First Customer Lear Jet To Be Restored


The world’s oldest Lear Jet is on its way to its birthplace where a group of enthusiasts hopes to restore it to flying condition. The Classic Lear Jet Foundation found the first aircraft delivered by Bill Lear’s upstart company. It was found intact but in need of restoration in Bartow, Florida. Over the weekend it was disassembled and loaded on trailers for the trip to Wichita, where it will be rebuilt. A homecoming event will be held Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. at Global Aviation Technologies at Eisenhower National Airport.

Lear Jet 23-003 was the third aircraft built by Lear’s fledgling company and the first one to be delivered. The group tackling the restoration has deep ties to the plane and the history it represents. “Classic Lear Jet Foundation is made up of current, retired, and former employees who have admiration and affection for the airplane, the man, the company and its employees, the business jet industry, and the city where it all started in 1962,” the group said in a news release.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. How incredibly lucky to have found the first 23, the airplane that enabled an industry, in a state complete enough for restoration. Best of luck to the Classic Lear Jet Foundation! The headline could be read to imply “The first customer Lear Jet restoration… of many.” How cool would that be?

  2. Amazing! I flew the early Lears a long time ago. My last 23 was serial 006, I think. Have to check my logbook. Going to look up the organization.

  3. Does the registration of N3BL stand for SN# 003 Bill Lear? I flew 20 and 30 series Lears but never the 23 model. The 24D was as close to a fighter there was in the civilian world.

  4. I found 23 S/N 006 N111JD in Benton Harbor MI. Formally owned by the John Deere. Flew it back to SAT to the Dee Howard Co. where I was employed and was upgraded with the Mk II system and Dee Howard thrust reversers. Sold to a SAT company and I flew many trips for them. The early model 23’s were great performers being so light even though they lacked the more refined systems of later models

    Albert AC

  5. The real pocket rocket was the 24E…… no fuselage tank… just wings and tip tanks. Max Gross TO eight would still yield 7,300 FPM climb. Always loved the placard in the 20 series, “Do Not Exceed 15 Degrees Aircraft Nose Up Per Safe Aeronautical Practice”. I loved that placard!

    • If you needed to stay under 200kts, it took a very significant power reduction after take-off to prevent 15 exceeding degrees nose up.

  6. I flew this aircraft back in the late 70’s till around 83. Did a lot of 135 and Air ambulance work. The N number, N3BL was for Bernie Little, the boat racer, Miss Budweiser team owner. Lear Jet tried to make this aircraft single Pilot, all the switches including the gear was on the left side. Still have a lot Pic’s of this thing, people can’t believe what the panel looked like.

  7. I’m wondering if there is an intention to fly this plane once restoration is complete. Without some kind of waiver from the FAA I don’t think it is legal to fly this plane with the original engines due to exceeding current noise restrictions for jets.