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Bombardier Learjet 60XR: $ 13.3 mil, Mach .81, FL510, 2365 nm, 6–9 seats
Bombardier Learjet 60XR: $ 13.3 mil, Mach .81, FL510, 2365 nm, 6–9 seats

Pratt & Whitney Canada PW305A turbofans and Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 enhance top-of-the-line Learjet product capabilities

Bombardier announced the Learjet 60XR — its largest and most advanced model—at NBAA 2005, received FAA certification for it in Sep 2006 and began deliveries in Jul 2007. A development of Learjet’s stand-up-cabin model 55, the original Learjet 60 was certified in 1993 with a 43-inch fuselage stretch, new Pratt & Whitney Canada PW305A turbofans and additional range.

At s/n 294, the model 60 transitioned to the 60XR with upgraded Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics and 5 new cabin configurations. The model 60 has always been a great airplane and is a direct descendent of the original model 23 with the same 8-spar wing structure, wraparound windshields, clamshell doors, robust landing gear and rocket-like performance. It effectively combines all the features I’ve always liked about Learjet—power, agility and speed with lowest-in-class operating costs—while offering important improvements for pilots and passengers. Incidentally, the 60XR is the only Learjet model still 100% built from scratch in Wichita KS.

In late Nov 2007, Bombardier flew a Learjet 60XR to VNY (Van Nuys CA) and gave me the opportunity to flight-test the new flagship of the Learjet product line. Arriving aboard the 60XR, on a 2 hr 40 min run from ICT (Mid-Continent, Wichita KS), were Learjet Chief Pilot Dave Ryan, Learjet Flight Standards Senior Capt Rick Lowe and Media Relations Coordinator Annie Cossette. Sales Engineer Business Aircraft Bethanie Unruh and Dir Flight Ops Bob Agostino provided briefings on the 60XR program.

Roundtable discussion

The 23,500-lb-MTOW, $ 13.3-million 60XR fills an important niche for Bombardier between the 20,500-lb-MTOW $ 11.5-million Learjet 45XR and the 38,850-lb-MTOW .98 million super-midsize Challenger 300. In upgrading the 60 to the 60XR Bombardier made no changes to cabin size, range, thrust, payload or MTOW. Enhancing the flightdeck from Pro Line 4 to Pro Line 21 was, however, a significant improvement, saving close to 100 lbs in weight and increasing display area 75% over Pro Line 4, while providing front office commonality with the Challenger 300 and Challenger 605.

An impressive range of 5 interior layouts, with options for 3-place divans, provides compelling new cabin options for owners. The 60XR is outfitted standard for international ops with dual Rockwell Collins FMS5000, a Honeywell 1050HF radio and dual automatic attitude heading reference systems (AHRS). Popular 60XR options, Agostino pointed out, include dual channel ICS200 Iridium satcom with wireless handsets (80% capture rate), XM weather (70%), Universal Weather datalink (30%), a second file server unit (FSU) to support electronic charts (50%), enhanced Collins WXR840 radar with Doppler turbulence indications (60%), runway awareness and advisory system RAAS (25%), Airshow 410 or 4000 (80%) and 15.3-inch LCD cabin monitors (80%).

The 60XR traces its roots to the Learjet 23, which was certified in 1964. In 1966 the Learjet 24 became the first business aircraft to be FAA Part 25 certified, and since then Learjet has been continuously improving its product lineup. The stretched Learjet 25 was certified in 1967, followed by the turbofan-equipped model 35, in 1974. From 1981 to 1990, Learjet sold 147 model 55s, and it has built 315 model 60s since 1993.

Unruh pointed out that the Learjet 60XR competes with the Citation Sovereign, Gulfstream G150 and Hawker 850XP. According to Bombardier, the 60XR’s advantages over the competition include better climb performance and the lowest DOCs in its class, at $ 4.33 per nm (with fuel calculated at $ 4.80 per gallon). FADEC-equipped P&WC PW305As, with 5225 lbs of thrust derated to 4600 lbs, provide plenty of thrust in hot and high conditions with climb to FL 410 at MTOW in 18 minutes.

