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Posted by David Reed on 08/29/2020

The Lockheed L10 Electra

     Back in 1926 the Lockheed Aircraft Company came into being. But in 1929 and the great depression they went bankrupt. Undeterred, in 1934 a young 35 year old man named Robert Gross was made Chairman of the Board. He had a great group of four engineers, including a young 21 year old Clarence Johnson. At this point in time, airplanes were mostly wood, and Robert Gross bet the business on creating an all-metal twin engine airplane that was low in cost and high in performance. Everything about it was unique- twin tails, twin engine (most planes at the time were single engine), all metal construction. Using the wind tunnel at the University of Michigan, the design was perfected. It was their Model 10, the Electra. 

     At the same time, the government banned any single-engine night flying with passengers, and Lockheed had the answer. Phone calls and letters flew, and over 30 airlines placed orders for the new design. Eleven US airlines bought them, and used it as the basis for all future aircraft designs. It had a crew of two, could carry ten passengers and 500 lbs of cargo for 800 miles at 180-190 mph. It could lose an engine and still fly. It was economical enough to make money. Boeing had just created the Model 247, which was similar but did not have the performance of the L-10 Electra, which made the Electra operating costs lower.

     Lockheed built 149 Electra's, compared to 75 B247's. The Douglas Aircraft Company created the DC-1 which was very similar to the B247 and L10 Electra. However, Douglas got the airlines more involved in the design and created the DC-2 which could carry 14 passengers nearly as efficiently. When the DC-3 appeared in 1936, the Electra was relegated to mostly corporate and cargo work. 

When the airlines "went legit" with safer, newer designs in the early 1930's, the Lockheed Electra, Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2 set the foundation for the future of the airline industry. Douglas won out over the next twenty years, then ran side by side with Boeing through the 1980's, eventually merging in 1997. Lockheed stayed in the airliner business with the Constellation series, continuing their record of superior record-breaking performance and operating economics. After the L188 and L1011, Lockheed turned more exclusively to military aircraft and military systems. In 1995 Lockheed merged with Martin-Marietta to form Lockheed Martin, yet it all started with a 35-year old Robert Gross, a few good designers and a college wind tunnel.


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