Company, one of the giants in the modern aerospace industry, began in 1912
when the Loughead brothers, Allan and Malcolm, formed the Alco
Hydro-Aeroplane Company in San Francisco. Their first aircraft, the Model
G seaplane, debuted on June 15, 1913. It was the largest seaplane yet
built in the United States. Though the brothers couldn't find a customer
for their plane, they earned some income for the startup company by flying
passengers in their plane.
In the summer
of 1916, the brothers moved to Santa Barbara, California, and, backed by
Burton Rodman and other investors, formed the Loughead Aircraft
Manufacturing Company. Their first plane with the new company was the
10-passenger F-1 seaplane. John K. "Jack" Northrop, who would later form
his own company, designed and helped build the hull and wings. The
twin-engine biplane had a 74-foot (22.5-meter) upper wingspan, a 47-foot
(14-meter) lower wingspan, twin booms, and a triple tail. It debuted on
March 29, 1918. The Navy took delivery of it after a record-setting flight
from Santa Barbara to San Diego on April 12, 1918, flying the 211 miles
(340 kilometres) in only 181 minutes.
War I ended, Navy aircraft orders dried up. The brothers tried to sell a
small sport plane, the S-1, but the market was saturated by surplus
warplanes. The business barely survived by building two Curtiss HS-2L
flying boats and by working as a subcontractor. But it wasn't enough, and
the business went into liquidation in 1921. Northrop went to work for
13, 1926, the Lockheed brothers (they changed their last name to avoid
mispronunciation)) and a group of investors formed the Lockheed Aircraft
Company. This company lasted for less than three years, but in that time,
it developed and built the first Vega, designed by Northrop, who had
returned to Lockheed. It was a cantilever high-wing wooden monoplane with
a streamlined monocoque fuselage built from two half-shells of plywood
that had been shaped under pressure in a concrete mould. It could hold
four passengers and a pilot.
The Vega 1
first flew on July 4, 1927. Newspaper owner George Hearst bought it to
compete in the Oakland to Hawaii Dole Race. Jack Forst and Gordon Scott
piloted the aircraft, named the Golden Eagle, on the trip, but the
two disappeared without a trace. This did not, however, deter future sales
of the aircraft. The plane was used for several record-setting flights,
including the first trans-arctic flight in April 1928 and the first flight
over Antarctica in November 1928, both made by George Hubert Wilkins and
Carl Ben Eielson, It also made the first solo transatlantic flight by a
woman, Amelia Earhart; and the first solo round-the-world flight, made by
Wiley Post. A total of 128 Vegas were built, 115 by Lockheed and nine by
Detroit Aircraft Corporation after it acquired Lockheed in 1929.
Company also built seven Lockheed Air Express airplanes, which resembled
the Vega except for the open cockpit and higher wings than the Vega.
Designed by Northrop specifically for Western Air Express‘s airmail route
between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Los Angeles, its development began late
in 1927. One of the Air Express planes used the NACA cowling. A variant of
the Air Express, the Explorer, was designed for a non-stop transpacific
flight to Japan. The two Explorers built, though, both crashed. In the
meantime, Northrop in 1928 had again left to begin his own company, and
Gerard "Jerry" F. Vultee replaced Northrop as chief engineer.
In July 1929,
Fred E. Keeler, an investor who owned 51 percent of Lockheed, decided to
sell 87 percent of the company assets to Detroit Aircraft Company, a
holding company. As part of Detroit Aircraft, the company continued
building Vegas and also built the Lockheed 8 Sirius, which Charles
Lindbergh used as a floatplane on several round-the-world survey flights
for Pan American Airways in the early 1930s. The Sirius had fixed tail
landing gear and two open cockpits. Retractable landing gear was added
onto a successor aircraft called the Altair, which made the first crossing
of the Pacific Ocean from Australia to the United States between October
20 and November 4, 1934.
9 Orion was another successful plane built during this period. The Orion,
which featured the NACA cowling and retractable landing gear, was a wooden
monoplane that could carry a pilot and six passengers. The first Orion
flew in early 1931. A number of U.S. airlines used it and it also flew in
the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. An Orion-Explorer,
constructed from Orion and Explorer parts, crashed in Alaska on August 15,
1935, killing Wiley Post and Will Rogers.
remained with Detroit Aircraft until 1931, when Detroit Aircraft went into
receivership. A group of investors led by Robert Gross bailed the company
out and purchased Lockheed's assets in 1932 for $40,000, forming the new
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation with Lloyd C. Stearman as president. Allan
Lockheed, who had left the company in 1929, returned as a consultant.
