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
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.
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.
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 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 were converted by Lockheed Aircraft Service for convertible passenger/cargo or all-cargo use.
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.
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 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.
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 (ca. 5,7m) the addition of two sections, the first in front of the wing spar, and the second part behind the wing. Still powered by the Curtiss Wright R-3350 engines installed in 1945, the prototype made its first flight on October 13, 1950. After twenty-two hours of flight testing, the vertical stabilizers were enlarged by eighteen inches to increase directional stability.
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 first Tristar was finally delivered to Eastern Airlines on April 26, 1972.
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.
The JetStar originated as a private project within Lockheed, with an eye to winning a United States Air Force (USAF) requirement that was later dropped due to budget cuts. Lockheed decided to continue the project on its 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. The second of these was also equipped with the wing-mounted "slipper tanks", which was originally to be an option. Lockheed attempted to arrange a contract to produce the Orpheus in the US, but when these negotiations failed it re-engined the second prototype with four Pratt & Whitney JT12s in 1959. The outer engines were mounted beside the inner ones, an arrangement that was later used on the Vickers VC10 and Ilyushin Il-62. The slipper tanks were removed and placed on the first prototype.
Noise regulations in the United States and high fuel consumption led to the development of the 731 JetStar, a modification program which added new Garrett TFE731 turbofan engines with a number of detail changes. It has redesigned larger external fuel tanks that sit with their upper surfaces flush with the wing, rather than being centered on it. The cockpit area has a somewhat more "modern" looking nose and window arrangement. The 731 JetStar modification program was so successful that Lockheed produced 40 new JetStars, designated the JetStar II, from 1976 to 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.