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Archives at The Museum of Flight

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

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 records, correspondence, financial records, legal records, photographs, publicity materials, research materials, and technical files. Some series have been further divided for clarity and are outlined 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 is relatively small and is comprised of correspondence, memos, and operational documents related to company activities and policies, such as licenses, receipts, and letterhead. Of interest is a satirical degree for “Bullshit Eyeball Engineering” created by LAC employees and given to WPL in December 1971.

Subseries B: Correspondence is the smallest series and includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence, primarily related to aviation consulting and inquiries regarding the Lear Fan project. The original files included only one grouped batch of correspondence under “B” but no other files grouped by letter. Because of the small amount of correspondence, additional letter folders were not created and materials were simply arranged alphabetically by correspondent instead of chronologically.

Subseries C: Financial records is sizeable and includes agreements, contracts, and related correspondence; financial statements and reports; budgets and business plans; customer and price lists; purchase orders, invoices, and receipts; and assorted financial forms. Most of the material relates to LearAvia Corporation operations in general, including the sale of various product lines as well as the sale of two of WPL’s personal aircraft. However, some material pertains to specific projects such as the Lear Allegro and the Lear Fan 2100.

Subseries D: Legal records is divided into two subseries, Legal cases and Patents. Legal cases contains just two sets of materials: documents related to a lawsuit around the sale of the defunct Lear Motors Corp. passenger steam bus, and a set of materials around WPL’s 1976 role as an expert adviser in a legal case about the July 31, 1973 crash of Delta Air Lines Flight 723 which killed all onboard.

The second subseries Patents is more substantial, being comprised of correspondence regarding various trademarks, patents, and logos as well as patent applications with related materials such as correspondence, sketches, oversize technical illustrations and diagrams, and patent copies. Most of the patent applications are WPL’s and relate to avionics parts and products, such as a jet engine synchronizer, a nose wheel steering system, the Lear Charger, and a noise/sound suppressor. Also included is a list of WPL’s patents with photocopies of some of the patents.

Of note are patent materials for WPL’s design of the supercritical wing, later called a “superwing.” It was initially meant for use with Learjets but was first used on the LearStar 600, which became the Canadair Challenger 600. Also of note is WPL’s only non-aviation-related patent from this time, a public address system for banquet halls, the file for which includes hand-drawn illustrations by WPL of its design.

Subseries E: Photographs contains 106 prints, 99 negatives, and 72 slides in both color and black-and-white and ranging in size. The series has been further divided into two subseries: Aircraft and related and Facilities and personnel.

The Aircraft and related subseries features images of a few assorted aircraft and helicopters, including a 1973 rescue of a cow that fell in a ravine via a helicopter chartered from LAC. There are also a small amount of slides featuring concept art of the the LearStar 600. Identified aircraft include a Bell 47G helicopter, a Bell AG-5 helicopter, a Bell-Jet Ranger helicopter, and a Robinson R22 helicopter as well as Learjet and Cessna aircraft. Aircraft are pictured on the tarmac and in flight, including crop-dusting.

Facilities and personnel mostly depicts the exterior of the aircraft service center, often with obscured or partial aircraft. Also included are images of a 1973 “distributor’s meeting,” drafting and office workspaces with unidentified LAC personnel, and flight instructors. WPL is featured in a small number of images.

Some duplication occurs. Publicity shots, contact sheets, and casual snapshots are all present. Some images have contextual information, such as date, location, and names, but most do not. Additional photographs are found in other series, depending on their context. Notably, a large amount of photographic material is housed within the Technical Files, by topic or context. For example, wind tunnel testing photographs for the Lear Fan, are found in the Lear Fan subseries of Technical Files.

Subseries F: Publicity is relatively small and holds press releases, brochures, company logo designs, price lists, and clippings relevant to LAC business activities, aircraft, and products. Specific products featured include the Lear Charger, AFC-70 autopilot, and a helicopter muffler “hush kit” for the Bell 47 series. Of note are press releases related to Canadair’s purchase of rights to the LearStar 600 as well as corporate changes, including MOL being elected Chairman after WPL died on May 14, 1978. Also of note are materials, including an itinerary and photographs, for the flag-raising ceremony held at the unveiling of the Lear Fan 2100 mock-up on May 11, 1979. Additionally, there are two items in the small audiovisual materials subseries housed here: one video with footage of the Canadair Challenger and a commercial advertisement on film for the LAC helicopter fleet.

Subseries G: Research materials contains documents created by other companies or collected by staff at LAC to support manufacture and/or design of LAC products, including aircraft. There are also items related to products or projects that LAC did not follow-up on; these are noted by “UL,” which may mean “unlicensed.” Materials include correspondence and notes, brochures, clippings, oversize technical diagrams and sketches, patent copies, proposals, and reports.

Last and by far the largest subseries is Subseries H: Technical files. It has been further broken down into six subseries: LearStar 600, Lear Allegro, Lear Fan 2100, parts and products, general, andoversize technical diagrams. Note that there is overlap with the series for Microcom, Inc. due to its initial status as an affiliated company and eventual absorption into LAC.

