Learjet ManufacturerManufacturer Learjet
U.S.A. Company Perspectives: The Learjet range currently includes the high-performance Learjet 32A lightweight commercial airliner, the Learjet 60 trans-continental commercial airliner and the brand new Learjet 45. Story of Learjet Inc. Learjet Inc. is an innovative company in aviation and one of many legacy of the 20 th centuries discoverer and manufacturer William Powell Lear.
Lear, known for his daring efforts to construct the world's first privately owned aircraft, had a remarkable story of other invention rarely recognized; it was the assets from these early endeavors that provided Lear with the funds to found the Learjet Society. It was a multinational corporation in Canada, which also owned several other aircraft companies, which was obliged to modify its independence and adjust to a new horizontal integration architecture.
Learjet nevertheless remains the leading company in several small and medium-sized company jet segments. Williams Powell Lear was 1902 child of a penniless Hannibal in Missouri. At the age of six, after his divorce, Lear lived with his wife and father in an apartment in Chicago. Lear completed his eighth-grade training, made friends with a young scrap metal merchant and began to spend much of his life working on rejected electronics.
Lear began working as a mechanical engineer at Grant Park Airport in Chicago at the tender age of 16. There, he developed aviation engineering expertise and abilities while working briefly as an assistent in a celebrity businessman's practice, familiarizing himself with the corporate environment and behavior.
Lear was an accomplished self-taught radiographer at the tender age of 20. He became a profit maker, and his work soon attracted the interest of big names like Majestic and Motorola. He was still intrigued by aviation, purchased a small plane, learnt to fly and began working on an aeroplane navigational system.
1931 he began a voyage of sale during which he demonstrated his Lear radioaire. Few however had the means to buy such a system during the financial difficulties of the Great Depression, and even fewer saw the need for such a communications system, as it was customary at the times for drivers to easily travel between towns by rail.
Until 1934 Lear had depleted his small broadcasting assets and was in bankruptcy. In only two short months Lear installed, demoed and marketed the concept and received a $250,000 deal from RCA. Again Next Lear devoted himself to flight guidance and developed with his second asset the Learscope Direction Finder, a wireless transceiver.
This progress gave Lear an honoured place in the evolution of aeronautics and brought him friendships with such important aeronautical innovators as Amelia Earhart. Even more important, with Lear's entry into the nation's top vendors, Lear was able to bring other advancements to light, such as an enhanced omni directional navigator that could be used on any earth terminal, regardless of frequencies.
Throughout the Second World War, Lear focused his company's effort on electro-mechanical equipment for defense airplanes, which included hood controls and autopilots. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, Lear Incorporated was a pioneer in all-weather flight instrumentation that earned Lear an award from President Truman and an honorable doctorate from the University of Michigan.
From 1959 several airframe builders began to develop the new corporate aviation markets. However, during this period, these predominantly piston-powered corporate jets were relatively sluggish, and Lear began to imagine a smaller, faster, jet-powered vehicle with better flight performance. However, without a clear request for such a ship, Lear met with fierce resistance from his own director.
They argued that if there was a single supermarket, another large manufacturer would be working on it. Lear, eager to construct the plane, sells his majority stake in his $100 million business to Siegler Corporation (which later becomes Lear-Siegler). It was during this period that Lear also worked with the Flemish aeroplane manufacturer Sud-Aviation (now Aerospatiale), AirFrance and Lear-Siegler to design a "blind lander" for the Caravelle liner.
Back in the United States, Lear chose to relocate his new business to Wichita, Kansas, home to rivals Cessna, Beech and a large Boeing plant. There he could rely on an expert workforce and work with banking institutions acquainted with aerospace construction. In January 1963, with 10 million dollars of his own cash and another 8 million dollars lent to him by the Wichita bank, he founded a plant at Wichita's city airport and employed 75 staff.
Courageously, Lear boldly chose to jump over the usual manual construction of a flying test prototypes and go straight into manufacturing instead. Lacking a preproduction model, he ran the risk of his design failing, which forced him into a expensive speech design and conversion that would certainly engulf his business.
Lear explained, however, that in the two years it could take to perfection a model, rivals would have enough spare capacity to create similar designs and he was not prepared to enter the game. Consequently, Lear had to be clear about every facet of the Learjet designs. The first Learjet model 23 flew out of the 96,000 square metre layout for its debut exactly nine month later, on 7 October 1963.
In spite of a later non-lethal collapse of the first aircraft, others were flying exactly as Lear had imagined and went through FAA approval in almost nine month. As the first Learjet was shipped on 14 October 1964, Lear had received 72 orders for the new one. Initially he had a single dominant position in the corporate aircraft aftermarket.
" Due to its ancestor as a jetsighter and a good combination of airframe and General Electric power plants, the robust Learjet showed an amazing climbing capacity and high cruising speed. Also the Learjet-23 was very economic to use and cost on avarage only 50 Cent perile. In spite of an impressing order book for the aircraft, Lear Jet Corporation did not have the necessary funds to continue manufacturing.
