Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

Mystery Airplane Contest

The iconic Learjet is one of the most well-known and

best-selling business aircraft in history. Bill Lear's design

was inspired by the Swiss FAA P-16 combat aircraft of 1955.

Proposed by Flug-und-Fahrzeugwerke to replace the Swiss

Air Force's piston engine aircraft, the P-16 flew in April

1955. After a series of accidents, further development

was abandoned.

Lear (1902-1978) saw the basic concept, particularly the wing

with tip tanks, as worthy of development into a small jet

transport. Initial design work took place at St. Gallen,

Switzerland, under the name of the Swiss American Aviation

Corporation. Final work was moved to Wichita, Kansas, with

the first flight on 7 October 1963. Development continued

with more powerful engines, greater cabin and cargo capacity,

revised wings, and higher performance. When production,

by Bombardier after 1990, ended in March 2022, over

3000 had been produced.

Military Learjets have been operated for VIP transport, target

towing, photo survey, medevac, electronic warfare training,

and recon. A maritime patrol model with search radar,

sonobuoys, and anti-ship missile simulation was produced

for Japan. The USAF ordered 84 Learjet 35A's in 1983 as an

"off-the-shelf" purchase to replace the older CT-39

Sabreliner transports. Delivery started in April 1984 and was

completed in October 1985 under a five-year lease program.

The USAF later bought the aircraft outright. The C-21A, with

a crew of two, can carry eight passengers, 3100 pounds of

cargo, or be modified for medevac duties.

The C-21A in this 1989 photo taken at Hamilton, Ontario, is

AF 84-0071. At that time, it was assigned to the 45th Airlift

Squadron, of the 314th Airlift Wing. USAF C-21A's have

served with Air Mobility Command, the Air National Guard,

the Air Force Flight Standards Agency, and the Air Education

and Training Command. Downsizing of the fleet has

occurred and survivors have received updated avionics and

glass cockpits.

Famous golfer Arnold Palmer, who logged over 18,000 hours,

flew a Learjet to an around the world record in 1976. He covered

22,894 miles in 57 hours, 25 minutes, and 42 seconds.

During the Falklands War, a Fuerza Aerea Argentina Learjet 35A

was shot down on 7 June 1982 by a Sea Dart missile launched

from HMS Exeter, a Type 42 destroyer.

Although a number of readers referred to the photo as a

Learjet, only Dave Lundgren, this month's winner, nailed it

as the USAF C-21A. Blue skies and fair winds!

John built various scale models of his designs and then tested them by attaching

them to his car and observing how they behaved at speed. This work led to

the first design the JD-1, it successfully flew in July of 1962. The first prototype

met an unfortunate end in a garage fire, this led to the JD-2 which first flew in

1966. We were lucky enough to have two Dyke Deltas on the review stage;

N7DY and N71AW. Both are the JD-2 variants with a four-place cabin and

retractable landing gear. Other unique features are folding wings to minimize

storage space and a one/three seating configuration. The pilot sits on the center

line in the first row and the second-row features bench seating for three.

N71AW belongs to Alan White, a Superior, Wisconsin pilot who built his Dyke

Delta over the course of 39 years! Not that it was a difficult build, but it was a

project where family obligations and time available for the build extended the

build timeline greatly. Alan is somewhat of a celebrity, anyone who shows up

at a fly-in with a unique plane like the Dyke Delta better allow for plenty of

time for questions and pictures.

Alan's JD-2 Dyke Delta features a metal frame and fiberglass covering. With retractable landing gear it cruises at 165 knots,

with a range of 870 miles.

Chatting with John was a pleasure. As one of

the early pioneers of home-built planes, they

did not have the luxuries of kits, CAD, carbon

fiber, CNC or all the experiences of the past 60

odd years documented on the internet in videos

or pictures. They were mechanics, tinkerers,

problem solvers. Smart men who had

dreams and brought them to life. It was fun to

see his eyes light up as he regaled me with

stories and some of the adventures involved in

getting this unique design from a sketch on

paper to a real flying machine.

 

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