DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the Lockheed Model 10 Electra took to the skies for the first time in 1934. US Test pilot Marshall Headle was at the controls.
The twin-engined monoplane was designed in the early 1930s to compete with the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2. The airliner could carry ten passengers over 1,300 km (700 nautical miles).
Designed by Lloyd Stearman and Hall Hibbard, the Model 10 Electra went through extensive wind tunnel testing. Aeronautical engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson carried out this testing at the University of Michigan after joining Lockheed in 1933.
Johnson was concerned about control and stability issues with the airliner, Lockheed’s first all-metal and first twin-engined airframe. The vertical tail fin was replaced with a twin tail and rudder design. This later became a Lockheed trademark seen on many aircraft designs, including the Constellation. Johnson would become the plane-makers Chief Engineer and one of the world’s leading aircraft designers.
The type found a market with several civilian airliners, including KLM (KL), Qantas (QF) and Pan American World Airways (PA). But in a bid to attract more customers, Lockheed approached aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart to see if she wished to use the Model 10 in her 29,000 mile round the world flight.
Lockheed adapted the plane to fly long distances between fuel stops. Special fuel tanks were added so that the Model 10 could carry 1,200 gallons of fuel instead of the standard 200.
Tragically Earhart never completed the epic journey. On July 2, 1937, she disappeared somewhere over the Pacific with her navigator, Fred Noonan.
Featured image: Delta Air Lines operated 6 of the type which became the flagship of the airline in the late 1930s. Photo: Delta Museum.