While it may be hard to beat the performance, operating economics and agility of the Learjet 60XR, I would have liked to see more range than 2365 nm (ISA with 4 pax and IFR reserves). If you have a flightdeck and cabin that are comfortable for 7 hours, it would be ideal to have more range and Hawaii capability. Range versus cabin, however, is a challenge common to most midsize business aircraft, and OEMs are not always successful in squeezing closer to 3000 nm from this capable class of aircraft.

Walkaround

Walking out to the Learjet 60XR, Ryan pointed out the familiar 13° sweep (at 25% chord) 8-spar Learjet wing with NASA-designed winglets. The unique airfoil, derived from the Swiss FFA P16 fighter on which Bill Lear based the model 23, has no downside other than higher labor costs in the build process. Learjet pioneered area rule fuselage design for business aircraft, to increase aerodynamic efficiency at high Mach numbers, and this shaping is very evident in the area of engine nacelles. Two ventral delta fins provide stall avoidance and enhanced directional stability while 2 inboard spoilers deploy automatically on touchdown or rejected takeoff with activation by wheel spin-up.

Walkaround was easy, with everything very accessible and well laid out. Dual angle-of-attack vanes are positioned on either side of the nosecone, with 2 indicators on the instrument panel, and this is a feature found on all Learjets starting with the model 23—something I really like and which few manufacturers provide.

New to the 60XR is an ice detection probe located on the left side of the nosecone. Single-point refueling panel and external lav service are on the right side, engine oil on the PW305As can be checked with a short ladder and the Sundstrand TurboMach T20G-10C3 APU is easy to access on the left side of the tail. Clamshell entry is traditional Learjet—an easy and by now well proven system.

The cabin is impressive. Finishing quality, materials and layout are very high-end, and new 2-zone cabin configurations really open up the aircraft. Visually, the 453 cu ft cabin with modular floorplan, 68-inch height and 71-inch width, seems much bigger inside compared with the Learjet 55 and even older Learjet 60s. Galley capacity is increased, new LED cabin lighting is featured throughout and 3-inch LCD touchscreen cabin controls are slick. The lav is very nice, using slightly less cabin than the former Learjet 60 while providing a second window. Baggage capacity is adequate, with 24.2 cu ft (350-lb capable) internally accessible behind the lav and another 24 cu ft (300-lb capable) of externally accessible, heated but unpressurized storage.

Compared with the competition, cabin height and width are similar to the Sovereign, G150 and Hawker 850XP. While the 60XR’s cabin length, at 17 ft 7 in, is similar to the G150’s 17 ft 8 in, it’s less than the 850XP’s 21 ft 4 in or the Sovereign’s 24 ft 2 in cabin. Block fuel savings of the model 60XR, Unruh pointed out, are up to 17% over the competition.

Moving forward, the left seat was easy to step into over the rather short pedestal. Seats and armrests are adjustable and flightdeck visibility is excellent. The wraparound windshields are a Learjet feature I’ve always liked. Rowe gave me a quick explanation of Pro Line 21 layout and systems, and we started engines and began taxi out to Runway 16R. While standard configuration is a single FSU, with dual cursor control panels, our flight test aircraft had been upgraded with a second FSU for a paperless flightdeck. Flying the Learjet 60XR

We departed VNY at 19,670-lb takeoff weight (84% of 23,500 lb MTOW with 3800 lbs of fuel and 2 passengers) and BFL of 3980 ft. We climbed initially to 4000 ft and 13,000 ft followed by several steps up to FL 360. Had we obtained clearance for a direct climb, I can guarantee the airplane would do what the book says! Flying the 60XR you immediately realize that this is an aircraft with plenty of power and acceleration like a smaller, lighter Learjet. At FL 360 I held cruise of Mach 0.76 and, even though conditions were bumpy, fuel burn was right on book numbers at 630 lbs per side.

ATC was busy, so after about 15 minutes we were stepped down to 18,000 ft. I was impressed with the Pro Line 21 avionics suite and its ease of use. The four 8 x 10-in LCD displays were very bright and readable, systems were all capable and I found the autopilot very smooth at the 3000-fpm rate of climb preset level-offs. Canceling IFR and leveling at 17,500 ft, 45° steep bank turns to left and right reminded me how nicely the 60XR handles and how easy it is to hold altitude.

