first mid-sized aircraft. Advertised as having a ‘stand up’ cabin, the Lear 55 provided passengers with almost 18 inches more headroom than previous models.
The Learjet 55 first flew in 1979 and was set to be the executive jet of the 1980s, but these days the Lear 55 sees regular use as a medical aircraft. Due to its spacious cabin, competitive fuel consumption, comfort, and facilities, pilots praise its capability in this regard.
The Learjet 55 inherited the nickname ‘Longhorn’ from the short-lived Learjet 28/29, which served as a testbed for the new winglets. The rear-swept wings had undergone a redesign, but the platform remained similar; A T-tail empennage, retractable tricycle gear, and aft-mounted engines.
The Learjet 55 has a maximum capacity of 12. Two crew members and a cabin that can seat up to 10, depending on the interior configuration. The club configuration, which seats seven, is the most popular.
A party of four can sit in swiveling chairs to form a circle with a shared work table on either side of the cabin. The work table can be extended to span the entire width of the cabin. The seats can move 12 inches fore and aft and can move in-board by 6 inches to improve elbow room.
There is a double divan seat behind the cockpit, located opposite the galley, should cabin crew service be required. There is an additional seat aft of the club area, perfect for private security, a secretary, or attache.
The Learjet 55 has three luggage compartments, the largest of which is at the rear of the cabin; the other 2 are un-pressurized. There is a small compartment inside the nose that acts as storage for engine covers and other items. The third is under the left engine and is primarily used for the crew’s luggage.
Widening the fuselage increased the cabin width to 5’9”, which improved the comfort of the cockpit. The area around the crew seats was enlarged, just by a few inches. This can make all the difference for a tall pilot on a 4-hour flight.
A few simple developments elevated the luxury status of the Learjet 55 above its predecessors. The main luggage compartment could now be loaded through the emergency exit door instead of handlers dragging bags up the center aisle.
Another simple but effective design inclusion was recessing the walkway into the floor a few inches. Despite its age, the Learjet 55 still provides the competitive headroom with 5’7” ft / 1.71 m to walk around the aircraft.
The lavatory design was more considered and better provisioned; prior bathroom facilities only provided a curtain for lavatory privacy. The facilities were more spacious and moved to aft, hygienically, separating it from the galley area behind the cockpit. The galley was also updated and provisioned with hot drinks and a microwave in addition to the minibar.
The adjustable seats in the club lounge made better use of the extra space and improved interaction for passenger parties. Previous Learjet iterations had cabins as low as 4’3” ft, belying the original military inspiration. Difficult for tall executives to retain their dignity in such a low space.
The Lear 55 was also the first in the Lear fleet to provide single-point refueling as standard. The simple design inclusions on the newer and larger Learjet 55 meant the experience was a much more comfortable and upmarket affair for both passengers and crew.
Learjet 55 Specs
Passengers: Seven in club configuration, or 10 in executive configuration.
Cabin Length: 13’ ft 7” in / 4.14m
Cabin Height: 5’ft 8” in / 1.73m
Cabin Width: 5’ft 9” in / 1.75m
Cabin Volume: 407’ cu ft / 11.52 m3
Full size lavatory
Galley with microwave, hot and cold drinks, ice, and a full minibar.
Luggage Compartment Volume: 40’ cu ft / 1.13 m3
Two Class D exterior storage compartments
Aircraft Length: 55’1” / 17.7m
Wingspan: 43’10” / 13.36m
Wing Area: 264.5 sq ft / 24.5 m2.
Wing type: Rear-sweeping, Low-wing, Cantilever.
Landing gear: Retractable Tricycle Gear.
Engines: Twin, aft-mounted Garrett T731-2A-3B Turbo Fanjet.
Power: 7,400lbf (3,700 lbf per engine)
Maximum speed: 541 mph / 871 kmh / 470 Knots @ 30,000ft.
Cruise speed: 462 mph / 744 kmh / 401 Knots @ 49,000ft.
Service ceiling: 51,000ft.
‘No Wind’ Range: 1,800 Nautical Miles (Depending on fuel tank configuration).
Take-off distance: 5,600 ft.
