Tag Archives: Lockheed Aircraft Company

24–25 August 1932

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega after her record-setting solo nonstop flight across North America, 25 August 1932. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

24–25 August 1932: Amelia Earhart flew her Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, from Los Angeles, California, to Newark, New Jersey, a distance of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles), in 19 hours, 5 minutes. She had departed Los Angeles Municipal Airport (now known as LAX) at 7:26:54 p.m. Pacific Time, 24 August, and landed at Newark Municipal Airport at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time the following day. This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) women’s World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing.¹ Her average speed for the flight was 206.42 kilometers per hour (128.27 miles per hour).

National Aeronautics Association Certificate of Record, issued on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo coast-to-coast. Less than a year later, she would break her own record by almost two hours.

A small crowd gather's around Amelia Earhart an dher Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municpal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)
A small crowd gathers around Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municipal Airport, 25 August 1932. (AP)

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Model 5 Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane. The fuselage was molded wood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood. The Vega 5B 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 1,650 pounds (748.4 kilograms) and gross weight is 4,375 pounds (1,985 kilograms).

Aircraft Registration Certificate, Lockheed Vega 5B, serial number 22, NC7952.

Earhart’s modified Vega 5B is powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C nine cylinder radial engine. The Wasp C was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level.² 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). It drove a two-bladed Hamilton Standard controllable-pitch propeller through direct drive.

Just three months earlier, Earhart had flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean in this same airplane, which she called her “Little Red Bus.” Today, Lockheed Vega NR7952 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 5B Vega, NR7952, at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12342

² The Pratt & Whitney Wasp C was also used by the U.S. Army and Navy, designated R-1340-7. In military service, it was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. at Sea Level.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 August 1935

Will Rogers and Wiley Post with the Lockheed Model 9E Orion hybrid at Renton, Washington. The pontoons have just been installed on the airplane in place of its fixed landing gear. (Unattributed)
Will Rogers and Wiley Post with the Lockheed Model 9E Orion hybrid at Renton, Washington. The pontoons have just been installed on the airplane in place of its fixed landing gear. (Seattle Post Intelligencer Collection/Museum of History & Industry)

15 August 1935: Two of the most famous men of their time, Wiley Hardeman Post and William Penn Adair (“Will”) Rogers, were killed in an airplane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska.

Post, a pioneering aviator who had twice flown around the world—once, solo—and helped develop the pressure suit for high altitude flight, was exploring a possible air mail route from the United States to Russia. His friend, world famous humorist Will Rogers, was along for the trip.

Transcontinental and Western Airlines' Lockheed Model 9E special, NC12283. This airplane would be modified by Pacific Airmotive, Burbank, California, for Wiley Hardeman post. (Ed Coates Collection)
Transcontinental & Western Air Incorporated’s Lockheed Model 9E Special, NC12283. This airplane would be modified by Pacific Airmotive, Burbank, California, for Wiley Hardeman Post. (Ed Coates Collection)

Post’s airplane was a hybrid, built from the fuselage of a former Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., Lockheed Model 9E Orion Special, NC12283, combined with a wing from a Lockheed Model 7 Explorer. T&WA operated the Orion for two years before selling it to Charles Babb, Glendale, California. Babb installed the salvaged wing from a modified Lockheed Model 7 Explorer, Blue Flash, NR101W, which had crashed in Panama in 1930.

The Orion’s standard 450 horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp SC1 engine was replaced with an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.8-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1 nine-cylinder radial engine (serial number 5778), rated at 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and 600 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m. for takeoff. A three-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch propeller was used. Both the SC1 and S3H1 were direct drive engines. The S3H1 was 3 feet, 7.01 inches (1.093 meters) long and 4 feet, 3.60 inches (1.311 meters) in diameter. It weighed 865 pounds (392 kilograms).

Post also wanted to replace the retractable landing gear with pontoons for water landings.