Gross also attracted Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, a young engineer who would
soon help make Lockheed's reputation.
realized that the company needed to move past the Vega and similar planes
if it was to compete with the other major aircraft companies, Boeing and
Douglas. He also saw that the future lay with multi-engine planes and
pushed for construction of a new plane that would be smaller, faster, and
cheaper to operate than the larger Boeing and Douglas planes. His
initiative paid off. Lockheed's innovative twin-engine Model 10 Electra,
with retractable landing gear and twin fins and rudders, helped establish
the company's line of commercial passenger aircraft. The 10-passenger
all-metal plane flew for the first time on February 23, 1934. Northwest
Airlines was the first airline to use the plane. In the late 1930s, eight
U.S. airlines flew the plane as did European, Australian, Canadian, and
South American customers. Model 10 Electras were used for long-distance
flights, and Major James "Jimmy" Doolittle flew an Electra from Chicago to
New Orleans in five hours 55 minutes in 1936—two hours quicker than the
previous fastest time. Amelia Earhart disappeared in an Electra on her
The Model 10
Electra was followed by the Model 12 Electra Junior executive transport in
1936 that seated six passengers with a two-person crew. Many Model 12s
were used by the military, and the National Advisory Committee on
Aeronautics (NACA) used a Model 12 to evaluate a wing de-icing system that
used hot air from the engine exhaust.
Lockheed 14 Super Electra, designed to compete with the Douglas DC-2 and
DC-3, failed as a commercial aircraft in the United States because it had
too small a capacity. Most were sold abroad, and more than 100 were
license-built in Japan for use by the Imperial Japanese Army. But this
plane helped elevate Lockheed into the ranks of major aircraft
manufacturers. The 14 Super Electra formed the basis for the Lockheed
Hudson, which was used by Britain's Royal Air Force in World War II.
18 Lodestar followed the Super Electra in 1939. This plane was longer than
the Super Electra and could hold 15 to 18 passengers. Some were configured
to seat up to 26 passengers. However, it still did not sell well in the
United States because, by this time, most airlines were using the DC-3. It
did well abroad though, and once World War II began, the U.S. Army Air
Force raised the total number produced to more than 600.
Lockheed began work on a 40-pasenger airliner, the L-049 Constellation,
based on an order from TWA. The triple-tailed plane incorporated a
pressurized cabin, tricycle landing gear, and ultra-modern cabin features.
The first plane flew in January 1943, and when the United States entered
World War II, the Air Force took over the first batch for service as C-69
transports. It was the largest and fastest cargo transport to serve in the
war. The plane would form the basis for future civil transports.
World War II
saw Lockheed grow enormously. At the end of 1937, the company employed
fewer than 2,000 people and had produced only a few hundred planes during
its entire corporate lifetime. On March 31, 1940, its workforce stood at
about 7,000 employees. By 1941, it had grown to almost 17,000 employees,
and by 1943, to more than 90,000 people, including thousands of women who
were engaged in building aircraft on the Lockheed production lines. By
1945, the company was rolling out 23 planes per day, and held war
contracts valued at $2 billion. Between July 1, 1940 and August 31, 1945,
Lockheed turned out more than 19,000 aircraft to become the fifth largest
U.S. aircraft producer.
Lockheed established a new AiRover Aircraft subsidiary to give Lockheed a
place in the personal aviation market. Ai developed the StarLiner business
airplane, but it didn't sell in the depressed market. AiRover became Vega
Airplane Company in June 1938, which converted to military activity when
the war began. At the end of 1941, Vega Airplane became Vega Aircraft
Corporation, and Lockheed absorbed it on November 30, 1943. Its plants at
Burbank, California, built more than 2,500 Boeing B-17s under license and
also the PB-1 patrol bomber.
