The story of the LearFan is a complex one. Designed by Bill Lear as a
cheaper alternative to business jets, with nearly the same performance
but a pusher propeller, the LearFan became the first business aircraft with a
composite (carbon fibre) structure, as opposed to conventional metal
construction. Unfortunately in the late 1970s this was all a bit radical for the
Federal Aviation Administration, who repeatedly refused certification of the
LearFan. Bill Lear died in 1978 and his widow carried on the programme,
seeing the first of three prototypes fly in 1981. Problems with the gearbox,
which managed the two PT-6 turboprops on a common shaft, and structural
problems with the new composite materials caused costs to escalate, and
despite orders and options at one time for over 130 aircraft, the company
went bankrupt in 1984 with debts approaching 500 million dollars.
| ENGINE||2 x 650hp Pratt & Whitney PT6B 35F tutboshafts|
| Take-off weight||3334 kg||7350 lb|
| Wingspan||11.99 m||39 ft 4 in|
| Length||12.50 m||41 ft 0 in|
| Height||3.70 m||12 ft 2 in|
| Max. speed||684 km/h||425 mph|
I worked on Proto 1 and later transferred to the training group until the Fan was sadly closed.
Your envelope is correct, the rest of the modern world as we know it, is wrong on this one...
You see England had financed the construction of the Lear Fan with 2 provisos, 1. the prototype must fly by the end of year. 2. The plane was to be built in N. Ireland to provide work for those over there who are unemployed and other wise disgruntled with the English Government.
Back to item one... As luck would have it we used up all of our contractual time getting the plane ready to fly. So in the waining hours of daylight with all the taxi tests and requisite checks completed. The plan was to take the plane on one more high speed run, turn the aircraft around and do a "spruce-goose" stile short hop up and down. Thus meeting all the contractual agreements, or spirit of same, for our backers the English Government.
However... On that last run, some thing didn't feel right to our test pilots, and when they went to slow down for the turn around the brakes locked-up. Then the severely overheated left brake failed catastrophically (see also... exploded).
With daylight dwindling, spares were brought out and the damaged brake and wheel were once again serviceable.
As dusk settled over Stead...it was check list time... all was good, ready for throttle up... then the unthinkable happened... during the final check a glove, the pilots flight suit sleeve snagged the engine fire extinguisher handle setting off the bottle in the engine compartment.
As the sun sank behind Peavine Mountain so did our morale...
Rue Britannia... Her majesty's representative was duly impressed with our efforts and phoned in his report he recommended the contract be extended to allow us to fly the next day. On the other side of the Atlantic his boss knowing a good opportunity when he sees it, told the rep. no problem go ahead and fly and he would cover us with paper.
The next day upon arriving at work we were told that December now has 32 days this year...by decree of the Queen! ...and sure enough with in a week a courier from England arrived presenting Lear Fan with a Royal Decree (on parchment no less) fully clichéd and ribboned, stamped and counter signed as appropriate and bearing the Signature Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England.
So December 32nd is the correct date for that year...
The employees of Lear each got one envelope, inside was a coin struck for the occasion with a likeness of Bill Lear and the Lear Fan on it.
|Dale Leier, 08.02.2015|
I have been a fan of Bill Lear all my life and even have a signed (rejection) letter for a rotary engine design I submitted during the steam car era. After the LearFan went titters I connected with Moya and was offered the prototypes, blueprints and parts package for $3M. Of course this was out of reach for a young air traffic controller.
As the basic airframe design remains contemporary all this time, other carbon fibre/pusher aircraft sales have validated the concept. Also very light jets make sales gains while the Learjet 85 composite project is on indefinite hold. With single engine turbines now the norm (e.g. Pilatus PC12, Cessna Caravan, Socata TBM and Piper Meridian) I think it is time to revisit the Learfan.
I have posted the idea on JumpStartFund.com as the RealAvia RealFan2100 with obvious reference to the genius that was William Powel Lear. The difference I propose is to drop the second engine altogether and stick to a proven single engine design.
I'm obviously not alone in my passion for the man and his design. Anyone else interested in helping to revive at least the basic design in tribute?
|Tom Rose, 14.07.2014|
I fully concur with the opinion that the failure of the program had very little to do with either the FAA or the basic design.
|Joe Olson, 20.06.2014|
I was there for the Lear charger & steam bus and don't forget the Lear alegria later to become the G series I think to the end of Bill Lear; He was always good to our family and so was Moya and their kids. I grew up with the Lear family and enjoyed every day. I was very lucky.
|Ron Campbell, 24.02.2014|
I recently picked up a envelope with the dec 32nd post mark. It was attached to a signed lithograph of the Learfan. Just trying to find out how many envelopes were postmarked. And maybe figure out who signed the art. It has two names and the dates 12-79--5-85. please feel free to tell me what you might know.