Landing Distance: 2,800 ft.
Balance Field Length: 4,160 ft.
Payload, Weight, and Fuel Specs
Basic Operating Weight: 12,893lbs / 5,848kg
Max Takeoff Weight: 21,500lbs / 9,525kg
Max Landing Weight: 18,000lbs / 8164kg
Max Payload: 2,107lbs / 955kg
Max Payload Fully Fueled: 1,400lbs / 635kg
Max Fuel: 6,707lbs / 3042kg
Fuel consumption: 188 Gallons per hour
Some avionic systems are often updated throughout the operational life of an aircraft. The following is a list of equipment that you can expect to find on a Learjet 55 today.
AutoPilot: J.E.T FC-550
Weather Radar: Sperry Primus 400sl Colour
Stormscope: Goodrich WX-1000+
COMMS: Dual Collins VHF-20
NAVS: Dual Collins VIR-30
Radar Altimeter: Collins ALT-55B
GPS: Dual King KLN-900
DME: Dual Collins DME-40
RMI: Dual Collins
ADF: Dual Collins ADF-60
TRANS: Dual Honeywell MST-67A
Hi Frequency: King KHF-950 w/SELCAL
TAWS: Honeywell Mk. VIII EGPWS
TACS: Honeywell CAS-67A TACS-II w/Change 7
Flight Phone: Magnastar C-2000
Learjet 55 Prices
If you are not in a position to make a long-term investment, chartering a Learjet 55 will cost a little more than $3,000 per hour.
The Learjet 55 was originally sold for $4.2 million. These days they can be picked up for just a quarter of that. A Learjet 55 that is in good condition and current operation will set you back around $1 million.
You may find a Learjet 55 that is in working condition but needs refurbishment and re-certification in the region of $200,000. To restore a Learjet 55 to service from this condition could cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Purchasing a Learjet 55 that needs refurbishment may save in the short term, but it will take time to complete the restoration. Aircraft can only earn money while they are flying; they cost money when they are on the ground.
Learjet 55 running costs and maintenance schedule
As with any aircraft, there are costs involved in the maintenance, and of course, costs increase with the complexity of the aircraft. Fixed costs are accounted for regardless of whether the aircraft flies or not. Variable costs include expenditure on fuel, thus costs increase with flight hours.
Learjet 55 Annual Fixed Cost
The fixed cost of maintaining and operating Learjet 55 is around $300,000 – $450,000 per year. Flight crews require training. This expense is calculated in addition to the crew’s salary. Crew salary is generally in the region of $150,000 – $250,000 per year.
For pilots to fly commercially, they must undergo annual medical testing and training. For airline pilots, these tests are more regular. Generally, the costs involved are in the region of $25,000 and are usually passed on to the pilot’s employer.
Commercial pilots have additional certification, which allows them to charge clients for the time they spend flying. A commercial pilot may still be referred to as a ‘private pilot’ due to flying privately owned aircraft.
Private pilots are not to be confused with Private Pilot License (PPL) holders. PPL is the entry-level pilot’s certificate, and those with a PPL are often enthusiasts or in training.
Costs for hangar rental (up to $50,000), insurance (up to $50,000 depending on cover), and management (up to $50,000) plus miscellaneous expenses ($15,000-$50,000) combined, can reach up to $200,000 per year.
Learjet 55 Variable Costs
Variable costs are heavily dependent on how much the aircraft is used. Servicing to maintain an aircraft’s certificate of airworthiness is required every 12 months. For a Learjet 55 in regular use, these services must be conducted every 300 flight hours.
Maintenance crews carry out checks weekly or every few days for aircraft in constant operation. General maintenance checks are conducted in addition to the pilot’s pre-flight checks and airworthiness certification maintenance.
The Learjet 55 has a standard operating cost of $2,750 per hour, a little under half of which is fuel expenses. For a Learjet 55 flying an 8-hour round trip (approximately 1 full fuel tank each way) just once a week, the variable annual costs equate to over one million dollars.
This figure is calculated before repairs and replacing damaged or malfunctioning components.
Maintenance and Inspection Schedule
To retain the certificate of airworthiness for a Lear 55, a strict maintenance schedule must be adhered to.
