“The military calls it a ‘force multiplier’…that’s what business aircraft have been for FedEx. ”
Bombardier's Learjet 60XR: The cabin is terrific and so is the price
The Learjet 60XR is Bombardier's latest iteration of a midsize model that has endured since the 1970s, the decade that gave rise to this category of business jet. Learjet's initial midsize entry was the Model 55. Its design was derived from the stretched small-tube Model 35 and a new longer wing developed for the even smaller Model 25 that gave the airplane greater range and better high-altitude handling capabilities. Model 25s with the new wing were badged Model 28/29 "Longhorns." Only a handful were built, mostly in 1979. However, their wings-along with thrust-boosted engines and an expanded fuselage from the Model 35- became the basis for the Model 55 "Longhorn" that entered production in 1980.
A Model 55 can fly about 2,200 nautical miles, giving it near-transcontinental reach (bicoastal operations are possible with auxiliary fuel tanks). In the 55LR, maximum cruising time jumps to seven hours. To many, those numbers make Learjet's 55 a better value than the most comparable used competitors, the Hawker 800A and Cessna Citation III. The company produced nearly 150 Learjet 55s between 1981 and 1990. [For a review of the Learjet 55, see Bizjet Review in our April/ May 2006 issue.-Ed.]
Bombardier acquired Learjet in 1990 and immediately began to address some of the Model 55's perceived shortcomings: cramped cabin, insufficient power for some operations, undersized brakes and limited range. By 1993, it had the answer: the Model 60. The airplane is a derivative of the Learjet 55C with an 18-inch-longer cabin, redesigned seats and an extra passenger seat, more powerful engines, better climb performance, slightly faster cruise speed and a range of nearly 2,500 nautical miles. More than 300 Model 60s have been produced.
However, after more than a decade in production, sales began to slide, and in 2004 Bombardier replaced the Model 60 with the 60SE. The SE added plated trim, wood veneer, better carpeting, a 10-disc CD and DVD system with a 15.1-inch forward cabin monitor, a traffic-collision-avoidance system and an auxiliary power unit that allowed the cabin to be cooled or heated and powered before starting the main engines.
While the SE was a step in the right direction, its spruced-up interior didn't quite keep pace with either technology or the requirements of owners who were flying ever-longer missions-even if that meant fuel stops-such as from the continental U.S. to Europe and beyond. These flights require more in-cabin stowage space, a larger galley, an airier feeling and lighter cabin to combat jet lag and more room for passengers to stretch out. In 2005, only one year after Model 60SE deliveries began, Bombardier announced the 60XR.
Deliveries of the 60XR began earlier this year.
The XR features new cockpit avionics built around the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 four-screen glass panel system, which provides pilots with better situational awareness, integrated weather radar and warning systems for ground proximity and wind shear.
Those are important updates to be sure, but the redesigned cabin is where this airplane really shines. Changes include more curvaceous cabinetry, single-seat structure and upholstery, a cleaner looking headliner with recessed air gaspers, LED lighting, more illuminating window surrounds and a redesigned lavatory with a larger vanity cabinet. Customers can now choose from five basic seven- and eight-seat floor plans and specify a larger galley and a three-place divan in addition to four slide/swivel single executive seats arranged in a "club 4" configuration. (Bombardier says the airplane can seat nine passengers, but that counts the belted potty.) Other layouts include six single seats or a high-density, eight-seat layout, including six single seats and a two-place divan (a particularly useless item, save for small children, pets or briefcases).
The new galley is the cabin's most impressive monument and it has been relocated to the left side of the cabin next to the passenger door. This positioning conveys a more spacious atmosphere and accentuates the cabin lines, creating a lengthier appearance. It also provides a noise buffer between most of the passengers and the cabin door, which has an improved seal. Overall, interior cabin noise has been reduced by "several" decibels over the Learjet 60, according to Bombardier. The unconventional galley tower houses hot-liquid containers and glassware and provides 6.5 more inches of workspace with natural lighting via an over-the-counter window.
Improved natural and artificial lighting is a big part of the 60XR cabin's appeal. The lavatory has an extra window and the new window surrounds allow a significant amount of additional natural light inside.
The 60XR's cabin management system has fewer and more user-friendly menus than the 60 and features inputs for iPods and other equipment, such as laptops and DVD players. Content from these devices can be transmitted throughout the cabin via headphone jacks and displays. While high-speed Internet isn't available, options include Iridium satellite phones, the Airshow 410 or 4000 moving map and flight information/entertainment system with network package, a 15.1-inch forward monitor, a 10.4-inch aft monitor, single or dual DVD systems, passenger AV inputs and XM radio. Such improvements give the Learjet 60XR's cabin much of the look, feel and function of a super-midsize business jet-for $6 million to $7 million less.