Lockheed engineers were of the opinion that the hybrid aircraft and the other modifications which were requested by Post were dangerous and refused to do the work. Pacific Airmotive, also located in Burbank, California, however, agreed to modify the airplane. Several names were used to describe the hybrid airplane, such as “Lockheed Aurora,” as well as others perhaps less polite. It was given the restricted registration NR12283.

NR12283 was 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 48 feet, 6 inches (14.783 meters). The wing area was 313 square feet (29.079 square meters).

Wiley Post’s red Lockheed Orion/Explorer hybrid, NR12283, at Renton, Washington.

Post had the pontoons installed at Renton, Washington. The floats that he had ordered did not arrive on time so he installed a larger set intended for another aircraft.

NR12283, Wiley Post's hybrid Lockheed Orion/Explorer float plane, at Fairbanks, Alaska. (PBS)
NR12283, Wiley Post’s red hybrid Lockheed Orion/Explorer float plane, at Fairbanks, Alaska. (PBS)

After several days of flying from Seattle and through Alaska, Post and Rogers were nearing Point Barrow on the northern coast of the continent. They encountered dense fog and landed on Walakpa Bay, about 13 miles (21 kilometers) southwest of the village of Barrow.

“August 15, 1935 2:00 p.m. — Harding Lake, Alaska. Wiley Post and Will Rogers taxi for take-off. Last photo before their 6:30 p.m. crash near Barrow. Patton Collection #13 ” (Harding Lake Association)

After talking with a local resident, Clair Okpheah, they taxied back on the lagoon and took off to the north. Post banked to the right, but at about 50 feet (15 meters) the engine stopped. NR12283 pitched down, rolled to the right, and then its right wing struck the mud. The right wing and pontoon were torn off and the airplane crashed upside down. Post and Rogers died.

Clair Okpheah ran to Barrow for help. When a rescue party arrived 16 hours after the crash, the men recovered the bodies of Post and Rogers. It was noted that Wiley Post’s wristwatch had stopped at 8:18 p.m.

Wiley Post's hybrid airplane, NR12283, after the crash, 15 August 1935. (UPI)
The wreckage of Wiley Post’s Lockheed Model 9E Orion hybrid airplane, NR12283, after the crash at Walakpa Lagoon, Alaska, 15 August 1935. (UPI)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 August 1942

Lockheed P-38F Lightnings at Iceland during the summer of 1942. 2d Lt. Elva E. Shahan’s P-38F-1-LO, 41-7540, is at the left of the photograph with the number 42 on its nose. (U.S. Air Force)

14 August 1942: The 27th Fighter Squadron (Twin Engine), 1st Fighter Group, VIII Fighter Command, was ferrying its Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters across the North Atlantic Ocean from Presque Isle, Maine to England as part of Operation Bolero. Iceland was a mid-Atlantic fuel stop on the Northern Ferry Route.

Just over a week earlier, 6 August 1942, 30 Curtiss-Wright P-40C Warhawks of the 33rd Fighter Squadron had been flown off the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7). Among the 32 Army Air Corps pilots who boarded the carrier with the fighters at Norfolk, Virginia, was Second Lieutenant Joseph D.R. Shaffer, U.S.A.A.C., service number O-427002.

A Curtiss-Wright P-40C Warhawk, Iceland, 1942. (U.S. Air Force)
Major John H. Weltman, USAAF. Major weltman's P-38 Lightning was the first Army Air Forces aircraft to be hit by German gunfire during World War II. (U.S. Air Force)
Major John H. Weltman, USAAF. Major Weltman’s P-38 Lightning was the first Army Air Forces aircraft to be hit by German gunfire during World War II. (U.S. Air Force)

On the morning of 14 August, a Royal Air Force Northrop N-3PB Nomad of No. 330 Squadron (Norwegian) tracked a German Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-4 Condor four-engine maritime reconnaissance bomber, marked NT+BY, flying near a convoy south of the island. The bomber then proceeded northward and overflew the peninsula west of Reykjavik.

