Bill Lear – Father of the Corporate Jet

Since I was a young adult I’ve always been an admirer of Bill Lear. The inventor of the car radio, the 8-track music cartridge and, among other things, the business jet that bears his name. Lear, who was born 115 years ago today, had a notable sense of humor, naming his second daughter Crystal Shanda (who they always called Shanda).

Bill Lear

Bill Lear – Inventor & Aviation Pioneer

I came to know about Lear in the early 70s when I was in the audience at a taping of the Merv Griffin show in Los Angeles. Lear was a guest on the show along with the McWhirter twin brothers — Ross and Norris — founders of the Guinness Book of Records. A few years later in 1975 Ross was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In 1977 Lear would die in Reno of Leukemia. He was 75.

Bill Lear was a creative genius, a self-taught radio engineer with an 8th grade education. After a nearly 50 year career he received well over 120 patents. Shanda said of her father, Dad was always scribbling ideas and designs on restaurant napkins and table cloths, all the while telling jokes and discussing the infinite possibilities of the mind.

Lear was controversial, a demanding taskmaster, described as a hot-headed dictator. John Zimmerman, a former aviation writer said people would like Bill one minute and hate the ground he walked on the next…. Working for Bill was very, very difficult. He surrounded himself with good people, but it was not an easy life.

Sometime after developing the car radio, and helping to create Motorola in about 1930, Lear struck out on his own and founded Lear Developments, specializing in aviation instruments and electronics. Over the next 32 years as president, and later Chairman of the Board, his achievements in the industry were legendary. His inventions included navigational radios, the first autopilot for jet aircraft and the first fully automatic aircraft landing system.

His company, headquartered in Santa Monica, California by 1962 employed 5,000 with plants in California, Michigan, Ohio and Germany. But after a falling out with company officials that same year Lear sold his interest for over $14-million. It was then that he formed what eventually became Lear Jet Industries headquartered in Wichita, Kansas.

The Learjet 23 developed just a year later was the first ever cheap, mass produced business jet and the industry never looked back. By 1975 the company had produced over 500 Learjets. A Learjet would go on to hold the speed record for a cross-continent Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. flight in 1983. It took 4 hours 12 minutes. That record remained until it was broken seven years later. This time it was the SR-71 and it took just 64 minutes.

Today Learjet is a division of the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace. Still made in Wichita with over 3000 employees the Learjet 70 and 75 are the most trusted light jet aircraft among Fortune 50 and 500 companies.

Bill Lear’s humor was legendary. Here are a few of what came to be known as Learisms:

On aerodynamics: “If it looks good, it will fly good.”

On management: “If you put up half of the money, you get to make half of the decisions.”

On reducing weight in the Learjet: “I’d sell my grandmother to save one pound.”

When criticized you couldnt stand up in a Learjet: “You can’t stand up in a Cadillac either”

“Publicity is good, no matter how bad.”

All rich geniuses are supposed to be eccentric. So I am. 

~~ Bill Lear ~~

In July 1978 Lear was posthumously inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame.

Advertisements

Favorite Quotes Friday – 6/20/2014

Like hundreds of thousands of others, I’ve read many of the entries and watched the videos on the Facebook page Mitchell’s Journey. It’s always an emotional and painful experience, but knowing that, I still go back.

Ten-year old Mitchel Dee Jones lost his battle to a devastating childhood disease last year, but Mitchel’s Journey continues here on earth as it surely does elsewhere… thanks to his father.

Some resist the notion there is a God, that humans are a biological anomaly in the vast universe. Others say God and Heaven are imaginary constructs for weak-minded people. A great many believe there is more to life than meets the eye – they don’t know what, or who, why or how … they just sense there is more and they follow their impressions the best they know how. The vast religious landscape, in all its forms, seems to speak loudly that human’s sense there is more. And more there certainly is. ~~ Chris Jones, Father of Mitchel Jones

Mitchell’s Journey

Favorite Quotes Friday – 6/06/2014

I’ve written about living in the present, stopping to smell the roses, enjoying what life has for us today, no matter how much better we wish it were. Count each day as a blessing no matter what. It is a gift those who are gone wish they still had.

We have a tendency to trample on our lives by regretting the past, dreading the future, or living only for the future… We’re always living somewhere but this present moment. ~~ Peter Matthiessen, Filmaker

Favorite Quotes Friday – 5/23/2014

One of my all-time favorite quotes and certainly one for the masses. It’s wise advice I’ve never had a problem living by. I understood the concept long before I ever saw the quote.

For some it’s always about saving money, buying on the cheap. For me it’s about paying and saving myself future frustration and replacement cost. I don’t have to have the best, but I do want, expect and will pay for better quality. Go ahead, call me “crazy!”

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweet taste of low prices are forgotten. ~~ Benjamin Franklin

Favorite Quotes Friday – 5/09/2014

As I’ve mentioned before I love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with my favorite actor Jimmy Stewart. I’ve written about both subjects here. There are a number of memorable lines from the film, one of which I share today.

Kids think they’re so darn smart! They think they know everything and can cure the country’s ills with the youthful common sense only they have. I know this for a fact, because I used to be one of them. Then we grow old (another subject I’ve written about) and only then do we truly come to realize and appreciate (just as surely as they will) …

Youth is wasted on the wrong people!

Favorite Quotes Friday – 4/25/2014

Someone once said, “Hope is the cruelest of the evils that escaped Pandora’s box.” But there’s a differing perspective to that thought as expressed by a 19th century self-help author. In his mid-forties Orison Marden narrowly escaped losing his life in a hotel fire. The blaze destroyed nearly fifteen years of the fruits of his labor with the loss of over 5000 pages of manuscripts he had written. A contemporary wrote:  Having nothing but his nightshirt on when he escaped from the fire, he went down the street to provide himself with necessary clothing. As soon as this had been attended to, he bought a twenty-five cent notebook, and, while the ruins of the hotel were still smoking, began to rewrite from memory the manuscript of his dream book. Despite being overwhelmed and heartbroken, rather than give up, he moved forward.

That book Pushing to the Front was published in 1894 and became at the time the single greatest runaway classic in the history of personal development books. It was read by U.S. presidents and English Prime Minsters. Businessmen like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan cited his work as inspirational. Orison went on to write fifty or more books and booklets during his career. In 1897 he created Success Magazine which continues today with a monthly circulation of 500,000. Marden is considered the inspiration for dozens of modern authors of self-help and motivation. While each of his books produced dozens of famous quotes, this is just one of them.

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow. ~~ Orison Swett Marden

Favorite Quotes Friday – 4/11/2014

I have failed at times to live by the truth that follows. I guess it’s human nature to be judgmental of others. It gives us a false sense of superiority, a boost to the ego. But I do believe in a higher power and life beyond the grave. Life is short. What goes around definitely comes around… sooner or later. Buddhists and others call it karma, I call it common sense.

The man quoted below was a German Lutheran Pastor, an author and dissident anti-Nazi. An outstanding academic theologian he earned two doctorate degrees before he was 25. Later he studied in the United States. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world became widely influential and his book, from which the quote came, is considered a classic.  He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and executed by hanging two years later while imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp just 23 days before the Germans surrendered. He was only 39 years old.

By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. ~~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship