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Lockheed Vega

"Vega" airplaneOne aircraft that gained notoriety in the early 1930s was the Lockheed Vega. Designed and produced in Burbank, California in the United States by the Lockheed Aircraft Company, the Vega was a light, but strong wooden monoplane that became the aircraft of choice in the business of setting aviation records.

The plane was first designed in 1927 by American aviation pioneers John Northrop and Gerrard Vultee as a transport aircraft. It was state of the art for its day, for it was streamlined for speed, but was also capable of travelling longer distances without refueling than many of the sister planes of its era.

The Vega had a capacity to carry four to six passengers and up to two crew, and saw much early use by various American and Canadian commercial airlines, due to its unique combination of speed and long range capability. These traits, and its spacious cabin, made the Lockheed Vega a popular travel plane for business executives of the day.

Despite its initial success as a commercial transport, the Vega truly cemented its sterling reputation when several famous aviators saw in its unique design the potential to set new aviation records, or break previously standing ones. The first trans-arctic flight was made in a Lockheed Vega in April 1928 by navigator Sir George Hubert Wilkins and his pilot, Carl Ben Eiselson. The pair would later make the first flight over Antarctica in November of that same year.

Though American aviator and socialite Charles Lindbergh had already set the bar as the first person to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean; that flight still had yet to be attempted by a woman. In 1932, it was the famous Amelia Earhart of the United States who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and she did so in a bright red Lockheed Vega.

Perhaps the most famous example of the Lockheed Vega was the Winnie Mae, a plane piloted by American Wiley Post. Post and Winnie Mae captured the imaginations of aviation enthusiasts everywhere, when they completed two circumnavigations of the globe, once in June 1931, and the second in July 1933. At one point on his second historic flight, Post landed at Blatchford Field near Edmonton, Alberta to refuel and get new spark plugs for Winnie Mae.

128 Vegas were eventually produced by the Lockheed Aircraft Company. With speed and style (and famous pilots) the Vega carved its niche into aviation history.

Sources:

John Greaves Arthttp://www.johngreavesart.com
Page: Lockheed Vega Winnie Mae in Edmonton July 1933 http://www.johngreavesart.com/winniemay.html

Aviation-Central.comhttp://www.aviation-central.com
Page: Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega
http://www.aviation-central.com/famous/ab1c0.htm

The Ohio State Universityhttp://library.osu.edu
Page: Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program – The Papers of Sir George Hubert Wilkins
http://library.osu.edu/sites/archives/polar/wilkins/wilkins.htm

U.S. Centennial of Flight Commissionhttp://www.centennialofflight.gov
Page: Lockheed’s Early Years, 1912 -1940 http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Aerospace/Lockheed_early/
Aero13.htm

 

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