Tag Archives: Lockheed Airplane Company

20 March 1937: Ameilia Mary Earhart

Amelia Earhart's damaged Lockheed Electra 10E, at Luke Field, Ford Island, 20 March 1937. Earhart is standing in the open cockpit hatch. (AP/Wichita Eagle)
Amelia Earhart’s damaged Lockheed Electra 10E, at Luke Field, Ford Island, 20 March 1937. Earhart is standing in the open cockpit hatch. (AP/Wichita Eagle)

20 March 1937: After completing repairs and preparation for the second leg of her around-the-world flight—Hawaii to Howland Island—Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, was moved from Wheeler Field to Luke Field on Ford Island on 19 March to take advantage of the longer, fully paved runway.

Paul Mantz had warmed the engines at 5:00 a.m., 20 March, then shut them down. He would not be aboard for this flight. Amelia Earhart, Captain Manning and Captain Noonan boarded the Electra at 5:30 a.m. and Earhart restarted the engines. At 5:40 a.m., she began to taxi to the northeast corner of the runway. Weather was good, with a ceiling of 3,000 feet, visibility 3,500 feet in pre-dawn darkness, and wind from the south at 2 miles per hour.

At 5:53 a.m., Amelia Earhart accelerated for takeoff. A United States Army Board of Investigation report describes what happened next:

THE CRASH:

On reaching the end Miss Earhart turned and after a brief delay opened both throttles. As the airplane gathered speed it swung slightly to the right. Miss Earhart corrected this tendency by throttling the left hand motor. The airplane then began to swing to the left with increasing speed, characteristic of a ground loop. It tilted outward, right wing low and for 50 or 60 feet was supported by the right wheel only. The right-hand landing-gear suddenly collapsed under this excessive load followed by the left. The airplane spun sharply to the left on its belly amid a shower of sparks from the mat and came to rest headed about 200 degrees from its initial course. There was no fire. Miss Earhart and her crew emerged unhurt. The visible damage to the airplane was as follows:- Right wing and engine nacelle severely damaged, left engine nacelle damaged on under side, right hand rudder and end of stabilizer bent. The engines were undamaged. The oil tanks were ruptured. . . .

FINDINGS:  . . .after a run of 1200 feet the airplane crashed on the landing mat due to collapse of the landing gear as a result of an uncontrolled ground loop; the lack of factual evidence makes it impossible to establish the reason for the ground loop; that as a result of the crash the airplane was damaged to an extent requiring major overhaul. . . .

—excerpts from PROCEEDINGS OF A BOARD OF OFFICERS CONVENED TO INVESTIGATE THE CRASH OF MISS AMELIA EARHART AT LUKE FIELD, 20 MARCH 1937

The Electra was extensively damaged. There were no injuries, but the Electra was sent back to Lockheed at Burbank, California, aboard the passenger liner, SS Lurline, for repair.

At the time of the accident, NR16020 had flown 181 hours, 17 minutes, total time since new (TTSN).

Paul Mantz, who was not aboard during the crash, stands in the Electra’s cockpit. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are standing on the wing, 20 March 1937. (AP/Wichita Eagle)
Paul Mantz, who was not aboard during the crash, stands in the Electra’s cockpit. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are standing on the wing, 20 March 1937. (AP/Wichita Eagle)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 March 1931: Ruth Rowland Nichols

Ruth Rowland Nichols (1901 1960)
Ruth Rowland Nichols (1901–1960)

6 March 1931: Ruth Rowland Nichols set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Altitude Record of 8,761 meters (28,743 feet) at Jersey City Airport, New Jersey.

Nichols’ airplane was a 1928 Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special, serial number 619, registered NR496M, and owned by Powell Crosley, Jr. He had named the airplane The New Cincinnati.

Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, the Vega was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. It was flown by a single pilot and could be configured to carry four to six passengers.

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. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them. The fuselage was molded laminated plywood monocoque construction and the wing was cantilevered wood.

The Model 5 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).

