Reaching New Heights – The Aviation Innovation of William Lear Part 1

medical flight, learjet

Air ambulance

We at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance would like to pay homage to the pioneer of our air ambulances, William (Bill) Lear. Our pilots and patients alike love the design and performance of these amazing jets; they are fast, comfortable, and reliable. As safety and patient satisfaction are our primary concerns, the Learjet 35 and 60 were the two best choices for comfortable, safe, long-distance travel.
Now, let’s take a look back at how our preferred air ambulances, the Learjets, were born.

Learjet creator Bill Lear was born in 1902 in Hannibal, Missouri. It seemed that from a young age, Bill was skilled at overcoming obstacles and standing strong in the face of adversity. He yearned for knowledge and experience. While he didn’t come from a family of wealth, he was surrounded by opportunities that taught him how to politely meet people and the value of a strong handshake. Wise before his years, Bill struggled in high school because his knowledge often surpassed that of his instructors. He was asked to leave high school and then later joined the U.S. Navy. He never obtained a high school degree and forged ahead being self-taught, with a focus on wireless technology.

William Lear was an avionics genius, but he began his innovative career path by his invention of the car radio. The invention was the first of its kind. Lear had other plans in mind and sold the idea to Motorola. The sale of the car radio funded his next project – the Learjet.

Lear not only had a lot of knowledge about avionics – but he also began to have a fascination it. He purchased his first plane in 1931 for $2,500. He found that there were a number of improvements that could simplify the navigation process. He began conceptualizing avionic products including the Lear-O-Scope, one of the first commercial radio compasses, and the F-86 auto pilot.

Lear moved to Switzerland and founded the Swiss American Aviation Company. With a seemingly unsuccessful venture of converting military aircraft fighter jets to business charter jets, Lear searched for the right team to lead the design plans for his new project. Dr. Hans-Luzius Studer of Switzerland was a renowned engineer for aircraft design.

At that time, Dr. Studer was designing the FAA P-16 aircraft, closely identical to the design Bill Lear had in mind for the Learjet. Lear recruited Dr. Studer to become the lead designer of the first Learjet. Lear asked Dr. Studer to use the plans from the P16 and take what he could from that design to use on the new Learjet design. Without the money to complete a wind tunnel test, the specs from the P16 wings were carried over without change as they were already tested successfully. Bill then began recruiting the cancelled P-16 engineers at a minimum cost. Step by step, Bill could see his vision becoming a reality.

Make sure to check back for Part 2 of Angel MedFlight’s three-part series on the Learjet.

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