But there are some similarities.
Bill kept his Collier Trophy on his desk, won not for the Lear Jet, but rather his development of an autopilot in late 40's. Never heard anyone say it wasn't well deserved.
Vern didn't actually win one. The NAA awarded the 2005 Collier to the company. Opinions vary as to whether the Eclipse award was deserved.
In conceiving their airplanes, both faced a similar challenge...the airplanes would be small...weight and space would be major considerations. Existing off-the-shelf components would not be an option for many of the systems.
The gyros are a good example. Bill's options were the big, expensive Sperry's favored by the airlines or vacuum powered gyros in common use in general aviation though not appropriate for a jet. The Sperry's would not fit into the nose compartment nor did Bill want to give up any of the generous 32 cu ft of baggage space in the back of the Lear so his was an easy choice, build his own.
For most that would be an impossible task, for Bill it was a walk in the park. After all, he had just sold his interest in Lear-Siegler so that he could use the money to launch the Lear Jet. He knew top flite avionics engineers who could design a new generation of gyros and companies that could produce precision parts. Bill had another secret weapon. He was very familiar with all of the high grade airborne equipment sold to the U.S. military and knew a supplier that had tons of surplus components gathering dust in a warehouse.
With these resources, Bill and his able staff could design equipment specifically for the needs of the airplane. New vertical and directional gyros were developed that would easily fit in the sleek nose compartment of the Model 23. The flux valves mounted in the tip tank tail section were freshly reconditioned from military surplus.
The airplane was six months away from first flight when one of the avionics engineers was quoted in the company newsletter, "Remember these names because the Directisyn and Vertisyn are slated to set new standards in the industry" (even 45 years ago, one needed a catchy name for advanced products).
The airplane needed numerous components specific to the design, Bill and his staff worked them one at a time. Electric nose wheel steering, anti-skid brakes, dual yaw dampers and static inverters were some of the early accomplishments. Then just a couple of months before the scheduled first flight, Bill realized his cruciform tail design needed to be converted to a T-tail, more electro-mechanical devices would be needed. A twin servo powered actuator would be required to trim the horizontal stabilizer and dual stick shakers/pushers would be needed to avoid the deep stall problem associated with T-tail aircraft.
Again from the employee newsletter, "...on March 1, an electronic parts manufacturer mailed out information on a new component. An order was placed through regular channels, the component was delivered, the circuit was redesigned to use the advanced component design and on March 15, Dick Kraus reported the static inverter giving top performance with the new component. Also in final form is the prototype sheet metal package for the inverter.
It looks as if, "Progress is our most important product" too!"By the time the airplane took to the air for the first time, all of the systems were in place and operational with the exception of the autopilot which was not completed until perhaps unit 30 was delivered. Without an autopilot in the thinner air, one learned to trim carefully and fly with your finger tips.
At an early stage, Bill opened a manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids and named it Jet Electronics Technology ( J.E.T.) to produce these components. It was a great accomplishment and sounds idyllic but there were problems, well really one problem, RELIABILITY. The gyros had a high failure rate. The static inverters had a high failure rate. The magnetic clutch in the servos had a high failure rate. Fuel pumps (a vendor item) had a high failure rate. And so on.
Eventually, the bugs got worked out and as I recall, only one early accident was attributed to a component failure. An inop fuel pump known to the pilot before takeoff resulted in an uncontrollable fuel imbalance and the pilot augered in, no figure of speech here (N690L, Orlando, 11-29-67). But the reliability problems tarnished the reputation of the company and led to a slow down in sales which forced Bill to sell the company to Charlie Gates.
Thirty some years later along comes Vern Raburn with a plan to build a twin jet smaller and lighter than anything else in the industry. Unlike Bill Lear who had a background in electro-mechanical components, Vern's background was in computers. His 21st century solution to minimizing system requirements is to control everything with centralized computer systems. And unlike Bill Lear who had his sleeves rolled up and was immersed in every aspect of problem solving, Vern has farmed out his solution to eight different companies with a goal of building a cohesive centralized system.
If we are to believe reports coming from Eclipse, AVIO NG (21st century catchy name) is scheduled for certification within days. Deliveries of AVIO NG are scheduled to start at unit 105. The next chapter has yet to be written.