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Lockheed L-188A Electra First Flight Was 63 Years Ago Today

At 10:28 a.m., Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s Chief Engineering Test Pilot Herman Richard (“Fish”) Salmon, and co-pilot Roy Edwin Wimmer started the Number 4 engine (outboard, right wing, of the new prototype Model L-188A Electra, c/n 1001, registered N1881. Also on board were flight engineers Louis Holland and William Spreuer. In rapid succession, the flight crew started engines 1, 2, on the left wing, and 3, inboard on the right. The prototype then taxied to the eastern end of Lockheed Air… ( More...

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sparkie624 6
Nice article.. thanks for Sharing.
Peter Watson 6
Also referred to as 4 engines hotly persued by an aircraft
ImperialEagle 2
For sure! Oh, and then there is the P-3 hot-rod.
I remember flying home in one in 1965. At the very rear of the cabin was a circular table with a curved bench going about halfway around it. I sat with my back to the rear bulkhead (maybe bathrooms were behind me?), and at that time, being in uniform, the stewardesses (That was what they were called then) gave me and my traveling partner (also military) great service on that leg of our journey.
I also was treated to that table in the back while in uniform (U.S.Marine), I think that was their cocktail area. Several years later I would be working on the T-56 Allison Engines -9.-11,-13. Great engines
canuck44 2
Many airment have spent much it theives ridingP-3 or the C version.,anadian
Ricky Scott 2
Im one, as a long time Airborne Electronic Warfare operator and a low time Flight Engineer before medical problems, I have almost 5000 hours in the P3. Great airplane.
ImperialEagle 2

The -188 was not the first project that Lockheed had a flutter problem with. They were always pushing the speed envelope and paid the price. The L-14 and the P-38 come to mind.
The upside was the -188 became a niche aircraft. It certainly served its purpose well. EA was loath to retire theirs and as a launch customer held on to theirs until 1977 or so.(They had an open-house event at ATL in the fall of 1963 to show off the new 727 and just inside the hanger was a DC-7B and an Electra. Neither one was very old BUT the difference between them and the 727 was striking.The jets had made them obsolete). They also found good homes in Alaska, Canada, and Brazil. Cold-weather performance was excellent!

I flew many trips on the -188's. I remember when they were advertised as "vibration-free" and "quiet" without the "roar" of piston engines. That was laughable. Once the propellers were in Flight Regime there was a cyclic vibration that was more pronounced the closer you got to the propellers. The few rows in front of the engines were the worst. A bit of cotton or foam in the ears made a huge difference. In any event, I would argue cruise power on a DC-6 or DC-7 was quieter. I used to enjoy making a fast let-down when the NTS on the props would kick-in. The whole aircraft would tend to yaw from side to side. The prop-wash just about covered the wings completely.

The cockpit crew were the ones who really benefitted. After flying so many of the old "windmills" it was a treat to have the instantaneous power of the -188's. The handling was crisp, many systems had been reduced to a simple one-step function. It was just a real pilots airplane. No more mag checks and run-ups. Just light and go!

The last time I had a close look at one was down at OPF. I must have spent an hour walking around it. Looking, touching. A flood of memories.
Paul Hurford 1
About the cockpit... I loved it, and in my memory the one and only wide body cockpit design. It was so wide that there had to be 2-sets of throttles, one for the captain and one for the right seat. They were a good 24 to 30 inches apart. The view out the front was also fantastic.
Wayne Joyner 2
I flew many times from Richmond Byrd Field on the Electra to Washington DCA and back during my sales outings in early 60's. I loved the sound of those 4 engines spinning up and ready to go. The noise after takeoff was a little loud and the vibration was like one of those old time motel beds with the vibrator going on after you put your quarter into the slot. I have a picture by a famous artist of one taking off for a morning flight and I cast a fond glance at it on a daily basis. I even have one on my flight simulator. Thanks to Eastern Air Lines and the great Electra for keeping me safe.
Paul Hurford 2
The L-188 is in my top 2 preferred passenger aircraft. What a superb machine. Thanks for paying it a proper tribute on this historic day. Had engineers only known about whirl mode vibration, this aircraft would have had a much brighter future.
First commercial airline I ever flew on, Eastern Airlines, Richmond VA to Washington National, October 1967.
cougardad 2
L-188, Brings back cherrished memories of my Jump seating out to PADU Unalaska on Reeve Aleutian Airways. My old friend was the Captain many times, Gary Lintner was his name.unfortunately Gary flew west back in January 2020. Gary was the F/O on the storied Reeve flight 8. the systems were the exact same on the Herc, L382 that i flew for years at Transamerica.
Robert Bryan 1
First flight was in an Electra. I think 1967 Dayton OH to O'Hare. Good flight that was a bit long (got diverted to St Louis overnight due to weather). I remember the giddy feeling on take-off. Nothing like the first time!
Ricky Scott 1
Never flew on the actual Electra, although I thought it would be fun.
Patrick Smith 1
The Electra was a great-looking plane, if only for its pure utilitarian lines. It was muscular and simple, as was its (much) longer-lived Soviet counterpart, the beautiful IL-18.