Rowe and I flew approach to stalls, both clean and with 20° flap. In clean configuration we passed through Vref of 136 kts, got some aerodynamic buffet and, with angle of attack just into the green, I continued to stick shaker at 128 kts with yaw damper off. We came out of stall immediately when I lowered the nose. If I’d added power we would have climbed like crazy at that point. With 20° flap, stick shaker came on at 124 kts with gear up. Stall effects were docile, with good aileron and roll control.

I lowered the nose, we descended to 15,000 ft, retracted flaps and began descent for CMA (Camarillo CA). As the 60XR is so aerodynamically clean, it’s a little hard to get down while holding speed to 250 kts, so we went to full spoilers. Spoilers are very useful on this aircraft. They caused no noticeable buffet and little noise. After a midfield crossing of CMA we entered left downwind to Rwy 26 and flew a fairly close pattern to a full stop, landing at Vref of 136 kts. Using minimal braking, we rolled out 3800 ft down the runway. After taxi back for takeoff—BFL was 3650 at our weight of 18,200 lbs—Rowe cut one engine a little above V2. We were climbing so fast on one engine that we were at 1700 ft by the time I throttled back. The 60XR has that good old Learjet feeling of plenty of power. At our weight, we could have climbed direct to 15,000 ft without a problem.

Rudder boost is provided electrically through the yaw damper servo and comes on at about 50 lbs rudder pressure. Without overworking it was easy to keep the ball in the center. Turning downwind at 1200 ft, with Vref of 135 kts, we did a touch-and-go at CMA. I held off a little and we touched at 117 kts. Rowe reset flaps and trim and we accelerated for takeoff. Boy, when you go to 3rd throttle detent takeoff power, the 60XR really hauls! I flew a steep accent, engine spool-up was even, and we leveled out on the downwind leg at 4500 ft, returning to VNY with Vref of 134 kts at our weight of 17,900 lbs. After landing at VNY, I was again aware of the 60XR’s great steering and braking qualities. Total fuel burn over the course of our 1 hr 5 min flight was 1770 lbs.

What I particularly like about the 60XR is that it lives up to early Learjet capabilities. And, with its relatively short 43.79-ft wingspan, 25.37-ft wheelbase and digital nosewheel steering to 65°, you can maneuver easily. In fact, you’ll be able to taxi on almost any ramp that a single-engine piston Cessna can maneuver on.

I like the fact that this airplane is so self-sufficient that all you need to do is put fuel in and hit the starter. You don’t require external equipment and, while the aircraft has an APU for ground use only, you can start engines without APU.

Summary

Bombardier has raised the bar for the entire midsize jet category with the Learjet 60XR in an effective mix of performance, cabin comfort, state-of-the-art avionics and low operating cost.

A typical Learjet 60XR buyer would be someone who has the capability to handle the $ 13.3-million purchase price and intends to use the aircraft primarily domestically within North America, or within Europe, South America or Asia. However, there’s no reason why a US-based operator would not want to take this airplane to Europe 4 times or so each year. From California you can fly anywhere in Western Europe, with fuel stops in perhaps YQB (Quebec City QC, Canada) and KEF (Keflavík, Iceland). The cabin is spacious, the flightdeck is well equipped for international ops and, in my experience, passengers like to get out and stretch their legs after 5 hours.

The 60XR is, in my opinion, the ultimate Learjet. You’ve got plenty of power, performance and operating agility with a very comfortable cabin and capable flightdeck. I have no negative comments on this aircraft other than the fact that I wish it flew 15–20% further. With a cabin and flightdeck more than capable of 7-hour endurance, it would be nice if you could take this airplane from the West Coast to Hawaii on a regular basis. The Learjet 60XR is an airplane that owners will find both comfortable and productive and that pilots will really enjoy. In fact, it’s so nice that if you never moved to another aircraft you’d be happy with this airplane, because its performance is superb and it’s as sophisticated as any corporate jet on the market today.


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