“Once you have flown, you’ll fix your eyes skyward and will always long to return.”
“My soul certainly is stirred each time I see a plane in the sky.”
~ JR Hafer, Founder & Publisher ~
The Workhorse Design That Saved Lockheed Aircraft
by Tom Burkhalter
The Lockheed Hudson is one of those workhorse airplanes of World War II that faded into obscurity after the war. It flew with RAF Coastal Command as a maritime patrol bomber, with RAF Bomber Command as a light bomber, and with almost all the Commonwealth Air Forces in similar roles as well as a transport. The Dutch colonial air force, the ML-KNIL, used them in defense of Java in 1942. The Royal Australian Air Force used them as bombers and transports, as did the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Behind the Lockheed Hudson lies a tale.
Lockheed Aircraft, on the eve of World War 2, was in financial difficulty. By 1939 it was obvious to anyone who could read a newspaper or listen to the radio that war was brewing in Europe. The Chinese and the Japanese were already fighting, and had been since 1937; some scholars date the beginning of World War 2 to that conflict. So, obviously there was money to be made building warplanes. The US Army Air Corps planned a huge expansion but that was still in the future, and in the meantime there were foreign buyers to consider, namely China, France, and Great Britain.
What did Lockheed have on inventory that could be easily converted into a modern warplane? Something with reasonable speed, range, and payload? Well, there was the Lockheed 14, direct descendant of the Lockheed 10 Electra.
The Lockheed 10 was a fast, twin-engined, twin-tailed transport best remembered as the airplane Amelia Earhart used in her round-the-world flight attempt. The prototype was designed by Lloyd Stearman and Hall Hibbard. The prototype had a single tail, and when it first flew in 1934, the Lockheed test pilot, Marshall Headle, reported stability issues. Evidently the stability issues were interesting enough that Lockheed’s engineers wanted to conduct wind-tunnel studies before trying further test flights. They took their model to the University of Michigan, whose engineering department had a state of the art wind tunnel. They were assisted by a young graduate student, who got his Masters degree and went west to California and the Lockheed plant in Burbank.
The young man’s name was Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, and the successive versions of the Lockheed 10, which developed into the Lockheed 12 and 14, and from there the Lockheed Hudson, were his initial exposure to commercial aircraft design and manufacture. Johnson, as a result of the wind-tunnel studies, suggested changing the single tail to a double tail, and this suggestion was incorporated into the production version of the airplane.
The Lockheed 10 was intended as an airliner. In 1933, Boeing dazzled the aviation world with its Model 247, the first twin-engined all-metal monoplane airliner. Production of the 247 was locked in by United Air Lines. The chairman of TWA went to Donald Douglas for an airplane to compete with the 247; Douglas responded with the DC-1, prototype for the DC-2 airliner.
This was the competitive environment into which the Lockheed 10, also known as the Electra, was introduced. The Electra carried ten passengers at a nominal cruise speed of 190 mph. This was competitive with the DC-2, which carried 12 passengers and cruised at 174 mph, and the Boeing 247, carrying 10 passengers and cruising at 189 mph.
The next development came about as follows. In 1936 the US Bureau of Air Commerce announced a competition for a “small feeder airliner.” Lockheed’s submission was a redesign of the Lockheed 10. The new airplane was slightly smaller, but, since it used the same P&W Wasp Junior engines, it was faster than the Lockheed 10. Lockheed called the airplane the Lockheed 12 “Electra Junior.” The Electra Junior won the design competition, but it didn’t catch on with the airlines. Perhaps the six-seat passenger capacity had something to do with that, even though the design was intended to serve small feeder routes. The Electra Junior flew at a top speed of 225 mph, and had some success as an executive transport in corporate and government use.
If the Lockheed 12 was essentially a “scaled down” Lockheed 10, then the Lockheed 14 was a scaled-up version of the original design. Again, the purpose of the redesign was to field a more competitive airliner or cargo carrier. The first model was flown in mid-1937, by the same Lockheed test pilot, Marshall Headle, that flew the original single-tail Lockheed 10 prototype. The Lockheed 14 “Super Electra” participated in a number of record-breaking and historical flights. The two most notable might be the round-the world flight by Howard Hughes beginning in July 10, 1938, taking off from Floyd Bennett Field in New York, landing there four days later with a total flight time of three days, nineteen hours, and 17 minutes. Historically, a Lockheed 14 owned by British Airways flew Neville Chamberlain to Munich and return during the Munich crisis in 1938.
The Lockheed 14 was the basis of the Lockheed Hudson bomber and the Lodestar transport. As noted above, the Hudson served with a number of Allied air forces during World War II. The Lodestar was designated as the C-60 in USAAF service.
The Lockheed Hudson saved Lockheed Aircraft by creating an influx of cash at a critical moment. Without that Lockheed might not have been able to develop aircraft like the P-38 Lightning, the Constellation, the P-80 Shooting Star and the family of aircraft developed from that, the T-33 trainer and the F-94 Starfire or the F-104 Starfighter, much less the succession of projects that came from the famous “Skunk Works,” also headed by the same Kelly Johnson whose career began with the Lockheed 10.
Please support Congressional Gold Medal, Bill HR-1553
To read the text click here, and utilize this link to access the H.R. 1553 support website. U.S. citizens are encouraged to contact their Congressional District Representative and ask him or her to cosponsor this historic Second World War service legislation, which contains much aviation-related content. Click this link to find your Representative. Organizations wishing to endorse H.R. 1553 should have a designated official contact U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Valerie Broznak at (202) 225-3658. The current list of endorsing entities includes the following: Air Force Association (USA), Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Florida Aviation Historical Society, and 20th Century Aviation Magazine. Additionally, the following have indicated that official endorsement will soon be forthcoming: American Fighter Aces Association and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
Above: A new CBN docudrama presents the dramatic true story of Israel Defense Forces paratroopers reclaiming the Western Wall in 1967. Click here to find a local theater and showtime.
Operation Focus was a series of Israeli Air Force (IAF) preemptive airstrikes that destroyed the much larger Egyptian Air Force. These initiatives were critical to the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) victories and Israel’s survival as a nation in the course of the 1967 Six-Day War. This feature is highly recommended. Link to CBN video: Operation Focus: Remembering the Final Hours of the Six-Day War.
The RCAF MEMORIAL PLAQUE at KGIF Winter Haven, FL
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20th Century Aviation Magazine