The first three subseries focus on aircraft designed by WPL and the LAC team and are arranged chronologically in order of development and production. First, the LearStar 600 subseries, primarily dated 1974-1977, includes technical illustrations and diagrams, technical and design data, specifications, and related correspondence. There are several reports on various aspects of the aircraft, including airframe design and refinements, interiors, weights, and structural design studies. Also included is a small amount of photographs of mock-ups of the aircraft, circa 1976. Further technical drawings related to the LearStar 600 can be found in the oversize technical diagrams subseries.

Next is the Lear Allegro subseries, spanning 1976-1977. WPL and his team designed the Lear Allegro as an improvement on the LearStar 600. However, because Canadair had no interest in the design, no plane was ever built. Materials in this subseries include proposals, specifications, diagrams, survey maps, reports, graphs and technical data, including wind tunnel test results. Related materials can be found in the oversize technical diagrams subseries.

The Lear Fan 2100 subseries contains early design documents, circa 1976-1979. Although initial design and plans for the Lear Fan began within LAC with several subsidiary companies assisting, the bulk of Lear Fan related materials are housed in the Lear Fan Limited (Series XIV) series as it was established as its own company circa 1980. Materials retained in this subseries include early specifications under the briefly-used “Finesse” and “Futura” names; design and technical data and reports, such as “wing area decision” and “mass properties;” budgets and parts lists; and a 1978-1979 draft of the Lear Fan 2100 operating manual. Other materials include oversize technical illustrations and diagrams, specifications, and correspondence.

By far the largest subseries is parts and products, which consists of technical documentation on various parts and products developed and manufactured by LAC. Many of the specific components documented in these files are likely related to several key LAC products such as the battery temperature indicator, the nose wheel steering system, the autopilot, the synchroscope, and the cabin temperature controller. Additionally, some of the components and parts documented in the files were used in multiple types of aircraft, including the Aero Commander 690, Cessna 400 series, and Learjet models 23, 24, and 25 as well as the Bell 47 series helicopter.

The files contain photographs and transparencies; charts and technical data; diagrams and sketches; reports, supplemental type certificates; manuals; and related FAA and LAC in-house correspondence. Diagrams sometimes have accompanying document change records or notices or are stamped with varying versions, such as “dead file,” “FAA file copy, “master file copy,” or “record file.” The files in this subseries have been arranged numerically by sheet number but brief descriptions of the part or product are also given in the folder titles when possible. The sheet numbering system uses a 3-digit number with a hyphen followed by a 4-digit number, starting at 101-0001. Later, the number system changed to a 6-digit number starting at 800002. A few files at the end have numbers starting wtih "SC" and "TS". The significance of the various numbering systems is unknown. The oversize technical diagrams subseries, described below, contains additional materials related to LAC's parts and products.

The General subseries holds reports, specifications, data sheets, oversize technical diagrams, manuals, photographs and related correspondence. These materials span multiple products or projects, are applicable to all divisions (such as manufacturing and production memos) or do not include a corresponding document number to match with a part or product sheet, such as the Lear Charger and “Superwing.” Of note are work order logs and procedures for the aircraft service center, engineer John Burzynski’s notebook, and materials about the Lear Ranger, a never-produced concept for an aircraft, including specifications, cost and budget estimates, sketches and research material.

Finally, the oversize technical diagrams subseries is comprised of professional technical illustrations and diagrams for the avionic products and aircraft developed by the company. The materials are related to the documents in the previous subseries, but due to the large quantity of oversize materials and the variety of formats, the archivists housed these separately and have listed them in their own subseries. There are diazo prints (blueprints), sepia diazo prints, pencil and ink drawings on paper and technical reproductions on plastic film. Along with the various formats, the documents range in size. The files have been grouped in a similar structure to the other files in the Technical Files subseries, with files for the aircraft, parts and products, followed by general files. Within each grouping the archivists have arranged the materials in numerical order by document number, followed by size, then format.

The first grouping is of designs produced by the LearAvia Corporation illustrating components and full body designs for both the LearStar 600 and Lear Allegro. The documents each have a number assigned to diagram with the prefix SK600. Associated LearStar 600 diagrams range from SK600-001 to SK600-1000s, while Lear Allegro files are numbered SK600-2000 and up. The remaining SK623-000s are related to the LearStar program.

The next grouping also consists of designs for both the LearStar 600 and Lear Allegro however this set of drawings was produced by San Diego Aircraft Engineering, Inc. The materials, similar to the ones in the SK600s grouping, focus on the various components and designs for the aircraft. These documents have the prefix SAE 77 or AZTEC 77, followed by a number assigned to the individual diagram.

The parts and products grouping mirrors that in content and arrangement to the “Parts and Products” subseries above, with files organized by sheet number, though the oversize drawings exist in multiple sizes and are housed accordingly. Lastly, the “General” subseries contains additional documents related to the development of both the LearStar 600 and Lear Allegro, but the folders have a fewer number of documents.

It is important to note that the oversize materials in this subseries have duplicate copies of illustrations that were produced in different sizes and formats. The copies have not been housed together but rather documents have been organized by size and format for optimal preservation.


  • 1838-1992, 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"))

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