Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation prototype during take off, Lockheed Archives

Lockheed's first major move towards becoming a significant manufacturer of transport aircraft came with design of the Lockheed 10 Electra. Providing accommodation for 10 passengers, the Electra was a cantilever low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, with retractable tailwheel landing gear and a tail unit incorporating twin fins and rudders. Powered Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior SBs, the prototype was flown for the first time on 23 February 1934, and was followed by 148 production aircraft. The Electra entered service during 1934, initially with Northwest Airlines, and in the late 1930s was used by eight Amrican operators. By the time that the USA became involved in World War II, however, few remained in national airline service for the rapid growth in air travel had already shown these small-capacity aircraft to be uneconomical. In addition to those built for the home market, Electras were exported to Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, USSR, UK, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. Small numbers also saw service in the Spanish Civil War and with the outbreak of World War II the type was impressed for service with the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force. The L.10s were also used for corporate transports, and for long distance flights, most notably that of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, who vanished without trace crossing the Pacific during their world flight of 1937. Use of the Electra by small civil operators continued after the war, as it was cheap to buy and operate, but few remained in service after the late 1960s.    

N18137 Lockheed L-10 Electra 1 TWA, Zoggavia Collection

1943 - Lockheed C-69 / L-049 Constellation

OH-VKU Lockheed L-18 Lodestar Kar-Air Finland at Helsinki July 1972, Zoggavia Collection

Court's Lockheed L-1011 Tristar in the final assembly hall , Zoggavia Collection

In order to speed up development, the first Constellation, c/n 1961, was purchased from Howard Hughes in May 1950 for $100,000 and modified as the Super Constellation prototype with the fuselage lengthened by 18ft 7 by the addition of two sections, the first in front of the wing spar, and the second part behind the wing. Still powered by the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engines installed in 1945, the prototype made its first flight on October 13, 1950. After twenty-two hours of flight testing, R-3350 engines were installed and the vertical stabilizers were enlarged by eighteen inches to increase directional stability. 

1946 - Lockheed l-749 Constellation

 1956 - Lockheed L-1649A Starliner

NC105W Lockheed Vega Winnie Mae, Zoggavia Collection

​​1957 - Lockheed L-1329 Jetstar​

Design and development of the Lockheed 18 Lodestar began as a result of the poor sales achievement of the Lockheed 14 Super Electra, the prototype being flown for the first time on 21 September 1939. Converted from a Super Electra, it differed primarily by having the fuselage lengthened by 1.68m to provide accommodation for 15 to 18 passengers, depending upon the other facilities provided; some were produced with high-density bench seating for a maximum of 26 passengers, and were available with a variety of engines by Pratt & Whitney and Wright. Despite the improved economy demonstrated by the Lodestar, Lockheed failed again to achieve worthwhile sales in the United States as most operators were committed to purchase DC-3s from the Douglas Company. Fortunately, the type appealed more to export customers, with airlines or government agencies in Africa, Brazil, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the UK and Venezuela ordering a total of 96 aircraft. There was only limited military interest before the beginning of World War II, but later procurement, particularly by the US Army Air Force, raised the total of Lodestars built by Lockheed to 625 before production ended. Unlike the Hudson, the Lodestar has no record of stirring action but, nevertheless, the type was able to fulfill an important medium-range transport role. Only small numbers saw post-war service, mostly with small operators, but a number of interesting conversions as executive transports were carried out in the USA by companies like Howard Aero and Lear Inc.   top of page

The type entered service on the New York Miami route with Eastern on 15 December 1951, followed by TWA in September the following year. Total number of L-1049 built 24.      

The design of the Lockheed L-188 Electra began in 1954, and in the following year the company received a launching order from American Airlines. The prototype, first flown on 6 December 1957, was a low-wing monoplane of conventional configuration with retractable tricycle landing gear and powered by four Allison 501D-13, 501D-13A or 501D-15 turboprop engines. Standard accommodation was for 66 to 80 passengers, but a high-density arrangement was available optionally to seat 98. Built initially as the L-188 A the Electra became available also as the longer-range L-188C with increased fuel capacity and operating at a higher gross weight. A total of 170 had been built when production ended unexpectedly early as a result of passenger loss of confidence in the type after two had disintegrated in flight, and by the time remedial modifications had been, incorporated customer airlines were interested in turbojet- rather than turboprop-powered aircraft. Many of them where converted by Lockheed Aircraft Service for convertible passenger/cargo or all-cargo use. 

