The introduction of the small Lockheed airliners in the mid-1930s pulled the company back from the brink of penury, and set the Burbank-based manufacturer on the road to recovery. When war came, the shortage of patrol bombers and fast transports immediately became apparent and Lockheed grasped the opportunity with both hands.
By 1932 the Lockheed company was on the brink of financial disaster, with the federal receiver valuing the company’s assets at a mere $129,961 and putting it up for sale. While founder Allan Loughead sought cash to buy his old concern, broker and banker Robert Ellsworth Gross snapped up the almost defunct aviation company for a fabled $40,000. Like many other entrepreneurs, Gross knew little of the intimate aspects of aeronautical engineering, but possessed a sound business mind and a growing fascination with the new wave of commercial air transports that daily plied the US domestic air space. With well measured consideration Gross predicted that the company’s future lay not in the production of mail- planes, or even in the military field, but in the development of fast and relatively small commuter and feederliner aircraft with an eventual eye to challenging the dominance of the new Boeing and Douglas aircraft. Gross brought with him Hall Hibbard, a young Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeronautical engineer, who, with Lloyd Stearman, started to work on various designs that might be able to gain an entry into a difficult and demanding market, but it was Gross who steered the project on to the lines of a small, all-metal, twin- engine commercial transport. The design team was joined by George Prudden and James Gerschler, and later by C. L. ‘Kelly’ Johnson, who gave an early display of his brilliance by solving the wind-tunnel asymmetry problems of the new Lockheed design, now known as the Model L-10.
Roll-out for the Lockheed Model L-10 Electra took place on 23 February 1934. It was a beautiful little twin-engine aircraft, resplendent in glistening polished natural aluminium. Power came from two 336-kW (450-hp) Pratt & Whitney R-985-SB radials, cabin and crew seats numbered 12, empty weight was 2928 kg (6,454 lb), and the gross weight was 4672 kg (10,300 lb). Tests gave a maximum speed of 325 km/h (202 mph), and a spanking maximum continuous cruising speed of 306 km/h (190 mph). After exhaustive tests the prototype L-10 Electra was flown by Marshall Headle to Mines Field, Los Angeles, for FAA certification which was granted a few weeks later. On the return to Burbank a heart-stopping incident took place. Up to the time of the L-10’s first flight Lockheed had gone into debt for $139,404 for its development, and as its priceless prototype, newly certificated, made its approach all attempts by the crew to lower one of the main wheels ended in stubborn failure: only a skilfully-handled one-wheel landing at nearby Union Air Terminal by pilot Headle, with minimal damage to the Electra, prevented a major lay-off of the work force and the renewal of financial straits. There the matter rested. Sales of the Model L-10 Electra rocketed, with examples going to Mid-Continent Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Northeast Airlines, Cia Nacional Cubana, Pan American Airways, Panairdo Brasil, Braniff Airways, National Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, Chicago and Southern, LAV (Venezuela), LOT (Poland), LARES (Romania), AEROPUT (Yugoslavia), LAN-Chile, and to a host of private buyers including Amelia Earhart. An L-10 Electra was the seventh Lockheed aircraft successfully to fly the Atlantic Ocean when Dick Merill and John Lambie flew NR16055 on a round-trip to London to collect photos of King George VI’s coronation in 1937. Also that year, somewhere in the Pacific ocean wastes between Lae, New Guinea and Howland Island, aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator disappeared for ever during a record attempt in their L-10 Electra. A total of 149 L-10s was built and delivered between 29June 1934 and 18 July 1941, and many saw military service in the RCAF and Argentine navy, and with the US Army, US Navy and US Coast Guard designated as C-36, C-37, R20 and R30 sub-types.
