Tag Archives: Lockheed Aircraft Company

23 February 1934

The prototype Lockheed Model 10 Electra, NX233Y, during flight testing over Southern California, 1934. (Lockheed Martin)

23 February 1934: Test pilot Marshall Headle, Chief Pilot in Charge of Flight Operations for Lockheed Aircraft Company, took the prototype Lockheed Model 10 Electra, serial number 1001, registered NX233Y, for its first flight at United Airport, Burbank, California (which soon became United Air Terminal, then Lockheed Air Terminal and is now the Hollywood-Burbank Airport, BUR).

The Lockheed Model 10 Electra was designed as a 10-passenger commercial transport and was a contemporary of the Boeing Model 247. This was Lockheed’s first all-metal airplane. The Electra had two engines, a low wing and retractable landing gear. An engineering team led by Hall L. Hibbard worked on the airplane.

A young engineer, Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson, an assistant aerodynamicist at the University of Michigan, performed the wind tunnel tests on scale models of the proposed design and recommended changes to the configuration, such as the use of two vertical fins mounted at the outboard ends of the horizontal stabilizer. This became a design feature of Lockheed airplanes into the 1950s and included the Model 14 Super Electra/Hudson, Model 18 Lodestar/PV-1 Ventura, the P-38 Lightning fighter and the L-1649 Starliner, which was produced until 1958. Johnson would become the leader of Lockheed’s legendary  “Skunk Works.”

Clarence L. "KellY" Johnson conducted wind tunnel testing of the Model 10 at the University of Michigan.
Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson conducted wind tunnel testing of the Model 10 at the University of Michigan.

The prototype Electra was was used for certification testing. During a full-load test at Mines Field (now, LAX, Los Angeles International Airport) the Electra’s landing gear malfunctioned. Babe Headle flew the airplane back to Burbank and made a one-wheel landing. The prototype was slightly damaged but quickly repaired.

The prototype Lockheed Model 10 Electra, NC233Y, after delivery to Northwest Airways, St. Paul, Minnesota. Note the forward slant of the cockpit windshield. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The prototype Lockheed Model 10 Electra, NC233Y, after delivery to Northwest Airways, St. Paul, Minnesota. Note the forward slant of the cockpit windshield. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)

After testing was competed the prototype Electra was delivered to Northwest Airways, Inc., at St. Paul, Minnesota, 31 December 1934. The experimental registration was changed to a standard registration, NC233Y, and it was assigned the Northwest fleet number 60.

Lockheed Model 10 Electra NC233Y at St. Paul, Minnesota, 1934. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Model 10 Electra NC233Y at St. Paul, Minnesota, 1934. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Like the Boeing 247, the Electra was originally produced with a forward-slanting windshield to prevent instrument light reflection during night flights. This resulted in ground lighting reflections, though, and was changed to a standard, rearward slant with the fifth production airplane. NC233Y was modified by Northwestern’s maintenance staff.

Lockheed built 147 Model 10s in various configurations. The first production variant was the Model 10A. It was 38 feet, 7 inches (11.760 meters) long with a wingspan of 55 feet (16.764 meters), and height of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 meters). The wings had a total area of 458.3 square feet (42.6square meters). Their angle of incidence was 0°, and there were 5° 34′ dihedral.

The airplane had an empty weight of 5,455 pounds (2,474 kilograms) and a gross weight of 9,000 pounds (4,082 kilograms).

The Model 10A was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liters) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. SB  9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6:1. They were rated at 400 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. for takeoff, using 87-octane gasoline. The SB engines were direct-drive and turned two-bladed Smith variable-pitch propellers. The Wasp Jr. SB was 3 feet, 6.59 inches (1.056 meters) long, 3 feet, 11.75 inches (1.162 meters) in diameter, and weighed 645 pounds (293 kilograms). The engines were covered by NACA cowlings.

