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Learjet, once the go-to private plane for celebrities, is ending production

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. 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.

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