32nd December 1980 - The Incredible LearFan

11 April 2016

Royal Aeronautical Society


This lecture will present the events which led up to the design, construction and initial flight of the prototype LearFan, the first all graphite epoxy composite airplane, including the contributions of the Northern Ireland Department of Commerce and the UK CAA, on the unlikely ‘32nd December 1980’.

The construction of the second prototype, much of which was accomplished in Northern Ireland, and initial flight will be covered. Captain Newton flew both prototypes, and will present several video clips illustrating the project and the initial flights.

The lecture will conclude with a synopsis of the general history of the project including its contributions to composite aircraft design, its erratic funding and its unfortunate demise.

All RAeS Lectures are free to attend and we welcome both Members and Non Members. To RSVP, please click the Register button under Key Details and log in to your profile or create a user account. Alternatively, send your name and contact details to conference@aerosociety.com to reserve your place.

Speaker Details

Capt Dennis Newton, FAA Designated Engineering Representative Flight Test Pilot, Aviation and Weather Consulting

Dennis holds a BS in Engineering and an MS in Meteorology from Penn State University. He is Airline Transport Pilot type rated in eight jet and four turboprop airplanes, and  instructor-rated in single and multiengine airplanes and gliders. He is currently a Consultant DER Flight Test Pilot for both FAR 23 and FAR 25 airplanes. 

He was a flight test engineer and engineering test pilot at Cessna, Chief Research Pilot of Penn State University Department of Meteorology, and Chief Engineering Test Pilot on the LearFan project .  He was subsequently an FAA Flight Test Pilot.  Joining the Boeing Company in 1987, he was an Instructor Captain, DER Flight Test Pilot, and Assistant Chief Pilot – Technical. He retired from Boeing in 2003 and is now a part time contract instructor pilot on the 777 and 787.

Dennis is the author of numerous technical papers and aviation magazine articles and of the book, “Severe Weather Flying,” now in its third edition. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Alumni Fellow of Penn State University, Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Associate Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He has received the Losey Atmospheric Sciences Award from AIAA and the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot award. 


Royal Aeronautical Society