The airplane had a cruise speed of 190 miles per hour (306 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) and maximum speed of 215 miles per hour (346 kilometers per hour) at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters). The service ceiling was 20,000 feet ( meters) and the range at cruise speed was 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

The prototype Lockheed Model 10 Electra, NC233Y, after cockpit windshield modifications by Northwestern Airways, Inc. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The prototype Lockheed Model 10 Electra, NC233Y, after cockpit windshield modifications by Northwestern Airways, Inc. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

Newsreel footage of the Lockheed Model 10 prototype’s first flight, by cinematographer Alfred Dillimtash Black for Fox Movietone News, is in the collection of the Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina, University Libraries, and can be viewed at:

http://mirc.sc.edu/islandora/object/usc%3A9629

Paul Mantz, Amelia Earhart and Lockheed's chief pilot, Marshall E. Headle, with Earhart's Model 10E Electra Speical. (Courtesy of neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Paul Mantz, Amelia Earhart and Lockheed’s chief pilot, Marshall Headle, with Earhart’s Model 10E Electra Special. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

The Electra was “the Lisbon plane” in the  classic 1942 motion picture, “Casablanca,” which starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.

Probably the best-known Lockheed Electra is the Model 10E Special, NR16020, which was built for Amelia Earhart for her around-the-world flight attempt in 1937. She took delivery of the airplane on her 39th birthday, 24 July 1936.

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, at Burbank, 1937.
Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, at Burbank, 1937.

The prototype Lockheed Model 10 later carried U.S. registrations NC2332, NC17380, and Canadian registration CF-BRG. It was placed in service with the Royal Canadian Air Force with the serial number 7652. One of 15 Lockheed Electras in RCAF service during World War II, it was destroyed by fire at RCAF Station Mountain View, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada, 14 October 1941.

Marshall Headle, as a junior at MAC, 1911 (Index)

Marshall Headle was born 21 March 1893 at Winthrop, Massachussetts, United States of America, He was the third child of Edwin Charles Headle, a clergyman, and Clarendo Yeomans Headle. He attended Winthrop High School before going on to the Massachussetts Agricultural College at Bolton. He graduated in 1912 with a Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.) in Floriculture.

Headle enlisted in the United States Army in 1917, and attended aviation ground school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). His flight training took place at Tours, France. He held the rank of First Lieutenant, Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force, United States Army. Lieutenant Headle served as a flight instructor at Tours and at the 2nd Aviation Instruction Center.

1st Lt. Marshall Headle, Air Service, United States Army.

From 1919 to 1922, Headle was attached to the United States Embassy in Paris, France. He then returned to the United States.

Marshall Headle enlisted as a private in the United States Marine Corps, 25 October 1924. He served with the Marines in China as an airplane crew chief and aviator. He was promoted to gunnery sergeant (Gy.Sgt.). He returned to the United States in 1928, and resigned from the Marine Corps to become a civilian pilot.

In 1929, Headle married Dorothea Evelyn Breeder.  They had two children, Marshall Ronald Headle, born in 1932, and Michele Ann Headle. (Mrs. Headle died in Honolulu, Hawaii, 25 May 2010, at the age of 99 years.)

Lockheed test pilot Marshall Headle with a Lockheed Air Express, circa 1930. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives AL77A-032)

Headle joined Lockheed in 1929, as chief pilot, flight operations. On 30 October 1929, Headle made the first flight of the all-metal Detroit-Lockheed DL-2 Sirius.

In 1930, Headle attempted to set a world altitude record with a 500 kilogram (1,102 pounds) payload, flying a Lockheed Vega. He used a pressurized tank of oxygen with a flexible tube.

Marshall Headle demonstrates his high-altitude breathing apparatus, standing with his Lockheed Vega. (International Newsreel/Shamokin News-Dispatch)
Marshall (“Babe”) Headle. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

In 1931, he took the Model 9 Orion, NX960Y, on its first flight.

In 1933, became the company’s chief test pilot, succeeding Wiley Post. He also traveled world-wide demonstrating Lockheed’s airplanes.

Headle also made the first flight of Gerard Vultee’s Vultee V-1A single-engine airliner, 19 February 1933.

On 29 July 1937, he made the first flight of the Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra. The Model 14 fuselage was stretched, resulting in the Model 18 Lodestar. Headle, with Louis Upshaw, took the prototype, NX17385, for its first flight, 21 September 1939. The Lodestar would be developed into the Lockheed Ventura bomber.

