Lockheed 1961 - 1970
Lockheed 1961 - 1970

1963 - Lockheed
C-141 Starlifter

Lockheed C-141 Starlifter,  Zoggavia Collection

The first prototype 61-2775 flew on 17 December 1963, the 60th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight. The first C-141A, delivered to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma in October 1964, began squadron operations with the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) in April 1965. Starlifters made flights almost daily to Southeast Asia, carrying troops, equipment and supplies, and returning patients to U.S. hospitals. The last C-141A 67-0166 was delivered in February 1968. Drawing heavily on experience with the smaller C-130 Hercules, the Starlifter featured a fuselage of similar cross-section, a rear ramp and loading assembly with two large clamshell doors that could be opened in flight for airdrops, rear paratroop doors on both sides, and landing gear housed in external fairings.A high-set wing, swept 25 degrees, was adopted for high-speed cruise, with powerful flaps provided for good low-speed field performance. The aircraft also featured a T-tail, four underwing TF33 turbofan engines, and integral wing fuel tanks. During the 1970s, the entire fleet of 270 aircraft (minus the four NC-141A aircraft used as aerial testbeds) were returned to Lockheed for modification.

Lockheed C-141B Starlifter USAF,  Philippe Lipka Collection

This process consisted of lengthening the aircraft by 23 feet, 4 inches (7.16m), which increased cargo capacity by about one-third to 2,171 extra cubic feet (61.48 cubic meters) and increased the maximum payload weight from 70,847 pounds (32,136kg) to 90,880 pounds (41,222kg). Lengthening of the aircraft had the same effect as increasing the number of aircraft by 30 percent. At the same time, a universal air refueling receptacle, with the ability to transfer 23,592 gallons in about 26 minutes, means longer nonstop flights and fewer fuel stops at overseas bases during worldwide airlift missions. This in flight refueling system is housed within a characteristic "humped" fairing above the flight deck. This new capability provided the Starlifter with true global airlift capacity. The prototype C-141B made its first flight on 24 March 1977 and Lockheed completed the final B-model on 29 June 1982. Of the 285 C-141A Starlifters built, 270 were converted to B-models. 63 C-141Bs received further modifications to become the C-141C. Each received a "glass cockpit" which features an all-weather flight control system, a Global Positioning System (GPS), chaff/flare dispensers, and a new fuel quantity indicating system. These upgrades were completed by 2001.Throughout its career the C-141 Starlifter has been the workhorse of the air mobility fleet, flying regular supply missions around the world in addition to special requirements. The latter have included disaster relief, evacuations, aid delivery and missions in support of combat operations. Perhaps the Starlifter's finest hour came in the second half of 1990, when the entire fleet was instrumental in transporting much of the equipment for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.


1964 - Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

Lockheed M-21 Blackbird with the D-21 Drone USAF, Lockheed Archives

The USAF's SR-71A two-seat strategic-reconnaissance aircraft originates from the remarkable Lockheed A-11, detail design of which began in 1959. Almost certainly intended to follow into service the Lockheed U-2, the A-11 derived from the design team led by C. L. 'Kelly' Johnson. Four A-11 were ordered, the first being flown on 26 April 1962.Three were later modified into YF-12A interceptors, entering service for evaluation in 1964. They were capable of speeds in excess of Mach 3 and of sustained supersonic flight at heights of up to 24,385m.

Lockheed SR-71 with LASRE pod Nasa, Nasa  Archives

Consequently construction was largely of titanium to maintain structural integrity, for as a result of kinetic heating, localized skin temperatures of up to about 427°C could be reached. To retard as much as possible the effects of such heating, these aircraft were finished in a high-heat-emissive black paint, leading to the name Blackbird. The fourth A-11 (ordered on the original contract) was subsequently redesignated YF-12C. From it was developed the SR-71A reconnaissance aircraft, the first of which flew on 22 December 1964. The readily recognizable configuration of this aircraft results from extensive wind-tunnel testing to evolve a minimum-drag fuselage providing maximum speed while keeping kinetic heating to the minimum; and to maintain the best possible handling characteristics at supersonic, take-off (about 370km/h) and landing (about 278km/h) speeds.

Lockheed SR-71 USAF
, Joe Cupido Collection

Power plant comprises two 144.6kN Pratt & Whitney turbojets. The 36,287kg of special fuel for these engines - which is contained within upper-fuselage and inner-wing tanks - acts as a heat sink for the entire aircraft, fuel temperature being raised to 320°C before being injected into the engines. Highly complex air intakes with computer-controlled fail-safe systems are essential to ensure that smooth airflow to the engines is maintained over the enormous forward speed range of 0-3,200km/h, at the upper limit of which the engines are virtually operating as turbo-ramjets. SR-71A began to enter USAF service in January 1966 and it is believed that as many as 31 may have been built. They have the capability to survey an area of 155,400km2 within an hour and in 1976 established a closed-circuit speed record of 3,367.221km/h; a world absolute speed record of 3,529.56km/h; and a sustained-altitude record of 25,929.031m.