After exhausting his investments - and those of the bankers - he resolved to float his business on the stock exchange. Lear bought a 38 per cent stake in his business and on 30 November 1964 bought it for $5 million. The following year, Learjet stocks ranged from a low of $8 to a high of $89.
Meanwhile, Lear went on working on several other engagements, such as the short-lived 8-track audiotape system, which gave the listener the comfort of playing an entire band without interruption to rewind or spin the band. In 1965, with this invention, he established a Learjet department in Detroit.
A year later, he founded an aviation department at Grand Rapids, where Learjet jet engines developed and manufactured electronic airplane components. By September 1966, the name of the business was renamed Lear Jet Industries to take advantage of its diversity. Meanwhile, Bill Lear was getting tired of his administration. You could always find him at the line, in the drawing rooms, in the air or on his own while preparing a burger in the canteen.
It bought a small chopper manufacturer that made little more than a loss, and its audio department kept losing billions of US dollar as the 8-track band lost marketability. Learjet Industries' biggest flaw, however, was its distribution net. In an effort to obtain orders for the aircraft, Lear quickly compiled a roster of dealers across the state.
A lot of these merchants ignored their selling limits and only a few had ever bought an aircraft in the Learjet class. Even the highly successful Learjet would not be able to absorb the larger loss without an efficient advertising programme. This year, the enterprise suffered a loss of 12 million dollars with a turnover of only 27.5 million dollars.
Lear once again hungered for money and looked for a capable, deeply rooted mate. In early 1967, he entered into talks with Charles C. Gates, Chairman of the Denver-based Gates Rubber Company. Gates tried to divide himself into aeroplane objects. Just purchased two major commercial jet services businesses, Combscraft in Denver and Roscoe Turner Aeronautical Corporation in Indianapolis, which they renamed Gates Aviation Corporation.
Meanwhile Lear had updated the Model 23 to incorporate a more powerful windscreen, fire suppressor and new pressure retention system. The costs of development and certification of these enhancements were expensive, however, and Learjet was still experiencing further difficulty. Luckily, Gates consented to acquire Lear's 62 per cent stake on April 10, 1967, just a few short months before a potentially devastating AGM.
Until April 2, 1969 Lear stayed chairman of the new Gates Learjet Society. Gates Rubber during this period injected $16 million into the failed affiliate and helped introduce a new eight-person model 25. In 1968 Gates Learjet sold $4.6 million at $34.6 million in turnover, but a year later it made a $2 million gain at $58 million in turnover.
Gates' visions of a synergetic production and servicing organisation took on a new dimension. Gates combined its Gates Aviation Corporation and Learjet aviation servicing businesses in 1969 to create a unified company that encompassed production, distribution and servicing. Gates expanded its operations with an additional Palm Springs, California office and four additional distribution centers, establishing an efficient distribution force to supersede the former Hoodgepodge dealers.
When Gates was not able to administer both Gates Rubber and Learjet in October 1970, Gates asked G.H.B. Gould, Learjet's Director of Public Relations, to run the airline business. Only six month later, Gould died in a motor accident and was replaced by Harry Combs, who came to Gates Rubber after his own firm, Combscraft, was taken over by Gates.
Combs supervised the reorganisation of Learjet characteristics suggested by Gould in May 1971. Gates Rubber absorbs the restless Stereodivision, which leaves three airplane characteristics: Manufacture, sale and servicing of Learjet Combs gates and the Jet Electronics and Technology (JET) aviation area. The Lear chopper shop was also completed and a contract was signed with Flight Safety International - the pioneering company for flight simulation &mdashø helps prevent mistakes that have led to a series of early Lear jet falls.
Gates Learjet became even more vibrant under the guidance of Combs, making a $6.9 million gain at $115. The decrease is mainly due to the cost of developing a new Learjet Longhorn range, which includes a new blade layout and the building of a $3 million, 75,000 square meter production plant in Tucson, Arizona.
As Wichita, Tucson had become an airplane Mecca during the Second World War when production was extended to cover the needs of locals' military base. Gates Learjet had its own staff of aviation and space specialists and was equipped with a specialised outfit. Wichita's plant manufactured a series of empty Learjets that were sent to Tucson, where they were decorated and their interior made.
As a result, an annoying shortage in Wichita was removed and production slowered. In these years, Gates Learjet designed several new airplanes, among them the fanjet-powered 35 and 36 and the Century III range with enhanced "Softflite" wingstips. This new model was the first Learjet without wingedanks. Two large corporations were established by Bill Lear, who was granted 150 patent rights and was heavily involved in the design of advanced aviation electronics and corporate jetliners. Bill Lear passed away from leukaemia on May 14, 1978 in a Reno, Nevadaospital.
Though no longer associated with Lear-Siegler or Gates Learjet, his name stayed with both firms, and his innovation continues to be used in the aerospace world. After Bill Lear's last corporate jet project, it resumed after his deathbed. In 1980, the fully composed Lear fan, whom he had designed a few years before, took off.
