Bombardier I: Hey, Buddy. Wanna Buy A Learjet ... Company?

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Itís all a rumor, say company officials. Nevertheless, itís a rumor gaining visibility. "It" is the concept that Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier is trying to sell its Wichita-based Learjet subsidiary. But, like Mark Twainís death, rumors of Learjetís pending sale are premature, according to the parent company. Published reports quote Bombardier Aerospace spokesman Leo Knaapen as saying, "It's absolutely untrue." According to The Wichita Eagle, Knaapen added, "Bombardier is committed to corporate aviation, and Learjet is part of the Bombardier family." But the rumors seem to have traction, having first appeared last week in The Montreal (Canada) Gazette and later confirmed by the Eagle with numerous industry participants. Bombardier presently manufactures the Model 31A, the Models 40, 45 and 45XR, and the Model 60 Learjets. Regardless of Learjetís immediate fate -- which might not be decided in the near term -- the rumors seem to confirm that industry analysts believe the first purpose-built business jetís brand is not doing as well as Bombardier would like. If the parent decided to divest its child, it would be the latest in a series of ownership changes for William Learís distinctive planes since the Model 23ís first flight on Oct. 7, 1963. In fact, Learjet is perhaps second only to Mooney as the most-acquired general aviation airframe manufacturer in modern times: First begun as Swiss American Aviation Corporation in Sweden in 1963, the Learjet name has been owned by Gates Rubber Company, was then converted to a private company, was bought in 1987 by Integrated Acquisition Inc., and was then acquired by Bombardier in 1990.