1968 - Lockheed C-5A Galaxy

Lockheed C-5A Galaxy  USAF,  Philippe Lipka Collection

The design competition was between Boeing (which entered its initial designs for the Model 747, before it was incorporated as a commercial passenger carrier), Douglas and Lockheed. Lockheed won the contract in October 1965 with a design that was an extension of the company's Hercules/Starlifter series. With a gross weight of 764,500 pounds (346,771kg), Lockheed's Model 500, later designated C-5A Galaxy, dwarfed not only other Air Force transports but also every other type of aircraft in existence. Construction of the prototype began in August 1966. The first flight took place on 30 June 1968. The C-5A Galaxy was presented to the United States Air Force, for training purposes, in December 1969. The first operational aircraft were delivered to the 437th Military Airlift Wing (MAW), Charleston AFB, SC, in June 1970. In the mid-1970s, wing cracks were found throughout the fleet. Consequently, all C-5A aircraft were restricted to a maximum of 50,000 pounds (22,680kg) of cargo each. To increase their lifting capability and service life, 77 C-5As underwent a re-winging program from 1981 to 1987. (In the redesigned wing, a new aluminum alloy was used that didn't exist ten years prior.) The final re-winged C-5A was delivered in July 1986. In 1982, a new production version, the C-5B, was authorized in which all modifications and improvements evolved in the C-5A program were to be incorporated, including upgraded TF-39-GE-1C turbofan engines, extended-life wings, Bendix color weather radar, triple Delco inertial navigation systems (INS), an improved automated flight control system (AFCS) and a new, more advanced Malfunction Detection Analysis and Recording System (MADAR II). The C-5B dispensed with the C-5A's complex crosswind landing gear system. The first flight of the C-5B 83-1285 took place on 10 September 1985.

Lockheed C-5B Galaxy  USAF,  Joe Cupido Collection

Delivery of the 50 new aircraft commenced in January 1986 and ended in April 1989. All C-5Bs are scheduled to remain in the active duty force, shared by comparably sized Air Force Reserve associate units. Lockheed has modified three C-5s to the M-model configuration. The C-5M, known as the Super Galaxy, features new avionics, installed under the avionics modernization program, and new engines and additional components added as part of the reliability enhancement and re-engining program. The Air Force plans to upgrade 52 of its 111 C-5s to the M-model configuration. The remaining 59 C-5s will get only the new avionics. With the CF6 engines, the C-5's initial cruise ceiling will increase from 24,000 feet to 33,000 feet. Also, the new engines will provide the Galaxy with 22 percent greater takeoff thrust, 30 percent less takeoff roll, and 58 percent less time-to-climb than with the C-5's current TF39 engines while operating at a 17 percent derate.

1970 - Lockheed L-1011 Tristar

Lockheed L-1011 Tristar prototype , Zoggavia Collection

The Lockheed L-1011 Tristar was the third widebody passenger jet airliner to reach the marketplace, following the Boeing 747 "jumbo jet" and the Douglas DC-10. In the 1960s, American Airlines approached Lockheed and competitor Douglas with a need for an aircraft smaller than the existing 747, but still capable of flying to distant locales such as London, the Caribbean, and Latin America from company hubs in Dallas/Ft Worth and New York. Lockheed answered the call with the Tristar. Ironically, American Airlines never flew the "Ten Eleven," purchasing many DC-10s instead.

First flown on November 16, 1970, the twin-aisle Tristar was considered a technological marvel of its day, featuring low noise emissions, improved reliability, and efficient operation. The main visible difference between the Tristar and DC-10 is in the middle/tail engine; the DC-10's engine is external for more power, while the Tristar's engine is integrated into the tail through an S-duct (similar to the Boeing 727) for improved quietness and stability. Although the Tristar's design schedule closely followed that of its fierce competitor, the DC-10, Douglas beat Lockheed to market by a year due to delays in power plant development. Rolls-Royce, the maker of the Tristar's RB211 turbofan engines, had filed for bankruptcy, halting L-1011 final assembly. The British government did not approve the large state subsidy used to restart Rolls-Royce operations until after the U.S. government had guaranteed the Lockheed loans previously provided to Rolls for the extensive engine contract. (The UK Government also took the contentious step (for a Conservative administration) of taking the aero-engine side of RR into public ownership, to maintain national defense capability). The first Tristar was finally delivered to Eastern Airlines on April 26, 1972.

Court's Lockheed L-1011 Tristar in the final assembly hall , Zoggavia Collection

Designed for a maximum seating of 400 passengers, the Tristar utilized a new engine layout: in addition to Rolls-Royce turbofan jet engines on each wing, a third engine was located dorsally below the vertical stabilizer. Manufactured in Lockheed facilities in Palmdale, California, the Tristar faced brisk competition with the Boeing 747 and, even more directly, the Douglas (later McDonnell Douglas) DC-10/MD-10, which it closely resembled. The Tristar had a better safety record than the DC-10, and Trans World Airlines heralded the Tristar as one of the safest airplanes in the world in some of its promotional literature in the 1980s when concern over the safety record of the DC-10, which was flown by most of its competitors, was at its peak. However, the DC-10 outsold the Tristar nearly two to one, partly because of its delayed introduction.

A longer-range variant of the standard-length L-1011 was developed in the late 1970s. Designated the L-1011-500, the fuselage length was shortened by 14 feet (4.3 m) to accommodate higher fuel loads.

Lockheed manufactured a total of 250 Tristar's, ceasing production in 1984. Lockheed needed to sell 500 planes to break even. Failing to achieve profitability in the civilian airliner sector, the Tristar was to be Lockheed's last commercial aircraft. Airlines played Douglas and Lockheed off each other, driving the prices of both planes down, and the end result was Douglas' merger with McDonnell (later bought by Boeing) and Lockheed's departure from the commercial aircraft business.