Lockheed L-188 Electra
|L-188C of Atlantic Airlines|
|Primary users||American Airlines|
Eastern Air Lines
The Lockheed L-188 Electra is an American turboprop airliner built by Lockheed. It was the first turboprop airliner built in the USA. It first flew in 1957, and when first delivered had performance slightly inferior to that of a full turbojet aircraft at a lower operating cost.
Design and development
The design of the Electra was started by Lockheed in 1954, and the following year the company received a launch order from American Airlines. The prototype first flew on 6 December 1957. The aircraft is a low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear, powered by four Allison 501D turboprops. Standard accommodation was for 66 to 88 passengers, with an optional high-density layout for 98 passengers. The initial production version was the L-188A. Later a longer-range L-188C was produced. A total of 170 aircraft were built, with production stopped earlier than planned due to the lack of confidence in the design after two fatal crashes. The aircraft were modified following the accidents but by then customers were interested in operating turbojets. Most of the aircraft currently in service are operated as Freighters. In 1957 the United States Navy issued a requirement for an advanced patrol aircraft. Lockheed proposed a development of the Electra which was later placed into production as the P-3 Orion.
Many airlines in the US flew Electras, but the only European airline to order the type was KLM. In the South Pacific, TEAL flew the Electra, NAC the Viscount, Air New Zealand flew both. In Australia TAA and Ansett operated Electra on routes between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and to Port Moresby from 1959 until 1971. QANTAS also operated 4 Electras, VH-ECA,B,C & D at about the same time both across the Tasman and also to Mauritius where range became an issue. American Airlines was the launch customer, followed by Eastern Airlines and Braniff Airways.
The Electras flew in commercial service until the mid-1970s. Some units were sold to Brazilian airline Varig, operated with a perfect safety record until 1992 on the Rio de Janeiro – São Paulo (that route is called Ponte Aérea) shuttle service before being sold to Zaire. Others were retired into air cargo use. A total of 144 L-188s were built, 57 of which have been destroyed in accidents, according to the Aviation Safety Network. The most recent Electra accident was in July 2003.
Lockheed developed a variant of the Electra, the P-3 Orion, for the United States Navy. The Orion was originally developed using modified civilian Electra airframes, but the final production P-3s were built separately. It has a similar overall design to the Electra with a number of radical differences, most notably the "stinger" magnetic anomaly detector which protrudes from the tail..
In 1983, after the retirement of their last SP-2H Neptunes the Argentine Navy modified several civilian Electras for maritime patrol (including one locally known as L-188W Electron for electronic warfare, and used them until their replacement by P-3s in 1994.
- Initial production version
- Freighter conversion of L-188A
- Long-range version with increased fuel capacity and a higher operating gross weight
- Freighter conversion of L-188C
- One P-3 Orion aerodynamic test bed, fuselage shortened by seven feet.
- Air California
- American Airlines
- Braniff Airways
- Eastern Air Lines
- Evergreen International Airlines
- Fairbanks Air Service
- Great Northern Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Holiday Airlines
- Intermountain Aviation
- Johnson International Airlines
- McCulloch International Airlines
- National Airlines
- Northwest Orient
- Overseas National Airways
- Pacific Southwest Airlines
- Reeve Aleutian Airways
- Southeast Airlines
- TPI International Airways
- Western Air Lines
- Zantop International Airlines
Electra operators today
- AirSpray 1967 Ltd., Red Deer, AB, Canada, seven L-188 converted into firefighting airtankers with a 3000 US gallon capacity tank.
- Atlantic Airlines, Coventry, United Kingdom, eight L-188
- Amerer Air, Linz, Austria, had two L-188 but it recently ceased operating. The aircraft were sold to Buffalo Airways, Canada.
- Buffalo Airways of Yellowknife owns and operates two L-188.
- As of August 2006 a total of 15 Lockheed L-188 Electra aircraft (all variants) were reported in airline service, with Trans Service Airlift (1), Amerer Air (2), Atlantic Airlines (10), Segers Aviation (1) and Bigojet (1).
Accidents and incidents
- On February 3, 1959, American Airlines Flight 320 en route from Chicago to New York City crashed on approach, killing 65 of 73 on board. This crash pushed the death of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens (also in a plane crash) off of the front pages.
- On September 29, 1959, a Braniff Electra which was en route from Houston to Dallas mysteriously broke up in flight over Buffalo, Texas. All 28 passengers and six crew members were killed.
- Just under six months later, on March 17, 1960, an Electra operated as Northwest Orient Flight 710, en route from Chicago to Miami, Florida, broke apart in flight over Perry County, Indiana, crashing in a farm field eight miles east of Cannelton. All 63 people on board were killed (57 passengers and six crew members).
In the above two crashes, NASA and Lockheed engineers eventually determined that the engine mounts allowed too much precessional movement of the propellers at a critical frequency which allowed "whirl-mode" aeroelastic phenomenon, "flutter" in flight. This flutter, by pure chance, occurred at the wings' natural resonance frequency, which further excited the harmonic oscillations, which increased the wing flutter, that eventually led to separation of a wing from the fuselage. The engine mounts were redesigned, and the wing stiffened so the problem was solved by 1961. The flying public's confidence in the Electra, however, had been dealt a near-fatal blow.
- On October 4, 1960 Eastern Air Lines Flight 375 crashed on takeoff from Boston, Massachusetts's Logan International Airport, killing 62 of 72 on board. The crash was eventually determined to be the result of bird ingestion in three engines rather than structural failure.
- On May 3, 1968, a Braniff Electra, Flight 352, which was en route from Houston to Dallas, disintegrated over Dawson, Texas. All 80 passengers and five crew members were killed. This was the worst air disaster in Texas at the time. The Probable Cause found by the NTSB was excessive loads put upon the aircraft structure while attempting to recover from an unusual attitude resulting from loss of control in thunderstorm turbulence.
- On December 24, 1971 a Lansa Electra, Flight 508, which was en route from Lima to Pucallpa, entered an area of strong turbulence and lightning and disintegrated in mid air due to structural failure following a lightning strike and fire. Of the 92 people on board, 91 were killed. One passenger, Juliane Köpcke, survived the crash.
- On June 4, 1976, an Air Manila Lockheed L-188 Electra L-188A (RP-C1061) crashed just after takeoff from the Guam Naval Air Station. NTSB report # AAR-77-06
- Crew: Six
- Capacity: 99 to 127 passengers
- Length: 104 ft (31.81 m)
- Wingspan: 99 ft (30.18 m)
- Height: 32 ft (10 m)
- Wing area: 1300 sq ft (120.8 m2)
- Empty weight: 61,500 lb (27,895 kg)
- Useful load: 22,825 lb (10,350 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 116,000 lb (52,664 kg)
- ASN Report on 1960 Northwest Orient N121US crash
- ASN Report on 1959 Braniff N9705C crash
- Engineering Summary of Propeller Whirl on the Electra
- Kiwanis Electra Memorial website
- Information, Pictures and Production List
- NTSB Report on 1968 Braniff N9707C Crash
- Alternate view on 1968 Braniff N9707C Crash
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