1927 - Lockheed Vega 

​​​1957 - Lockheed L-188 Electra

The Lockheed L-1011 Tristar was the third widebody passenger jet airliner to reach the marketplace, following the Boeing 747 "jumbo jet" and the Douglas DC-10. In the 1960s, American Airlines approached Lockheed and competitor Douglas with a need for an aircraft smaller than the existing 747, but still capable of flying to distant locales such as London, the Caribbean, and Latin America from company hubs in Dallas/Ft Worth and New York. Lockheed answered the call with the Tristar. Ironically, American Airlines never flew the "Ten Eleven," purchasing many DC-10s instead. First flown on November 16, 1970, the twin-aisle Tristar was considered a technological marvel of its day, featuring low noise emissions, improved reliability, and efficient operation. The main visible difference between the Tristar and DC-10 is in the middle/tail engine; the DC-10's engine is external for more power, while the Tristar's engine is integrated into the tail through an S-duct (similar to the Boeing 727) for improved quietness and stability. Although the Tristar's design schedule closely followed that of its fierce competitor, the DC-10, Douglas beat Lockheed to market by a year due to delays in power plant development. Rolls-Royce, the maker of the Tristar's RB211 turbofan engines, had filed for bankruptcy, halting L-1011 final assembly. The British government did not approve the large state subsidy used to restart Rolls-Royce operations until after the U.S. government had guaranteed the Lockheed loans previously provided to Rolls for the extensive engine contract. (The UK Government also took the contentious step (for a Conservative administration) of taking the aero-engine side of RR into public ownership, to maintain national defense capability). The first Tristar was finally delivered to Eastern Airlines on April 26, 1972. 

The Lockheed Constellation series of aircraft was a successful design that initially began as a militarized transport, appearing in limited numbers towards the end of World War 2, that gained more fame in the civilian transport airliner role soon after. The system was based on the military concept of long-range transport and refined design, incorporating various elements into the fold that would produce one of Lockheed's most memorable models. Initial models were flown as early as 1943 though the end of the war saw just 22 examples delivered for military use. It must be said that the Constellation's performance was up to expectations, the plane reached a speed of 347mph... the same as the best fighters of the period. An order for 150 C-69C given by the USAF at the beginning of 1945 was canceled with the end of the war in the Pacific in September of the same year. At their height the orders had reached 260 Connies, a figure which was reduced first to 73 before in the end the supply contracts were all canceled. In all 22 examples of C-69 were made for the USAF in two batches; the last seven aircraft were directly sold to civilian operators.   

The L1649A Starliner was the outgrowth of the L1469/L1569 turboprop designs studied by Lockheed but never produced. Development of the L1649A began in May 1955 and was Lockheed’s response to the long range Douglas DC-7C that went into service in June 1956. The Starliner incorporated a totally new wing design, 3,400 hp –EA2 turbo compound engines and a fuel capacity of 9,000 gallons giving it a range of over 5,000 miles. The first flight of the prototype was October 10, 1956 with TWA introducing the L1649A on its North Atlantic service on June 1, 1957. Sadly, this superb aircraft was developed too late and was quickly overshadowed by the early jets with only forty-four being produced. TWA was the largest operator with twenty-nine aircraft with Lufthansa and Air France also taking delivery of new aircraft. Most were out of front-line passenger service in the beginning of the 60s with a number being converted to freighters and many going to second-tier operators and travel clubs. C/n 1018 is under restoration at Auburn-Lewiston Airport by Lufthansa. Expected completion date is planned by 2018. 

LLockheed C-140 Jetstar Nasa, Nasa Archives

Lockheed L-1011 Tristar prototype , Zoggavia Collection

Designs by type of aircraft

L-10 Electra
L-18 Lodestar
L-049 Constellation
L-749 Constellation
L-1049 Constellation
L-1049C Constellation (1st civil Turbo-Compund engine version)
L-1329 Jetstar
L-1649 Starliner
L-188 Electra II
L-1011 Tristar

