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Lockheed L-188 Electra

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L-188 Electra
L-188C of Atlantic Airlines
Type Short-/medium-range transport
Manufacturer Lockheed
Maiden flight 1957
Primary users American Airlines
Eastern Air Lines
Braniff Airways
Produced 1957–61
Number built 170
Variants P-3 Orion

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.

Operational history

Civil operations

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.[citation needed] 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[1]. The most recent Electra accident was in July 2003.

Military use

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.[2].

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.


Civil operators


Military operators


Electra operators today

Accidents and incidents

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 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


General characteristics

  • 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)



External links

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