Bigger and better
The interim Model L-12 Electra Junior was taken into the air for the first time by Marshall Headle at 1212 on 27June 1936, exactly on the scheduled time. By now business was booming, with Lockheed getting $2 million worth of orders in the previous year. Price-tagged at $40,000 the Model L-12, with six-seat capacity, was aimed squarely at the business and commuter markets, and in fact was a scaled-down version of its predecessor with two Pratt & Whitney R-985-SB radials. Grossing 3924 kg (8,650 lb), the Electra Junior’s top speed was 362 km/h (225 mph) and service ceiling 6800 m (22,300 ft). Its performance and handling qualities exceeded those of the majority of contemporary fighters, and it became another good seller. Several records fell to the Model L-12, including a new route average of 388 km/h (210 mph) by test pilot E. C. McLead, despite four fuel stops, from Amsterdam to India on a delivery flight of a L-12 for the Maharaja of Jodhpur. A total of 130 Model L-12s was built before work stopped in mid-1942.
Incorporating many of the latest aviation developments, the larger and more powerful Lockheed Model L-14 Super Electra took to the air for the first time on 29 June 1937. New features on this 14-seat aircraft included use of 24SRT duralumin, high-speed aerofoil (NACA 23018 and 23009 at root and tip respectively), single main spar, and high wing loading, massive Lockheed-Fowler flaps, and two of the latest Wright Cyclone engines, the GR-1820-G3B. With an empty weight of4854 kg (10,700 lb) and a gross of 7938 kg (17,500lb), the new L-14 had a top speed of 414 km/h (257 mph): its cruising speed was some 48 km/h (30 mph) faster than that of any other commercial transport in the United States and, at a cruise speed of 381 km/h (237 mph), the Super Electra cut the West Coast-New York flight time of the Douglas DC-3 by four hours. Such was the reputation of the company that even before roll-out over 30 L-14s were on the order book, and the aircraft itself was soon to justify all expectations. Millionaire Howard Hughes purchased a Model L-14, and increased tankage from the normal 3438 to 6980 litres (644 to 1,844 US gal) for a round-the-world record attempt. Departing from New York on 10 July 1938, Hughes and his crew flew via Paris, Moscow, Yakutsk, Fairbanks and Minneapolis to land at Floyd Bennett Field after a 23670-km (14,709-mile) flight achieved within the time of three days, 17 hours, 14 minutes and 10 seconds. The 112 Model L-14s are remembered today as the progenitors of what was to be one of Lockheed’s most successful warplanes. Licence production of the L-14 in Japan amounted to 64 by Tachikawa and 55 by Kawasaki.
Enter the Hudson
To the United States in April 1938 came the British Purchasing Commission in search of good-quality American aircraft to bolster the strength of the Royal Air Force in its preparation for an inevitable war: the mission had $25 million with which to acquire its finds. At that time Lockheed engaged only 2,000 workers, and had eschewed the design of military types in favour of the commercial market. But in 10 days of frantic labour the concern had cobbled together some- thing that might whet the appetites of the commission: this was nothing other than a mockup of a Model L-14 provided with bomb- bay, bomb-aimer’s panel and nose glazing, and provision for various armaments. The British, with a need for a medium-range maritime patrol bomber for North Sea operations with RAF Coastal Command, were impressed. At the invitation of Sir Henry Self, the contracts director at the Air Ministry in London, Courtlandt Gross (brother of Robert Gross) travelled to the UK with Carl Squier, C. L. Johnson, Robert Proctor and R. A. van Hake for consultations. The initial order for 175 Model B14s, now known as the Hudson, was signed on 23June 1938, with provision of up to a maximum of 250 by December 1939: it was the largest military order gained by a US company to date. The first Hudson Mk I bomber took to the air on 10 December 