End of An Era

In my mind, there are few purpose-built machines made for optimal speed that are also beautiful to the eye. One is the Ford GT-40, the result of Henry Ford II’s decision to beat Ferrari at its own game. The Ford Budget was virtually unlimited, with a signed card by Ford to key designers with the admonition that “You’d better win”.

Or else.

Another is a plane that took the world by storm in 1964. The term “genius” has been inflated over the years; I believe. But Bill Lear, with an 8th grade education, would get the title.

He was a key player in the invention of the car radio, and years later, invented the 8 Track tape player.

I know.

I had a Learjet 8 Track in my 67 Camaro.

Oh, and he produced a jet that fired the world’s imagination.

What’s more it was certificated in a record time. From the Lear 23’s first flight in June 1963, it was certificated in July, 1964. I seriously doubt that anyone, even certificating a simple single piston engined plane, will ever duplicate.

A couple of years ago, I was on a road trip through Washington and Oregon and had to stop at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. And next to my parked car was a most unusual stable mate. A Lear 23 or 24 (I could never tell the difference).

An unusual car in the lot next to mine. A Lear 23 or 24. A 23 could be upgraded in the field to a 24.

There are plenty of Bill Lear stories during the development, but here’s one I like.

One of the engineers was having trouble with the design of the nose gear retraction assembly. This, of course, is before the days of CAD-CAM. Unknown to him, Lear was standing behind him and a few minutes later, gave him a solution.

There were other “Executive” jets out at her introduction, such as the Lockheed Jetstar and the North American Saberliner.

But none captured the public’s imagine like the original Learjet.

Perhaps this post about Frank Sinatra’s original Lear, found abandoned in San Jose in 2005, will give you a feel for the times.

Lear was a driven man.

The 23 projected speed, just sitting on the tarmac.

And on takeoff?

I had thought it could do a max performance climb of 10,000 fpm, but Wikipedia says “only” 6,900.

Still, that plane would impress anyone on the tarmac watching her go.

Take a look at this 25 taking off ,which came out a few years later and is a bit bigger.

Orpo1 put up a post on Facebook announcing that the parent company of Learjet, Bombardier, will cease production.

We’ll miss you Lear.

Thanks for firing our imaginations.

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