Category Archives: Airplanes

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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Posted by lex, on March 8, 2008

A beautiful paean to the SR-71 over at Maggie’s Farm, courtesy of Marianne and Maj. Shul.

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Interesting concept

.Posted by lex, on June 6, 2006

The LA Times today had a story on a concept I hadn’t heard of before: The oblique flying wing * –

The plane would have no fuselage or tail; early models resemble a cross between a giant boomerang and a surfboard. What it lacks in stability, it would more than compensate for with unequaled aerodynamic efficiency.

For commercial flight, such a plane could cut by half the time it would take to fly to Tokyo from Los Angeles — all without burning the massive amounts of fuel that ultimately doomed the Concorde supersonic jet.

For the military, which is paying for Northrop’s design work, the aircraft could fly quickly to a war zone and then loiter at low speeds to extend the time to carry out its mission.

“It’s the holy grail of aerodynamics,” said Joe Pawlowski, the program’s manager.

Not to be confused with flying wing designs of either antiquity (that’d be B2’s timeframe) or modernity, the OFW would actually pivot airborne, with the wing’s full span used for take-off, approach and landing, and the plane rotating around its center of lift to present a narrower profile in cruise flight.

The good news? Apparently the aircraft could supercruise without extended use of afterburners, subtracting hours off of intercontinental travel while enabling extended ranges (and efficiency). The bad news? It’s going to be huge.

Interesting concept

If it ever gets off the ground, that is.

** 08-15-20 Link gone – Ed. 

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He Still Headed The Wrong Way

A German Wrong Way Corrigan?


I just finished watching a YouTube video on a comparison between the Focke-Wulf FW-190 and the P-51 Mustang.

Learned a lot of things.  I knew that the Mustang really came into its own when a Rolls Royce test pilot, Ronald Harker,  decided to substitute the Allison V12 for a Merlin. Didn’t realize that (A) the Merlin was still more powerful at 20,000 feet  than the Allison was at sea-level, and (B) fuel consumption was significantly improved. It was a win-win, and turned the Mustang from a good fighter to an icon. Actually it was a “win-win-win” as it gave the Mustang the high altitude performance that it lacked.

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Aviation – When to Listen to the Computer

I’ve really been enjoying this series on aviation airliner accidents. When I used to fly in the 80s, I used to read accounts of various accidents in aviation magazines to see if there was something I could learn from them.

And I believe Lex’s account of his flying has helped some readers somewhere.

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A Good Interview About the A-6 Intruder

One of our own, Comjam, talks about flying and fighting in the Intruder.

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A Carroll “Lex” LeFon Primer


Who was Carroll LeFon?

The best description of Lex that I’ve heard is “Imagine Hemingway flew fighters…and liked people.

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“There I Was: Flat On My Back, Out Of Airspeed And Out Of Ideas”

A good article from Aviation Week sent to me by my retired Air Force friend. I did not know that tire pressures are much higher for Navy aircraft for carrier ops, and lowered when landing on land.

Or how critical it could be…

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What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max

This article is a long read and in case you haven’t seen it, worthwhile if you really want to know what brought these down.

The Cliff Notes version?

“Malfunctions caused two deadly crashes. But an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.” 

This was sent to me by someone I’ve known a long time, a retired Air Force test pilot. He believes that this problem is only going to get worse, and chooses to fly on only a few airlines.

I have a good friend who bought his dream car a few weeks ago – and has discovered that it is so heavily invested in electronics and “driver aids” – he is starting to hate it. He calls his car “the beast“.

He almost rear-ended someone thinking his cruise control – with a forward radar that keeps the distance of the car ahead of you – was on.

Point is with that car and this issue, when we depend too much on electronic aids – use them as a crutch instead of an assist – we can get into trouble when the electronics fails.

As an aside, this author knows flying. In addition to his own credentials, his father wrote the classic book on piloting.

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All That, And They Are Trying To Kill You Too

All That and They're Tryinkg To Kill You

A beautiful P51-D I shot at the 2007 Reno Air Races

The other day, I wrote a bit about the talk given by WW2 aces Bud Anderson and Dean Laird.

What a day that was. I felt I was a witness to living history. What an honor it was to meet these 2.

And me being me, I had to buy Anderson’s book at the museum store to learn more. Just started it, but I figured any book about flying that has accolades by Ernest Gann, and forwards by Chuck Yeager and Günther Rall, has to be some aviation ride.

I’ve just started it, and Anderson is describing the battle he had as shown from the History Channel.

What I didn’t know was the workload involved in flying that plane while someone’s trying to kill you.

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