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.
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
| 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|
|william graham, e-mail, 07.01.2021 15:18|
Hi everyone, after Learfan Belfast I worked 35years with Airbus, I'm writing up my history, all these comments bring back great memories. We were so far ahead of the curve in composite technology and ways of working. I had the good fortune to see the aircraft in Reno when I went there with Ozzie Morris QC Manager, replaced by David Skilling. Well remember some of my US colleagues; Tom Rose, Del Strelow, there was a Geff? and Marvin working there also. I worked with Larry Larkin, he was QC from Reno ex FAA?. Billy Moore was Head of Production. Anyone out there with more names, exhausted my research on the Belfast side.
|Larry Blair, e-mail, 12.09.2016 00:54|
I was a structures engineer on the Learfan 2100. Moved to Reno /Stead at the beginning of the program from Anaheim, CA. The first flight vehicle was N626BL which is in the History of Flight Museum in Seattle, Washington. There were lots of complications and delays that kept us from flying by the 31st of December. The MLG landing gear System was not complete and flew on the 32nd with the gear welded down. I still have all my pictures of the first flight signed by the test pilots Hank Beard and Dennis Newton, also an artist rendition signed by Moya Lear that all employees received.The main reason the program didn't get off the ground was that we were not able to get the Gearbox manufactured by Western Gear certified for an airplane. This type of gearbox had only been used on helicopters at this time.
|Mark W, e-mail, 04.12.2015 18:12|
So many enthusiasts! As I mentioned before, I have 3 unique photographs of all 3 flying prototypes on the ramp together, the only day that that situation ever occurred. Contact me at email@example.com and I can send you the pics.
|Tom Rose, e-mail, 25.09.2015 08:23|
Rose; Dale Leier There is a set of prints on micro fish?? spelling. The are owned by ex learfan employees ..Contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org ...No issues just would want to know what and why and would have to contact others that own them.
|Dale Leier, e-mail, 05.06.2015 20:06|
Have been trying to track down the blueprints. According to the curator from the Museum of Flight in Seattle, the last he heard they were still stored in Reno. However, the manager there said they had since been removed and no idea where they may have gone. If anybody has any idea where on the trail they may be, please help me to preserve this essential body of aviation history.
|Mark W., e-mail, 17.05.2015 00:27|
The Lear Fan program ended in May of 1985. I was there on the last day when Moya gave her farewell address, standing on the stairs in one of the hangers. The vending contractor was pulling his machines out, the sheriff was standing by to padlock the buildings. Lots of tears.
|Anton, e-mail, 04.05.2015 00:49|
...Uhhh...correction: That would have been '83 or '84 @the Meadowlands Raceway,NJ area.
My 'bestie' corrected me, as we had talked about it during H.S. after that summer and it was before we went to college AND, significantly before th eprogram was axed!['86- '87]
|Anton, e-mail, 04.05.2015 00:36|
There is not enough publications and collective documentation available upon this exquisite Bill Lear project plane!
So underrated and unsung its a crime! I was in the Meadowlands, NJ sometime around the summer of 1986 or '87 at th elarge, open air flea market they hold there.
I could swear I saw it fly overhead at low level, on what looked like a landing approach header...unmistakeable profile! I was a big enthusiast of it then and really hoped it would become the norm of light aircraft.
I wouldn't know how to confirm if that was what I actually saw that day...I wish I could hear from a pilot on that matter.
I really would like a set of digital file plans to build up an R /C model; the 1 /7th plans that are out there is not the size I'd like.
|Chuck, e-mail, 10.03.2015 01:38|
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, e-mail, 08.02.2015 21:15|
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, e-mail, 14.07.2014 23:26|
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, e-mail, 20.06.2014 00:43|
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, e-mail, 24.02.2014 05:54|
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, e-mail, 10.11.2013 19:02|
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, e-mail, 05.11.2013 15:43|
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, e-mail, 29.05.2013 22:44|
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, e-mail, 13.02.2013 05:55|
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, e-mail, 01.02.2013 08:01|
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, e-mail, 01.02.2013 04:54|
Kurt, I worked on Proto 1 and E006. Where are you located and sense you are working on E009 what are you doing?
|Mike, e-mail, 19.11.2012 22:22|
Did anyone ever consider using counter-rotating propellers with each engine turning seperate shafts?
Do you have any comments?
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