Learjet 85 First Flight Imminent

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Bombardier says the first flight of its Learjet 85 mostly composite business jet is imminent. Bombardier Aerospace President Guy Hachey told reporters he's traveling to Wichita this week to oversee final preparations for the flight. "I believe that we're very close but problems happen at the end, we're not going to do anything that is unsafe but we're very close," the Montreal Gazette quoted Hachey as saying. The midsize Learjet 85 has at least 30 firm orders and 20 options from fractional operator Flexjet plus a few more for a total book of about 60. Hachey said it might be a year or two before the used aircraft inventory is depleted enough for the smaller business jet sector to return to normal. And while winter in Quebec isn't known for being pleasant, the season so far has been so miserable Bombardier is considering sending its CSeries prototype to the balmier (really) climes of Wichita to maintain the test schedule.

Bombardier's test facilities at Mirabel Airport outside Montreal have been hit with a series of winter storms and been beset with low ceilings. Hachey said the weather makes it tough to rack up the hours necessary for certification testing. "If we have a week of solid snow storms here, then it's difficult to get credit because you have to have the right environment conditions," Program Manager Rob Dewar told reporters. CSeries avionics testing is also planned for Wichita.