Visit With a Lear 35 and Crew

For the past week, I’ve settled into a routine of indexing as many magazines as I can early into the day at AeroKnow Museum. This means turning every page in each av mag selected (example: A&S  23/9 May 1994), typing in abbreviated format descriptions of every article about manned flight (example: Spitfire IX P8435/N429 of Brothmire Coll USA CPDA 3v pirep). It’s as tedious to read about as it is to do, but it needs to be done. This is part of the mission of AeroKnow Museum, and until the rest of the filing cabinets are moved from my house, I’m doing this, mostly. It isn’t fun, but it must be done. It is educational and affirming. It is a grind. I had indexed about 10 issues of AIRWAYS magazine, published in England and featuring news about airlines and commercial airports worldwide, and feeling as though I was marooned on an island on a distant planet. Even with the door open and a sign taped to the window that says “Aviation History Spoken Here; come on in.” most of what comes to me at the computer are the sounds of laughter from Beth and Jamie (receptionists at the FBO counter 20 feet away) and the line crew (the gentlemen who help with aircraft parking and refuel departing aircraft). . . . sometimes conversation from flight crew passing by the open door of my office, heading for the pilots’ lounge and weather computers. Sometimes, someone comes in, responding to my sign on the door, curious about what’s here. On September 13, about 4 pm,  I didn’t notice the visitor with epaulettes on his shoulders until I heard . . . “Is this stuff, like, for sale?”

I turned and rose to greet a gentleman I had seen through the open door earlier in the afternoon. “No, this is the start of a museum with a focus on using model planes, built and finished better than your nine-year-old son could, as catalyst to learning about, and appreciating aviation history.” And the conversation continued. His name was Gavin (as in The Love Boat Gavin) and he was left seater in the Lear (pilots sit in the left seat; co-pilots in the right seat) 35 parked on the ramp. He was amazed by the size of the 1/72 scale Space Shuttle compared with the SBD nearby. When I pointed across the room the the shelves of 1/144 models, the B0eing 747 seemed to overwhelm the Swearingen Metroliner “in formation” next to it. I explained the photo collection and plans to reproduce photos of said resources on demand for visitors once we got rolling; mentioned my interest in photographing any aircraft visiting Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, and asked what bird he flew. He invited me to shoot the Lear 35 he and his associate had flown in before his passengers returned.

Lear 35

The bird was attached to a mobile auxiliary power unit (APU) towed out to provided electricity for the air conditioner while it was on the ground. Yes, the airplane has an APU for this, but using an external unit saves the on-board unit for when it’s necessary.
The Lear is based in New Jersey. It had flown to SPI from Michigan earlier in the day, and would depart for Wisconsin in about half an hour. Gavin asked me if I’d like to see the inside, and I said “Sure, if it’s not an inconvenience.” I worry about opening doors and canopies on airplanes, worried something will break and it will all be my fault. Of course, this attitude is plain (plane) silly; certificated designs are built to have doors and canopies opened thousands of times. STILL I’m timid and scareder than a spooked kitty that I’m going to OFFEND a pilot. Gavin was the quintissential PIC (pilot in command) and graciously opened the two-piece door.

40,000 feet, 542 mph business office

This 35 is unlike most civil production 35s in not having a seat visible just inside the open door. The area is occupied by storage as it is on USAF C-21s. (Why didn’t I take a picture of that? I don’t know. I should have.) Things are cozy but they are comfortable, and given the speed and range of the Lear 35, getting out of your seat and walking up and down the aisle is not essential.

I asked Gavin if he’d like a picture of himself posing with the airplane. He replied in the affirmative.

left-seater Gavin and Lear

After he buttoned up the bird, I took a last pic of the scene complete with wheeled APU.

When we returned to the Museum, Gavin called his associate Mark over to see the collection. I showed them the collection of Lear 35 small prints on file and regretted I could not show him the Lear 35 files (not yet moved in) or a 1/72 scale model on a shelf because there are no 1/72 scale Lear 35 kits made. I did show them something better than 1/72: the 1/48 scale model I built several years ago from the excellent Hasegawa kit, and photographed them looking it over.

Gavin and Mark look at a Lear in miniature

Mark’s father flew for the Vietnamese (South) air force and today flies for the airlines. Our conversation concluded when we heard their passengers’ arrival in the lobby and they departed to go flying up to Milwaukee. I returned to indexing  Airways magazines.

CAVU to all!

About Job Conger

I am a freelance aviation, business and tourism writer, poet, songwriter. My journalism appears regularly in Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times. I am author of Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing and available everywhere. As founder/director of AeroKnow Museum (AKM) and a volunteer with American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS), I created this blog to share news about AKM activity and aviation history.
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