Photo Report – High Seventy-Five: the Learjet 75 at Zagreb

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Anybody who has ever spent some time flying light aircraft – especially those part of smaller flying clubs – will no doubt have experienced what I’ve come to call the “cascading planning failure”. It’s the weekend, the weather is (nearly) perfect, the bird is operational and ready… and willing pilots can be found in their dozens. After several rounds of negotiation – and a hefty phone bill – you finally end up with a working plan, one that will both make everyone involved happy and keep the aircraft’s down time to a minimum. Excellent. All that remains now is one person to derail the entire works right at the outset… 😀

Such was the case on 13 April, when a planning meltdown kicked off my series of flights with an hour’s delay. What was a mild irritant at first had though quickly turned to excitement, proving conclusively (once again) that there really is a silver lining to every dark cloud! Rejoining the pattern at Zagreb Intl. – now well over two hours behind schedule – I happened to catch a transmission by an N-reg aircraft on approach, complete with a movie-set American accent. And while we do get quite a few N-numbers here in Croatia, most of them are aircraft actually based somewhere in Europe and operated by European companies and individuals – so catching an “authentic” US machine was immediate cause for excitement. Rolling lazily into the downwind leg, I scanned the skies for signs of the newcomer, expecting it to be a small business prop or the like… and then I saw it, dead abeam and 1000 ft lower – a pristine white Learjet gliding in towards the touchdown point.

Being a lifelong fan of the Learjet (thank you Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 😀 ), I was naturally through the roof, especially given my recent photographic dry spell. And while I couldn’t make out the exact model from the air, I’d assumed it was one of the established, “common” models like the 45 or 60. So you can imagine my surprise when, while holding on TWY B for the traffic to clear, a brand new Learjet 75 happened to roll by in front of my nose… 🙂

With their classic, speedy lines – hallmarks of the brand ever since the original model 23 of 1963 – Learjets definitely tend to stand out on the apron… even when sporting such a basic scheme as this!

Nip ‘n’ tuck

The newest operational member of the Learjet family (notwithstanding the recently problematic 85), the model 75 is not a new design per se, but rather a revamp and thorough upgrade of the best-selling model 45 (the aircraft included in the aforementioned Flight Simulator that had sparked my love affair with the brand 🙂 ). First flying in 1995, the 45 was conceived as the replacement for the superlative model 31 – for many the greatest of the classic Learjets – and had introduced a new, wider fuselage, reworked wing for higher cruise speeds and a new, state-of-the-art glass cockpit (the Honeywell Primus 1000 suite to be exact).

Despite being a clean sheet design, the 45 was nevertheless still a “proper Learjet” in every way – not the most commodious of aircraft, but one that could out-accelerate, out-climb and out-fly pretty much everything else in its category. And while its ceiling of 51,000 ft – known in the 60s and 70s as “Learjet country” – was neither that impressive nor unobtainable anymore, the way it got there had nevertheless still guaranteed it a healthy and loyal customer base.

However, by the early 2010s, the 45 was becoming increasingly hauled in by time, prompting Bombardier to put on its thinking cap and develop a modernized version. To that end, they took the basic 45 airframe and refitted it with new winglets (a design borrowed from the Global Express), more powerful Honeywell TFE731-40BR engines producing 17.1 kN of thrust each (versus the 15.57 of the 45’s TFE731-20s) and a completely redesigned cockpit featuring the newest in Garmin digital avionics. In this form, the new aircraft would become the model 75*, first flying in late 2012, with FAA certification following on in November 2013 🙂 .

* the same treatment would also be applied to the Learjet 40, the 45’s shorter brother. Fitted with the same suite of upgrades, it would become the model 70, with its certification still pending.

With the aircraft now ready for sale, all that was needed was to whip up a fully spec’d demonstrator and head out into the world. Such was the role of the titular aircraft, N446LJ, which had popped into Zagreb to take on fuel before continuing onwards to Denmark. Having rolled onto the GA apron just a few minutes later, I was at the plane in moments, camera naturally set and ready… 🙂

Looking stunning in the golden afternoon light. Even though it was in town for just half an hour on a “mere” technical stop, N446LJ’s visit was nevertheless quite the local exclusive, marking the type’s first ever appearance both in Croatia and South-Eastern Europe.

Many news here in the pointy end! Doing away with the Primus, the 75’s cockpit is based around the new Garmin G5000 suite which – in addition to all the usual features – also includes the Synthetic Vision System (SVS). Notably cleaner and less cluttered than those of previous Learjets, the 75’s flight deck actually feels more open and airy – despite the fact that it is of the same size as that on the 45 (also, sorry for the poor crop… the F/O was preparing the bird for its onward flight so I though it best to intrude as little as possible).

One of the reasons for the cockpit’s cleanliness lies in the relocation of the light switches to the overhead console – the first such panel ever fitted to a Learjet.

Like on all modern Learjets, the cabin of the 75 is comfortable – but not all that roomy. Updated along with the rest of the aircraft, it now features pop-up video monitors linked to touchscreen controllers installed at every seat, as well as several new trim options – the best of which is this pleasant and warm cream-wood combo.


A reverse view from the lavatory (which also doubles as the ninth passenger seat). At my 1.93 m /  6ft 3 in, navigating the cabin was a bit interesting – but not nearly as much trouble as I would have thought. Provided you’re not carrying a huge camera bag on your back, entry, seating and exiting is pretty straightforward, with very few objects you could snag with your limbs or clothes on the way.

While it is technologically far removed from the original 23 – and even the legendary 31 – the 75 still sports those evocative, exciting lines of the classic Learjet. With that narrow nose, short-span wing and short vertical stabilizer – plus a perfectly proportioned fuselage – it continues to dominate the business jet segment in sheer visual (and visceral) appeal. Also note the new winglets, installed at a significantly more obtuse angle than on the 45.

I would also like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the crew of N446LJ for allowing me to snoop around and snap at will!

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