Learavia LearFan 2100
1981
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Learavia LearFan 2100

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.

Learavia LearFan 2100


Specification 
 CREW2
 PASSENGERS8
 ENGINE2 x 650hp Pratt & Whitney PT6B 35F tutboshafts
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight3334 kg7350 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan11.99 m39 ft 4 in
    Length12.50 m41 ft 0 in
    Height3.70 m12 ft 2 in
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed684 km/h425 mph

Comments1-20 21-40
Tom Rose, thomasjrose=yahoo.com, 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, renojoe=cox.net, 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, archerydogg=gmail.com, 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.

David, david=4fivesproductions.com, 10.11.2013

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, john.morton22=btopenworld.com, 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, watsonx4=sbcglobal.net, 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.

roman, soremouse=aol.com, 13.02.2013

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...

Stuart, stuart.aston=earthlink.net, 01.02.2013

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.

Stuart, stuart.aston=earthlink.net, 01.02.2013

Kurt, I worked on Proto 1 and E006. Where are you located and sense you are working on E009 what are you doing?

Mike, rdgzms27=yahoo.com, 19.11.2012

Did anyone ever consider using counter-rotating propellers with each engine turning seperate shafts?

tom geberth, tom.o.geberth=faa.gov, 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

Kurt, kurtkoehler=hotmail.com, 19.10.2012

Im working on SN-009 at this moment.

richard, rlc11=localnet.com, 02.06.2012

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, scottb60=hotmail.com, 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, Colby.chuck=gmail.com, 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, mearsm=hotmail.com, 28.01.2012

I was employed at Lear Fan as a Buyer.

Scott Boyd, scottb60=hotmail.com, 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.

Mark, watsonx4=sbcglobal.net, 03.05.2011

Hi,
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.

Markus, solar_is=ymail.com, 29.04.2011

Hi,
Apart from the engine, would the airframe (layout) be competitive nowadays (Y-tail configuration, ...). How did actual weight come in compared to orig. planned?
Unfortunately there is little information available, at least what I have come across so far.
What would have been the weight (& performance?) penalty by using an engine layout like the Cessna Skymaster (push-pull configuration)?

mark, watsonx4=sbcglobal.net, 09.03.2011

Here's some trivia; In the photo above is the 2nd flying prototype. The tail number, N626BL, reflects June 26 Bill Lear. June 26 is his birthday. The 3rd flying prototype, N327ML, is, you guessed it, March 27 Moya Lear. March 27 is her birthday.
We referred to the planes as Engineering models, and they were commonly called E1, E2, and E3.
The wax-in-the-gearbox idea in 1979 was tossed out because it just didn't work. They found that by the time the wax melted and spread, the gb was already overtemped. In 1984 we were still trying to meet FAA requirements for no oil, and finally got the spin-jet thing to do the job.
The reason for the Dec 32nd first flight date is that on Dec 31, on taxi out for first flight the plane seized a brake. It took all night to fix it.
The write-up says LF went bankrupt in 1984. It was actually May (I think) of 1985. I was out of work for 5 months, starting at Mcdonnell Douglas in Oct, 1985. Article also says "two PT-6 turboprops on a common shaft". Each engine actually had its own low-speed output shaft (about 75 rpm) driving into the helicopter gearbox.

1-20 21-40

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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 them.

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 'December 32nd'.



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