Gates SAAC-23 / Lear Jet 23
Bill Lear Snr saw the cancelled Swiss FFA P-16 jet fighter as a basis for a twin-jet executive aircraft. He initiated preliminary design work at St Gallen, Switzerland, in November 1959 and sold his electronics company to the Siegler Corporation.
Using the basic design of the P-16's wing, large tip fuel tanks and cruciform tail (hard tooling for which already existed), designed a compact fuselage that held two pilots and seven passengers. The engines were to be the civilian version of the military- proven General Electric J-85, which put out 2,850 pounds of thrust.
But the project soon bogged down, partly because of the Swiss Government's rigidly structured bureaucracy and partly because Lear found himself constantly at odds with people who literally and figuratively didn't speak his language. The final nail in the coffin may have been the Government's attempt to tax the project before there was even sheet-metal in the jigs. By early 1962, Lear was making arrangements to return to the U.S.
The SAAC designation was left behind, and the airplane became known simply as the Lear Jet Model 23.
While the competition featured cabins that were similiar in size to existing corporate aircraft, Lear produced a smaller, circular cross section that was both light and very strong.
When the number-one airplane was still a few months from its first flight, Lear heard rumblings about the cruciform tail: some engineers doubted that the elevator, with its fixed horizontal stabilizer, would be able to hold up the nose in forward CG. Lear put the project behind schedule in order to install a T tail.
The prototype Lear Jet Model 23 (N801L) flew on 7 October 1963. Lear had hoped to save time by obtaining the type certificate under FAR Part 23 (the rules for aircraft under 12,500 pounds gross weight) rather than the more stringent Part 25, which governs transport-category aircraft. But the Wichita FAA, then not very fa-miliar with jets, tacked on some additional requirements that threatened to slow down certification. In reality, the airplane met or exceeded the most important of Part 25 criteria; the main exception was the bird-proof windshield, later added as part of the changeover to the Model 24.
One of the FAAs additions required that Lear establish balanced field lengths; and it was here that disaster struck. Testing for single-engine climb performance, with an FAA test pilot in the left seat and Lear's pilot in the right, N801 Lima left the ground with one engine actually shut down (normally not done until the very end of the testing phase) and the spoilers inadvertently extended. In this configuration, it was something of a miracle that the airplane flew at all; as it was, even with the gear retracted, it refused to climb much beyond ground effect, and it just managed to clear some trees at the end of the field.
In the cockpit, meanwhile, confusion reigned: an engine restart was unsuccessful because of improper procedure, and neither pilot thought to check spoiler position. Soon the airplane began to settle slowly and, with a field just ahead, the pilots elected to put the gear down and ride it in.The loss of this prototype should have been a crippling blow.
The second and third prototype aircraft being first flown on 5 March and 15 May 1964 respectively. On July 31, 1964, less than two months after the accident and nine and a half months from the Lear Jet's first flight, FAA Administrator Najeeb Halaby personally flew to Wichita to present the type certificate to Lear. The first production Lear Jet 23 was delivered on 13 October 1964 to the Chemical and Industrial Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Lear Jet's went out the door for under $600,000.
Lear increased production to 10 airplanes per month. While the plant was being expanded, he began work on recertifying the airplane under Part 25 (this later be-came the Model 24), developing a stretched version (the Model 25).
In 1965 a Lear 23 established a Los Angeles to New York and return record of 10 hrs 52 min flying time, and a time-to-climb record to 40,000 ft - 7 min 21 sec - with seven people on board.
Engine: 2 x GE CJ610-1.