The aircraft are powered by two Garrett TFE731-2turbofan engines. Its cabin can be arranged for 6-8 passengers. The longer-range Model 36 has a shortened passenger area to provide more space in the aft fuselage for fuel tanks.
The engines are mounted in nacelles on the sides of the aft fuselage. The wings are equipped with single-slotted flaps. The wingtip fuel tanks distinguish the design from other aircraft having similar functions.
The concept which became the LJ35 began as the Learjet 25BGF (with GF referring to "Garrett Fan"), a Learjet 25 with a then-new TFE731 turbofan engine mounted on the left side in place of the 25's General Electric CJ610turbojet engine. This testbed aircraft first flew in May, 1971. As a result of the increased power and reduced noise of the new engine, Learjet further improved the design, and instead of being simply a variant of the 25, it became its own model, the 35.
In 1976 American professional golfer Arnold Palmer used a Learjet 36 to establish a new round-the-world class record of 22,894 miles (36990 km) completed in 57 hours 25 minutes 42 seconds.
The original Model 35 was powered by two TFE731-2-2A engines and was 13 inches longer than its predecessor, the Model 25. First flight of the prototype Model 35 was on 22 August 1973, and the aircraft was FAAcertified in July, 1974. It could carry up to eight passengers. There were 64 base-model 35s built.
The Model 35A is an upgraded Model 35 with TFE731-2-2B engines and a range of 2,789 miles, with a fuel capacity of 931 US gallons (3,524 L) with refueling accomplished at ground level through each wingtip tank. It was introduced in 1976, replacing the 35. Over 600 35As were built, with a production line that ended with serial number 677, in 1993.
On February 12, 1996, a Learjet 35A, N10BD, owned by Cable Television Founder Bill Daniels and piloted by Mark E. Calkins, Charles Conrad, Jr., Paul Thayer, and D. Miller completed an around-the-world flight in a record 49 hrs, 21 min, and 8 sec. The record remains standing as of 2015. This aircraft is now on display in Terminal C of Denver International Airport.
The C-21A is an "off the shelf" military variant of the Learjet 35A, with room for eight passengers and 42 ft³ (1.26 m³) of cargo. In addition to its normal role, the aircraft is capable of transporting litters during medical evacuations. Delivery of the C-21A fleet began in April 1984 and was completed in October 1985. Dyncorp International provides full contractor logistics support at seven worldwide locations.
Not a U.S. military designation. Electronic warfare training version of the Learjet 35A.
Not a U.S. military designation. Maritime patrol, anti-submarine warfare version of the Learjet 35A, equipped with a search radar, FLIR, infra-red linescanner, ESM and MAD systems, high-resolution TV, plus a hardpont under each wing, able to carry up to 454-kg (1,000-lb) in weight.
Not a U.S. military designation. Reconnaissance version of the Learjet 35A, equipped with a long-range oblique photography cameras, side-looking synthetic aperture radar, podded surveillance camera systems.
A Combat support variant of the Learjet 35A for the Japan Air self Defense Force (JASDF). At least six built.
The Model 36 is essentially identical to the 35, except that it has a larger fuselage fuel tank, giving it 500 miles longer range, but reducing the passenger area's length by 18 inches (0.46 m). It was certified, along with the 35, in July, 1974.
Like the 35A, the Model 36A has upgraded engines and a higher maximum gross weight. It was introduced in 1976, replacing the 36.
Not a U.S. military designation. Reconnaissance version of the Learjet 36A, equipped with a long-range oblique photography cameras, SLAR and a surveillance camera system.
Not a U.S. military designation. Utility transport, training version of the Learjet 36A. Initially known as U-36A1. Equipped with a missile seeker simulator in addition to a radar, avionics, firing training assessment devices, an ejector pylon, a special communications system, a target towing system and a jammer system. Four were built for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Modification of both the U-36A1 and U-36 was carried out by Shin Meiwa Industry co., Ltd. (SMIC) at it's Tokushima plant.
On 13 February 1983, a Learjet 35A carrying Sri Lankan business tycoon Upali Wijewardene disappeared (exploded) over the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia). The wreckage has never been found, nor any trace of Wijewardene, his top executives, or crew.
On 15 May 1984, a government-owned Learjet 35A crashed in the sea close to Ushuaia, Argentina during a snowstorm. All 12 people on board were killed.
The 1996 New Hampshire Learjet crash on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1996, in which a Learjet 35A crashed in New Hampshire, leading to the longest missing aircraft search in that state's history, lasting almost three years, and eventually resulted in Congressional legislation mandating improved emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) be installed in U.S.-registered business jets.
On 29 August 1999, a U.S. registered Learjet 35A owned by Corporate Jets, Inc., was shot down near Adwa, Ethiopia, while flying from Luxor, Egypt, to Nairobi, Kenya, with the loss of three persons.
On 25 October 1999, professional golfer Payne Stewart was killed in the crash of a Learjet 35. The plane apparently suffered a loss of cabin pressure at some point early in the flight. All on board are thought to have died of hypoxia, lack of oxygen. The plane, apparently still on autopilot, continued flying until one engine flamed out, most likely due to fuel starvation crashed near Aberdeen, South Dakota after an uncontrolled descent. The exact cause of the pressurization failure and the reason behind the crew's failure or inability to respond to it has not been definitively determined.
On 4 November 2007, a Learjet 35A crashed in São Paulo, Brazil, after a failed takeoff attempt. It destroyed a house in a residential area near the Campo de Marte Airport, killing the pilot, co-pilot and 6 people of the same family who were in the house.
On 9 November 2014, a private Learjet 36 crashed in Freeport, Grand Bahamas, Bahamas. The jet struck a shipping crane at the Grand Bahama Ship Yard, exploding on impact and crashing into the ground near a junkyard area. The plane was en route from the Lynden Pindling International Airport with nine people on board heading to Grand Bahama International Airport. All nine persons perished, including Myles Munroe, a Bahamian pastor.