On 16 September 1940, Headle made the first flight of the Lockheed YP-38 service test prototype. Headle was featured in magazine and billboard advertisements for Camel cigarettes in 1941.

In 1941, he was injured in an altitude chamber accident and was no longer able to fly.

Prototype Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar, NX17385. (Lockheed Martin)

Marshall Headle died 14 May 1945 at the age of 52 years. He was buried at the Valhalla Memorial Cemetery, Burbank, California.

Lockheed test pilot Marshall Headle with a YP-38 prototype at Burbank, California, circa 1940. (Lockheed Martin)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 February 1932

Ruth Rowland Nichols (FAI)

14 February 1932: Taking off from Floyd Bennett Field, Ruth Rowland Nichols flew Miss Teaneck, a Lockheed Vega 1 owned by Clarence Duncan Chamberlin, to an altitude of 19,928 feet (6,074 meters). This set a National Aeronautic Association record.

The airplane’s owner had flown it to 19,393 feet (5,911 meters) on 24 January 1932.

A contemporary newspaper reported:

RUTH NICHOLS SETS NEW ALTITUDE RECORD

     Ruth Nichols’ flight in a Lockheed monoplane powered with a 225 horsepower Packard Diesel motor to an altitude of 21,350 feet Friday had been credited to the Rye girl unofficially as a new altitude record for Diesel engines. A sealed barograph, removed from the plane, has been sent to Washington to the Bureau of Standards to determine the exact altitude figure.

The Bronxville Press, Vol. VIII, No. 14, Tuesday, February 15, 1932, Columns 1 and 2

Ruth Nichols with man holding barograph after setting FAI World Altitude Record. (FAI)

RUTH NICHOLS SETS AIR MARK

Aviatrix Beats Chamberlain [sic] Altitude Record

Sails 21,300 Feet High in Flying Furnace

Temperature Found to Be 15 Deg. Below Zero

     NEW YORK, Feb. 14.  (AP)—Ruth Nichols, society aviatrix, flew Clarence Chamberlin’s “Flying Furnace” to a new altitude record, on the basis of an unofficial reading of her altimeter.

     When she landed it registered 21,300 feet, while Chamberlin’s official record for the Diesel-motored craft was 19,363 feet.

     Miss Nichols took off at 4:15 p.m. from Floyd Bennett airport and landed an hour and one minute later after an exciting flight.

     She encountered temperatures of 15 degrees below zero, she said, and at 20,000 feet two of her cylinders blew out. At that height, too, she was forced to the use of her oxygen tank.

ENJOYED HER FLIGHT

     In addition to the sealed barograph, which was taken from the plane at once to be sent to Washington for official calibration, Miss Nichols had three altimeters, two of which went out of commission in the upper atmosphere. The unofficial reading was taken from the third altimeter.

     Despite her crippled engine and the fact that she had no brakes, she made a perfect landing and announced she had enjoyed the flight.

     He unofficial altimeter reading was greater than that of Chamberlin after his flight and it is believed the official calibration would establish the new record for planes of this type.

ADVISED BY CHAMBERLIN

     Chamberlin was present as her technical advisor, and he gave last-minute instructions as she stepped into the cockpit, wearing a heavy flying suit, lined boots, and a purple scarf wound about her head instead of a helmet.

     The plane carried 13 gallons of furnace oil, and one tank of oxygen. The regular wheels were changed smaller, lighter ones before the flight.

     Miss Nichols hold several records and has reached an altitude of 28,743 feet in a gasoline plane.

Los Angeles Times, Volume LI. Monday, 15 February 1932, Page 3 at Column 3

Ruth Nichols’ Flight Record Confirmed

     Rye, N. Y., March 2—Miss Ruth Nichols, aviatrix, received notice from Washington today that her altitude flight from Floyd Bennett Airport, Barren Island, on Feb. 14 last in a Diesel-powered airplane to a height of 19,928 feet has set a new American Altitude record for that type of plane.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Vol. XCI, No, 61, Page 2, Column 2

