The last Learjet produced, a model 75, was delivered earlier this week by Bombardier, who acquired the brand in 1990. The cessation of production was announced in February, 2021, and the last delivery represents the end of an era in aviation. Northern Jet Management, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan will be the home for the aircraft. After sixty years in production, more than 3,000 Learjets were produced, with more than 2,000 remaining in service.
“Bombardier is committed to making sure that these 2,000 aircraft presently in service will keep flying well into the future,” said Paul Sislian, Executive VP of Operations. While new Learjets will no longer be delivered, the distinctive profile will continue to be seen for many years.
The original Learjet was one of the first purpose-built business jets when the airplane was certified in October 1963, with its first customer delivery in October 1964. Founded by Bill Lear, a larger-than-life entrepreneur, the company operated independently, later merged with Gates Rubber to form Gates Learjet, and since 1990 has been an integral part of the Bombardier family. Bombardier is now focusing on its larger Challenger and Global models as demand for the Learjet waned in recent years.
The last Learjet raised mixed emotions for the staff in Wichita, which still contains an engineering group, service center, and special mission aircraft programs for Bombardier. Tonya Sudduth, VP of Learjet Operations, summed up the emotions, stating “There’s no doubt that today is an emotional day for many of us as it marks the end of the production era of Learjet. However, the emotion I’ve seen most prominent in all of my conversations with employees over the past several days and months is pride. Pride for being a part of this legacy, and pride on making a lasting mark on aviation history.” The last Learjet marks a new transition in aviation as the industry continues to climb to newer and better technologies. Bill Lear’s legacy will live on.