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Archives at The Museum of Flight

LearAvia Corporation


Historical Note

LearAvia Corporation developed and manufactured a variety of avionics products as well as three aircraft from the late 1960s through the 1980s.

Established in April 1968 by William P. Lear, LearAvia Corporation (LAC) was headquartered in Reno, Nevada at the site of the former Stead Air Force Base, alongside Leareno Development and Lear Motors Corporation, other companies Lear established at the same time. Their products included the Learjet sound suppressor, a helicopter muffler system for the Bell 47 series helicopters, and the Lear Charger, a portable battery charger for recharging 6-, 12-, or 24-volt batteries. Additional products they manufactured include the AFC-75, a yaw damper, a battery temperature indicator, a cabin temperature control unit, a nose wheel steering system, an altitude data system, and a synchroscope. LAC operated an aircraft service center, an aviation instruction training school, and a helicopter leasing/charter service.

In addition to avionics products, LAC also developed three aircraft: the LearStar 600, the Lear Allegro, and the all-composite turboprop Lear Fan 2100. In 1976 Canadair bought the design and production rights to the LearStar 600 and eventually changed the name to the Canadair Challenger. The Allegro, designed in 1977 as an improved version of the LearStar 600, was never built due to lack of interest from Canadair. It was followed by the Lear Fan program which began in March 1977. The Lear Fan 2100 was WPL’s last aircraft design and was briefly known as the “Futura” and possibly the “Finesse” prior to being named the Lear Fan 2100.

Work was not complete on the Lear Fan before WPL’s death from leukemia in May 1978. Per his wishes, his wife Moya Olsen Lear took over the project with assistance from other Lear personnel.

LAC’s company structure and hierarchy was complex and is not always clearly outlined by supporting documentation. According to internal documents, LAC had at least three subsidiaries to support Lear Fan production by April 1980 including Lear Fan Limited, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Stead, Nevada; Lear Fan Corporation, based in Stead, Nevada, and Lear Fan Sales Limited, based in Stead, Nevada. However, additional documentation states that another related company, Lear Fan Corp., based in Delaware, was a subsidiary of Lear Fan Ltd., itself a subsidiary of LearAvia Corporation. Eventually Lear Fan Corporation (Nevada) and Lear Fan Corp. (Delaware) formed the Lear Fan Research Limited Partnership.

Company officers for LAC included WPL as Chairman of the Board until his death when MOL took over and Kenneth Kramer as Vice President (who also served as Executive Vice-President for LearAvia, Lear Motors Corporation, and Leareno Development.) After WPL’s death, Sam Auld and Maxine Zimmerman served as President of LearAvia at different times.

Additional identified company officers for the various entities included former Vice President of Operations at LearAvia Corporation William Surbey as President and CEO of Lear Fan Corporation and J. Sheldon “Torch” Lewis as Vice President of Sales for Lear Fan Sales Limited. By September 1982, Lear Fan Limited was no longer a subsidiary of LAC, having incorporated on its own with Bob Burch serving as Chairman and President. In 1983, LAC sold its interests in LFL to a large group comprised mostly of foreign investors, Fan Holdings, Inc., for whom Burch also served as Chairman and President.

LAC was in bankruptcy by the end of 1986 and ceased operations.

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Series XI. Lear Motors Corp., 1968-1976, 1984-1999, undated

Scope and Contents: Lear Motors Corporation Series XI: Lear Motors Corporation (LMC) primarily documents the efforts of LMC in the development and production of steam-powered vehicles. Although LMC was incorporated in 1968 and sold in 1976, the bulk of materials fall within 1969-1973. Note that because LMC, Leareno Development, LearAvia, and several smaller companies were all started in 1967-1968 there is some overlap between the series within some sections, such as correspondence. The series is...

Series XII. LearAvia Corporation, 1838-1992, 1999, undated

Scope and Contents: LearAvia Corporation This series, the largest in the collection, documents the activities of LearAvia Corporation which was established in April 1968 by William P. Lear in Reno, Nevada at the site of former Stead Air Force Base. The company was engaged in the development, manufacture, and distribution of avionic products as well the design and development of three aircraft: the LearStar 600, the Lear Allegro, and the Lear Fan 2100. The series is divided into eight subseries, administrative...

Series XIII. Microcom, Inc., 1969-1974

Scope and Contents: Microcom, Inc. Established in 1968 as an affiliate of LearAvia Corporation (LAC), Microcom, Inc. (MI) which designed and produced an advanced line of avionics, including the AFC-70 autopilot, is represented primarily by technical documentation. The bulk of the material falls within 1969-1972. A few materials are dated later, due to the transition from an affiliate company to being absorbed by LAC as of December 1972. Because the company records present are nearly all technical...

Series XIV. Lear Fan Limited, 1942-1947, 1975-1999, undated

Scope and Contents: Lear Fan Limited Series XIV: Lear Fan Limited (LFL) provides a look into the development, production, flight testing, and quest for FAA certification of the Lear Fan 2100, an innovative all-composite airplane that William P. Lear and his team designed in 1976-1977. The series is arranged into eight subseries: administrative records, correspondence, financial records, legal records, photographs, publicity materials, research materials, and ...

Series XVI. Related Companies, 1961-2000, undated

Scope and Contents: Related Companies The final series of the collection is Related Companies. The focus is primarily on companies that were originally founded by WPL but due to mergers or sales lost their direct affiliation with WPL’s companies. The exception is the final series, Lear Archives, which maintains a direct connection to WPL and his career. The Related Companies series has been divided by company, which are listed in chronological order of their existence and connection to Lear...

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