Learjet, the private plane brand made famous by stars like Frank Sinatra, is halting production later this year.
The brand’s owner, Bombardier, said Thursday it will concentrate on its more profitable Challenger and Global aircraft. The move will cost 250 jobs at the Learjet factory in Wichita, Kansas.
“With more than 3,000 aircraft delivered since its entry-into-service in 1963, the iconic Learjet aircraft has had a remarkable and lasting impact on business aviation,” said Bombardier CEO Éric Martel. “Passengers all over the world love to fly this exceptional aircraft and count on its unmatched performance and reliability. However, given the increasingly challenging market dynamics, we have made this difficult decision to end Learjet production.”
The move is part of an overall cut of 1,600 job cuts announced by the Canadian company Thursday. Bombardier also announced a loss of 1.1 billion Canadian dollars (about US$866 million) in 2020. Over the past two years, Bombardier has sold off its regional jet and rail car business to concentrate on jets.
Learjet, which was started in Wichita in 1962 by Bill Lear, was one of the first private jets. Especially in its early days, Learjet was associated with the rich and famous. Elvis Presley reportedly borrowed Sinatra’s Learjet to elope to Las Vegas in 1967.
It was mentioned in the lyrics of the 1972 Carly Simon song, “You’re so vain,” in which she sang “You flew your learjet up to Nova Scotia, to see the total eclipse of the sun.” Who she was singing about has never been definitely disclosed, but many believe it was actor Warren Beatty.
These days, celebrities seem to prefer competitors like Gulfstream (Tom Cruise), and Bombardier’s larger planes like Global (Oprah) and Challenger (Jay-Z). If you’re Drake, you’re going with a full-size Boeing 767 — a commercial jet refitted for private use.
The company was purchased by Bombardier in 1990, which began deliveries of its latest aircraft, the Learjet 75, just this past October.
But the Learjets are smaller than the Challenger and Global brands of private jets. The Learjet 75 holds six to eight passengers. The Challenger, Bombardier’s best selling brand, holds at least nine, and the Global can hold twice that many.
The company was hit hard by the pandemic early in 2020, as it cut 2,500 jobs. But demand came back late in the year, as some business customers wanted to switch from first class commercial planes to their own private jets. The Global 7500 plane had a record 16 deliveries in the fourth quarter.