Tag Archives: Lockheed Aircraft Company

4 July 1927

Lockheed Vega s/n 1, now marked NC2788 (SDASM)
The first Lockheed Vega 1 NX913 taking off at Rogers Airport, 4 July 1927. (Water and Power Associates)

4 July 1927: The first Lockheed Aircraft Company Vega 1, NX913, made its maiden flight with test pilot Edward Antoine (Eddie) Bellande at Rogers Airport, Los Angeles, California. The airport was at the present location of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, west of downtown Los Angeles.

Bellande was a U.S. Marine Corps flight instructor, and a stunt pilot, test pilot and airline pilot. By the time he had retired in 1943, he was second in seniority among the pilots at Trans World Airways (TWA).

Edward Antoine (“Eddie”) Bellande sits with famed motion picture hero, Rin Tin Tin, ca. 1925. (Unattributed)
Edward Antoine (“Eddie”) Bellande sits with famed motion picture hero, Rin Tin Tin, ca. 1925. (E. A. Bellande Collection)

The Lockheed Vega was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane designed by John Knudsen (“Jack”) Northrop and Gerrard Vultee. Both men would later have their own aircraft companies.

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.

Concrete molds used to form the fuselage halves for the Lockheed Vega. (SDASM)
Components of the first Lockheed Vega 1 before assembly at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)
Components of the first Lockheed Vega 1 before assembly at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)
Fuselage construction at the Lockheed factory. (Lockheed Martin/SDASM)

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 Vega 1 engine was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) air-cooled Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5C Whirlwind 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.

The first Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, nears completion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)
The first Vega 1, NX913, Golden Eagle, nears completion at the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Hollywood, California, 1927. (SFO Museum)

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.

Lockheed Vega 1, NX913, left profile. There is no registration number painted on the rudder in this photograph. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Lockheed Vega 1 NX913 was sold to George Randolph Hearst to enter in the Dole Derby California-to-Hawaii Air Race, and named “Golden Eagle.” (JMF Haase Collection, SDASM Archives)
Lockheed Vega s/n 1, NX913. (SDASM)
Lockheed Vega 1, marked NC2788. (SDASM)
The first Lockheed Vega, now marked NC2788, at Oakland, California, August 1927. (Left to right) Jack Frost, Eddie Bellande, Jack Northrop, Allan Loughead, Ken Jay. (Vintage Air)

Golden Eagle, with its pilot, Jack Frost, and navigator Gordon Scott, was lost while crossing the Pacific Ocean in the disastrous Dole Derby California-to-Hawaii Air Race, 16 August 1927

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

2 July 1937

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, takes off from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, 10:00 a.m., 2 July 1937

2 July 1937: At approximately 10:00 a.m., local time, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan departed Lae, Territory of New Guinea, aboard their Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, enroute to Howland Island, 2,243 nautical miles (2,581 statute miles/4,154 kilometers) east-northeast across the South Pacific Ocean. The airplane was loaded with 1,100 gallons (4,164 liters) of gasoline, sufficient for 24 to 27 hours of flight.

They were never seen again.

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, prior to takeoff at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.
Great Circle route from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to the Howland Runways, (N. 0° 48′ 29″, W. 176° 36′ 57″) on Howland Island (United States Minor Outlying Islands). 2,243 nautical miles (2,581 statute miles/4,154 kilometers). (Great Circle Mapper)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

1 July 1937

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan with Mr. Jacobs, at Lae, Territory of New Guinea. (Wichita Eagle)

1 July 1937:  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are delayed another day at Lae, Territory of New Guniea.

“July 1st. ‘Denmark’s a prison,’ and Lae, attractive and unusual as it is, appears to two flyers just as confining, as the Electra is poised for our longest hop, the 2,556 miles to Howland Island in mid-Pacific. The monoplane is weighted with gasoline and oil to capacity. However, a wind blowing the wrong way and threatening clouds conspired to keep her on the ground today. In addition, Fred Noonan has been unable, because of radio difficulties, to set his chronometers. Any lack of knowledge of their fastness and slowness would defeat the accuracy of celestial navigation. Howland is such a small spot in the Pacific that every aid to locating it must be available. Fred and I have worked very hard in the last two days repacking the plane and eliminating everything unessential. We have even discarded as much personal property as we can decently get along without and henceforth propose to travel lighter than ever before. All Fred has is a small tin case which he picked up in Africa. I noted it still rattles, so it cannot be packed very full. Despite our restlessness and disappointment in not getting off this morning, we still retained enough enthusiasm to do some tame exploring of the near-by country.” —Amelia Earhart

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

30 June 1956

United Airlines' Douglas DC-7 City of San Francisco, sister ship of Mainliner Vancouver.
United Airlines’ Douglas DC-7 City of San Francisco, N6301C, sister ship of Mainliner Vancouver. (UAL)

30 June 1956: At approximately 10:32 a.m., two airliners, United Airlines’ Douglas DC-7 serial number 44288, Mainliner Vancouver, Civil Aeronautics Administration registration N6324C, and Trans World Airlines’ Lockheed L-1049-54-80 Super Constellation serial number 4016, Star of the Seine, N6902C, were over the Grand Canyon at 21,000 feet (6,400 meters).

Both airliners had departed Los Angeles International Airport shortly after 9:00 a.m. TWA Flight 2 was headed for Kansas City Downtown Airport with 64 passengers and 6 crew members. United Flight 718 was enroute to Chicago Midway Airport with 53 passengers and 5 crew members.

The airplanes were over the United States desert southwest, which, at that time, was outside of radar-controlled airspace. They were flying around towering cumulus clouds to comply with regulations that they “remain clear of clouds.”

The airplanes collided at about a 25° angle. The accident report describes the impact:

“First contact involved the center fin leading edge of the Constellation and the left aileron tip of the DC-7. The lower surface of the DC-7 left wing struck the upper aft fuselage of the L-1049 with disintegrating force. The collision ripped open the fuselage of the Constellation from just forward of its tail to near the main cabin door. The empennage of the L-1049 separated almost immediately. The plane pitched down and fell to the ground. Most of the left outer wing of the DC-7 had separated and aileron control was restricted. . . .” 

This illustration depicts the collision. (Milford Joseph Hunter/LIFE Magazine)

The Constellation struck the ground near Temple Butte at an estimated 475 miles per hour (765 kilometers per hour). The DC-7’s left wing was so badly damaged that it went into an uncontrolled left spin and crashed at Chuar Butte. All 128 persons on the two airliners were killed.

This, as well as other accidents, resulted in significant changes in the United States air traffic control system.

A Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, sister ship of Star of the Seine, photographed over the Grand Canyon. (TWA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

30 June 1937

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

30 June 1937. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are delayed at Lae, Territory of New Guinea.

“Everyone has been as helpful and co-operative as possible—food, hot baths, mechanical service, radio and weather reports, advice from veteran pilots here—all combine to make us wish we could stay. However, tomorrow we should be rolling down the runway, bound for points east. Whether everything to be done can be done within this time remains to be seen. If not, we cannot be home by the Fourth of July as we had hoped, even though we are one day up on the calendar of California. It is Wednesday here, but Tuesday there. On this next hop we cross the 180th Meridian, the international dateline when clocks turn back twenty-four hours.” —Amelia Earhart

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather