WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Bombardier Inc. will stop making Learjet aircraft the company announced in a news release on Thursday.
The iconic jet was among the first private luxury planes. William Lear based his design in part on military jets. The first Learjet flew in 1963, and more than 3,000 had been built since.
The company said it will allow them to focus on the profitable Challenger and Global aircraft families and accelerate the expansion of its customer services business.
“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. 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,” said Éric Martel, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier Inc.
That means the elimination of 1,600 jobs in Canada and the United States, another blow to aircraft manufacturing, which has withered in the pandemic. Most of the projected job losses for the Montreal-based aircraft manufacturer will occur in Canada, where about 700 are planned in Quebec and 100 in Ontario.
In Wichita, KSN News confirmed the job cuts will be 250 people over the course of 2021 and into the beginning of 2022.
The moves will go toward a cost-saving target of $400 million annually by 2023 according to the company in the news release.
Air travel has plummeted during the COVID-19 outbreak, causing a sharp drop in demand for new planes.
Bombardier said they will continue to fully support the Learjet fleet well into the future, and launched the Learjet RACER remanufacturing program for Learjet 40 and Learjet 45 aircraft.
The RACER remanufacturing program will be offered exclusively through Bombardier’s Service Centre in Wichita. Bombardier said the Wichita facility will continue to serve as the company’s primary flight-test center. In addition, Bombardier has designated Wichita as the Centre of Excellence for its specialized aircraft business and expects the facility will play a leading role in future special mission modification contracts.
Aerospace experts said they have forecasted something like this, so it doesn’t necessarily come as a shock.
“It’s simply the inevitable decline of something that’s been around for many many decades without any kind of forward looking new technology development,” said Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst for Teal Group.
Aboulafia and economic experts agree that while workers may feel an impact for a little while, overall, the industry is doing fairly well.
“The demand for that labor overall in this market is here,” said Jeremy Hill, economist for WSU’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research. “There is a very solid job and career future for them.”
Cornell Beard, district 70 president for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said he is disappointed with the decision and is hoping the continuous aviation layoffs in Wichita will come to an end soon.
“I think COVID has a part to play in a lot of it, but I think a lot of it has to do with bad decisions made along the way,” said Beard. “I hope that this is it. I hope that this does it for them, whatever it is that they’re trying to get to. I hope that this is it.”
KSN News will continue to follow this story online and on-air.