Lieutenant Shaffer, his squadron now assigned to the 342d Composite Group, Iceland Base Command, one of the units responsible for the air defense of Iceland, located and attacked the Condor with his P-40, damaging one of the bomber’s engines.

At 11:15 a.m., two P-38s of the 27th Squadron, flown by Major John W. Weltman and Second Lieutenant Elza E. Shahan, followed up Shaffer’s attack. Shahan was flying Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning, serial number 41-7540.

The Fw 200 was hit in and around the bomb bay. It exploded and went into the sea approximately 8 miles northwest of Grótta Point. Its crew, F Ofw. Fritz Kühn, Ofw. Phillip Haisch, Ofw. Ottmar Ebner, Uffz. Wolgang Schulze, Ofw. Arthur Wohlleben and Ofw. Albert Winkelmann were all killed.

This was the very first U.S. Army Air Forces air combat victory in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. Lieutenants Shaffer and Shahan both shared credit for the victory. They were awarded the Silver Star for their actions.

A Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-3 Condor, SG+KS, (Werk-Nr. 0043), similar to the bomber destroyed by Shaffer and Shahan, 14 August 1942. (Photograph by Walter Frentz. Bundesarchiv)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 August 1945

Major Richard Ira Bong, United States Army Air Forces. (U.S. Air Force)

6 August 1945: After serving three combat tours flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Southwest Pacific, Major Richard Ira Bong, Air Corps, United States Army, was assigned as an Air Force acceptance test pilot for new Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters at the Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California.

The P-80A was a brand new jet fighter, and Major Bong had flown just 4 hours, 15 minutes in the type during 12 flights.

Shortly after takeoff in P-80A-1-LO 44-85048, the primary fuel pump for the turbojet engine failed. A back-up fuel pump was not turned on. The Shooting Star rolled upside down and Bong bailed out, but he was too low for his parachute to open and he was killed. The jet crashed at the intersection of Oxnard Street and Satsuma Avenue, North Hollywood, California, and exploded.

Site of the crash of Major Richard I. Bong’s Lockheed P-80A-1-LO fighter, 44-85048, at Oxnard Street and Satsuma Avenue, North Hollywood, California. (Contemporary news photograph)
General Douglas MacArthur with Major Richard I. Bong.
General Douglas MacArthur with Major Richard I. Bong.

Richard I. Bong was known as the “Ace of Aces” for scoring 40 aerial victories over Japanese airplanes between 27 December 1942 and 17 December 1944 while flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, which was presented by General Douglas MacArthur, 12 December 1944. [The following day, General MacArthur was promoted to General of the Army.]

The citation for Major Bong’s Medal of Honor reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from 10 October to 15 November 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Major Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down eight enemy airplanes during this period.”

General of the Army Henry H. (“Hap”) Arnold and Major Richard I. Bong, circa 1945.

The Lockheed P-80-1-LO was the United States’ first operational jet fighter. It was a single-seat, single-engine low-wing monoplane powered by a turbojet engine. The fighter was designed by a team of engineers led by Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson. The prototype XP-80A, 44-83020, nicknamed Lulu-Belle, was first flown by test pilot Tony LeVier at Muroc Army Air Field (now known as Edwards Air Force Base), 8 January 1944.

Lockheed P-80A-1-LO shooting Star 44-85004, similar to the fighter being test flown by Richard I. Bong, 6 August 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-80A was a day fighter, and was not equipped for night or all-weather combat operations. The P-80A was 34 feet, 6 inches (10.516 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 10.5037 inches (11.84919 meters) ¹ and overall height of 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters).

The leading edges of the P-80A’s wings were swept aft 9° 18′ 33″. They had an angle of incidence of +1° at the root and -0° 30′ at the tip. There was 3° 50′ dihedral. The total wing area was 237.70 square feet (22.083 square meters).

