Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 43

The first Vega, Golden Eagle, being
prepared for the Dole Air Race, August 1927.
Photo: SDASM

Oakland to join the race and was favored
to win the Dole prize. On race day, it took
off, headed out over the Pacific and was
never seen again. (See the Aviation History
column, The Pineapple Derby, in Jetrader,
Winter 2014 issue.)

Vegas Capture the Market
The loss of the Golden Eagle did not
dampen enthusiasm for the Vega, and a
total of 129 Vegas were produced over the
next few years. Many were sold to airlines
while some, despite the Great Depression,
were bought by corporations and wealthy
individuals. Many Vegas were entered in
races and won, leading to the slogan, "It
takes a Lockheed to beat a Lockheed."
A few of the most memorable flights:
Hubert Wilkins (later to become Sir
Hubert) flew Vega No. 4 on skis in the
first trans-Arctic flight from Alaska to
Spitzbergen, and later flew the same aircraft on survey flights in Antarctica.
Vega No. 5 was the first aircraft to fly
nonstop U.S. transcontinental going east
and later going west.
Amelia Earhart flew at least six different Vegas, setting many speed records, as
well as a solo flight in a bright red Vega in
which she became the first woman to pilot
an aircraft across the Atlantic.
In 1931, Wiley Post and Harold Gatty flew
Vega No. 122, named The Winnie Mae, on an
around-the-world, 14-stop flight in eight
days, 15 hours (the old record was 175 days).
In 1933, Post flew the same aircraft solo
around the world in seven days, 18 hours.

the belief was that the engine cylinder
heads had to be almost fully exposed to
the propeller slipstream in order to be
cooled properly, even though this arrangement caused a great deal of drag. In 1926
NACA, the National Advisory Committee on
Aeronautics (the forerunner of NASA), had
constructed a wind tunnel large enough to
hold a full-scale aircraft. In the tunnel,
they set up a Sperry Messenger aircraft with
a radial engine that could be powered as
though in flight and instrumented to record
the aircraft drag and the cooling efficiency
of different cowlings, all while the tunnel
was running at about 100 mph.
With outside air entering around the
propeller hub, and with baffles to control
the airflow, a fully enclosed cowling was
designed that not only provided better
cooling than the naked cylinders, it reduced
the engine drag by a factor of almost three,
resulting in a substantial "free" increase
in speed capability. Hypothetically, if
Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis had had a NACA
cowling in 1927, it could have reached Paris
five hours sooner.
The NACA cowl became the standard configuration for all-new Lockheed Vegas, and
many of the Vegas already in service were
converted to the configuration as well.
The next important innovation was the
variable pitch propeller, the 1933 Collier
Trophy achievement by Hamilton Standard,
and again quickly being applied to the
Vega fleet.

Cousins of the Vega
Most of the Lockheed Vegas were more
or less individually hand-made to order, so
very few were identical to others. All of them
used Jack Northrop's monocoque fuselage
and cantilever wings, but some variants were
so different that new names were assigned.

New Technologies

Lockheed Air Express

From the beginning, the Vega was on
the leading edge of new technology. Jack
Northrop's wooden monocoque structure is
just one example, as were the wings with
no external bracing. The metal propeller
was a new innovation that had won the
Collier Trophy in 1925, and the radial engine
configuration earned the trophy in 1927.
Both of these were used on the Vega.
The "NACA cowling" was the 1929 Collier
Trophy innovation adopted for the Vega.
When the radial engine was introduced,

The Air Express was a mail and passenger
transport designed for Western Air Express.
Western's pilots preferred an open cockpit,
located aft of the wing, well back from
the engine. Eight Air Express models were
manufactured, but Western Air Express took
only one of them. Unhappily, it crashed
on its inaugural flight from Los Angeles
to Las Vegas.
The most famous Air Express model was
one sold to the Gilmore Oil Company and
used for publicity flights by race pilot

Vega Winnie Mae, flown around the world
twice by Wiley Post, 1931 & 1933, the first
aircraft to use the NACA engine cowling.
Photo: National Air & Space Museum.

Roscoe Turner. Turner's pet lion cub (named
Gilmore) went along on many flights until
he became too large to handle. The airplane
(named the Gilmore Lion) won many races
and set several records before being retired.

Lockheed Explorer
The Explorer model was a Vega version
with an aft cockpit like the Air Express, but
with an extra-long wing mounted under
the fuselage rather than on top. Only four
Explorers were sold, and all were unlucky.
Three were built for successive tries to fly
nonstop between Japan and the U.S., and
each one crashed during early test flying.
The fourth one also crashed in early test
flights, was repaired, and made the first
nonstop flight from New York to Panama.
It crashed again, and was rebuilt yet again.
Fitted with pontoons, it finally crashed
near Point Barrow, Alaska, killing veteran
pilot Wiley Post and America's beloved
humorist Will Rogers.

Lockheed Sirius
Having test-flown more than one Vega,
Charles Lindbergh requested a special custom-made version of the Explorer, which
he named Sirius. It would have a smaller
wing, with more dihedral to improve the
handling characteristics. It would also have
two open cockpits in tandem aft of the
wing. Although after a few flights, Anne
Morrow Lindbergh suggested a long sliding
canopy enclosing both cockpit positions
so she and her husband could more easily
communicate while in flight.

Lindy and Anne in their tandem, open-cockpit
Lockheed Sirius. Photo: SDASM.
Jetrader  *  Winter 2015 43


Jetrader - Winter 2015

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 - cover1
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - cover2
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 3
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 4
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 5
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 6
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - A Message from the President
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 8
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 9
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - Calendar/News
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 11
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - Q&A: John Grant, Senior Analyst, OAG
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 13
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 14
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 15
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - ISTAT Europe: A High-Flying Success
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 17
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 18
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 19
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 20
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 21
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 22
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 23
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 24
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 25
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 26
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 27
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - The ISTAT Quarterback
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 29
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 30
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 31
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - State of the Regions: Asia & Middle East
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 33
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - Old Guys Rule
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 35
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 36
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 37
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - ISTAT Foundation Sponsors Herb Kelleher Trophy
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 39
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - Trend Watching
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 41
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - Aviation History
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 43
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 44
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - Aircraft Appraisals
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 46
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - ISTAT Foundation
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 48
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - 49
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - Advertiser Index
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - cover3
Jetrader - Winter 2015 - cover4