William P. Lear invented autopilot mode. Regarded as his greatest invention, historians say this function, applicable to all aircraft sizes, is one of the most crucial advancements in aviation efficiency and safety.
He also single-handedly created the market for the small, fast executive Lear Jet.
Aside from this, he was also a radio-engineering pioneer. Although self-taught, he was able to come up with a prototype for the world’s first car radio capable of mass manufacture.
He sold his invention to Motorola Corporation and moved onto other things, such as the 8-track audiotape and inventions that forever changed aviation industries throughout the world.
William P. Lear – Changing the Way People Travel
An only child, young Bill Lear moved from Missouri to Chicago to go to school up to eight-grade after which he joined the US Navy. His experience with the radio technology of the time came when he served as a radio operator in World War I.
In his 20s, Lear invented the car radio with his partner Elmer Wavering and sold the rights to Motorola predecessor Galvin Corporation. He used the proceeds of the sale to put up Lear Developments, focusing on electronics and aerospace gizmos.
Some of the technology Lear is credited with include; radio direction locators, autopilot mode, and the first 100%-automatic airplane landing system.
In 1949, he changed the name of his company to Lear Inc. and inaugurated his Santa Monica, California manufacturing plant. He relocated to Switzerland in 1960, putting up the Swiss American Aviation Company.
Two years later, disappointed at being unable to convince his board to embark on aircraft manufacturing, its founder sold Lear Inc. to the Siegler Corporation, changing its name to Lear Siegler. He relocated to Wichita, Kansas to realize his dream to manufacture aircraft. Within a year after he sold Lear Inc. he began test flights on his trademark jet. Today, he is best known for the jet with an executive clientele, the Lear Jet.
The William P. Lear Quick Bio
Full name: William Powell Lear
Birthdate: June 26, 1902
Birthplace: Hannibal, Missouri
Company: Lear Inc.
Industry: Automotive and Aerospace
Key success traits: Pioneering spirit; stubbornness; displayed great initiative despite having no formal training.
Bill Lear was a difficult taskmaster but he had a wacky sense of humor. He made his daughter’s first name Shanda so that she would be Shanda Lear (chandelier.)