became a multinational corporation. During the war, it operated in
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Australia. The company provided
Hudson aircraft for maritime patrol duties to Britain, benefiting from
Britain's failure to build up its antisubmarine reconnaissance air fleet
and its reliance instead on a sonar device that proved ineffective against
German submarines. During 1938, an order that Britain placed for Hudsons
as well as for Ventura transports and options on P-38 Lightning fighters
totalled $65 million.
was the first U.S.-built aircraft to be used operationally by the Royal
Air Force (RAF) during the war. Responding to an urgent British
requirement, Lockheed first received a contract for 200 aircraft; this
grew to 250 aircraft by November 1939. By the time production ended in May
1943, a total of 2,941 Hudsons had been built. The Hudson succeeded in
elevating Lockheed into the ranks of major aircraft manufacturers. During
the war, a Hudson scored the first RAF victory of the war when it shot
down a German flying boat on October 8, 1939, and the plane also scored a
number of other military firsts.
Lockheed plane, the P-38 Lightning, was developed to satisfy a 1937 U.S.
Air Corps need for an advanced high-altitude fighter. It was the first
military design under legendary Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson. The plane
first flew on January 26, 1939. It became the first service aircraft to
exceed 400 miles per hour (644 kilometres per hour) and the first to
encounter problems associated with approaching the speed of sound. It
entered service in late 1941. More than 10,000 were built, and the plane
was used in every theatre during the war.
war, hundreds of military transports were suddenly available as well as
the many civil transports that had been pressed into military service.
These included the Lockheed C-69 (L-049 Constellation), which had first
entered service in 1943 and was the first pressurized air transport—much
preferred for long-distance routes—produced in large numbers. By the
mid-1950s, Lockheed had developed stretched versions of this plane—called
the Super Connie—that could carry more than 100 passengers for over 4,000
miles (6,437 kilometres) and could cross the Atlantic on regularly
mid-1950s, Lockheed was seeking to replace its Super Constellation series
with a mid-range airliner, which it did with its four-engine turboprop
Model 188 Electra. On June 8, 1955, American, Eastern, and other carriers
ordered several dozen. The Model 188 was completed in 26 months and flew
on December 6, 1957, eight weeks ahead of schedule. Airline deliveries
began in 1958. But three Electras were lost in fatal accidents in 14
months in 1959-60, and the company was forced into an expensive
modification program. In two of the crashes, in-flight structural failures
caused by weakness of the engine mount that led to excessive vibration had
torn the aircraft apart. Although Lockheed overcame the problem, the
public lost confidence in the plane, and its production ended after only
174 aircraft were built. Lockheed suffered an estimated loss of $57
million plus another $55 million in lawsuits. A military version, the P-3
(P3V) Orion long-range patrol aircraft, however, went into service in 1962
and stayed in production into the 1990s, with hundreds of variants
successfully flying worldwide.
Work on jet
propulsion had started at the beginning of the war, and Lockheed received
a contract for its first jet fighter, the XP-80, from the U.S. Army Air
Force in June 1943. The XP-80 project was completed in just 143 days. It
embodied Kelly Johnson's credo: "Be quick; be quiet; be on time." At the
start of the program, Lockheed designer Kelly Johnson had established his
famous Advanced Development Projects Section, housed next to a plastics
factory. Its location earned it the nickname "Skunk Works" after the
smelly moonshine still in Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip. The
Skunk Works' method of an isolated project team focusing on a single goal
would become part of the Lockheed aura, especially in connection to future
classified reconnaissance aircraft such as the U-2 and the SR-71.
P-80 "Shooting Star" (based on the XP-80) was America's first production
jet fighter and first flew in 1944. Plans had been to produce some 5,000
of the planes, but it was not ready for combat until December 1945, after
the war had ended. However, the P-80 (later called the F-80) was used
during the Korean War and about 1,700 were eventually built. A lengthened
two-seater F-80 used as a trainer designated the T-33A served with more
than 30 Air Forces, and almost 6,000 were built.