1938, with the company, now numbering a work force of 7,000, hard at work to fill the orders which rose in value with additional orders for P-38s and B-34s to an impressive $65 million. Arriving by sea, the first Hudson Mk Is reached the UK on 15 February 1939. The type was powered by two 820-kW (1,100-hp) Wright GR-1820-G102A Cyclones with two-speed Hamilton propellers. For reconnaissance duties the Hudson Mk I carried an F. 24 camera, assorted flares and a bombload of up to 499 kg (1,100 lb) comprising either four 114-kg (250-lb) GP, SAP or AS, or 10 50-kg (110-lb) anti-submarine bombs; an overload of 12 51-kg (112-lb) Mk VIIc AS bombs could be carried, but in this event the bomb doors could not be fully closed. Modified with extra items at the Lockheed- Vega subsidiary at Speke (Liverpool), the first Hudson Mk Is and Mk IIs (the latter differing in the installation of Hamilton Standard Type 611A-12/3E50-253 constant-speed propellers) were delivered to Wing Commander E. A. Hodgson’s No. 224 Squadron at Leuchars, Scotland, in August 1939. Although less manoeuvrable than the lighter Avro Anson, the Hudson was considered by the squadron to be eminently suitable for its patrols over the North Sea as far as Norway, the Skaggerak and the German Bight. Cruising at 610 m(2,000 ft) at 306 km/h (190 mph), a fuel consumption of 323 litres (71 Imp Gal) per hour gave the Hudson an endurance of over six hours with 20 per cent reserves and a 917-km (570-mile) radius of action. Armament was light initially, and the twin 7.7-mm (0.303-in) nose guns, beam guns and the Boulton Paul Type ‘C Mk II turret were retrofitted during the autumn of 1939 and the spring of 1940.
With the outbreak of war the Hudsons of RAF Coastal Command were among the first RAF aircraft to go into action, and the first combat with a German aircraft was recorded on 4 September 1939, when No. 224 Squadron’s T-Tommy (N7214), captained by Flying Officer H. D. Green, engaged a Dornier Do 18 over the Dogger Bank. In addition to No. 224 Squadron, Nos 206, 269, 233, 320 and 220 Squadrons were equipped with Hudsons during 1939-40. Much action was seen off Norway during the Altmark incident and the sub- sequent German invasion of Scandinavia, and over the Channel during the Dunkirk evacuations, in addition to patrol work over the western approaches and the North Sea. During 1941 RAF and RCAF Hudsons, operating from the UK, Iceland and Newfoundland, con- ducted a difficult war against the U-Boat menace: on 27 August 1941 a Hudson of No. 269 Squadron from Kaldadarnes forced the crew of the U-570 to surrender after repeated attacks. Use of the Hudson was not limited to the RAF and RCAF, and in early 1942 US Army A-28s and A-29s, and US Navy PBO-1s did much work along the eastern seaboard of the United States, while in the Far East those of Nos 1 and 8 Squadrons, RAAF fought well against great odds during the Japanese invasions of Malaya, Java and Burma. Six primary marks of Hudson, engaged in maritime and transport work, emanated from Lockheed’s 2,941 examples made up to June 1943 when production ceased, seeing service on all Anglo-American war fronts.
The Model 18 progeny
A direct development of the LT4 series, the Lockheed L-18 Lode- star first flew on 21 September 1939: the fuselage had been stretched by 1.68 m(5 ft 6 in), and to minimise tail flutter the elevator was raised slightly. By the end of 1940 some 54 of the 17-seat Model 18s had been sold to such varied customers as Mid Continent (first to buy the $90,000 aircraft), Regie Air Afrique and the Netherlands East Indies, BOAC and South African Airways. During World War II the Model 18 series was adopted by the US Army and the US Navy as a transport: US Army versions included the C-56 (in models up to C-56E), C-57 and C-57B, C-59, C-60 and C-60A, C-66 and C-lll, all of which featured differences either in engines, seating or ancillary equipment. Naval versions included the R50 (in models up to R50-6), while the RAF used Lodestar Mks I, IA and II models.
