Reaching New Heights – The Aviation Innovation of William Lear Part 3

Today we end our three-part series on Bill Lear and his contribution to the avionics world.  If you missed any of the other articles, make sure to visit


Bill Lear became not only the designer and founder of the company, but the primary salesman. At the time, the estimated number of business jets that would be in use was approximately 300. Lear saw tremendous opportunity in the industry. Being an elite member of the community, Lear had a great rolodex to get started.


His projection for the use of jets was to include a fleet that would jump well beyond 300. He saw the potential for 3,000. Learjet production was underway and with orders coming in and deposits being paid, the company was still running short on production funds. The orders were coming in faster than anticipated. To make ends meet, existing jets were sold off to any customers with a $100,000 deposit.


To begin ramping up marketing efforts to make Learjet a household name, Lear recruited a marketing team consisting of people he trusted and knew the marketing industry. His team began hiring celebrities to be pictured near or on a Learjet. Nearly every Hollywood movie star or musician would take flight in a Learjet. Soon after, the Learjet was slated to become a movie star, appearing in motion pictures, television shows, and print and broadcast advertisements.


In 1965, some of the competition had made claims that they would be taking a flight around the world. Bill Lear made the decision to secretly do the same prior to the competition as he knew his Lear jets would complete the trip faster. The impromptu plan was to get as much media coverage the day of the flight – on board and on the ground around the world – setting new records for speed and altitude for any non-military jet.


The company could not maintain funding as well as it could media coverage. The production costs were too high. In 1967, Bill Lear made the decision to sell the company to the Gates Rubber Company. Funding for production with a larger owner base gave way for continued production as well as product development.


Even after the sale of the company, accomplishments were still being made. Not only had Bill Lear’s dream of becoming a household name been accomplished, but the Learjet 28 and 29 were the first aircraft certified to fly at 51,000 feet. In the 70’s and 80’s, the Learjet 35 set records for sales, becoming the world’s most popular jets.


The company Bombardier has since purchased the Learjet design and has grown to new heights, maintaining the name of the innovative genius. The newest versions of Lear jets have made their way to the stage, including the 34, 60, and 45 which was certified in 1997. Two newest models debuted in 2002, the Learjet 40 and 45XR.


Today, Angel MedFlight chooses to work solely with the Learjet, using Learjet 60s and the Learjet 35.  Our air ambulances continue to operate with a perfect safety rating and we continue to offer the best service in the industry.  

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