(NewsUSA) - "They said I'd never build it. That if I built it, it wouldn't fly. That if it flew, I couldn't sell it. Well, I did, and it did, and I could."
Thus spoke the late Bill Lear.
That's Lear -- as in the Learjet, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. But amid all the excitement surrounding the upcoming release of the latest model -- the revolutionary Learjet 85 aircraft, about which we'll have more in a minute -- it's worth remembering the man who in 1963 gave the world the first pure corporate jet.
Born in Hannibal, Mo., in 1902, Lear grew up in Chicago and had at least three noteworthy habits. First, he kept getting "dismissed" from high schools for "showing up teachers" and eventually dropped out. Second, he had what's been described as "an odd sense of humor." (One of the milder examples: He named one of his daughters Shanda -- as in, Shanda Lear/sounds like "chandelier.")
And third, even before designing the original, moderately priced Learjet 23 -- his greatest obsession and one that would define a new category of business aviation -- Lear had already shown a shoot-for-the-extraordinary flair by inventing such things as:
* the car radio
* the autopilot for jet aircraft
* the radio direction-finder for general aviation aircraft
"He was a perfect example of an entrepreneur," a former business associate once told the Wichita Eagle.
But back to the new Learjet 85 aircraft.
CNBC calls it "the new 'It' private plane" that's "generating iPhone-like excitement" among aviation enthusiasts, and those seeking fractional ownership should know that Flexjet (www.flexjet.com) has exclusive first-dibs rights on the aircraft. "We relish the opportunity to brightly shine the spotlight on the Learjet 85 aircraft, which more than lives up to its legendary lineage," said Deanna White, Flexjet's president.
More specifically, the Learjet 85 is the first business jet built mainly from the most cutting-edge carbon composite materials, which means (among other things) it's the fastest in its class at a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.82. It's also the largest and plushest Learjet ever -- with top-notch avionics and a state-of-the-art entertainment system sure to come in especially handy during transcontinental flights.
You've got to believe Bill Lear definitely would have approved.