Miss Teaneck had been modified. The original Wright Whirlwind engine had been replaced by an air-cooled, 982.26-cubic-inch-displacement (16.096 liter) Packard DR-980 nine-cylinder radial diesel-cycle (or “compression-ignition”) engine. The DR-980 had one valve per cylinder and a compression ratio of 16:1. It had a continuous power rating of 225 horsepower at 1,950 r.p.m., and 240 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. for takeoff. The DR-980 was 3 feet, ¾-inch (0.933 meters) long, 3 feet, 9-11/16 inches (1.160 meters) in diameter, and weighed 510 pounds (231 kilograms). The Packard Motor Car Company built approximately 100 DR-980s, and a single DR-980B which used two valves per cylinder and was rated at 280 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. The Collier Trophy was awarded to Packard for its work on this engine.

Three-view drawing of the Lockheed Vega from a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics publication. (NASA)

The Lockheed Vega was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. The prototype flew for the first time 4 July 1927 at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California.

The Vega was very much a state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of strips of vertical-grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and bonded together with cassein glue. These were then attached to former rings. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. They were built of spruce spars and ribs, covered with 3/32-inch (2.4 millimeters) spruce plywood.

The Lockheed Vega 1 was flown by a single pilot in an open cockpit and could carry up to four passengers in the enclosed cabin. It was 27.5 feet (8.38 meters) long with a wingspan of 41.0 feet (12.50 meters) and height of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.59 meters). The total wing area (including ailerons) was 275 square feet (25.55 square meters). The wing had no dihedral. The leading edges were swept slightly aft, and the trailing edges swept forward. The Vega 1 had an empty weight of 1,650.0 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and a gross weight of 3,200 pounds (1,452 kilograms).

The early Vegas were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Whirlwind Five (J-5C) nine-cylinder radial engine. This was a direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The J-5C was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 220 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. It was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long, 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter, and weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The Vega had a cruising speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour) with the engine turning 1,500 r.p.m., and a top speed of 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour)—very fast for its time. The airplane had a rate of climb of 925 feet per minute (4.7 meters per second) at Sea Level, decreasing to 405 feet per minute (2.1 meters per second) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Its service ceiling was 15,900 feet (4,846 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 17,800 feet (5,425 meters). The airplane had a fuel capacity of 100 gallons (379 liters), giving it a range of 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) at cruise speed.

Twenty-eight Vega 1 airplanes were built by Lockheed Aircraft Company at the factory on Sycamore Street, Hollywood, California, before production of the improved Lockheed Vega 5 began in 1928 and the company moved to its new location at Burbank, California.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars and other astronomical objects.

The first Lockheed Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2021 Bryan R. Swopes

 

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4–5 February 1929

Frank Hawks with the red and silver Lockheed Air Express, NR7955. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

4–5 February 1929: At 5:37:30 p.m., Pacific Time, Monday, Frank Monroe Hawks took off from Metropolitan Field, Los Angeles, California, (now known as Van Nuys Airport, VNY) in a new Lockheed Model 3 Air Express transport, NR7955, serial number EX-2. Also on board was Oscar Edwin Grubb, the final assembly superintendent for Lockheed. The pair flew non-stop to Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, arriving there at 2:59:29 p.m., Eastern Time, on Tuesday. The duration of the flight was 18 hours, 21 minutes, 59 seconds.

Oscar Edwin Grubb and Frank Monroe Hawks, shortly before departing for New York, 4 February 1929. (Getty Images)

The only previous non-stop West-to-East flight had been flown during August 1928 by Arthur C. Goebel, Jr., and Harry Tucker with their Lockheed Vega, Yankee Doodle, NX4769. Hawks cut 36 minutes off of Goebel’s time.

Lockheed Model 3 Air Express NR7955, photographed 1 February 1929. The Air Express was the first production airplane to use the new NACA cowling design. (Crane/NACA)

Hawks was a technical adviser to The Texas Company (“Texaco”), a manufacturer and distributor of petroleum products which sponsored the flight. On his recommendation, the company purchased the Air Express from Lockheed for use as a company transport.

