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Old Learjet Story

Old 20th Nov 2019, 21:56
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Old Learjet Story

I hope nobody minds me quoting stories from an old blog. The blog itself really is about a different subject but has some interesting stories from the old days at Learjet. Stuff that could disappear forever. It gives a bit of insight to a different era of bizjet aviation.....

"In 1977, Learjet's V.P. of domestic marketing wanted to fly Jack Eckerd (owner of a chain of 1,500 drug stores in the Southeast) and three of his friends from Aspen to St. Petersburg, Florida. With a combination of the fuel to fly the trip non-stop, the temperature, Aspen's elevation and runway length, the flight could not be flown within the Flight Manual limitations. The domestic pilots refused the mission, so the V.P. turned to the international marketing department's pilots, Jim Bir and myself.

While there was no way to make a legal takeoff, we determined that by changing procedures, we could make a safe takeoff. This included added stopping power from the drag chute which is not counted in the Flight Manual numbers and reducing pilot reaction time for braking and spoiler deployment. We determined we could accelerate to the V2 speed on the ground (speed at which the airplane will fly on one engine) and if we lose an engine, the spoilers, brakes and drag chute would get us stopped before we ran out of concrete.

On the appointed Sunday afternoon, we had a shiny new Learjet 35A on the ramp in Aspen. Jack shows up with his party, we board and launch for St. Petersburg. The takeoff was uneventful, neither engine coughed. My well rehearsed co-pilot duties were to call the airspeeds, monitor the engine gauges, keep one hand on the drag chute handle and suck the gear up on rotation.

We left a Cessna Citation sitting on the ramp, the crew waiting for nightfall and cooler temperatures so that they could fly nonstop to Baton Rouge, LA.

Jack bought the airplane, our V.P. of domestic marketing was happy but the flight was an unethical demonstration for which I regret today. We put Jack's future pilot in a spot. If Jack wanted to make the same trip, how could the pilot explain that he could not do what the factory pilots had done.

There is a plaque that hangs in many areas frequented by aviators. It reads, "There are no old, bold pilots.

"Such it was with Jim Bir. He took a new Learjet 55 to South Africa for demos. Just after lifting off at a small airport, he intended to roll the aircraft which we had done many times in 24s, 25's, and 35's. The 55 did not behave like the earlier aircraft and he augered in. His remains were cremated and sent home in a small stainless steel tube."
tcasblue is offline  
Old 21st Nov 2019, 07:58
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Originally Posted by tcasblue View Post
I hope nobody minds me quoting stories from an old blog. The blog itself really is about a different subject but has some interesting stories from the old days at Learjet. Stuff that could disappear forever. It gives a bit of insight to a different era of bizjet aviation.....

"In 1977, Learjet's V.P. of domestic marketing wanted to fly Jack Eckerd (owner of a chain of 1,500 drug stores in the Southeast) and three of his friends from Aspen to St. Petersburg, Florida. With a combination of the fuel to fly the trip non-stop, the temperature, Aspen's elevation and runway length, the flight could not be flown within the Flight Manual limitations. The domestic pilots refused the mission, so the V.P. turned to the international marketing department's pilots, Jim Bir and myself.

While there was no way to make a legal takeoff, we determined that by changing procedures, we could make a safe takeoff. This included added stopping power from the drag chute which is not counted in the Flight Manual numbers and reducing pilot reaction time for braking and spoiler deployment. We determined we could accelerate to the V2 speed on the ground (speed at which the airplane will fly on one engine) and if we lose an engine, the spoilers, brakes and drag chute would get us stopped before we ran out of concrete.

On the appointed Sunday afternoon, we had a shiny new Learjet 35A on the ramp in Aspen. Jack shows up with his party, we board and launch for St. Petersburg. The takeoff was uneventful, neither engine coughed. My well rehearsed co-pilot duties were to call the airspeeds, monitor the engine gauges, keep one hand on the drag chute handle and suck the gear up on rotation.

We left a Cessna Citation sitting on the ramp, the crew waiting for nightfall and cooler temperatures so that they could fly nonstop to Baton Rouge, LA.

Jack bought the airplane, our V.P. of domestic marketing was happy but the flight was an unethical demonstration for which I regret today. We put Jack's future pilot in a spot. If Jack wanted to make the same trip, how could the pilot explain that he could not do what the factory pilots had done.

There is a plaque that hangs in many areas frequented by aviators. It reads, "There are no old, bold pilots.

"Such it was with Jim Bir. He took a new Learjet 55 to South Africa for demos. Just after lifting off at a small airport, he intended to roll the aircraft which we had done many times in 24s, 25's, and 35's. The 55 did not behave like the earlier aircraft and he augered in. His remains were cremated and sent home in a small stainless steel tube."
Excellent narrative Sir. The technology and flight training may have advanced (not in all cases) - but the attitudes still remains an important part of what completes a pilot and a cockpit team. Within the GA part of the aviation sector there are elements of training that are not taught well during inititial- and recurrent training events (though better now than in the past).
Klimax is offline  
Old 21st Nov 2019, 08:30
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Join Date: Jun 2001
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This issue remains today. Customer comes to the plane and the pilot tells the customer: 'We can´t make the trip due to (....)'. Customer scrutinizes the decision and questions the call: 'But we did the same trip before with your company'. Obviously, another crew flew under the same circumstances. Now what? I keep telling everybody to stick to the books. I am not playing test pilot.
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Old 22nd Nov 2019, 06:42
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: SV Marie Celeste
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I had a similar issue many years ago with a plane load of upset pax because I would not depart in the middle of a snow storm when the national carrier had just taken off. Same Aircraft type, same destination, same half an inch of snow all over. Needless to say the airport did not have deciding fluid. I explained to the pax that the speed limit in the motorway is 120, some cars shoot pass at 150. Are they going to die? probably not. Nevertheless the limit is 120 and that is the speed I travel at.
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