Meanwhile, the cabin measures 5 ft. 11 in. dropped aisle to ceiling and 6 ft. 1 in. across, and features: double club, fully berthing seats (one can be switched out for a three-place divan); galley; full aft lavatory, lots of storage; an Ethernet-based cabin management system; and entertainment systems with XM radio, bulkhead and eight pop-up monitors, and iPhone/iPad control.
The fuselage for the first flight-test aircraft was delivered to Wichita in late August. The company declines to say when that initial flight will occur, but some time in 2013 seems likely. The company is also mum about orders, but the first several units will go to Flexjet, its Dallas-based fractional aircraft ownership operation, which has confirmed nearly 50 shares with deposits in hand. It anticipates delivery of its first Lear 85 in the last quarter of 2013.
The years-long slump in the business jet market has resulted in some unsold inventory, and Bombardier has announced it was “pausing” manufacture of the Learjet 60, with no certainty that the line will ever be restarted. However, if the market for a Model 60-sized aircraft returns, the Model 85's platform could likely be adapted to serve the need.
And despite market doldrums, Bombardier's investment in the light end goes beyond the Lear 85 to include the Learjet 70 and 75, which are follow-ons to the Models 40XR and 45XR, and respectively priced at $11.1 million and $13.5 million. Certification and first delivery are expected in early 2013. In May, Bombardier reported orders and commitments for more than 50 of the new models.
Meanwhile, Bombardier is further developing its top-end offerings with the intercontinental Global 7000 and 8000, and is expanding its Montreal facilities to include a new Global delivery center and larger completions center. The $68.9 million Global 7000 is targeted for service entry in 2016, and the shorter Global 8000, priced at $66.3 million, the following year.
To accommodate the Lear 85, construction of production flight, paint and customer delivery facilities will put another 242,000 sq. ft. under the roofs in Wichita. And in Queretaro, what will be a 234,000-sq.-ft. building is under construction for the manufacture of assemblies for the growing Global family.
All that activity in a down market has had an impact on head count. Bombardier employs more than 1,500 workers in Queretaro, approximately 600 of whom are dedicated to the Lear 85 program. Meanwhile, employees number about 3,000 in Wichita, an increase of nearly 50% since 2008, and it plans to add another 600 as Learjet 85 production ramps up there.
The IAM represents 825 of the company's Wichita workforce, and 79% of the voting union members supported the strike. Central to that decision, the union says, was Bombardier's offer for a wage increase of 4% over the next five years, with no increase in the first year; the elimination of two popular health maintenance organizations; and concerns that alternative plans represent a 110% increase in costs.
Bombardier says it was disappointed by the rejection of its five-year contract proposal, but plans to continue negotiations to resolve outstanding issues. In the interim, the manufacturer says it has taken steps to minimize “disruption to the production line, its customers and the community.”