The Lockheed Vega classic airplane received accolades when it was introduced in 1927. While the fabric-covered Spirit of St. Louis was conventional in every way, particularly in its strut-braced wing and landing gear, Jack Northrop would break new ground with his magnificent design of the Vega. The Lockheed Vega, which first flew on July 4, 1927, at the crest of the Lindbergh euphoria, was an all-wood, high-cantilever monoplane with a beautiful streamlined monocoque fuselage (stress carried by the outer skin). It receiv­­ed immediate acclaim for its outstanding looks and high performance, and was purchased by George Hearst to compete in the ill-fated Dole Race from Oakland to Haw­aii. Beautifully painted and named the Golden Eagle, the first Vega classic airplane and its crew of two disappeared at sea. The sheer performance of the aircraft brought orders from the most famous pilots in the world. The Vega became the aircraft of choice for Arctic exploration, ocean flights, airline use, and attempts to break aviation records. Wiley Post, the clever, one-eyed pilot from the Oklahoma oil fields, made his Vega, the Winnie Mae famous in a pair of record-setting around-the-world flights. The first was in company with Harold Gatty as navigator, and the second was solo. Post also used the Winnie Mae for some radically experimental high-altitude work. Amelia Earhart used a bright red Vega to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic in 1932. She later set other records in a Vega, including the first Hawaii-to-United States flight.   

Lockheed L-188 Elcetra II KLM, zoggavia collection

 1953 - Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation

The Jetstar originated as a private project within Lockheed, with an eye to winning a USAF requirement that was later dropped due to budget cuts. Lockheed decided to continue the project on their own for the business market. The first two prototypes were equipped with two Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engines, the first of these flying on 4 September 1957. Lockheed attempted to arrange a contract to produce the Orpheus locally in the US, but when these negotiations failed they re-engined the second prototype, N329K, with four P&W JT12 in 1959. The JT12 fit proved successful and was selected for the production versions, the first of which flew in mid 1960.These versions entered commercial service in 1961. Noise regulations in the US and high fuel consumption led to the development of the 731 Jetstar, a modification program which added new Garrett AirResearch TFE731 Turbofan engines and redesigned external fuel tanks to original Jetstars. The 731 Jetstar modification program was so successful that Lockheed produced 40 new Jetstars, designated the Jetstar II, from 1976 through 1979. The Jetstar IIs were factory new aircraft with the turbofan engines and revised external fuel tanks. Both 731 Jetstars and Jetstar IIs have greatly increased range, reduced noise, and better runway performance compared to the original Jetstars. Jetstar production totaled 204 aircraft by final delivery in 1978.  

XA-MEW Lockheeed L-749 Constellation Aeronaves de Mexico, Zoggavia Collection

​​​1970 - Lockheed L-1011 Tristar

The L-649 and L-749 were the first true commercial Constellations and received their type certificate in March 1947. Essentially an iterative development of the L049 with more than 50% re-designed parts, the type certificate was an “add-on” to the L-049 certificate. Delivery of the first L-649 went to Eastern Airlines in May 1947 with Air France receiving the first L-749 a month earlier in April 1947. The L-749 was essentially a L-649 with an additional 1,130 gallons of fuel for longer range. Only fourteen L-649’s and six L-649A’s were produced for Eastern and Chicago and Southern. Most aircraft were upgraded to L-749A standards sometime during their lifetime. A total of 89 L-649s & 749's were built.   

1950 - Lockheed l-1049 Constellation

1938: Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar

1934 - Lockheed model 10 electra

Lockheed L-1649A Starliner - Jetstream TWA,  Lockheed Archives

PP-PDP Lockheeed L-049 Constellation Panair Do Brasil, Zoggavia Collection

PH-LKW Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation KLM, zoggavia collection

Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation in TWA colors over the Grand Canyon, Lockheed Archives

Designed for a maximum seating of 400 passengers, the Tristar utilized a new engine layout: in addition to Rolls-Royce turbofan jet engines on each wing, a third engine was located dorsally below the vertical stabilizer. Manufactured in Lockheed facilities in Palmdale, California, the Tristar faced brisk competition with the Boeing 747 and, even more directly, the Douglas (later McDonnell Douglas) DC-10/MD-10, which it closely resembled. The Tristar had a better safety record than the DC-10, and Trans World Airlines heralded the Tristar as one of the safest airplanes in the world in some of its promotional literature in the 1980s when concern over the safety record of the DC-10, which was flown by most of its competitors, was at its peak. However, the DC-10 outsold the Tristar nearly two to one, partly because of its delayed introduction. A longer-range variant of the standard-length L-1011 was developed in the late 1970s. Designated the L-1011-500, the fuselage length was shortened by 14 feet (4.3 m) to accommodate higher fuel loads.

Lockheed manufactured a total of 250 Tristar's, ceasing production in 1984. Lockheed needed to sell 500 planes to break even. Failing to achieve profitability in the civilian airliner sector, the Tristar was to be Lockheed's last commercial aircraft. Airlines played Douglas and Lockheed off each other, driving the prices of both planes down, and the end result was Douglas' merger with McDonnell (later bought by Boeing) and Lockheed's departure from the commercial aircraft business.