Thrust reverser inspections are required at 150 hours and 300 hours and cost in the region of $1,000.
Class A 1-6 inspections are required every 300 hours/12 months.
Class B 1-6 Inspections are required every 600 hours/24 months.
Class C 1-6 inspections are required every 1,200 hours/48 months.
Class D 1-6 Inspections are required every 2,400 hours/96 months.
Landing Gear Inspections are required every 6000 landings.
These inspections will cost between $5,000 and $10,000, not including repairs or replacement parts.
12,000 hour / 12 year inspection
The 12-year inspection requires a full teardown of the aircraft. The main wing and tail are de-mated and inspected to ensure structural integrity. The interior, from the cockpit to the lavatory, is completely removed.
The insulation and soundproofing are stripped out to x-ray the fuselage and inspect absolutely everything. The extreme conditions that are experienced by components outside of the pressurized cabin increase the likelihood that repairs will be needed after a 12 year period.
The basic quote for the 12-year inspection of a Learjet 55 for labour alone is between $50,000 and $150,000.
Including repairs, the total cost for this type of inspection could be as much as $250,000 – $350,000.
Remember that this is in addition to other hourly and annual calendar inspections.
Learjet 55 Performance and Handling
Flying at 7,000 – 8,000 ft, at 250 knots, the Learjet 55 is an incredibly enjoyable aircraft to fly. Some pilots say the smaller lighter Learjet 30 feels like a fighter jet, but the Learjet 55’s authority on the roll axis is just as good. It handles amazingly for a plane of its size and weight.
The wings were designed for optimal performance at high speed, however, and this becomes evident on the runway.
Due to its fast approach and takeoff speeds, the Learjet 55 can be unforgiving on a wet or contaminated runway. Despite the updates to improve the Learjet 55’s low-speed handling, there are larger, heavier planes that perform better on takeoff and landing.
Learjet aircraft are notoriously tricky on the runway, and the Learjet 55 is said to be the most temperamental of the fleet. Despite the Balance Field Length specs, Pilots who fly the Learjet 55 regularly recommend a minimum runway length of 5000ft to comfortably land a heavy airplane.
The Learjet 55 spec sheet claims a ceiling of 51,000 ft, and the aircraft’s pressurization system is certified to that altitude. But pilots say that unless the air temperature is very low, the Learjet 55 can struggle to reach 43,000 ft. In reality, there is no reason to push an aircraft to such extreme altitudes in standard operation.
Learjet 55 Modifications and Upgrades
The Gates Learjet Corporation, as it was in the late 70s (now Bombardier), first announced the Learjet 55 at the 1977 Paris Airshow. The company had made many developments to their original private jet, the Learjet 23, which culminated in the Learjet 28/29 and spawned the Learjet 35/36.
The Learjet 55 combined improvements made to the Learjet 20 and 30 series to make it their largest and fastest aircraft yet. The new Garrett (now Honeywell) engines were more powerful and quieter and allowed the Learjet 55 to break the record for time-to-climb in its class.
The Learjet 55 kept the same Low-wing, T-tail, tricycle gear, twin aft-mounted engines, and mono-body as previous models. But Learjet increased the size, updated the external layout, and implemented many new features to the 55.
Learjet 55 Engines
The predecessor of the Learjet 55, the Learjet 25, used a pair of General Electric’s CJ-6106 turbojet, each of which provided a maximum 2950lbf thrust. The Learjet 25B-GF, which later became the Learjet 35, was a testbed for the newer Garrett fanjet engine – the T731.
The T731 was re-designated T731-3A-2B to specify the type used by the Learjet 55 series. This new turbofan was quieter and capable of delivering significantly more thrust than the CJ-6106. Each Garrett T731-3A-2B engine could produce a max thrust of 4,750lbf (3,700lbf nominal)
The T731-3A-2B is slightly different in design from the original T731, and the “2B” part of the designation specifies that the engine requires mountings for a Learjet 55 nacelle. The “3A” in the designation refers to operational design differences from the standard T731 model.
