The Lear Fan was arguably the most radical
of Bill Lear
’s creations. The Lear Jet
was revolutionary in its way, the automatic pilot
is pretty damn useful, and 8-track stereo
was also pretty cool, but the Lear Fan not only challenged the status quo
, it also created new technology and was the progenitor
of modern aircraft
design and construction.
It was the last project undertaken before his death, and was finished by his widow, Moya, and his employees in conjunction with the British Government. In a nod to Bill Lear’s desire to complete the project by 1980, the Lear Fan's first-flight date was officially listed "December 32, 1980", although the aircraft’s maiden flight was actually on January 1, 1981 Envelopes carried aboard the flight were cancelled with the December date, and the U.S. Post Office honored the cancellation.
The plane itself was unique because it is made almost entirely of graphite/epoxy and Kevlar composite materials, making the aircraft as strong as one with an aluminum frame at about half the weight. Almost every new aircraft made today owes something to the composite construction technology pioneered by Lear in the creation of the Lear Fan. Another radical design concept embodied in the plane that unfortunately has not been adopted with the same zeal by the industry is the use of a single rear-mounted propeller driven by twin turbojets. This would provide the reliability (and enable it to be more easily certified for passenger use) of a twin-engine aircraft with the fuel and aerodynamic efficiency of a pusher propeller design. It has a cruising speed of over 300 mph and a max speed of over 400 mph, with a range of over 1,500 miles at 41,000 feet.