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Archives at The Museum of Flight

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

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 technical files. 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 fairly small and holds materials related to day-to-day business at Lear Fan Ltd. It includes policy and procedure memos and manuals, organizational charts, employee phone lists, business plans, board reports, and meeting minutes. Within the materials are also lithographs and illustrations of the LFL facility layout and watercolor renditions of the exterior design for the Lear Fan Finishing Center. There is also a very small amount of outgoing correspondence from LFL President, Linden Blue, which primarily advises recipients of his impending departure from the company.

Subseries B: Correspondence has both incoming and outgoing correspondence between LFL personnel and external parties, including the FAA and the Department of Commerce in Northern Ireland. It also contains a sizeable amount of telex messages and accompanying message logs. Of note is a batch of congratulatory correspondence celebrating the successful first flight of E-001 (N626BL), the first Lear Fan prototype which took place on January 1, 1981 but was recorded as December 32, 1980.

Subseries C: Financial records contains budgets, forecasts, and financial summaries as well as projected pricing for the Lear Fan. Of note are the proposals from Exos Aerospace, Reno Aeronautical Group, and Advanced Composite Products International regarding the purchase of Lear Fan Technology, Inc. post-bankruptcy of Lear Fan Limited.

Subseries D: Legal records is divided into two subseries. The first, Legal documents, includes agreements, statements and correspondence related to sales and licensing. It also has a notice shifting Lear Fan Limited’s ownership from LearAvia Corporation to Fan Holdings, Inc. Patents is comprised of two items: a graphite fiber patent and a letter discussing patents awarded to Lear Fan Technology.

Subseries E: Photographs is sizeable and has been further divided into three subseries: Aircraft and related and Facilities and personnel followed by Photograph albums. Overall, the series contains approximately 1400 prints, 200 negatives, and 1200 slides in both color and black-and-white and ranging in size. Some duplication occurs within the files. Publicity shots, contact sheets, and casual snapshots are all present. Some images have contextual information, such as date, location, and names, but many do not.

Within the aircraft and related files are a small amount of images of a helicopter taken from an office window and three Polaroids of unidentified parts. However, of most interest are the approximately 1,000 photographs, 26 slides, and 98 negatives that focus on testing, assembly, and construction of the Lear Fan, sometimes accompanied by Lear personnel performing work on the Lear Fan. Prototypes N626BL and N327ML are both included but it is not always clear which aircraft is being tested. Tests include a jet sled test run, water spray testing, shaft cutter tests, and wind tunnel tests. There are also images labeled “F-series,” which depict various aspects of the fuselage.

Additional images include assorted models, mock-ups, and concepts of the Lear Fan, including one with a caption of “earliest config.” Of note are photographs that depict primarily N626BL in flight and parked, with a lesser amount of images featuring N327ML, including it parked and partially obscured either prior to or after “flights 295-198.” There is a single image of N98LF parked on tarmac. LFL President Linden Blue, MOL, and test pilot Hank Beaird are included in some shots.

The Facilities and personnel subseries contains a small number of shots showing what appear to be interior labs and workspaces, though they are unidentified. Most images feature building exteriors, likely in Nevada. One image depicts the flight operations office and another depicts the shipping and receiving building; all others are unidentified. There is one undated image of MOL at her office desk. Lear personnel are featured at a variety of events, including a blood drive; parties; an NBAA meeting or possibly an exhibit/show; and award ceremonies. Identified people include Hank Beaird, Salem Bin Laden, Linden Blue, Vicki Devines, Bob Hoover, MOL, WPL, Dennis Newton, John Penney, Bill Surbey, Dick Tracy and Ursula Weber Tracy, among others.

The collection also contains several photograph albums. Because the images in the albums are a mix of personnel, facilities, and aircraft, the albums have been grouped into their own subseries, listed alphabetically by title. The prints have been removed from the albums for preservation reasons but have been kept in original order. Any captions or labels have been retained with the photographs. Many images are duplicated in the previous subseries.

Within the “Belfast plant” album images depict workspaces and products, including new operator training, carbon fiber materials kit, and autoclave loading. There are also two images of the exterior of a building with “Shorts” sign on the exterior.

The “Lear Fan 2100 100th sale” album features 42 photographs at what appears to be a contract signing party. The 100th Lear Fan was sold to Leonard Hudson Drilling Co. of Pampas, Texas. Attendees of the event are featured in the images. Although the photographs do not include identifications, there is a list of attendees with the prints.

“Lear Fan E-003” contains assorted testing and production images of the Lear Fan, including images labeled,“1st flight new oil breather,” “climb #2 150 KIAS 10,000,” and “inboard gear doors, flt #49.”

“Lear Fan Fare” is a smaller album with only 14 prints primarily of Lear personnel, including group portraits in workspaces and with the mock-up of the Lear Fan. Some images include identifying information.

“Lear Fan first flight” album is comprised of 207 slides “taken by team photographers (D. Dondero and Ron May)” on December 32, 1980 (January 1, 1981). Most images are taken outside and feature various attendees, including MOL. Some images show the Lear Fan in flight and parked on the tarmac.

The “Through my eyes” album was made by Ursula Weber Tracy, who also took many of the photographs within the Lear Fan series. It appears she created the album as a gift for MOL. Many of the images are duplicated in other subseries. Most include captions, such as “anatomy of a wind tunnel model” and “tail cone plaster masters.” The original album, which is black leatherette and has a “Lear Fan” sticker on the front, is also present.

Finally, “Welcome to Lear Country” has 35 images that mostly depict Lear Fan production areas as well as various personnel in workspaces. MOL is featured as well as a mock-up of the Lear Fan. Most prints have sticker captions that provide context.

Series F: Publicity materials is relatively small and includes ads, brochures, sales booklets, clippings and articles, press releases and information kits, and company logos used to promote the Lear Fan. There are also lithographs, paintings and sketches of the Lear Fan 2100 (N626BL). Notable within this section are the clippings and first flight covers for the December 32, 1980 inaugural flight of the Lear Fan 2100 (N626BL) as well as a press release and attendee list for a commemorative flight made by N327ML. Also included are one film and six videos. All are promotional materials for the Lear Fan including the flight of a model Lear Fan and footage of the first flight of the Lear Fan.

Series G: Research materials contains documents created by other companies or collected by Lear Fan personnel to support manufacture and/or design of the Lear Fan 2100. Materials include photographs; brochures; memos, notes, and correspondence; reports; articles and clippings; and technical data, many of which focus on graphite and composite materials, some of which were used on the Lear Fan.

Subseries H: Technical files is sizeable and includes specifications, reports and summaries, notes, manuals and instructions, and related correspondence all pertinent to the Lear Fan. There are very few technical diagrams of the aircraft, although a handful are embedded within progress reports, presentations, and planning documents. Of note is the partial draft of the Lear Fan 2100 manual. Each section, or chapter, may include notes, final copies, research materials, correspondence, and technical data. Some sections also include similar sections from other aircraft manuals, such as Cessna, likely as a template for the chapter.


  • 1942-1947, 1975-1999, 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"))

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