1951, Lockheed reopened a government-built plant at Marietta, Georgia, and
the complex was used to build Boeing B-47 Stratojets, C-130 Hercules, and
JetStar aircraft. The YC-130 prototype, which would become famous as the
Hercules, first flew on August 23, 1954. The JetStar would continue in
production until 1980. In 1961, the Lockheed-Georgia Division was
reorganized as the Lockheed-Georgia Company.
mid-1950s, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, based in southern California,
moved firmly into the military aviation sector. Its Skunk Works, the
popular name for its advanced projects office, could take credit for most
of Lockheed's early military sales. Led by the talented designer Clarence
"Kelly" Johnson, the facility designed America's first operational jet
fighter, the P-80, that entered service late in World War II. In 1952, the
Skunk Works designed the famous reconnaissance plane, the U-2, which
debuted in 1955. It presented intelligence analysts with the Central
Intelligence Agency and other organizations with critical airborne imagery
over the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. The U-2 remained the
mainstay of airborne reconnaissance through the end of the 20th century.
When a U-2
spy plane was brought down over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960, the need
for a faster and higher-flying plane became obvious. The result was the
SR-71 "Blackbird," which evolved from the YF-12 interceptor. The YF-12
itself had evolved from the A-12, which first flew on April 24, 1962, and
which was used for CIA flights around the world. The Blackbird first flew
on December 22, 1964, and test pilot Robert Gilliland took the aircraft to
Mach 1.5. It entered service as the Air Force's first Mach 3 aircraft in
January 1966. It was retired in 1990, and then brought back into service
briefly in 1995. The Blackbird was the only plane to be the fastest
operational aircraft in the world from the day it entered service until
the day it was retired.
Works also produced the F-104 Starfighter. Accepted by U.S. Air Force in
1958, it was the first and most widely used Mach 2 jet fighter built.
Although sales of the plane began slowly and a large number of planes
crashed during use, worldwide Starfighter production eventually reached
2,583. Manufacturers in seven countries produced Starfighters, and they
equipped at least 15 Air Forces.
With the need
for military deployment around the globe as a result of the Cold War,
Lockheed began in the latter 1950s to develop a succession of significant
military transports. The first of these was the C-130 "Hercules." Lockheed
buildt more than 2,000 of the turboprop C-130, in different models, for
the U.S. Air Force, and the airplane later found service in a multitude of
nations around the world. It gained fame in the siege of Khe Sanh in
Vietnam in 1968, re-supplying the Marines holding the post against a
concentrated onslaught of North Vietnamese. The C-130 remained in service
at the end of the 20th century. In the early 1960s, Lockheed produced the
C-141 "Starlifter," the first pure jet cargo aircraft in the military
transport fleet. The U.S. Air Force purchased 270 of these aircraft,
greatly enhancing its ability to project military force around the world.
It has served since 1964 and remains a central aircraft in the military
air transport fleet. In the late 1970s, the fleet was modified for
in-flight refuelling, increasing its operational range, and in the 1980s
these aircraft were "stretched" by adding sections to the fuselage for
greater cargo capacity.
received a contract in 1965 to build 115 C-5 "Galaxy" jet transports. The
plane first flew on June 30, 1968. The largest U.S. Air Force plane to
date, its wings spanned 222 feet 9 inches (67.9 meters) and it was 247
feet 10 inches (75.5 meters) long. (A football field is 300 feet [91
meters] long.) But Lockheed had underestimated the aircraft's cost. Delays
and cost overruns resulted, and what had begun as a $2 billion project
grew to $5 billion. In November 1969, Congress reduced funding to pay for
only 81 aircraft.
primarily a military plane builder, Lockheed's chairman and CEO Dan
Haughton was anxious to remain in the commercial sector. In 1969, the
company decided to develop the three-engine L-1011 TriStar equipped with
the high-performance Rolls-Royce RB.211 engine.
led to all sorts of problems. Rolls-Royce itself was having serious
financial difficulties and was almost bankrupt. But the British government
was not inclined to help and in 1971, Rolls-Royce Aero Engines was placed
in receivership. Production of TriStars stopped immediately. Lockheed was
depending on TriStar sales, and without government help, would have
followed Rolls-Royce into bankruptcy. After much negotiating, Haughton
arranged for Congress to guarantee a loan of $250 million to Lockheed,
allowing it to go ahead with its project and giving Rolls-Royce the funds
produced until 1983. But the company never recouped its investment, and
when production ended, it had lost over $2.5 billion on the aircraft. This
was the last commercial airliner that Lockheed built.