I remember seeing Electras at BOS when I was a kid. Eastern, Zantop....
Peter Fuller 1
I think Eastern used Electras well into the ‘70s as standby aircraft for the Eastern Shuttle. In July 1976 a parked empty Eastern Electra was destroyed at BOS by a bomb. Before that, in October 1960, one crashed into Boston Harbor on takeoff: birds ingested into engines.

I remember as a little guy seeing the new Electras in Orlando at ORL. They sure sounded different than the piston-engine prop liners of the day...
patrick baker 1
Electra was a remarkable machine, in that it could fly with both engines inoperative on the same side. National and Eastern Airlines had lots of them and used them on the puddle-jumper flights down the east coast, from Philadelphia or New York to Miami, making a handful of stops. The navy had them for years as anti-sub patrol craft, still able to complete the mission, but now surplanted by a version of the Boeing 737. It had a high cruise speed, nearly that of jet aircraft, and had to be red-lined, placarded at one point. THey are still around in cargo roles. THey still acclelrate like a bat-outa-hell, climb like a banshee, and are just a bit noisy and shakey.
tjnighthawk 1
My first ride on a jet airliner was on the Electra. I remember how smooth the ride was other than the buzz in the area of the prop plane. The airplane was amazingly quiet aft of the wing, especially in the aft Lounge compared to DC-6/7s.
At the time my father was working for AAL at their maintenance facility in Tulsa and as they introduced the Electra they had an open house to show off their new jet engine overhaul facility as well. They also had a brand new Electra for employees to have a look-see. I remember being impressed with how much larger the cabin and cockpit felt compared to the other Douglas and Convair aircraft in the fleet.
That weekend the crew flying the Electra took the aircraft on a flight over Tulsa with engines 1, 2 and 3 feathered to demonstrate the reserve power of the aircraft. The local Tulsa Tribune newspaper had a picture of the event on the front page the following Monday.
tjnighthawk 1
I cited the Tribune and now think the newspaper was the Tulsa Daily World... Not a bad catch 62 years after the event.
notmanyifany 1
I remember the Electra well from my boyhood as Air New Zealand flew them and our house was beneath the flight path to NZAA. The shape and sound of the Electra lives on in the P3K-2 Orion which I have the joy to see on an almost daily basis living on the approach path to NZWP where RNZAF No.5 Sqn is based. I absolutely love it when the boy 'buzz' the field at low altitude with the hammer down!
Colin Seftel 1
Only 170 were sold after two fatal crashes that led to expensive modifications to fix a design defect. After that there were no further orders and many airlines switched to the British Vickers Viscount.
Ivan Blakely 1
my first flight was on a Lockheed Electra of Ansett ANA, December 1959 from Perth to Melbourne via Adelaide.
Suspect my interest in planes was ignited that day by the excitement.

Ken Hardy 1
Lockheed, once a designer of great passenger planes has disappeared from the commercial world along with others like Douglas and Convair, I doubt that Lockheed even owns a single one of their aircraft like the Constellation which was one of the revolutionary designs of its time.
ImperialEagle 1
The Viscount was early to the game and had a longer life. The -188 was too late to the game as was the Vickers Vanguard. Once the public got a taste of jets anything with propellers on it was obsolete.
So while the aging founders of the Legacy carriers in the US were short-sided many sat tight for the generation of true jets.
paul gilpin 1
that article was interesting to read, if for no other reason than to discover the test pilot had no trouble in flying......upstream. and i thought it was just to spawn.
Tom Bruce 1
was air controller at So Lake Tahoe 1975-76 when AirCal and PSA started L188 service from Calif airports... got a few cockpit rides... great airplane for that airport.. Holiday AL flew junkets into the airport before that... PSA would always get a visual app from Oakland Ctr... "PSA over Picketts Junction" for landing" We'd run to our map and find some obscure reporting point "Roger PSA report over Freel Peak" what a gas it was with the PSA pilots..
I commuted every week on the first flight of the day of a PSA Electra in Tahoe service. That early morning first leg was from LAX to OAK. My favorite memory was the engine startup after being parked overnight -- the aircraft interior was lit up with an orange light from the 10 to 20 foot flames shooting out of the turboprop exhaust! It always got a little yelp from the newbies on board.
Tom Bruce 1
still a couple flying "Airspray" were at Mcclellan during fire season not P3 mods... L188s
Breck Adams 1
Isn't this the plane that the airlines were flying too fast and a few went down early on?
Don Whyte 1
Airspeed was limited to 225 kt after the crashes. I remember the number as Buick had a model called the Electra 225.