When Harry Combs was transferred to Learjet's mother airline, Gates Bermar named "Bib" Stillwell Chief Operating Officer. Over the following few month, Gates Learjet added five new foreign stations and acquired the Connecticut-based Air Kaman airline. In 1985 stillwell went into retirement and was replaced by James B. Taylor, who took over the management of Gates Learjet, while revenues from "bizjet" had dropped so sharply that Learjet had to cease temporary work.
Gates was offered his 64th birthday in August 1987. 8% stake in Learjet of Integrated Acquisition, a New York-based finance group. Gates, which was out to reduce its casualties, consented to sell its Learjet stock for nearly 57 million dollars. Taylor remained at the helm of the integrated acquisition for the time being.
In January 1988, following the purchase of all remaining Learjet stock, the Taylor shareholders dismissed Taylor in favour of Beverly (Bev) Lancaster, leader of the company's expanding aviation and space business. Gates was then removed from the name and its Combs Gates services were divested to AMR, the mother of American Airlines.
In the 1980' Learjet was selected as a significant sub-contractor for a number of defence, space and civil aircraft related contracts led by Boeing, Martin Marietta, LTV, Textron, General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas. This work was all carried out in Wichita, which was a key element in the relocation of much of the Learjet manufacturing to Tucson.
Also in the field of defence distribution, the enterprise found an important new target group. Specially designed Learjet 35 and 36 were designed for the Brazilian, Thai, Japan, Finland and Mexico armed services. Learjets' biggest order came from the United States Air Force, which ordered more than 80 Model 35 C-2lA aircraft.
The Learjet also received an order to maintain this aircraft and founded the Gates Learjet Aircraft Services Corporation (Glasco) for this purpos. The Learjet was lucrative, but could not obtain credit due to the bad state of the motherline. Nevertheless, in 1989 Learjet managed to take over the reverse thrusters of Aeronea from Middletown, Ohio, to Wichita.
By using these fixtures in Learjet airplanes, runway lengths have been significantly shortened so that short take-off and runway lengths can be used. A number of new buyers showed interest in buying Learjet, among them Chrysler Gulfstream Aerospace unit, British Aerospace and Toyota Motor Sales. Brian Barents, former VP of Communications for Cessna and Toyota, was named Learjet Chairman during the year.
In just a few short month he had managed to negotiate the Learjet bailout by the Canada-based production groupombardier. In the 1960' s, Bombardier became known as a manufacturer of Ski-Doo snow mobiles. The breakthrough of the snow mobile fashion saw the expansion of the business into the motor car sector and the purchase of ailing producers such as Pullman-Peabody, Budd and UTDC.
During 1986 it acquired the loss-making airline Canadair (then held by the Canada government) and in 1989 it strengthened its position in the aviation and space markets by taking over Short Brothers Aviation in Belfast. Only one year later, the airline offered Learjet and bought DeHavilland Canada from Boeing in early 1992.
On April 9, 1990, Bombardier took over Learjet, paid 75 million dollars and took over 38 million dollars in debts. Learjet, with large production capacities and a large client basis, could profit from the strength of a financial holding and from production and market synergy with other Bombardier space and aviation businesses.
These ranged from lightweight corporate jet to large commercial jet. Learjet, like other subsidiary companies of Bombardier, remains an autonomously run entity. She played an important role in the company's production line and manufactured jet engines for applications other than those of its sisters. The smaller Learjet airplanes were a powerful addition to the bigger Canadair Challenger, which Bill Lear also developed.
During the first three years after its acquisition by Bombardier, Learjet recorded rapid expansion, doubled its workforce and expanded its production capacities. It has also relocated the tests of all its subsidiaries' jet aircraft to Wichita. Learjet's business ethos, however, was changing at the turn of the century, leading to difficulties. It was so vertical that, as a former Business and Commercial Aviation senior manager said, "Learjet was used to pressing in aluminium at one end of the factory and extracting aircraft from the other.
" Aircraft construction became a cooperation between various Bombardier affiliates as a result of intensified competitive pressures and rising costs for design and production. In a few years Learjet fuselage was made by Short Brothers in Ireland, wing by DeHavilland in Canada and only the end installation was done in Wichita.
Back in September 1992, the firm heralded that its first aeroplane in 30 years would be a clear sheets designed - one that would not deviate from an already in existence aeroplane. As with the initial Model 23, the new Model 45 was to come onto the scene in a surprisingly brief space of space, in this case about three and a half years after the start of the development work.
While Learjet was still reselling its other airplanes and developing relatively well, the lag in the launch of the Model 45 further hurt moral and created a "pressure cooking environment" for the company's designer and manager. From 1996 to 1999, the business was managed by four different chairmen.
Deliveries of the first orders were slowed by issues with early manufacturing jets that necessitated modification of several system, such as the de-icing system. In spite of the long, disappointing engineering phase, the end product met with enthusiastic criticism for it' s styling and execution, and orders were placed for nearly 150 of them. When Learjet fought to assimilate to its new identities as part of Bombardier, it seemed that it would be a much different type of business than the one William Powell had created in 1964, but which was still able to develop jets that would stand out from the crowd.
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