The Learjet is one of the most iconic airplanes in aviation history. You can quibble if you’d like, but the Lear Model 23 is what many light jet insiders consider the first true bizjet. It and it created such a cultural splash, non-aviation types around the country and around the world for years the first Learjet came about referred to all light jets as “Learjets.” The company over the years and under various ownership, has delivered more than 3,000 Learjets since the first Model 23 rolled out in the mid-1960s under the company founder Bill Lear.
The jet wasn’t Lear’s invention. The Learjet 23, called that because it was a Part 23 small airplane certificated design (the one and only for the company), was based on a Swiss fighter jet design, the FFA-P-16. Only five were made before the program was cancelled. Over the years, Learjet built increasingly complex and capable aircraft, including the Learjet 60, a coast-to-coast luxury bizjet. The current model, the 70/75, will go down as the last the company produced.
But still competition from several business jet makers, including the company’s current owner, Bombardier, made sales success for the Wichita-based light jet maker increasingly difficult to achieve.
Bombardier plans to keep the former Learjet factory open, producing parts and supplying aftermarket support to the thousands of Learjets still flying today.