Sunday, December 22, 2013


Apologies for the lead-in commercial, but here is an interesting piece on the restoration of a Lockheed Vega; indeed a beautiful result but, alas, sandwiched between the "Film at Eleven" persiflage of a bubble-headed bleach-blonde with a Ron Burgundy-esque talking head looking on:

At the risk of a PC buzzkill, one reminds that NOT ONLY was this aircraft a fave of Amelia Earhart, but also Wiley Post whose Winnie Mae is on display at teh National Air and Space Museum.

More information on the Vega:

The Vega is a six-passenger monoplane built by the Lockheed company starting in 1927. It became famous for its use by a number of record breaking pilots who were attracted to the rugged and very long-range design. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly the Atlantic single handed in one, and Wiley Post flew his around the world twice.

Designed by John Knudsen Northrop and Gerard Vultee, both of whom would later form their own companies, the aircraft was originally intended to serve with Lockheed's own airline routes. They set out to build a four-seat aircraft that was not only rugged, but the fastest aircraft as well. Utilizing the latest designs in monocoque fuselages, cantilever wings and the best engine available, the Vega delivered on the promise of speed.

The fuselage was monocoque, built from sheets of plywood, skinned over wooden ribs. Using a large concrete mold, a single half of the fuselage shell was laminated in sections with glue and then a rubber bladder was lowered into the mold and inflated with air to compress the lamination into shape. Two fuselage halves were then nailed and glued over a previously made rib framework. With the fuselage constructed in this fashion, the wing spar had to be kept clear, so a single spar cantilever was mounted atop the aircraft. The only part of the aircraft that wasn't particularly streamlined was the landing gear, although production versions wore sleek "spats". It was powered by the Wright Whirlwind, which delivered 225 horsepower (168 kW).

The first Vega 1, named the Golden Eagle, flew from Lockheed's Los Angeles plant on July 4, 1927. It could cruise at a then-fast 120 mph (193 km/h), and had a top speed of 135 mph (217 km/h). The four-passenger (plus one pilot) load, however, was considered too small for airline use. A number of private owners placed orders for the design however, and by the end of 1928, they had produced 68 of this original design. In the 1928 National Air Races in Cleveland, Vegas won every speed award.

In 1928 Vega 5 Yankee Doodle (NX4789) was used to break transcontinental speed records. On August 19-20, Hollywood stunt flier Arthur C. Goebel broke the coast-to-coast record of Russell Maughan by flying from Los Angeles, California to Garden City, New York in 18 hours and 58 minutes, in what was also the first nonstop flight from west to east. On October 25, barnstormer and former mail pilot Charles B.D. Collyer broke the nonstop east to west record set in 1923 by the U.S. Army Air Service in 24 hours and 51 minutes. Trying to break the new west-to-east record on November 3, Collyer crashed near Prescott, Arizona, resulting in his death and that of the aircraft owner, Harry J. Tucker.

Looking to improve the design, Lockheed delivered the Vega 5 in 1929. Adding the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine of 450 hp (336 kW) improved weights enough to allow two more seats to be added. A new NACA cowling increased cruise speed to 155 mph (249 km/h) and top speed to 165 mph (266 km/h). However, even the new six-seat configuration proved to be too small, and the 5 was purchased primarily for private aviation and executive transport. A total of 64 Vega 5s were built. In 1931, the United States Army Air Corps bought two Vega 5s; one designated C-12 and one as the C-17. The C-17 differed by having an extra set of fuel tanks in the wings.

The Vega could be difficult to land. In her memoir, Elinor Smith wrote that it had "all the glide potential of a boulder falling off a mountain." In addition, forward and side visibility from the cockpit was extremely limited; Lane Wallace, a columnist for Flying magazine, wrote that "Even [in level flight], the windscreen would offer a better view of the sky than anything else, which would make it more of a challenge to detect changes in attitude or bank angle. On takeoff or landing, there'd be almost no forward visibility whatsoever."

A one-off special, based on the metal-fuselaged DL-1, was built by the Detroit Aircraft Corporation, and exported to the United Kingdom for Lt. Cmdr. Glen Kidston. It was initially registered in the UK as G-ABFE but rapidly re-registered as G-ABGK to incorporate Kidston's initials.[3] This Vega was used by him to set a record-breaking time from the UK to South Africa in April 1931. Following Kidston's death the following month, the aircraft was eventually sold to Australian airline owner Horrie Miller for entry by him into the MacRobertson Air Race. Piloted in the race by Miller's Chief Pilot, Capt. Jimmy Woods, it overturned on landing at Aleppo en route, whereupon Woods withdrew from the race and the DL-1A was eventually shipped the remainder of the distance to Australia. Following repairs and another re-registration, to VH-UVK, the aircraft was used for charter and leisure flying by Miller, before being impressed by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941. It was finally broken for spares by the RAAF at the end of World War II in 1945.
"..and that's all the news for tonight, folks!"

Courtesy of:
Linda Abrams, 2LT, CAP
Aerospace Education Officer
Squadron 150