The Learjet 24 holds a significant place in the history of business aviation as one of the earliest successful light business jets. The Learjet Model 24’s blend of speed, range, and comfort not only made it an iconic and sought-after aircraft in the private jet industry, but also lent its design and capabilities to NASA. Read on to learn about one Learjet 24 that MotoArt has the privilege to tell its story as PlaneTags.
The Learjet holds a revered place in the field of business aviation, at one time nearly synonymous with an entire class of luxury private jets. The Learjet family of aircraft are widely recognized for their sleek and aerodynamic designs, powerful engines, and impressive speed capabilities. With their spacious cabins, advanced avionics systems, and luxurious interiors, Learjets offer a premium flying experience, combining style, comfort, and efficiency and comfortable travel for both short and long distances. Over the years, Learjet continually pushed boundaries in private aviation, setting new standards for performance, luxury, and reliability, and establishing itself as an iconic brand in the industry.
Learjet was founded by inventor/entrepreneur William P. Lear Sr. during the 1950s, first as the Swiss American Aviation Corporation (SAAC), so that Lear could design and build the SAAC-23 business jet. In 1962, SAAC moved from Switzerland to Wichita, Kansas, and in 1963 the company was renamed Lear Jet Corporation. The first Lear Jet, Model 23, took its first flight October 7, 1963 and led the way for the company’s successful six decades to follow. The first three models - 23, 24, and 25 - were branded as “Lear Jet” and based on the original model.
William P. Lear, aeronautical engineer/inventor/entrepreneur
In September 1966, the company became Lear Jet Industries. In 1967, Gates Rubber Company acquired the controlling interest in Lear Jet Industries, later merging Gates Aviation with Lear Jet to form Gates Learjet Corporation in 1969. Models 31, 35 and 36 were branded Gates Learjet. Gates Learjet 28 and 29 were unsuccessful variants, with only 9 built between both models.
In 1990, Learjet became a subsidiary of the Canadian-owned Bombardier Aerospace. Bombardier Learjet models 40, 45, 60, 70, and 75 were built, with Learjet 85 canceled. The final Learjet 75 was delivered on March 28, 2022, ending 60 years of production, with over 3,000 aircraft delivered.
The Lear Jet 24 is a twin-engine, high-speed business jet, built from 1966 to 1977 during the Lear Jet Industries/Gates Aviation/Gates Learjet Corporation years. This aircraft featured a distinctive swept-wing configuration, coupled with impressive speed and performance capabilities. Equipped with powerful engines that enabled it to achieve high cruise speeds, the Lear Jet 24 typically reached around 500 knots (approximately 575 mph or 926 km/h). With its efficient aerodynamics and fuel systems, the Learjet 24 could cover significant distances, often exceeding 1,200 nautical miles (approximately 1,380 miles or 2,220 kilometers) in one flight. This range allowed for nonstop travel on popular routes, making it a preferred choice for business travelers seeking time-efficient transportation. Additionally, the Learjet 24 boasted excellent climb performance, allowing it to rapidly reach higher altitudes for smoother flights and to avoid adverse weather conditions.
Business travelers also enjoyed its spacious cabin that comfortably accommodated up to eight passengers, providing a pleasant environment for passengers during their journey. The Learjet 24's cabin typically included comfortable seating, fold-out tables, and a lavatory for added convenience. The aircraft's design also incorporated large windows, providing passengers with ample natural light and scenic views during their flights. It earned a reputation as a flying limousine, becoming the most popular light business jet for many years until it was unseated by the Learjet Model 35.
Serial number 24-102 was initially registered as N365EJ and delivered to the Gates Learjet Corporation in 1966. However, its career was not meant for corporate travel but science.
In September 1974 , registered as N705NA, it was delivered to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. It was used to acquire data using an airborne infrared telescope for airborne observatory research. It also served as a base for experiments and data collection sensors. The LearJet Airborne Observatory led to the development of the Kuiper Airborne Observatory and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), which have been used to perform research using infrared light, including atmospheric conditions on other planets, distant solar systems, black holes and beyond.
Here is what happens at Ames Research Center:
Ames Research Center began operations in 1941, serving as a laboratory for aircraft structures. As part of their research, they developed a series of wind tunnels that have been used to test not only aircraft, but missiles, satelites, and reentry vehicles, including the Space Shuttle. Ames also developed flight simulators and equipment to test and refine aircraft to improve cockpit design and safety.
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center acquired this aircraft, now registered as N805NA, in February 1998, for use as a f light research support aircraft . NASA 805 carried an infrared camera system which provided high resolution imagery for high altitude infrared astronomical research.
On June 7, 2001, N805NA, while practicing touch-and-go landings, was damaged during a hard landing at Southern California Logistics Airport, Victorville, California. The captain, co-pilot and passenger were unhurt, but the aircraft sustained substantial damage.
MotoArt acquired the notable aircraft in 2022. “Discovering a Lear Jet, much less NASA’s Lear Jet Airborne Observatory, was pretty exciting,” says MotoArt owner Dave Hall. “These PlaneTags give us a tangible connection to NASA that we can share with the next generation, long after the plane is gone.”
In 2022, MotoArt created two very special PlaneTags displays, using the horizontal stabilizers from NASA’s Lear Jet. One is on display at Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. Pima has been an ally and supporter of MotoArt PlaneTags for many years. Their work in preserving aviation history is unparalleled and we are proud to have our work in their gift shop.
The other display was made specifically for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum , in Washington D.C. NASM began carrying PlaneTags in its gift shop in 2022 and we are honored to have created something special for their incredible collection.
The Gates Lear Jet 24A PlaneTags are numbered in a series of 1,500 and will be available on Thursday, July 5, 2023 on planetags.com. They will initially be offered in the following colors:
As tagnatics - PlaneTags collectors - know by now, if you want a specific color its best to order as soon as they drop. With only 1,500 in the series, and a handful of the combination colors, get yours at 12pm Pacific Time. For notifications on all of our releases, sign up for our newsletter and join the MotoArt PlaneTags Collections Facebook Group.
In addition to the Lear Jet 24, MotoArt has had the honor and privilege of tagging a couple of artifacts from NASA. NASA’s Mobile Launch Platform 2 (MLP-2) was demolished in 2021, after serving as the launch pad for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions for fifty years. You can read about the history here: MLP-2: Launching NASAs Legacy for 50 Years
Another amazing NASA aircraft is N420NA , a Lockheed Super Constellation that was equipped to calibrate and conduct ground tracking station simulations in support of numerous space programs. Read more about its fascinating story on the PlaneTags blog: Lockheed Super Constellation: Supporting NASA’s Connection to Deep Space