The “3A” variant engines use a smaller hub which allows for longer fan vanes to be used. The longer vanes and smaller hub allow a greater flow of air to pass through the engine, which in turn provides better performance at higher altitudes.
A newer version of the T731 designated 3AR provides an additional 180 lbf on takeoff bringing the total thrust on short bursts up to 3,880 lbf.
Additionally, the Learjet 55 has engines mounted higher up and further out from the fuselage than its predecessors. This design change improved the airflow to the engines. In previous models, there were very slight airflow restrictions which hampered economy and performance.
Learjet 55 Wing Improvements
The completely redesigned wings allowed Learjet to make the 55 the largest jet in their fleet at the time. Developments included wing fences, stall strips, and boundary layer energizers (BLEs) in an attempt to improve low-speed characteristics. Sadly, the improvements had only minimal success, and the Learjet 55 remained tricky in sub-optimal runway conditions.
The addition of winglets, replacing the iconic Learjet wingtip tanks, and a general update to the look gave the Learjet 55 a modern style. The winglets that were designed by NASA also improved fuel efficiency and low-speed lateral stability.
The Learjet 55 also shortened the vertical stabilizer, and subsequently, the rear wing position was lowered slightly. This improved the handling of the aircraft dramatically and has been a design inclusion on all Learjet models following the 55.
Updated models – Learjet 55B, 55C, 55C-ER, and 55C-LR
The initial redesign of the 55, the 55B, only saw eight aircraft built, and Learjet produced 14 of the 55C, the last being delivered in 1991. However, many of the standard Learjet 55s have been updated to include the improved flight systems of the later models.
The 55B improved upon a number of areas, including providing a full glass cockpit with an Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS), improved take-off performance, and range. The following year they improved the design once again with the Learjet 55C.
The 55C saw a redesign of the under-fuselage. Details included delta fins which further improved the stability of the aircraft and reduced the landing speed. The re-design also improved on the initial climb rate, while the reduced landing speed improved the balance field length of the 55C.
Learjet also produced the 55C with longer range tanks with the designation 55C-ER and 55C-LR. The 55C-ER was the extended-range version of the 55C and increased the range of the base model by about 100 miles. The 55C-LR added another fuel tank in the tail cone and provided an additional 100-mile improvement in range over the 55C-ER.
Where to Find Replacement Parts
All Aero is a U.K based company that specializes in replacement/refurbished parts for business aircraft, including the Learjet 55, 55A, 55B, and 55C.
Banyan Air Service is an Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT) service based in Ft. Lauderdale that is FAA and EASA approved. Their services include hourly, calendar, major, and special inspections: comprehensive maintenance tracking, repairs, and overhauls.
Spectra Jet in Springfield, Ohio, offers all hourly and calendar inspections, including landing gear inspections and non-destructive testing. 150 and 300-hour thrust reverser inspection and replacement, and 12-year inspection and X-Ray services.
An Airworthiness Directive (AD) was released in 2018 by the FAA concerning Learjet Bombadier aircraft models 28, 29, 31, 31A, 35, 35A, 36, 36A, 55, 55A, 55B, 55C, and 60. A report was received detailing skewed flaps, which caused the ailerons to bind.
The skewed flap was caused by a repeated load on the flap of a Learjet model 31A, which subsequently led to fatigue cracks in the flap support structure. The same issue was discovered on Learjet models 31, 31A, 35A, 55, and 60, following an FAA alert service bulletin published in March 2017.
The aircraft listed in the directive all share the same structural design of the flap/aileron assembly. As the fatigue was not an isolated incident, the FAA was duty-bound to issue the directive.
There are several options when it comes to insuring your Learjet 55. Standard policies include liability coverage for property damage and injury.
Additional cover can be added to policies to cover medical payments, physical cover for the aircraft hull, passengers, luggage, and contents. Also, for hangers and contents, hanger staff and technician liability cover, trip interruption, and emergency landing costs.
Maintenance plans are also available and can reduce the cost of insurance while increasing the resale value of a Lear 55. One of the plans that seem to be particularly popular among Learjet 55 owners is the Honeywell Gold Maintenance Service. The service provides replacement parts and scheduled maintenance for your engines and all other Honeywell parts.