On 17 January 1930, “Pilot Frank Hawks attempted a takeoff from a soggy field in West Palm Beach, Florida, destroying the aircraft christened ‘Texaco Five’ in a spectacular crash that catapulted it into a row of three parked aircraft. All three occupants were unhurt while the aircraft was destroyed.” —Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives

NC7955’s Department of Commerce registration was cancelled 31 January 1930.

The Lockheed Model 3 Air Express was a single-engine parasol-wing monoplane transport, flown by a single pilot in an open aft cockpit, and capable of carrying 4 to 6 passengers in its enclosed cabin. The airplane was designed by Gerard Freebairn Vultee and John Knudsen Northrop. It used the Lockheed Vega’s molded plywood monocoque fuselage.

The Model 3 received Approved Type Certificate No. 102 from the Aeronautic Branch, U. S. Department of Commerce.

The Lockheed Air Express was the first production airplane to use the “NACA Cowl,” an engine cowling for radial engines which had been designed by a team led by Fred Ernest Weick of the the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. The new cowling design tightly enclosed the engine and used baffles to control air flow around the hottest parts of the engines. The exit slots were designed to allow the air to exit the cowling at a higher speed than it had entered the intake. The new cowling design provided better engine cooling and caused significantly less aerodynamic drag. The addition of the NACA cowling increased the Air Express’s maximum speed from 157 to 177 miles per hour (253 to 285 kilometers per hour).

The day following Hawks’ transcontinental flight, Vultee sent a telegram to NACA:

COOLING CAREFULLY CHECKED AND OK. RECORD IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT NEW COWLING. ALL CREDIT DUE TO NACA FOR PAINSTAKING AND ACCURATE RESEARCH. GERRY VULTEE, LOCKHEED AIRCRAFT CO.

The Lockheed Model 3 Air Express was 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wing span of 42 feet, 6 inches (12.954 meters) and height of 8 feet, 4½ inches (2.553 meters). The wing area was 288 square feet (26.756 square meters). The wing had no dihedral. The airplane had an empty weight of 2,533 pounds (1,149 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,375 pounds (1,984 kilograms).

The Model 3 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long, 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) in diameter, and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The Air Express had a cruising speed of 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour), and maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour). It’s service ceiling was 17,250 feet (5,258 meters).

Frank Hawks, 1930. (San Diego air and Space Museum Archives)

Francis Monroe Hawks was born at Marshalltown, Iowa, 28 March 1897. He was the son of Charles Monroe Hawks, a barber, and Ida Mae Woodruff Hawks. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, Long Beach, California, graduating in 1916. He then studied at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

Frank Hawks was an Air Service, United States Army, pilot who served during World War I. He rose to the rank of Captain, and at the time of his record-breaking transcontinental flight, he held a commission as a reserve officer in the Army Air Corps. Hawks transferred to the U.S. Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. His date of rank 27 May 1932.

His flying had made him a popular public figure and he starred in a series of Hollywood movies as “The Mysterious Pilot.”

Poster advertising Episode 5 of the movie serial, “The Mysterious Pilot.” (Columbia Pictures)
Amelia Earhart and Frank Hawks. (World History Project)

On 28 December 1920, Miss Amelia Earhart took her first ride in an airplane at Long Beach Airport in California. The ten-minute flight began her life-long involvement in aviation. The airplane’s pilot was Frank Monroe Hawks.

Francis M. Hawks married Miss Newell Lane at Lewiston, Montana, 7 August 1918. They had a daughter, Dolly. They later divorced. He next married Mrs. Edith Bowie Fouts at St. John’s Church, Houston, Texas, 26 October 1926.

Frank Hawks was killed in an aircraft accident at East Aurora, New York, 23 August 1938. He was buried at Redding Ridge Cemetery, Redding, Connecticut.

Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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11–12 January 1935

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii, 11 January 1935. (Getty Images/Underwood Archives)

11 January 1935: At 4:40 p.m., local time, Amelia Earhart departed Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, for Oakland Municipal Airport at Oakland, California, in her Lockheed Vega 5C Special, NR965Y. She arrived 18 hours, 15 minutes later. Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the Mainland.

