Lear-ning to Fly

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released on March 1, 1973. This picture shows a few of my versions, including the purple 8-track. It’s a quadraphonic recording especially created for 8-track. Up until a few years ago, the only way to hear the quad recording was on 8-track. That changed a few years ago with the release of a pricey box set, featuring the quad recording.  The existence of the 8-track can be traced to a Kansas businessman and aviation pioneer. Coincidentally, that same man’s namesake company is given a shout out on this album.   With this famous line from Money, “Money/It’s a hit/Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit/I’m in the high-fidelity first class travelling set/I think I need a Lear jet.”

William Lear Sr invented the LearJet, the 8-track tape, and held over 150 patents, with only an 8th grade education.

Courtesy: kshs.org

William Powell Lear was born in Hannibal, Missouri on June 26, 1902.

In 1924, Lear and several of his friends invented the first radio for automobiles. While on a cross-country trip they came up with the name “Motorola.”

Through the 1930s, Lear created an all-wave radio receiver for RCA.  He used that money to develop a radio finder for planes called the Lear-O-Scope.

During World War II, he created an autopilot for fighter aircraft.  After the war he built the Lear F-5 Autopilot for civilian planes.

In 1962 Lear started a new company, Learjet Industries in Wichita, Kansas. By October 1963, his jet was making its initial test flights.

courtesy: americangeniushighway.com

During that time he wanted to develop a convenient long play music system for the plane, and created the 8-track in 1964.  A consumer version hit the market in September of 1965.

Courtesy: kshs.org

The company would sell 101 Learjet model 23s before production ended in 1966.

In 1967, Lear sold LearJet Industries for $28 million and moved to Reno, Nevada. He spent $17 million dollars developing a steam powered car.  Eventually he decided that the engine was operationally successful, but it was not as fuel efficient as a conventional engine.

courtesy: virtualsteamcarmuseum.org

During that time Lear started Lear Avia (good lord, how many companies does he need named after him?) to develop fuel efficient jets. The answer was the Lear Fan.

Unfortunately, Lear never saw it fly as Leukemia took his life on May 14, 1978

In a nod to Floyd fans I leave you with these closing words, “There is no dark side of the moon really, matter of fact… it’s all dark.”

Check out some of the other great stories about Wichita’s history. icintheict

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