Jetrader - Winter 2015 - (Page 42)

aviation history The Lockheed Vega O By Jack Feir Overview In the seven-year period between 1927 and 1934, an upstart company in Burbank, California, developed a family of sleek, powerful aircraft that captured countless records for speed and distance flown. But these were not stripped-down, one-trick ponies that flew fast. They had roomy, comfortable cabins that could carry four to six passengers or a ton of mail. And their roots began much earlier. Shaky Beginnings In the beginning, there were three Loughead brothers: Victor, Malcolm and Allan, living in San Francisco. (Loughead, pronounced "Lockheed," has Scots-Irish origins). Victor was the academic one, educated as an engineer, while Malcolm and Allan were skilled auto mechanics who were itching to get into aviation. In 1912, the brothers designed and built their first aircraft, the Model G, so named to imply that it was their seventh design. It had all the grace and charm of an overgrown box kite. This fabric-covered biplane was a forest of struts and a tangle of wire rigging, but Allan, a "self-taught pilot," managed to fly it. The aircraft earned some money offering 10-minute joyrides at $10 a head, but not one Model G was sold, and the brothers went back to their day jobs. Their second venture began as Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company, bringing forward a huge, twin-engined, 10-seat flying boat designated the F-1, unveiled in 1918. Among their employees was a young architectural draughtsman, John "Jack" Northrop, who did the stress analysis. Like the Model G, the F1 ended its days offering slow and steady joyrides to tourists and earning income from commercial charters. Not one F-1 was sold. With the end of World War I in 1918, the company expected a booming demand for a "poor man's airplane" in every garage. Thus was born the S-1 "Sport," a sleek, singleseat biplane. Unlike many other aircraft of its day with their flimsy, fabric-covered fuselages, the S-1 used a molded monocoque, wooden-shell construction process patented by Northrop and the Loughead brothers. The fuselage was made in just two half-shell pieces, using glued-up strips of spruce plywood formed under pressure in a hollow concrete mold. When the two pieces were joined, it was stiff, strong and beautifully streamlined. With its twocylinder, water-cooled, 25-hp motor cleanly tucked into the nose, the S-1 could cruise at the blinding speed of 75 mph. But nobody bought one. In those days, barnstormers could buy brand new, war surplus Curtiss Jennys still in their original shipping crates for only $350. There was no market for the S-1. Having launched three airplane projects, none of which went into production, it was time to move on. The company was liquidated in 1921. Malcolm Loughead founded the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Company (having tired of being called "Log-Head," he used the phonetic spelling "Lockheed"). Allan became the California distributor for Malcolm's company and sold real estate in Los Angeles, and Jack Northrop found employment with Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica. After a rift among the three Loughead brothers, Victor was no longer involved with their airplane projects. The Rebirth Although Allan Loughead and Jack Northrop had gone their separate ways, they kept in touch and got together frequently to sketch out ideas for another airplane. In the 1920s, the Wright Whirlwind radial engine was being perfected. Northrop roughed out plans for an aircraft larger than the S1 Sport but keeping the monocoque fuselage construction, with room for a pilot up front and a four-passenger cabin below 42 The official publication of the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading The one and only Loughead S-1 Sport biplane fabricated in 1919. The fuselage construction method reappeared in the Vega eight years later. Photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum (SDASM). and aft of the cockpit, powered by the Whirlwind engine. In December 1926, a white-knight investor named Fred Keeler saw Northrop's sketches. Those ideas, along with Allan's enthusiasm and the name-recognition of Malcom's Lockheed brake business, inspired Keeler to put up the seed money to launch the Lockheed Aircraft Company. Allan was named vice president and Jack Northrop became chief engineer. A factory was set up in Hollywood (later moved to Burbank), and a team of carpenters was hired to build the new streamlined wooden airplane. Northrop named it the "Vega." Off to the Races A few months later, the first Vega was sold before it even came out of the factory. In May 1927, Charles Lindbergh had made his New York-to-Paris flight and suddenly aviation was booming. James Dole's Hawaiian Pineapple Company offered a $25,000 prize for a race from the mainland to Hawaii to be held in August. George Hearst, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, bought Vega number 1 and entered it in the race for the publicity value. On the fourth of July 1927, the Vega, christened Golden Eagle, was rolled out and began its test flying. It was fast. Golden Eagle set a speed record on the ferry flight from Los Angeles to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Jetrader - Winter 2015

A Message from the President
Q&A: John Grant, Senior Analyst, OAG
ISTAT Europe: A High-Flying Success
The ISTAT Quarterback
State of the Regions: Asia & Middle East
Old Guys Rule
ISTAT Foundation Sponsors Herb Kelleher Trophy
Trend Watching
Aviation History
Aircraft Appraisals
ISTAT Foundation
Advertiser Index

Jetrader - Winter 2015