(This Vega was not the same aircraft which she used to fly the Atlantic, Vega 5B NR7952, and which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega is a single-engine high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. It was a very state-of-the-art aircraft for its time. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of spiral strips of vertical grain spruce pressed into concrete molds and held together with glue. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The techniques used to build the Vega were very influential in aircraft design. It also began Lockheed’s tradition of naming its airplanes after stars or other astronomical objects.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, being run up at Wheeler Field, 11 January 1935. Amelia is sitting on the running board of the Standard Oil truck parked in front of the hangar. (Hawaii Aviation)

Lockheed Model 5C Vega serial number 171 was completed in March 1931, painted red with silver trim, and registered NX965Y. The airplane had been ordered by John Henry Mears. Mears did not take delivery of the new airplane and it was then sold to Elinor Smith. It was resold twice before being purchased by Amelia Earhart in December 1934.

The Lockheed Model 5C Vega is 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). Its empty weight is 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms).

Earhart’s Vega 5C was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, serial number 2849, a single-row, nine cylinder, direct-drive radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 58-octane gasoline. It was 3 feet, 6.63 inches (1.083 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 3.44 inches (1.307 meters) and weighed 745 pounds (338 kilograms).

The standard Model 5C had a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) and range in standard configuration was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

“Before parting with her ‘little red bus’ (as she affectionately called it), Amelia removed the upgraded Wasp engine and substituted an obsolete model; she wanted her well-tried engine for the new airplane, also a Lockheed Vega. It was a later model, in which Elinor Smith had been preparing to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic, a plan abandoned after Amelia successfully took that record. It was originally built to exacting specifications for Henry Mears of New York, who had a round-the-world flight in mind. Called the Vega, Hi-speed Special, it carried the registration 965Y and was equipped with special fuel tanks, radio, and streamlined landing gear and cowling. These latter appointments, together with a Hamilton Standard Controllable-Pitch Propeller, gave the plane a speed of 200 mph and Amelia had her eye on further records as well as her constant journeys across the continent.”

The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1989, Chapter 17 at Page 206.

Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)
Crowds of spectators greet Amelia Earhart on her arrival at Oakland, California, from Hawaii, 12 January 1935. (Associated Press)

“. . . At Oakland Airport a good ten thousand had been waiting for several hours, yet when she came in she surprised them. They had been craning their necks looking for a lone aircraft flying high and obviously seeking a place to land. But Amelia did not even circle the field; she brought the Vega in straight as an arrow at a scant two hundred feet, landing at 1:31 p.m. Pacific time. The crowd set up a roar, broke through the police lines, and could be halted only when dangerously near the still-whirling propeller. From the road circling the airport, a chorus of automobile horns honked happily.”

Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Brassey’s, Washington and London, 1997, Chapter 13 at Page 132.

Amelia Earhart stands in the cockpit of her Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR965Y, on arrival at Oakland Municipal Airport, 12 January 1935. (National Geographic/Corbis)

Amelia Earhart sold the Vega in 1936. It appeared in “Wings in the Dark,” (Paramount Pictures, 1935), and  “Border Flight,” (Paramount Pictures, 1936) which starred Frances Farmer, John Howard and Robert Cummings. It changed hands twice more before being destroyed in a hangar fire 26 August 1943.

Lockheed Model 5C Vega NR965Y, on the set of a motion picture production, “Border Flight,” (Paramount, 1936). The woman to left of center is Frances Farmer. Roscoe Karns, who performed in both movies, is at center. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 January 1943

Lockheed L-049 Constellation NX25600 in flight. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Lockheed XC-69 Constellation 43-10309 (L-049 NX25600) in flight. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)

9 January 1943: At the insistence of the United States Army Air Forces, Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot, Eddie Allen, made the first flight of the Lockheed L-049 Constellation prototype, NX25600, from Lockheed Air Terminal at Burbank, California, to Muroc Army Airfield (today known as Edwards Air Force Base). Lockheed’s Chief Test Pilot, Milo G. Burcham, was the co-pilot.

Lockheed XC-69 Constellation 43-10309 (L-049 NX25600) in flight. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)

Also on board were Lockheed’s chief research engineer, Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson; Rudy Thoren, Johnson’s assistant; and Dick Stanton, chief mechanic.

