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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Series V. Lear Jet Corporation, 1960-1974, 1984-1989, 1991-1992, 1999, undated

Series V: Lear Jet Corporation (LJC) primarily documents the development, production, and distribution of the Learjet Model 23 and Model 24, small and fast executive transport jets, with a lesser degree of coverage about the Lear Liner Model 40. Additionally there is a relatively small amount of information about LJC’s Stereo 8 Division, which designed, developed, and produced the 8-track audio tape cassette player for home, automobile, and personal use. The bulk of the material is dated from 1962, when Swiss American Aviation Corporation changed its name to Lear Jet Corporation, through 1967, when WPL sold his controlling interests of stock to Gates Rubber Co.

The series is arranged into nine subseries, administrative records, correspondence, financial records, legal records, photographs, publicity materials, research materials, Stereo 8 files, and technical files. Some series are further subdivided for clarity and are detailed below. Materials are generally, but not always, arranged by date, with undated items at the end of each series. When able, circa dates have been provided.

Subseries A: Administrative records contains materials related to the day-to day business activities, company history, and the Board of Directors. Type of materials include correspondence, reports, booklets, clippings, agendas and meeting minutes, notes, organizational charts, personnel forms, and memos. Of note is an undated employee-made “Lear Jet coloring book,” which includes adult humor and cartoons about personnel at Lear Jet Corporation.

Subseries B: Correspondence is quite large and has both incoming and outgoing correspondence between LJC personnel and various people and businesses. It has been arranged alphabetically by correspondent following the original order of the materials. Much of the correspondence pertains to updates on the Learjet progress and soliciting funding, assistance, and/or future orders. Of note is the FAA correspondence which includes a selection of August 1964 letters to “VIPs” that notify of the Model 23’s FAA certification and production readiness for customers.

Subseries C: Financial records includes assorted financial documents as well as clippings, reports, distributor lists, marketing guidelines, sales forms and bulletins, owner and potential owner lists, stock offering materials, and related correspondence. There is also a June 1965 “good-will” certificate for a toe-hold deed in Florida and documentation regarding the sale of WPL’s Super Learstar (N211L).

Subseries D: Legal records consists of two quite small subseries. The first, Gates Rubber Co. sale, includes a minimal amount of materials, primarily correspondence and WPL’s notes, related to the April 1967 sale of WPL’s controlling stock to Gates Rubber Co., including three photographs taken at the meeting. The second subseries is Patent documents which is comprised of a few documents related to assorted avionics patents and their status.

Subseries E: Photographs is large and has been divided into three subseries, which are arranged alphabetically by subject: aircraft, facilities and personnel, and parts and products. Overall, there are over 700 photographs, 5 negatives, and approximately 30 slides. They are primarily in black-and-white, although some are in color. Prints are a mix of casual snapshots and posed or publicity shots.

Aircraft is the largest subseries of the section and is primarily comprised of images related to the prototype Learjet Model 23 (N801L) with much less representation for successive Model 23s (N802L and N803L), Model 24, and Lear Liner Model 40. There are also a few images of non-Lear aircraft, such as a Gates Twinjet helicopter and a Jet Commander; and assorted unidentified customers’ Learjet Models 23 and 24.

Construction, assembly, and various tests of N801L are well-represented subjects with 255 photographs that document stress tests, structural tests, engine installation, fuselage assembly, and interior shots showing the ribs of N801L, among others. Also featured are images from the first flight of N801L on October 7, 1963 as well as later flight tests. Additional images for N801L include depictions of mockups of the aircraft, test lab spaces, such as the flight test lab and hydraulic test lab; and test pilots, including LJC’s chief test pilot Hank Beaird. There are also a small assortment of assorted publicity shots with press release captions.

The second Learjet Model 23 (N802L) is also included, although to a much smaller degree. Images depict its first flight, the aircraft with a crew of Lear personnel, and parked on tarmac. The third Model 23 (N803L) is featured even less, primarily as a backdrop in testing or hangar shots. The Lear Liner Model 40 has a small selection of 23 images, including with WPL and MOL at launch party of the Lear Liner program, concept model, interior shots, and two 1991 prints that feature a model of the aircraft.

Photographs in the Facilities and personnel subseries are primarily a mix of Lear Jet Corp. personnel, including WPL and MOL, clients, celebrities and “VIPs,” as well as unidentified people, including a youth group portrait around a Learjet model. Identified personnel of LJC include Bill Eikenberry, Don Grommesh, James A. Murray, Buzz Nanney, and Bill Sipprell. Identified “celebrities and VIPs” include Prince Aga Khan; actors Ben Cooper and Bob Cummings; performers Arthur Godfrey, Danny Kaye, Wayne Newton and Frank Sinatra; and political figures Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, among others. WPL is included in many images with various people as well as featured in a mix of casual and posed portraits.

Facilities are featured in the photos to a much lesser extent, and are primarily in Wichita, Kansas. Images include the construction and interior of LJC’s hangar as well as aerial shots of the building, LJC manufacturing, engineering, and office space with various personnel at work, and interior and exterior views of the aircraft service center at Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada.

