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Fly Fast…Sin Boldly –Flying, Spying and Surviving
by William P. Lear, Jr.
Publisher: Addax Publishing Group, Inc.
Address:

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Web Site:
Price:
 $0.00
Copyright:
 2000
Binding:  Hardcover Height:

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Width:

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Pages:  475 No. Photos:
 
ISBN:
978-158497009

Reading an individuals’ life story is generally a linear, chronological wash of days and events, punctuated by milestones that most of us would recognize; graduations, marriage, jobs, and family crises. William ‘Bill’ Lear, Jr.’s autobiography, however, reads less like a life story and more like an updated ‘Tailwheel Tommy’ feature, with evil airport managers, close calls, pretty girls and high-stakes adventures.

Bill Lear’s story, told in his own salty style, provides the reader with a uniquely personal view of an early aviator’s obsession, no, ‘addiction’ (to use the author’s own words) to flying, and how it shaped both his personal and professional life. An absorbing read, Lear speaks frankly about his upbringing without the regular presence of ‘Himself’, Lear Sr., and his early introduction to flying, during WWII. As a teenager in the Los Angeles area, he and friends would scrape together gas money for the sometimes perilous 400 mile round trip to Quartsite, Ariz., on weekends for flight training, as the Los Angeles Basin was under wartime no-flight rules. Lear Jr,’s ‘bend the rules if the regular ones don’t work’ philosophy, along with considerable smarts and a natural flying talent got him into (and out of) extraordinary circumstances throughout his life that made the book an interesting read. Just one example (of many) is where Lear Jr., got the opportunity at 17 years old to purchase a brand new P-38 (F-5B), from surplus (with the help of Dad’s financing) at the surplus facility in AAF Kingman AZ, for $1,250, for the purpose of flying the P-38 in the 1947 Bendix Air Races. One small hitch though, he arrived to pick up the airplane on Monday, and the base had been sold to a private reclamation company over the weekend. Lear Jr. was only able to take delivery of the P-38 if he could fly the airplane out that day. Lear Jr. with only a few hours of twin engine time, got a half-day course in the P-38 from a base mechanic, and successfully flew the P-38 back to Los Angeles, where he landed at Whitman Field (where another amazing series of events occur- but you’ll have to get the book to read up on that!). Lear Jr. did make it the to Bendix races that year, being the youngest pilot to ever fly (and finish) the race.

It was interesting to discuss Lear Jr’s, adventures with current pilots, who can truly appreciate the audacity, intelligence and sheer luck enjoyed by Lear Jr., in his flying career. On several occasions, while reading, I would ask my pilot friends ‘Is this possible?.’ –wherin a spirited conversation about some aspect of aerodynamics, mechanics or something or other would ensue.

Lear Jr used his considerable talents on the airshow circuit with his P-38 and flew F-80s/F-84Es in the Air Force during the 1950s. He flew DC-3s in a fledgling independent airline (Arrow Airline) out of Burbank, Calif., at a time where flight operations enjoyed less oversight that today’s commercial flight rules, and ‘bending the rules’ was the difference between profitability and loss of another airline. He flew innumerable other aircraft types, as well, too long to list here. Lear Jr. eventually flew prototype Lear Jets, working with his father, and worked to become the President and Chairman of the Board of Lear Inc.

The life and times of William ‘Bill Lear, Jr, will give the reader lots of interesting history, amazing anecdotes to relate to the hangar bums, and a good story to tell around the dinner table.

Jerri Bergen

 

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