The legendary Learjet aircraft that counts celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra among its users will go out of production, Canadian business jet manufacturer Bombardier has announced.
A slump in demand for the celebrity private planes owing to the increased competition from newer and less-expensive rivals is a major factor behind the decision, according to the Montreal-headquartered Bombardier.
“Less equipped aircraft at smaller price points drove demand,” said Bombardier spokesman Mark Masluch.
The company will cease the production of the famed jets at the end of 2021, bringing an end to the approximate 60-year reign for the aircraft.
Initially, the jets were produced by Learjet company that was founded in the late 1950s. In 1990, Bombardier acquired the company and it has remained its subsidiary since then. The planes were manufactured in Wichita, Kansas.
Announcing the company’s decision Eric Martel, president and CEO of Bombardier, told reporters, “We clearly looked at multiple options, including selling the brand or doing something else with that. But I think the first I need to say is we will continue to support the more than 2,000 Learjets flying. Wichita is a very important site for us, and I’m not saying this lightly,
“All of our test programs and our test capability are in Wichita. Also, (we have) a growing platform on the service side, so we’re going to be growing services in Wichita. We’ve also announced that Wichita will be the center of excellence for specialized aircraft. So, the site is going to be busy. Wichita will remain a prime site for Bombardier.”
The decision is said to have huge implications as between the United States and Canada, there will be a loss of around 1,600 jobs, with 700 jobs being eliminated in Quebec, 100 in Ontario, 250 in Wichita, and another 100 scattered across America.
“We are seeing the following breakdown: about 700 people in Quebec, 100 people in Ontario. Wichita will be approximately 250, and I would say the rest of the world will be the remaining (cuts),
“The reduction that we’re announcing is more office work. There are very few shop floor employees being affected. There is some shop floor work throughout Wichita, focused on specialized work. I’m sure we’re going to be able to keep busy some of these employees,” said Martel.
Following the announcement, Bombardier’s shares reportedly dropped 11% on the Toronto stock exchange.
Created by American engineer and inventor William Lear, the Learjet was based on the design of Swiss military jets. According to reports, the original Learjet, which was first flown in 1963, could fly as fast as a Boeing 707.
Since the development of the first jet by Lear, who also invented the automobile radio and the eight-track stereo tape player for automobiles, over 3,000 jets have been built to date.
Fly confidently aboard the Learjet 75 Liberty aircraft. It underwent more stringent safety testing than any other light jet and is certified to the industry’s highest safety standards. pic.twitter.com/vJWXAiNmXx
— Bombardier Jets (@bombardierjets) June 22, 2020
The public first took notice of the famous jet when legendary musician Frank Sinatra was photographed boarding the aircraft.
It was also reported that Sinatra famously lent his personal Learjet to the “king of rock” Elvis Presley so that the singer could fly to Las Vegas to marry his sweetheart, Priscilla.
The aircraft was also used by Serbian Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic.
While the private jet had its fair share of popularity over the last few decades, the emergence of newer and cheaper private planes seemed to have really hampered its demand.
According to an analysis carried out by Flight Global, the current private jet market is dominated by Textron Aviation, maker of Beechcraft and Cessna aircraft, with 43.9% of the share, followed by Bombardier with a market share of 22.4%.
“Customers want a nice Mercedes in that segment, but I don’t know if they want a Ferrari anymore,” said aerospace analyst Rolland Vincent.