Learjet 40
Learjet 40

Learjet 40

The six- to seven-passenger Learjet 40 is basically a Learjet 45 with two feet lopped off the fuselage, two fewer cabin seats, and 100 gallons less fuel capacity. The idea behind both models was to offer the market medium-sized jet comfort and performance with light jet operating economics, and in that regard the airplanes deliver brilliantly. 

The difference between the 40, which began to be delivered in 2004, and the 40XR, which came to market in 2005, are the latter’s Honeywell TFE731-20AR engines, which were tweaked to reduce balanced field length at higher temperatures and offer improved time to climb and better high-speed cruise. Many 40s have been converted to 40XRs and those that have been have engines designated TFE731-BR. 

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Depending upon the mission, the engine upgrade can produce dramatic results. A 40XR will fly 936 nautical miles farther than a straight 40 and make the run from Jackson, Wyoming to Teterboro, New Jersey in just under four hours. For departures and arrivals at sea-level airports, the 40XR offers 177 nautical miles of extra range and an increased takeoff weight of 650 pounds. Used model 40s without the engine upgrade generally sell for around $200,000 less than those that have it. Compared with the Citation Encore, the 40 provides 45 knots faster cruise speed and 200 nautical miles of additional range. The 40 is also built to the more rigorous FAA Part 25 standards for larger business jets and must be flown with two pilots.  

The 40 also has a bigger interior than competing aircraft. 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—53 cubic feet more than on the Encore and 57 more than on the Hawker 400XP. The additional space makes it feel as if you’re riding in a midsize rather than in a light jet. 

Learjet 40 XR Interior
Learjet 40 XR Interior

A small closet and refreshment center are opposite the cabin door. The six slide/swivel individual reclining passenger seats are arranged in a forward club-four configuration and are followed by two forward-facing passenger seats. There is more passenger legroom on the 40 than on the larger model 45. Fold-out tables deploy from the cabin sidewalls and a large lavatory with sink, belted flushing potty, and 15-cubic-foot wardrobe is in the aft cabin. Internal and external baggage capacity totals 65 cubic feet, very respectable for a light jet. The aircraft can be equipped with 12-inch forward and aft entertainment monitors. 

A variety of upgrades are available for the Learjet 40 and 45, but given these airplanes’ price points, not many make economic sense. One that does is the conversion of the original Honeywell Primus 1000 glass panel avionics’ CRT displays to more modern, lighter, and more reliable LCD monitors. Several providers offer other avionics performance upgrades that will keep Model 40s compliant with new regulations.  

A more modern version of the 40, the $11 million (new) Learjet 70, saw production from 2013 to 2017, but aside from newer avionics and a restyled cabin, it’s basically the same airplane. For those who want the performance of the 40 with even more cabin space, Bombardier announced in July that it will begin deliveries of the $9.9 million, six-seat Learjet 75 Liberty in 2020. But if you want Learjet performance with a comfortable cabin at an extremely reasonable price, a used Learjet 40 will keep you happy and save millions of dollars in the process, while Bombardier’s recommitment to its business jet business (see sidebar) should assuage any concerns you may have about future product support. 

Learjet 40 XR
Learjet 40 XR


Why Used Learjet 40s Are Worth Considering Now

Most readers of the financial pages are acquainted with Bombardier’s disastrous attempt to challenge Airbus and Boeing for the single-aisle airliner market, which ended in Canadian government bailouts and a significant change in upper management. Bombardier began work on the CSeries airliner in 2004 amidst visions of grandeur, only to plunge from the sky like Icarus, its stock price collapsing from more than $7 in 2011 to 58 cents by 2016. Bombardier ended up ceding the CSeries program to Airbus in 2018 much the same way one would dispose of Grandma’s avocado-green refrigerator—pushed to the curb with a prayer that someone takes it away. 

Arguably, the CSeries math was never going to work for Bombardier, as the program’s cost escalated past $6 billion. Meanwhile, Boeing was developing the competitive 737Max line for just $2 billion and Airbus rolled out the A320neo for slightly less. The difference in these numbers seems even more dramatic when you consider the size of the companies’ pockets: in 2018 Boeing and Airbus posted revenues of $101 billion and $72 billion, respectively, while Bombardier took in just $16.2 billion. Between 2013 and 2017, also, Bombardier recorded annual losses in the billions.    

To keep the ship afloat, the company cut the fat, then cut into the bone. More than 10,000 employees lost their jobs, and programs at the profitable business jet division were rolled back, shelved, or killed. This included flushing nearly $1 billion on the canceled all-composite Learjet 85, which had been supposed to dethrone Cessna from its leadership position in the midsize-cabin bizjet market but instead it became an emblem for a dying Learjet brand. Support for older Learjets also suffered before improving in recent years, according to the annual product-support survey in our sister publicationAviation International News. 

Product support isn’t the only thing getting better at Bombardier, which posted a modest profit in 2018 after years of crippling losses. Besides exiting the CSeries quagmire, over the last year the company has also sold off its other commercial aircraft programs in order to better focus on its corporate jet business. Also, it has certified the world’s largest purpose-built business jet, the Global 7500; introduced three new bizjet derivative programs (Global 6500 and 5500 and Learjet 75 Liberty); and refreshed its popular Challenger 350 super-midsize twin. 

Such achievements have yet to be reflected in used Learjet prices, which have taken a beating in recent years. So now is a great time to buy. A 2007 Learjet 40 currently fetches around $1.9 million—about $1 million less than a comparable Cessna Citation Encore+. In many ways the Learjet 40 is more capable. —M.H.

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