Written by: Alex Early, CEO of The Early Air Way
August 7th, 2013
I was recently flying on a Lear 35 up to Seattle, WA and was thinking to myself how much I enjoy them. Lear 35s can sometimes get a bad rep, but they certainly hold their weight against many much newer and more expensive aircraft.
Lear 35s are a true workhorse of the nation’s air charter fleet. Some people love them, and some people hate them. They’re great, and they’re not so great… it just depends how you look at them.
First things first… Lear 35s are getting old. Production of the Learjet 35 commenced in 1973 and ceased in 1994. By far the majority of the Lear 35s you’ll find on the charter marketplace are the 35A variants from the early to mid 1980s. Because of the age of these airplanes, good maintenance is very important, cabin quality varies vastly from plane to plane, and frankly… they will only be around so much longer before many more are retired. Many well maintained Lear 35s remain great, safe, reliable aircraft to date however, with plenty of usable life left in them.
It is hard to find a late model light jet that can match the Lear 35’s speed, range, and operating economy. Lear 35s fly at midsize jet speeds, have midsize jet range, and perform well in so many situations where some brand new planes just don’t. Simply put, the Lear 35 will fly fast and far, without breaking the bank. A Lear 35 is one of the only light jets that would make sense to send coast-to-coast (with one fuel stop). Other benefits include the large door that some [but not all] models have making the aircraft an exceptional cargo plane and air ambulance.
They’re not fancy. If you’re looking for a luxurious private jet, then you should not consider a Lear 35. I like to tell people that the light Learjets are a business tool to save you time, but are by no means luxurious. The Lear 35 is a pretty small airplane. The cabin is very narrow, and… most don’t have an enclosed lavatory! Most Lear 35s come equipped with an emergency potty seat that no charter passenger ever really wants to actually use. Because these planes are old, they would have had to be refurbished to look presentable. Different owners have different budgets when it comes to refurbishment; as such, there is a big difference in the aesthetic quality of Lear 35 interiors and exteriors. There are some pretty ratty looking Lear 35s available on the charter market, however there are also some that look brand new. Another complaint about the Lear 35 generally by owners as opposed to charter guests is the fact that there is no external entry-way into the baggage compartment, so interiors are quickly worn out by baggage passing through the cabin.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to the Lear 35s however are their age. Lear 35s are old airplanes that really need some TLC in order to be a great airplane. The fact of the matter is however that there are so many great Lear 35s flying out there still flying that might be a great fit for your upcoming charter.
If you’re looking for a spacious, late model, luxurious private jet, then the Lear 35 is not for you. If you’re looking for a cost effective airplane to move a few people a decent distance, quickly, without breaking the bank, then the Lear 35 might just be your best bet.