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AIRCRAFT COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS - Bombardier Lear 35A

September 2011

Category: Corporate Aircraft Comparative Analysis

Author: Mike Chase

Bombardier Learjet 35A

In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis, we provide information on a selection of pre-owned and new business jets in the $1.85m-$8.895m range for the purpose of valuing the pre-owned Learjet 35A.


Can a Learjet 35A successfully compete against aircraft with greater cabin volume? This is one of several questions that we will address in this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis. We’ll consider the usual productivity parameters - payload/range, speed and cabin size – and cover current and future market values.

The field in this study includes two new, in-production business jets – the Cessna Citation CJ4 and the Embraer Phenom 300.

LEARJET 35A BACKGROUNDER
The early Learjet aircraft line started with the Learjet 23 being delivered in 1964, followed by the Learjet 24 and then Learjet 25, all with GE CJ610-series engines. The total number of these early aircraft delivered (combined) was over 700.

Starting with the Learjet 35 model the Garrett engine replaced the GE engine. The Model 35A is an upgraded Model 35 - the only major difference being that the 35A model has the Century III wing and an 18,300 pound gross weight as standard.

It has two Garrett TFE731-2-2B engines and a range of 2,125 nautical miles, with a fuel capacity of 931 US gallons with refueling accomplished at ground level through each wingtip tank. This aircraft can be RVSM certified.

The Learjet 35A was introduced in 1976, replacing the Learjet 35. Over 600 Learjet 35As were built, with a production line that ended with serial number 676 in 1993. Three years before production ended on the Learjet 35A, in 1990 Bombardier Aerospace purchased the Learjet Corporation. Today, there are 509 Learjet 35A aircraft still in-operation.

PAYLOAD & RANGE
The data contained in Table A is published in the B&CA, May 2011 issue, but is also sourced from Conklin & de Decker. As we mentioned in past articles, a potential operator should focus on payload capability. The Learjet 35A ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 1,992 pounds offers the highest payload with maximum fuel compared to the Cessna Citation CJ4 and Embraer Phenom 300.

CABIN VOLUMES
The cabin volume of the Learjet 35A is 268 cubic feet. Those illustrated in Chart A are provide courtesy of Conklin & de Decker. The Learjet 35A cabin volume is the smallest in this field of study. The Phenom 300 at 325 cubic feet has the largest cabin volume with approximately 20% more interior space than the Learjet 35A. The CJ4 at 311 cubic feet offers 16% more interior space.

LEARJET 35A ENGINE
As mentioned above, the Learjet 35A has two Honeywell Garrett TFE731-2-2B engines with 3,500 lbst each - the highest thrust in this field of comparison. The CJ4 is powered by two Williams FJ44-4A engines with 3,400 lbst each and the Phenom 300 by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535E engines with 3,200 lbst each. Table B shows the variants of the TFE engine currently installed on the Learjet 35A.

Using data published in the May 2011 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2011 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our aircraft. Jet-A fuel cost used in our source publications was $6.04 per gallon at press time for the August 2011 edition, so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

Over the past year there has been a large increase in the average price per gallon (by $1.14, or 23% from the August 2010 fuel price). In the past five years there has been a great deal of volatility in US Jet-A Fuel prices.

Table C, as sourced from Aircraft Cost Calculator (ACC) shows the fuel usage by each aircraft model in this field of study. One of the unique benefits of using ACC is to quickly analyze, evaluate and customize by inserting your own numbers that will provide accurate operating information for your own aircraft and/or flight department.

The Learjet 35A at 197 gallons per hour (GPH) leads the field with the highest fuel usage, followed by the CJ4 aircraft at 186 GPH. The Embraer 300 is the most frugal on the list with 161 GPH, (or 22% more fuel economy than the Learjet 35A and 15.5% more than the CJ4).

COST PER MILE COMPARISONS
The ‘Cost per Mile’ represented in Chart B compares the Learjet 35A to its competition using direct costs, and with all aircraft flying a 1,000nm mission with 800 lbs (four passengers) payload. The Learjet 35A at $4.05 cost per mile leads all the aircraft in this field of study. By comparison, the Phenom 300 costs $2.71 per mile, while the CJ4 costs $3.17.

TOTAL VARIABLE COST COMPARISONS
The ‘Total Variable costs’ illustrated in Chart C is defined as the cost of Fuel expense, Maintenance Labor expense, Scheduled Parts cost and miscellaneous trip expense. The total variable cost $1,736 per hour for the Learjet 35A is the highest in the field of comparison. Once again, the Phenom 300 is the cheapest to operate.

PRODUCTIVITY COMPARISONS
The points in Chart D center on the same group of aircraft. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the B&CA 2011 Purchase Planning Handbook and Vref. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary. Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors.

1. Range with full payload and available fuel;
2. The long range cruise speed flown to achieve that range;
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

The result is a very large number so for the purpose of charting, each result is divided by one billion. The examples plotted are confined to the aircraft in this study. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight, but when all business jet aircraft are considered the “r” squared factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size.

After consideration of the Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size, we can conclude that the Learjet 35A business jet can be competitive in terms of range, payload, and speed in spite of a smaller cabin, higher fuel usage, and higher operating costs when compared to the higher-priced new market entrants.

Shown in Table D is a comparison of the long-range cruise speed, cabin volume, and payload of our comparative aircraft - plus the retail prices (from Vref) and the number of aircraft in-operation and percentage ‘For Sale’ (from JETNET).

CHARTER MARKET
Table E lists the top 10 business jet models used by Charter companies worldwide. Interestingly, the Learjet 35A is ranked first with the largest number of business jets used by Charter companies at 167 out of the 509 Learjet 35A aircraft in service today (or 33% of the operational fleet).

SUMMARY
In the preceding paragraphs we have briefly covered several of the attributes that business aircraft operators value. There are other qualities such as airport performance, terminal area performance, and time to climb performance. The Learjet 35A performs well in these areas as well.

Overall, the Learjet 35A fares well - so those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison of value. Our expectations are that the Learjet 35A will continue to do well in the pre-owned market for the time being.

For more information: Michael Chase is president of Chase & Associates, and can be contacted at 1628 Snowmass Place, Lewisville, TX 75077; Tel: 214-226-9882; Web: www.mdchase.com

 

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