The condition and flight hours of a Learjet 55 can dramatically affect the resale value. Another point that can increase the value of a Lear 55 is the maintenance plan.
Depending on the condition of the aircraft, a Lear 55 can resale for between $200,000 and $1,200,000.
Learjet 55 Owner Reviews
Many Learjet 55’s are owned and operated by executive charters, and others are generally owned privately by executives that employ a flight crew. As such, owner reviews are few and far between. More pertinent are the views of private pilots who fly the aircraft regularly.
Regular pilots of the Learjet 55 recommend flying at Mach 0.77 to provide the greatest balance between speed and fuel efficiency. Cruising at Mach 0.77 allows the aircraft to operate at a comfortable level without sacrificing flight times.
Some Learjet 55’s are in operation as medical transport aircraft, and pilots sing the praises of Lear 55’s for this purpose. These are primarily used to transport doctors and donor organs to patients.
When configured for medical use, the Lear 55 can take two patient beds. This configuration provides seating for one or two companions and a medical staff of one to three doctors, in addition to the two crew.
With un-modified fuel tanks, the Lear 55 can make the trip from Teterboro airport to Denver in around 4 hours on a single tank of fuel.
Learjet 55 Similar Aircraft
The Learjet 60 is the updated version of the Lear 55 and has a very similar interior capacity. Both offer a club layout offering seating for up to seven passengers plus two crew. The Lear 55 has about half an inch extra height in the cabin. But it is slightly narrower, though only by half an inch.
The lear 55 has 12 cubic feet of additional luggage storage capacity. The Lear 60 has sacrificed this luggage space to make the lavatory, which now spans the entire width of the aircraft, more spacious.
The Lear 60 also has more options for the internal layout. The galley can be extended by sacrificing one of the seats, and the club seating area can be installed either fore or aft. The Lear 55 has a higher cruise speed and better fuel consumption, but the 60 has a longer range.
The range of the Lear 60 can be matched by the Lear 55C-LR with its extra fuel capacity.
All in all, the two aircraft are very similar. Many of the improvements that were added to the Lear 55C were included in the design of the Lear 60 from the start. These improvements were not just an afterthought, and this is immediately evident from the performance of the Lear 60 on the runway and at low speed. Here’s a complete guide on Learjet Types and Models for more information.
Further Read about Learjet Aircrafts:
Cessna Citation XLS
The Cessna Citation XLS is a mid-sized jet with similar specs to the Lear 55. The Citation XLS’s unswept wing has a larger span (56ft/17m vs. 43ft/13.5m), and the cabin area is longer. The headroom and width of the Citation is slightly lower than the Lear 55, even though it does provide more cubic feet in the cabin.
The Lear 55 offers a higher operational ceiling and better fuel economy. But the more powerful Pratt & Whitney fanjets of the Citation provide a faster cruise speed. The Cessna Citation XLS has one additional seat in club configuration over the Lear 55. The bathroom of the Citation, which spans the width of the cabin, is slightly larger too.
While the Lear 55 can still hold its own against the competition on many levels, the market for luxury private jets is demanding more space for creature comforts. As such, Bombardier has announced that it will no longer be making aircraft under the name Lear and will now be focussing on the larger Global and Challenger series aircraft.
It was a sad day for aviation enthusiasts when Bombardier made the announcement. After almost 60 years at the top of the luxury private market, the Learjet name will be lost to history. Check out our guide on the Cessna Mustang for more details on Cessna aircraft options.
Further Read about Cessna Aircrafts:
Clubs You Can Join
Currently, there are no owners clubs for the Lear 55, but there are active members on aviation forums that are willing to provide information and advice to other Lear 55 owners.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How much does a Learjet 55 cost?
Answer: At launch, the price of the Learjet 55 was $4.1 million. A used Lear 55 can cost between $200,000 and $1.2 million.
Question: How much does a 2020 Learjet cost?
Answer: The company’s newest, the Learjet 75, has a retail price of $9.9 million.
Question: Are Learjet still being made?
Answer: Bombardier Aerospace, the owners of the Learjet brand, announced that the Learjet 75 would be the last aircraft to use the name. Production will cease this year (2021).