I never met the genius rascal Bill Lear, but I know him. Chances are you do, too. If not from direct experience, then from interactions with his legacy aircraft and the people of Bombardier Learjet.

Learjet History Wall Display
Prescient words from Bill Lear, “If it looks good, it will fly good.”

Lear set the world in a faster spin by creating the world’s first business jet 50 years ago. His impatience drove himself, his wife and his team to do the impossible.

Our agency has had the great privilege to work with the iconic Learjet brand for two decades. We spent one unforgettable day interviewing Bill’s wife, Moya Olsen Lear, just months before her death in late 2001. The daughter of famed vaudevillian Ole Olsen, Moya punctuated her endless stream of anecdotes with snippets of songs and even a little jitterbug. The energy that animated this barely 5-foot-tall raconteur surely rivaled Jet A for octane. Yes, Bill liked the ladies, but Moya steadfastly held his lifelong devotion. The media dubbed her “Queen Lear.”

Bombardier Learjet Book Cover
The Business Jet That Changed the World was created specifically and exclusively for the people of Bombardier Learjet.

Audacity Backed by Brilliance

When Bombardier entrusted us to chronicle the world-changing Learjet story – in a book for the people of Bombardier Learjet and an environmental display – we felt gratitude and tremendous responsibility to get it right. The birth of the Learjet is part of our heritage as citizens of the Air Capital.

Ralph Acs and Clay Lacy
Bombardier VP and Learjet General Manager Ralph Acs thanks the legendary Clay Lacy for flying the original Learjet 23.

Bill Lear originally planned to build and certify his plane in Geneva, but yanked everything to Wichita when things weren’t moving fast enough. Here on the Kansas prairie the pace quickened. He moved his fledgling team into a new facility in January 1963 and sat an audacious goal: to build the plane and get it in the air. In less than a year. The company motto: “Charge!”

The industry guffawed saying it would take 10 years and multiples of the capital Lear had to spend. But not only did the team achieve the impossible – following the first flight on Oct. 7, 1963, the Learjet 23 earned FAA type certification in a record-breaking 10 months. Even better, within a year the aircraft had generated more than 100 orders. It seemed everyone wanted a Learjet. Lear perhaps said it best: “The Learjet is more than a masterpiece. It is living proof of what free men can still do in a free world.”

Within the book’s spreads, the story unfolds from the Learjet 20 series up to the Learjet 85. The people of Bombardier Learjet possessed the imagination, talent and vision to start a revolution. And half a century later, the people of Bombardier keep dreaming and pushing boundaries. The legend flies on. The revolution never ends.

Bill Lear Book
“Don’t tell me it can’t be done.” –Bill Lear

Frank Sinatra and Bombardier Learjet
Frank Sinatra was one of the first buyers. He decked out his aircraft with an orange stripe on the fuselage and orange interior.
Learjet Timeline Book Spread
The legendary Learjet 23 delivered speeds up to 552 miles per hour and sold for $595,000.

Tell Your Story

In a world awash in data, we need context. Meaning. Relevance. In short: we need stories. If it’s been a while since you revisited and recounted the uniquely individual path that’s brought your company to today, perhaps it’s time. Leverage every channel – from annual reports and brochures to social media and tradeshow booths.

* Pictured at the top of the story, Bombardier Learjet VP/Sales Mike Fahey and Sonia Greteman celebrate in front of Clay Lacy’s Learjet 23, freshly painted with the original livery. To find out more about Clay Lacy Aviation, the most experienced operator of private jets in the world, visit claylacy.com.

**This article originally appeared in the Oct 10 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.
See the full spread in the May 2014 edition of BlueSky Review here.