In response to a request from the British, Vega Aircraft Corporation developed a military version of the Model L-18 series which was employed by the RAF as the Ventura, by the US Army Air Force as the B-34 and B-37, and by the US Navy as the FV-1 patrol bomber. All were powered by two 1492-kW (2,000-hp) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 radials, with the exception of the RAF’s Ventura Mk I which had Pratt & Whitney R-2800-S1A4G engines, and the few B-37s which featured Wright R-26(X)-13s. The first Ventura Mk I flew on 31July 1941 and, together with the up-rated Mk II and Mk IIA versions, entered service with No. 2 (Bomber) Group in November 1942. On daylight missions over France and the Low Countries the Ventura fared badly against the dangerous Focke-Wulf Fw 190As of the Luftwaffe, and losses to flak and enemy fighters were consistently high. During the summer of 1943 the type was withdrawn from No. 2 Group, its place being taken by North American Mitchells and Douglas Boston Mk IIIA bombers. The B-34s of the USAAF saw little action, while the B-37 (Ventura Mk III) saw none at all. In the Solomons and South Pacific area Ventura Mk IVs and GR. Mk Vs of the RNZAF saw considerable action against the Japanese bastions at Kavieng and Rabaul, and proved their worth. The last-mentioned marks were known in the US Navy as PV-ls, of which 1,800 were built. Carrying a crew of four or five, the PV-1 weighed in at 9161 kg (20,197 lb) empty and 14097 kg (31,077 lb) gross, and was capable of a maximum speed of 502 km/h (312 mph) at 4205 m (13,800 ft). Armament consisted of two forward-firing 12.7-mm (0.5-in) guns, two more guns of the same calibre in a Martin CE250 dorsal turret, and two 7.62-mm (0.3-in) guns in the ventral position; up to four 454-kg (1,000-lb) bombs could be stowed internally, with another two under the wings, while an alternative was a single Model 13 Mk II torpedo. US Navy PV-ls operated from Aleutian bases during 1943-45 in all weathers on anti-shipping strikes and attacks on the Japanese bases at Paramushiro and Shimushu, and fought off frequent aggressive attacks by the Mitsubishi A6M3 Reisens of the 13th Koku Kantai (Air Fleet) which defended the area. The PV-1 more than compensated for the relatively poor showing by the Ventura in Europe, and performed useful service in all sectors of the Pacific.
The final version of this long and successful series of the Lockheed twins that had started the little Model L-10 in 1934 was the PV-2 Har- poon maritime patrol bomber. In this model the fuselage and tail unit were redesigned, and the wing span increased from 19.96 m (65 ft 6 in) to 22.86 m (75 ft). The first flight of the PV-2 took place on 3 December 1943, the first aircraft being delivered to US Navy squadrons in March 1944 for action from Aleutian bases. Wing flexing problems added to production difficulties, but the PV-2 saw out the war and continued to serve in naval reserve wings for many years afterwards.
Lockheed twin-engine variants
Lockheed Model L 10 Electra: all-metal, twin-engine 10-seat L-10 introduced into commercial service in 1934, 149 aircraft built. Lockheed Model L-10A had two 298-kW(400-hpl Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Juniors, Lockheed Model L-10B two 313 kW (420 hp) Wright Whirlwinds, Model L-10C two 336-kW (450-hpl Wasp SCIs, and Model L-10E two 336-kW (450-hp) Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engines, in service with US Army, US Navy and US Coast Guard as the C-36/C-37, R20 and R30 respectively
Lockheed Model L-12 Electra Junior: introduced in 1936 with six-seat capacity for business use, with two Pratt & Whitney R-985-SB Wasp Juniors as the Model L-12A, 130 built, service with the US Navy as JO-1 and JJO-2 sub-types, and with the US Army as the C-40, C-40A and ex-civil UC-40D; military nose-wheel trainers (one each) as the XJO-3 (US Navy) and C-40B (US Army), eight out of 13 Model 212 military trainers delivered to Royal Netherlands Indies Air Division in Java in 1942. other variants were the Model L-12B with 328-kW 1440-hp) Wright R-975-E3d radials, and the Model 12-25 with 336-kW (450-hp) Wasp Junior SB3 radials