Nichols’ airplane was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C, a nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It was rated at 420 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level. The engine drove a two-bladed controllable-pitch Hamilton Standard propeller through direct drive. The Wasp C 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).

FAI Record File Num #12228 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Feminine
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 8 761 m
Date: 1931-03-06
Course/Location: Jersey City Airport, NJ (USA)
Claimant Ruth Nichols (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed Vega
Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp

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

Flying the Vega, Ruth Nichols also set records for speed between New York and Los Angeles. NR496M was damaged beyond repair at Floyd Bennett Field, 11 April 1931.

“Ruth Nichols was the only woman to hold simultaneously the women’s world speed, altitude, and distance records for heavy landplanes. She soloed in a flying boat and received her pilot’s license after graduating from Wellesley College in 1924, becoming the first woman in New York to do so. Defying her parents wishes to follow the proper life of a young woman, in January 1928 she flew nonstop from New York City to Miami with Harry Rogers in a Fairchild FC-2. The publicity stunt brought Nichols fame as “The Flying Debutante” and provided headlines for Rogers’ airline too. Sherman Fairchild took note and hired Nichols as a northeast sales manager for Fairchild Aircraft and Engine Corporation. She helped to found the Long Island Aviation Country Club, an exclusive flying club and participated in the 19,312-meter (12,000-mile) Sportsman Air Tour to promote the establishment of clubs around the country. She was also a founder of Sportsman Pilot magazine. Nichols set several women’s records in 1931, among them a speed record of 339.0952 kph (210.704 mph), an altitude record of 8,760 meters (28,743 feet), and a nonstop distance record of 3182.638 kilometers (1,977.6 miles). Her hopes to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic Ocean were dashed by two crashes of a Lockheed Vega in 1931, in which she was severely injured, and again in 1932. In 1940, Nichols founded Relief Wings, a humanitarian air service for disaster relief that quickly became an adjunct relief service of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) during World War II. Nichols became a lieutenant colonel in the CAP. After the war she organized a mission in support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and became an advisor to the CAP on air ambulance missions. In 1958, she flew a Delta Dagger at 1,609 kph (1,000 mph) at an altitude of 15,544 meters (51,000 feet). A Hamilton variable pitch propeller (which allowed a pilot to select a climb or cruise position for the blades), from her Lockheed Vega is displayed in the Golden Age of Flight gallery. Nichols’ autobiography is titled Wings for Life.”

— Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Women In Aviation and Space History, The Golden Age of Flight.

Ruth Nichols with the Lockheed Model 5 Vega Special. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 February 1932: Ruth Rowland Nichols

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).¹

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 [6,507 meters] 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

Miss Teaneck had been modified. The original engine 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 Colllier Trophy was awarded to Packard for its work on this engine.

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. It used a streamlined monocoque fuselage made of molded plywood. The wing and tail surfaces were fully cantilevered, requiring no bracing wires or struts to support them.

The Vega was flown by one pilot in an open cockpit and could carry four passengers in teh cabin. It was 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet, 0 inches (12.497 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 2 inches (2.489 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 1,875 pounds (851 kilograms) and a gross weight of 3,470 pounds (1,574 kilograms).

The early Vegas were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright J-5C Whirlwind nine-cylinder radial engine producing 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 225 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. This was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller. The Wright J-5C was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

The Vega had a cruising speed of 118 miles per hour (190 kilometers per hour) and atop speed of 138 miles per hour (222 kilometers per hour)—very fast for its time. The airplane’s range was 900 miles (1,448.4 kilometers). It could fly at an altitude 15,000 feet (4,572 meters).

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

¹ Virtually every source located by TDiA states that Ruth Nichols established an altitude record with this flight. Many state that it was a “world altitude record” and many also say that this record “still stands today.” A check with the National Aeronautics Association did not find such a record. Also, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale lists three world records credited to Ruth Nichols. This is flight is not listed. A very few sources called this an “unofficial record.”

At least one contemporary newspaper report indicated that Nichols reached an altitude of 21,300 feet (6,492 meters), and another says 21,350 feet (6,507 meters).