The fighter had an empty weight of 7,920 pounds (3,592 kilograms) and a gross weight of 11,700 pounds (5,307 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight was 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms).

Early production P-80As were powered by either an Allison J33-A-9 or a General Electric J33-GE-11 turbojet engine. The J33 was a licensed version of the Rolls-Royce Derwent. It was a single-shaft turbojet with a 1-stage centrifugal compressor section and a 1-stage axial-flow turbine. The -9 and -11 engines were rated at 3,825 pounds of thrust (17.014 kilonewtons). The J33s were 8 feet, 6.9 inches (2.614 meters) long, 4 feet, 2.5 inches (1.283 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,775 pounds (805 kilograms).

The P-80A had a cruising speed of 445 miles per hour (716 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its maximum speed was 548 miles per hour (882 kilometers per hour) at 2,700 feet (823 meters) and and 501 miles per hour (806 kilometers per hour) at 34,700 feet (10,577 meters).² The service ceiling was 45,000 feet (13,716 meters).

Lockheed P-80A-1-LO Shooting Star 44-85155, similar to the jet fighter which Major Bong was flying, 6 August 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-80A Shooting Star was armed with six air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber aircraft machine guns mounted in the nose.

Dick Bong poses with “Marge,” his Lockheed P-38J Lightning. A large photograph of his fiancee, Miss Marjorie Vattendahl, is glued to the fighter’s nose.

¹ Wing span with rounded wing tips. P-80As with squared (“clipped”) tips had a wing span of 37 feet, 7.5037 inches (11.46819 meters).

² Several hundred of the early production P-80 Shooting stars had all of their surface seams filled, and the airplanes were primed and painted. Although this process added 60 pounds (27.2 kilograms) to the empty weight, the decrease in drag allowed a 10 mile per hour (16 kilometers per hour) increase in top speed. The painted surface was difficult to maintain in the field and the process was discontinued.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 July 1976

Lockheed SR-71A 61-7958. (FAI)
Lockheed SR-71A 61-7958. (FAI)

27 July 1976: Major Adolphus H. Bledsoe, Jr., pilot, and Major John T. Fuller, RSO, flew a Lockheed SR-71A, 61-7958, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute World Record Speed of 2,092.29 miles per hour (3,367.22 kilometers per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer closed circuit.

FAI Record File Num #3928 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km without payload
Performance: 3 367.22 km/h
Date: 1976-07-27
Course/Location: Beale Air Force Base, CA (USA)
Claimant Adolphus Bledsoe (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” (17958)
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

FAI Record File Num #3929 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km with 1 000 kg payload
Performance: 3 367.22 km/h
Date: 1976-07-27
Course/Location: Beale Air Force Base, CA (USA)
Claimant Adolphus Bledsoe (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” (17958)
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

FAI Record File Num #3930 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-Absolute (Absolute Record of classes C, H and M)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed
Performance: 3 367.22 km/h
Date: 1976-07-27
Course/Location: Beale Air Force Base, CA (USA)
Claimant Adolphus Bledsoe (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” (17958)
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

De La Vaulx Medal
De La Vaulx Medal

The following day, the same airplane, flown by two different crews, set a World Record for Altitude in Horizontal Flight at 85,068 feet (25,929 meters) and a World Record for Speed Over a Straight 15/25 Kilometer Course, 2,193.17 miles per hour (3,529.56 kilometers per hour). This second speed record became the new Absolute Speed Record, superseding the record set on this date by Alphonsus Bledsoe and John T. Fuller.

All six airmen were awarded the Henry De La Vaulx Medal by the FAI.

Today, 61-7958 is on display at the Museum of Aviation, Warner-Robins, Georgia. 32 of these long range strategic reconnaissance aircraft were built by the Lockheed Skunk Works.

Lockheed SR-71A 61-7958 at Beale AFB, 28 July 1976. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed SR-71A 61-7958 at Beale AFB, 28 July 1976. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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