Lockheed Model L-14 Super Electra: introduced in 1937 with 12-seat capacity for commercial duties, with two 559-kW (750-hp) Pratt & Whitney Hornets (Model L-14H) or various models of Wright Cyclones (Model L-14W and Model L-14N. the latter only for private owners), typical late-production L-14 had 14-seat configuration with two Wright GR-1820-G3B engines, became the progenitor of the military Hudson, A-28. A-29 and PBO-1 series, impressed Model L-14Ws were designated C-111. while Japanese production produced the Army Type LO Transport
Lockheed Model 14B Hudson Mk I: general-purpose patrol bomber with two 745-kW (1.000-hp) Wright GR-1820-G102A engines with two-speed Hamilton-Standard propellers, in service with RAF Coastal Command in mid-1939
Lockheed Model 414 Hudson Mk II: as Mk I but with Hamilton Standard 611A-12/3 constant-speed propellers, standard armament included twin 7 7-mm (0 303-in) forward-firing machine-guns, two beam guns and twin- gunned Boulton Paul Type C Mk II dorsal turret, pilot and fuel tank armour
Lockheed Model 414 Hudson Mk III: two Wright GR-1820-G205A Cyclones each rated at 895-kW (1.200-hp) and Hamilton-Standard hydromatic propellers defined this prolific version which introduced a ventral gun position Hudson Mk IIIA (US Army designation A-29) powered by two 895-kW (1,200-hpl Wright R-1820-87 Cyclones, and designated the PBO-1 by US Navy, the A-29A had a convertible troop-transport interior, and the A-29B was a photographic- survey version, the AT-18 and AT-18A were gunnery and navigation trainers respectively
Lockheed Model 414 Hudson Mk IV: two Pratt & Whitney R-1820-SC3G Twin Wasp engines, primarily for RAAF service, but a few to the RAF, no ventral gun position. US Army designation was A-28 (two R-1830-45S), becoming Hudson Mk IVA in RAAF service
Lockheed Model 414 Hudson Mk V: two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC34G engines with Hamilton Type 6227A-0 propellers, and the ventral gun position Lockheed Model 414 Hudson Mk VI: two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-67s. US Army designation A-28A
Lockheed Model L-18 Lodestar: direct development of the Model L-14, with crew of three and 14 passengers, powerplant comprised Pratt & Whitney S1E-3G Hornets, or Pratt & Whitney SC-3G Twin Wasps, or S4C-4G Twin Wasps, or Wright GR-1820- G102As, or GR-1820-202AS or GR-1820- G205As, naval transport versions designated R50-1, RSO-4, R50-5 and R50-6. US Army versions were the C-56, C-57. C-59, C-60 and C-66, RAF versions were the Lodestar Mks I, IA and II
Kawasaki Ki-56 (Army Type 1 Transport): the Japanese produced the Lockheed L-14WG3 under licence, and with refinements, two 708-kW (950-hpl Army 99 (Nakajima Ha-25) engines, in service with the JAAF in 1940. 121 built
Lockheed B-34 (Model 37): military patrol bomber developed from the Model 18 series to RAF specification, and designated the Ventura Mk I in RAF service (Model 37- 21); two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-S1A4G engines rated at 1379 kW (1.850-hp), the Ventura Mk II (Model 37 27) was powered by two R 2800-31 engines. RAF also used the Ventura Mk IIA (Model 37-127) and Ventura GR. Mk V, US Army designations were B-34 and B-37. with definitive maritime version, the PV-1 (Model 237) (alias Ventura GR Mk V). serving in the US Navy
Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon (Model 15): development of US Navy’s PV-1, with completely redesigned airframe, two 1492-kW (2,000-hp) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-31 engines, produced or converted in additional PV-2C, PV-2D and PV-2T sub-types Lockheed PV-3 Harpoon: designation of 27 Ventura Mk IIs retained by US Navy