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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24–25 August 1932: Amelia Mary Earhart

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega after her record-setting solo nonstop flight across North America, 25 August 1932. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
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. He average speed for the flight was 206.42 kilometers per hour (128.27 miles per hour). She 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.

FAI Record File Num #12342 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Feminine
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Distance in a straight line without landing
Performance: 3 939.25 km
Date: 1932-08-25
Course/Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA) – New York, NY (USA)
Claimant Amelia Earhart (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed Vega
Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney Wasp C

A small crowd gathers around Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Model 5B Vega at Newark Municipal 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 3,200 pounds (1,451.5 kilograms). The airplane is powered by a 1,344-cubic-inch-displacement (22 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt and Whitney R-1340C Wasp 9-cylinder radial engine producing 500 horsepower.

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

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 July 1935: Laura Houghtaling Ingalls

Laura Ingalls in the cockpit of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, warming up its engine at Floyd Bennett Field, 10 July 1935. (Rudy Arnold)
Laura Ingalls in the cockpit of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, warming up its engine at Floyd Bennett Field, 10 July 1935. (Rudy Arnold)

11 July 1935: At 4:31 a.m., Laura Houghtaling Ingalls (1901–1967) took off from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, and flew non-stop across the continent to to Union Air Terminal, Burbank, California. Her airplane was a single-engine Lockheed Model 9D Orion, registration NR14222, which she had named Auto da Fé (“act of faith” or “act of penance”). Ingalls was the first woman to fly across the country from East to West. The elapsed time of the flight was 18 hours, 19 minutes, 30 seconds.

Laura Ingalls had taken delivery of the Orion 9D Special at Lockheed, Burbank, California, five months earlier. Contemporary newspaper reports said that the “Black Mystery Ship” cost $45,000. The Model 9 Orion was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane, designed in 1931 for airline use and was capable of carrying six passengers in an enclosed cabin. The Orion was the first commercial airliner with retractable landing gear and was faster than any military airplane in service at the beginning of the decade. Like other Lockheed aircraft of the time, it was constructed of strong, light-weight, molded plywood, but the Orion was Lockheed’s last wooden airplane.

Billy Parker, Laura Ingalls and Wiley Post at the 1935 National Air Races. Ingall’s Lockheed Orion, NR14222, Auto da Fé, has its engine cowling removed for maintenance. (Monash University)
Billy Parker, Laura Ingalls and Wiley Post at the 1935 National Air Races. Ingall’s Lockheed Orion, NR14222, Auto da Fé, has its engine cowling removed for maintenance. (Monash University)

The Lockheed Orion 9D was 28 feet, 4 inches (8.64 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¼ inches (13.04 meters) and height of 9 feet, 8 inches (2.95 meters). It had an empty weight of 3,640 pounds (1,651 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 5,200 pounds (2,359 kilograms).  Auto da Fé was powered by a 1,343.8-cubic-inch-displacement (22.01 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt and Whitney Wasp R-1340-S1D1 9-cylinder radial engine producing 550 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. and 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), driving a two-bladed Hamilton propeller. The cruise speed was 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. It had a range of 750 miles (1,159 kilometers) in standard configuration. The service ceiling was 22,000 feet (6,705 meters). Ingall’s airplane carried 630 gallons (2,384.8 liters) of gasoline and 40 gallons (151.4 liters) of engine oil. NR14222 was equipped with a Sperry Gyro Pilot and a Westport radio compass and receiver for navigation.

After departing Floyd Bennett Field, Ingalls flew along a commercial airway marked with radio beacons. Her route of flight was from Brooklyn, New York to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—Columbus, Ohio—Indianapolis, Indiana—Kansas City, Missouri—Albuquerque, New Mexico—Burbank, California. This was only the third time that a non-stop transcontinental flight had been accomplished.

Laura H. Ingalls stands in front of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, in this personally inscribed photograph. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Laura H. Ingalls stands in front of her Lockheed Orion 9D Special, NR14222, in this personally inscribed photograph. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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