Parts and products is a very small subseries and includes images of assorted parts and products, primarily identified as “KVA” units but also including an automatic flight control system and noise/sound suppressor for the Model 23. There are also few images showing WPL jumping on a section of windshield to showcase its strength.

Note that some images include minor contextual captions, such as name or date, but most do not. There are some duplicate images as well as some digital prints that were likely created by the Lear Archives staff at a later date. Although the majority of photographs are housed in this series, note that there are photographs in other series, mostly found in Publicity and Technical files, which support materials in those sections.

Subseries F: Publicity materials is a sizable series with clippings, articles, reports, photographs, and related correspondence primarily related to the Learjet Models 23 and 24, but also about Lear Jet Corporation in general. Additional materials include dozens of press releases, ranging from 1961-1968; clippings and internal correspondence related to Learjet failures, including multiple crashes and the temporary grounding of all Learjets; several firsts and records, including clippings about the first woman to pilot a Learjet, Hassi Feyel; transcontinental and around-the-world flights, one of which included WPL’s son John Lear; and speed records. An undated “Lear Sing-A-Long” booklet is also included. It was likely created by Lear Jet Corp. personnel and contains parody song lyrics about working at Lear Jet Corporation.

Of note are materials related to the first commercial delivery of a Learjet Model 23 (N200Y) in October 1964 to Herbert Hamilton, President, Chemical & Industrial Corp., including clippings and thirteen photographs that depict the aircraft in flight, being delivered, and with Hamilton and his family in front of it.

Also included is a small subseries of audiovisual materials comprised of four sound recordings and four films. The audio recordings include a speech delivered by WPL and a radio segment about the Learjet. The films include footage of the interior and exterior of the Learjet as well as the Learjet facility.

Subseries G: Research materials is quite small and primarily features booklets from and about other companies and people soliciting money and/or to work with or for Lear Jet Corporation with related correspondence. There is also an assortment of research clippings, likely collected by LJC personnel, about competitor parts, products and companies.

Subseries H: Stereo 8 files focuses solely on the 8-track audio tape player, cassettes, and related components developed and produced by Lear Jet Corporation (LJC). The Stereo 8 division was referred to with various names, including “Stereo Division,” “Lear Jet Stereo,” and “Stereo Eight/8.” However, for consistency, the name “Stereo 8” is used here.

Materials include interoffice memos, correspondence, and board reports; clippings about the division, including the purchase of a new plant; research files about competitor products; publicity materials, such as advertising kits, brochures, and price lists; and service center bulletins as well as a disassembly manual. Also included are 4 negatives and 65 photographic prints. The majority of the images depict assorted car dashboards with an 8-track player installed. Other images depict the 8-track cartridges and their components, the exterior of the Stereo 8 service center and manufacturing facility in Detroit, Michigan and unidentified personnel in work labs.

Of note are two patent files related to the 8-track player, including one for “drive means” and one for the 8-track player, 8-track cartridges, and related components. Also notable are materials related to 1970-1974 legal suits against Lear Jet Corp., later as Gates Learjet Corp., in regard to patent infringement and rights on the 8-track player, brought on by Magnasync Craig Corporation, Auto-Tape, Inc., and Motorola. The materials primarily consist of photocopies of testimony taken at depositions of Sam Auld and WPL with related notes and correspondence.

Subseries I: Technical files primarily includes documents related to the design, production, and FAA certification of the Learjet Model 23. Materials include specifications, notes, diagrams, photographs, correspondence, and test reports, including one on the “wingtip mishap.” There are also maintenance repair logs for the Lear Aircraft Service Center in 1965. Additional materials include assorted files of Don Grommesh, chief engineer, and Sam Auld, Vice President of Research and Development.

Notable materials for the Model 23 include correspondence, clippings, and seventeen photographs related to the non-fatal crash but total loss of prototype Model 23 (N801L) in June 1964 as well as materials about the fatal crash of Model 23 (N804L) and death of pilots Glen David and Lawrence Bangiola.

Additional notable items include a small amount of documents about the Lear Liner Model 40, including specifications and a press release about the program.


  • 1960-1974, 1984-1989, 1991-1992, 1999, undated

Language of the Materials

Most materials are in English, but some materials are in other languages, including Bengali, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, and Spanish. When non-English language materials are present, it is noted on the individual folder.

Conditions Governing Access

A computer hard drive is not accessible, pending digital preservation procedures. The rest of the collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.


From the Collection: 285 Cubic Feet (190 legal size full-width document boxes (15 ½” x 10 ¼” x 5”), 2 legal size half-width document boxes (15 ½” x 10 ¼” x 2 ½”), 6 record cartons, 2 card boxes (12” x 4 ½” x 5 ½”), 9 oversize boxes (19” x 4” x 15”), 7 oversize boxes (20 ½” x 3" x 16 ½”), 7 oversize boxes (24 ½”x 3” x 20 ½”), 2 oversize boxes (40” x 2 ½” x 32”), 9 oversize rolled storage boxes (40” x 9” x 9”), 21 oversize folders (30” x 40”), 50 oversize folders (35 ¾” x 47 ¾”), 1 oversize folder (24” x 75”), 38 bagged rolled storage (60” x 5” x 5”), 1 Quadruplex tape (15 ¼” x 15 ½” x 3"))


Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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