When the flight ended after 58 minutes, Allen said, “This machine works so well that you don’t need me anymore!” With that, Allen returned to Seattle.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

SUPER TRANSPORT PLANE IN DEBUT

Lockheed’s Air Marvel Makes First Flight; Believed to Be World’s Largest and Fastest; Built Like Fighter, Can Outspeed Jap Zero

BY MARVIN MILES

     Into the winter sky yesterday swept a brilliant new star—Lockheed super-transport Constellation.

     First of a galaxy to come, the four-engine colossus sped down the long east-west runway at Lockheed Air Terminal, skipped nimbly off the concrete and boomed upward with the surging roar of 8000 unleashed horses.

     A few breath-taking seconds’ full throttle had written a matter-of-fact climax to two years of secret development that evolved a 60-passenger transport faster than a Jap Zero fighter.

     There were no fanfares, no speeches—simply an unvarnished war production takeoff, emphasizing as nothing else could the grim driving need for huge work planes to carry the battle swiftly to the ends of the earth.

     Yet it was the first significant aviation event of 1943.

Lockheed XC-69 Constellation 43-30109 during its first flight, 9 January 1943. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

     Built along the slim, graceful lines of a fighter the craft is faster than any four-engine bomber now in service. It can cross the continent in less than 9 hours,fly to Honolulu in 12. Even at half power its cruising speed is approximately 100 miles per hour faster than that of a standard airliner!

     Within its supercharged cabin, air-density will remain at the 8000-foot level when the Constellation is cruising at “over-the-weather” altitudes up to 35,000 feet. So great is its power that the monster can maintain 25,000 feet on three engines, 16,500 on two.

     As for economy of operation, the new sky queen can fly her full load hour after hour using but one gallon of gasoline per mile.

Lockheed XC-69 Constellation 43-10309 (L-049 NX25600) at Lockheed Air Terminal, with engines running. Looking west-northwest across the San Fernando Valley. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)

ONE TAXI TEST

     At the controls when the super-transport lifted its tricycle gear in flight were Eddie Allen, Army pilot and veteran four-engine flyer, and Milo Burcham, Lockheed test pilot noted for his substratosphere testing of the P-38. Also in the ship were C.L. (Kelly) Johnson, chief research engineer for the aircraft company; Rudy Thoren, Johnson’s assistant, and Dick Stanton, chief mechanic.

Chief Research Engineer Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson (left) and Chief Engineering Test Pilot Milo G. Burcham, with the XC-69 Constellation. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

     There was but one taxi test yesterday, highlighted by a brief blaze in one of the four engines following a backfire as the ship turned to roll back to the head of the runway.

     The fire was doused quickly and the Constellation stood ready for her maiden flight, he nose into a gentle breeze, the focal point of hundreds of eyes of workers, Army guards and officials watched expectantly.

     Each engine “revved up”in turn, sending deep-throated echoes over the sun-drenched terminal.

     Then the four black propellers whirled as one.

     The Constellation shot forward, the wind in her teeth, a hurtling, bellowing land monster—until her propellers plucked her from the earth in an incredibly short span of runway and sent her thundering triumphantly toward the sun.

GLIDES BACK EASILY

      In a moment she had almost vanished, only to bank in a wide turn and drone back over the terminal twice before leading her covey of lesser following craft off toward the desert to the Army airport at Muroc Dry Lake where she landed gracefully an hour later.

Prototype Lockheed Constellation at Muroc Dry Lake, 1942. (Unattributed)
Prototype Lockheed L-049 Constellation NX25600 at Muroc Dry Lake on the high desert of southern California, 9 January 1943. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)

     Shortly before dusk the giant craft returned to the Burbank terminal, slipped down the long “landing groove” of air and settled easily to the runway.

     Her debut was over.

     Today she will begin the exhaustive test flights to determine her performance before she is turned over to T.W.A. and the Army for the grueling business of war. . . .

Los Angeles Times, Vol. LXII, Sunday morning, 10 January 1943, Page 1, Columns 1 and 2; Page 2, Columns 2 and 3. The article continues in Column 4. (The photographs are not a part of the original article.)

