Bill Lear Jr. Dead At 81

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Bill Lear, son of William P. Lear, legendary designer and developer of the Learjet business jet, died at the age of 81 Dec. 14, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Lear Jr.'s life is detailed in his autobiography, "Fly Fast...Sin Boldly -- Flying, Spying and Surviving." Spanning a lifetime of aviation, Lear began flying at age 15. In 1946, then 17-year-old Lear Jr. borrowed $1250 from his father, purchased a brand new Lockheed P-38 from the War Assets Administration and soon became the youngest pilot to race the aircraft in the Bendix Trophy races. He never graduated high school, but eventually worked as president of Learjet International. He served three years of active duty with the United States Air Force in Germany and wrote later that he was also involved in covert gun running designed to undermine Soviet activities during the Cold War. Most recently before his death, Lear blogged on current political issues. In 2006, he passed judgment on the very light jets of the day in an early AVweb podcast.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal quotes friends of lear who say he was a very hard worker but a man who made serious work of play and lived life with gusto. "He had the twinkle in his eye of Santa Claus," one friend said. What appears to be the blog of William P. Lear Jr. is available online, here.