In 1976, in
the midst of the problems with the TriStar, the company revealed that some
$22 million in "sales commissions" had been paid to foreign government
officials, including $1 million to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and
perhaps some amount also to West Germany, in exchange for doing business
with Lockheed. In fact, questionable payments by Lockheed to foreign
officials may have extended back to the 1950s and factored into the F-104
sale to NATO. Sales of the L-1011 to Japan in 1972 also involved bribery
in the amount of some $14 million to Japanese agents and officials.
of these payoffs could be termed extortion, where the foreign purchasers
demanded payment in order to ensure a sale or prevent its cancellation.
Nevertheless, whether Lockheed or the purchaser initiated them, and
whether they actually improved Lockheed's financial situation, the
"Lockheed Bribes" scandal shook the company to its core and forced several
Lockheed executives to resign. The ensuing Senate investigations led to
passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which President Jimmy
Carter signed into law on December 19, 1977.
1, 1977, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation became the Lockheed Corporation. At
the time, the C-130 Hercules was still one of Lockheed's most successful
planes, having first flown in December 1956. Lockheed produced the 1,500th
unit of this large cargo plane in 1978. The 2,000th was
delivered on May 15, 1992, and early in the 21st century,
production still continues.
A-12 and SR-71 of the 1960s had used some low-observable, or stealth,
technology, meaning that the aircraft were difficult to detect by radar.
In 1976, after Lockheed had developed several prototypes, the Air Force
awarded it the contract to develop the first stealth aircraft. Under the
guidance of Ben Rich and his Skunk Works team, small test models began
flying late in 1977. A full-scale development aircraft, piloted by Hal
Farley, flew in June 1981. The aircraft used the radio signal of 117,
which led to its designation as the F-117A even though it was solely an
attack aircraft and not a fighter. It was also called the Nighthawk
because the highly secret plane flew only at night for five years. Not
until November 1988 was the F-117's existence revealed. Around the same
time, 52 of the aircraft were delivered to the Air Force.
mid-1980s, Lockheed, along with aerospace companies Boeing and General
Dynamics (GD), won a competition for the Advance Tactical Fighter (ATF),
called the YF-22. The team received the development contract in April
1991. Under development as the Raptor, it may be operational by 2004.
Lockheed acquired GD's Fort Worth Division in 1992, gaining both GD's
share of the F-22 project as well as its highly successful F-16 program.
January 1, 1954, Lockheed had established a Missile Systems Division, soon
renamed the Lockheed Missile and Space Company (LMSC). Its first project
was the X-7 ramjet high-altitude vehicle. Beginning in 1956, Lockheed
began producing reconnaissance satellites and other space hardware for the
U.S. intelligence community. In 1960, after a string of failures, the Air
Force and CIA orbited the first successful reconnaissance satellite, named
CORONA. More than 140 versions of this spacecraft flew until 1972.
Lockheed went on to build later reconnaissance satellites and the Agena
upper stage, which boosted hundreds of military and civilian spacecraft
into orbit. From 1959, it also supported the Polaris submarine-launched
ballistic missile (SLBM) program and built the solid-fuel Polaris
NASA's Space Shuttle program, LMSC manufactured the tiles for the
Shuttles' thermal protection system. It also beat out Rockwell
International, the incumbent contractor, for the contract to manage all
ground processing of the Space Shuttle fleet at Kennedy Space Centre in
Florida. Lockheed also participated in the Air Force activation of
Vandenberg Air Force Base for Shuttle operations. The company also
developed the Support Systems Module for the Hubble Space Telescope as
well as providing support for NASA during operations of the telescope.
Lockheed and Martin Marietta, the dominant firm in defence/aerospace
electronics, merged, forming Lockheed Martin. The new aerospace giant
listed combined revenues of some $23.5 billion, with products ranging from
transports and the most advanced combat planes to missiles and rocket
launch vehicles, as well as a myriad of electronic systems and services.
In 1997, Lockheed-Martin attempted to merge with Northrop Grumman, another
aerospace company, but the Federal Government blocked the merger. In
October 2001, a Lockheed-led team was chosen to produce the Joint Strike
Fighter, a stealthy, supersonic, multi-role fighter designed for use by
the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as the British
military. The team plans to fly the first test aircraft in 2005 and
deliver the first operational JSF in 2008.