The prototype Lockheed XC-69, 43-10309 (NX25600), landing at Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California, 1943. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

The Lockheed Model 49-46-10, company serial number 049-1961, was designated XC-69 by the U.S. Army Air Forces and assigned serial number 43-10309.

The Constellation was operated by a flight crew of four: two pilots, a navigator and a flight engineer. It could carry up to 81 passengers. The airplane was 95 feet, 1 316 inches (28.986 meters) long with a wingspan of 123 feet, 0 inches (37.490 meters), and overall height of 23 feet, 7⅞ inches (7.210 meters). It had an empty weight of 49,392 pounds (22,403.8 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 86,250 pounds (39,122.3 kilograms).

The XC-69 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter), Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 745C18BA2 engines. Also known as the Duplex Cyclone, these were a two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.5:1, which required 100/130-octane aviation gasoline. They were rated at 2,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., or 2,200 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for takeoff, (five minute limit), The 745C18BA2 was 6 feet, 4.26 inches (1.937 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.78 inches (1.417 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,595 pounds (1,177 kilograms). The engines drove 15 foot, 2 inch (4.623 meter) diameter, three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 43E60 constant-speed propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction.

The L-049 had a cruise speed of 313 miles per hour (504 kilometers per hour) and a range of 3,995 miles (6,429 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 25,300 feet (7,711 meters).

In this photograph of the Lockheed XC-69 prototype, the civil experimental registration numbers, NX25600 are visible under the left wing. (Unattributed)
In this photograph of the Lockheed XC-69 prototype at Lockheed Air Terminal, the civil experimental registration numbers, NX25600, are visible on the rudder and under the left wing. Looking northeast, the Verdugo Mountains of Southern California are in the background. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)
This is a rare color photograph of the prototype Lockheed XC-69 Constellation, 43-10309, (L-049 NX-25600) with a Lockheed UC-101, 42-94148 (ex-Vega 5C NC14236) at Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank California. This picture represents 15 years of technological advancement. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

The prototype XC-69 was later re-engined with Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC14-G (R-2800-83) engines and designated XC-69E. These had a Normal rating of 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., to 7,300 feet (2,225 meters), 1,500 horsepower at 17,500 feet (5,334 meters), and 2,100 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. for Takeoff.

Lockheed XC-69 Constellation 43-10309. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)
Lockheed XC-69 Constellation 43-10309. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

After the war, the Constellation prototype was sold to Howard Hughes’ Hughes Aircraft Company for $20,000 and registered as NX67900. In May 1950, Lockheed bought the prototype back from Hughes for $100,000 and it was again registered as NC25600. It had accumulated just 404 flight hours up to this time.

The prototype Lockheed XC-69 Constellation, 43-10309, is parked at Howard Hughes’ Culver City airport. In the foreground is the Hughes XF-11, 44-70155. Photographed 7 July 1946. (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries)
Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation prototype, NX6700, ex-L-049 NX25600. (Lockheed Martin)
The prototype Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation NX25600 (XC-69 43-10309), flying above an inversion layer. The San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California are in the background. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

Lockheed then converted 049-1961 to a prototype for the L-1049 Super Constellation with another registration, NX6700. In 1952, it was once again converted, this time as an aerodynamic test aircraft for the U.S. Navy PO-1W radar early warning aircraft (later redesignated WV-1 and EC-121 Warning Star). It was also used to test the Allison YT56 turboprop engine by placing it in the #4 position.

Lockheed L-1049 prototype NX6700 as an aerodynamics test aircraft for the U.S. Navy PO-1W airborne early warning Warning Star. (SDASM Archives)

Finally, in 1958, the first Constellation was purchased as a source of spare parts by California Airmotive Corporation and was dismantled.

Lockheed built two XC-69 prototypes. Twenty-two C-69s and 856 Constellations of all types were produced. The Lockheed Constellation was in production from 1943–1958 in both civilian airliner and military transport versions. It is the classic propeller-driven transcontinental and transoceanic airliner.

Your intrepid TDiA correspondent with “Bataan,” General Douglas MacArthur’s Lockheed VC-121A Constellation, 48-613, at Valle Airport, Arizona, 3 July 2012. (Photograph by Mrs. TDiA)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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