I worked at Lear Reno. I started on Proto 1 and was there for four years. I still have much original information.
|John J Morton, 05.11.2013|
Worked on Learfan in Newtownabbey plant , Northern Ireland for 4 years,good job,great working environment, the very best of mates to be with...would any of the U/S contractors, notably BOB STEWART still be about...a great pity the plug was pulled on it,a very sad day.
|Mark Watson, 29.05.2013|
I have the only photographs ever taken of all 3 flying prototypes side-by-side on the flight ramp in front of the hanger. It was the only time all three had been together outdoors, and I happened to have my camera with me because the Reno Air Races were to start. It was late 1984 or early 1985. I stayed on the program until Moya gave us her farewell speach, just before the sheriff padlocked the doors.
I followed this plane's progress in the aviation magazines on a monthly basis. The projected fuel consumption would have beaten the other exec-jet companies to a pulp. Perhaps this is the forerunner of that plane with the twin pusher props and the winglets ahead of the main wings - you all know that one...
Error in S/N should be E003 not E006. E003 is hanging in the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. If I remember E006 was one of the structural test articles.
Kurt, I worked on Proto 1 and E006. Where are you located and sense you are working on E009 what are you doing?
Did anyone ever consider using counter-rotating propellers with each engine turning seperate shafts?
|tom geberth, 23.10.2012|
I never saw one of these before,then I got the word to disassemble one to get painted and put on static display at the FAA in Oklahoma city.It had been stored in a lot at the FAA for years. Sn 009 N-98LF
Im working on SN-009 at this moment.
the 2100 was befor its design time , the gear box and gear box cooling due to manfactue engineering skill level failed lear beon question . and remember the flying wing it dident make it eather. the big boys in aircraft manfacturing made sure the goverment would not approve lear design . todays engineering proves beon question lear was correct . yes you would see the 2100 flying today or one equial to it . no question about it .
|Scott Boyd, 09.04.2012|
Everything else aside the airframe is still a Lear and is still decades ahead of anything that is in production now.
Having flown the 24 and 25 they are still as advanced as most commercial aircraft built today.
I had an 8-track in my Volkswagen Bus, in the early 70's, when I was in College, the bus was 6 volt so I had a wooden box for the 8-track and a 12volt battery. Charged the battery every couple of months, but the 8-track was a Lear, I had been given, worked great and lasted a long time.
The jet pump is probably the most important advancement, but there is a lot more that was there in the 23, which was not that much harder to fly and got much improved with the 24.
I could see the LearAvia at 51,000 and .80. Much faster would be pretty easy though, with a new wing.
|Chiuck Colby, 09.04.2012|
I knew Bill Lear Jr. And also Steve Wozniac and I introduced them in my living room in 1980
Woz ordered a Lear Fan from Bill but since there were so many delays in the Lear Fan project Woz cancelled his order and bought another airplane.
He had only taken a few flying lessons when he decided to take his new
airplane up without his instructor
He crashed the plane and almost died in the crash
I have videos of the first flights of the learFan that Bill gave to me.
I need to digitize them and put them on YouTube
|Michael Mears, 28.01.2012|
I was employed at Lear Fan as a Buyer.
|Scott Boyd, 04.05.2011|
The airframe design would be just as revolutionary today and with the latest composite technology could be even lighter and easier to build. The problem that remains unsolved is the gearbox and single propeller, while it works well on helicopters, the rotor can autorotate, with a propeller autorotation of the prop creates huge amounts of drag and takes you to your crash site even faster then if it is feathered. Add to it losing the gearbox with two good engines and I still scratch my head wondering while Bill Lear continued with it as long as he did.
Instead of weight and complication it would be much easier to stick a couple of current generation Williams engines to it and doing away with the prop and gearbox. Lighter and more fuel efficient it would put the Mustang and the other lite jets to shame.
I think the 2100 would be very competitive today. Jet speeds with turbo efficiency. For efficient manufacturing, the fuselage would need to be filament-wound, as opposed to the mold lay-up process we used back then. A big part of its fuel efficiency came from the pusher-prop configuration, which drives a unique aft fuselage design. That airframe slipped through the air very smoothly. I don't know about the weights, but I would bet my house that the 2100 propulsion system overall was much lighter than the Skymaster. Here's more trivia: On one of the last two days in operation (in 1985), we in engineering were looking through some of Bill's old notebooks. We came across one that showed, in pencil sketches, the evolution of the engine inlets. It started with one inlet on top of the fuselage. As the weight and target speeds grew, so did the thrust requirement, so so did the inlet, which cycled around several times. Each sketch showed that inlet a little bit larger in diameter. Eventually, it was about half the diameter of the fuselage! The next sketch in the book was of the 2100 with an inlet on each side. take care.
Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?
FACTS AND FIGURES
© The LearFan was made almost
entirely of graphite/epoxy and
Kevlar composite materials, and
it was one of the first aircraft to
make such extensive use of
© Some critics have said the LearFan
was designed too much like a
conventional aircraft made of
composites to make the best use of
the strengths of these new materials.
© Putting the propeller at the rear
reduced drag and helped the
LearFan approach jet speeds.
© Some unfinished LearFans were
used by NASA to test composite
structures, being dropped from
towers in controlled crashes.
© To meet a deadline of the end
of 1980, the LearFan's first
flight was officially recorded as