Today in Aviation: Maiden Flight of the Lockheed L-188 Electra
Today in Aviation

Today in Aviation: Maiden Flight of the Lockheed L-188 Electra

MIAMI – Today in Aviation, The Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprop took its first flight in 1957, two months ahead of schedule.

The aircraft was designed by the Californian plane maker Lockheed, after a request from American Airlines (AA) in 1954. The airline wanted a 75 to 100 seat domestic short to medium range airliner.

In June 1955, AA placed an order for 35 of the type. By the time of the airliner’s first flight, the order book stood at 144.

The type entered service with Eastern Airlines (EA) on January 12, 1959, after a pilot strike at AA delayed its entry-in-to-service with the launch customer. Other early customers included Braniff Airways (BN) and Northwest Airlines (NW). 

The Electra went into service with AA on January 23, 1959. (Photo: Jon Proctor (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons)

Initial Problems

However, the type’s entry into service was not plain sailing. Passengers complained about noise in the cabin. This led to the redesign of the aircraft’s engine nacelles and positioning. 

Tragically, three aircraft were then lost between February 1959 and March 1960. Two of the accidents saw the aircraft break up in mid-air.

This came as a massive blow to Lockheed. Speed restrictions were initially imposed as Lockheed implemented various design changes to the aircraft’s wing. The restrictions were lifted in 1961. 

KLM was the only European operator of the L-188 Electra flying 12 of the type between September 1959 and January 1969. (Photo: RuthAS, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Following the redesign, the Electra would go on to be a popular and reliable airliner. An upgrade came in the form of the L-188C which had improved payload range and performance.

It entered service with KLM (KL) in 1959. 170 Electra’s would be built before production ended in 1961. 

Featured image: Out of the 170 L-188 Electra’s built 55 were the longer-range -188C variant. (Photo: Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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