From Wikipedia: After an extensive investigation, two of the crashes (in September 1959 and March 1960) were found to be caused by an engine mount problem. The mounts were not strong enough to damp a phenomenon called "whirl mode flutter" (analogous to the precession of a child's top as it slows down) that affected the outboard engine nacelles. When the oscillation was transmitted to the wings and the flutter frequency decreased to a point where it was resonant with the outer wing panels (at the same frequency, or harmonically related ones), violent up-and-down oscillation increased until the wings would tear off.
Paul Hurford -1
No, the issue was not flying too fast. The issue was turbulence and rough landings that weakened the wings and engine mounts for the Allison 501's. The engine operated so smoothly that there was no dampening when the engine started spinning (like a gyroscope) out of control and eventually tore the wing of. It was, at that time, an unknown type of vibration finally named whirl mode vibration. Lockheed had to strengthen the wing sections and the motor mounts to correct the failure. So good was this engineering that the same air frame was modified for the P3 Orion military aircraft that fly's through hurricanes for meteorological data.
Tom Bruce 2
not true... faulty design of engine mounts
Paul Hurford 2
I said that in my post. And, had the wing sections been stronger the wings might not have ripped off from the aircraft. Lockheed spend millions upgrading the wings and motor mounts.
David Grimm 1
The Electra was a great airliner. The sound, the smell of jet fuel as it turned away to head for a runway, the way they started the engines. Great memories. I used to live in New York City and went to LaGuardia often to watch them. American did sight-seeing flights (1961 - 63 ? Not sure exactly) and I flew in N6114 one day. Just checked my flight logs: 11/19/60. In June of that year flew from LGA to ALB on Eastern N5533. Sad to say it was lost in Boston a few months later. My only rides.
The Electra does bring back some memories.
I was aircrew on the a/c in 1966 with American Airlines based at Boston.
Airlines were expanding quickly and AAL was no different. As a side note during the year 1966 I was trained and flew as flight engineer and co-pilot on DC-6, DC-7, Electra and 707.

At 25 years old I was sent to training both as a Flight Engineer and Co-Pilot.

It is correct that the Electra was caught between the movement from piston props to pure jet aircraft.

Engine power was impressive. During flight training both piston prop and jet stall training was to the approach to stall. My training on the Electra was power off, level flight and enter a full stall. The recovery was started when the aircraft was shaking so much you could not read the instruments. Application of full power blew the stall right off the wing.

Engine out landing for AAL piston and jet aircraft was with one engine at idle simulating a 3 engine landing. For the Electra one outboard engine was shut down and a second on the same side was at idle basically simulating a TWO engine landing.

Generator power was such you could operate the aircraft on ONE generator.

Flying was my life. Reading aircraft history brings many memories covering 40 years from U.S. Navy to American Airlines. Skyraider pilot to Boeing 777 covering 22,843 hours in low orbit.
David Grimm 1
Good morning. I posted this story at the end of the main article. Not sure it shows up anywhere. It's about a Reeve Aleutian Electra that landed at one of the remote Alaska airports. The crew was never alerted that the runway was all ice. Strong crosswind so when they touched down the plane started to weathervane into the wind. With no braking the captain used the power on the upwind side and the rudder to keep it under some sort of control as he accelerated to go around/ no leave !. A passenger noted the foam from the thrust on the ocean as they lifted off at the runway's end. One of those days where they earned their pay ! It was in either Airways Magazine or Airliners quite a few years ago. Certainly a day where the Electra's great power came in handy.
WhiteKnight77 1
I always loved watching the P-3s fly the pattern at Futenma while I was there. It was so graceful.
Larry White 1
My dear father was a test engineer on these engines at GM Allison Gas Turbine in Indpls. He was very upset of the Tell City crash,, worried that the engines failed but they didn't. I also built the 501 at the plant and also some of the smaller gas turbines, 250, C20, C30s. Plus we re-fabbed the props. I loved going into the test cell when he was setting up a 501, took almost a day, the he would run it 24 hrs at different speeds and power settings. CAVU here in DFW but in 30s.
I remember during my days at Western Airlines, an old story going around about an Electra that powered itself out of the deep mud when it went off the runway. Does anyone know if that's a true story? I think it was in SAN.
Edward Ludwig 1
I jumped on an Eastern L-188 out of Newark. I got to sit mid cabin in the aft facing seat.


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