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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Lockheed 14 Super Electra and Hudson, and Lockheed 18 Lodestar

Updated: May 19, 2023

Lockheed 14 Super Electra and Hudson

The Super Electra was conceived in 1935 as Lockheed’s response to the DC-3. Development was slowed because of Lockheed’s limited resources being consumed by development of the Electra Junior. However, when the Super Electra did appear, it was technologically more advanced that the DC-3, featuring Fowler flaps that allowed the use of a much smaller wing. Although bearing a strong family resemblance to the Electra and Electra Junior, the Super Electra features a much deeper fuselage, designed to permit the wing box to sit entirely beneath the cabin floor. Unfortunately, the operating economics of the Super Electra were poorer than those of the DC-3 and, with few commercial sales, Lockheed began working on military derivatives and offered a land-based maritime reconnaissance version (to become known as the Hudson) to the Royal Air Force. The British signed an initial contract for 200 on 23 June 1938, thus beginning Lockheed’s long association with maritime patrol. Also in 1938, Lockheed licensed production of the Super Electra in Japan. (Kawasaki went on to develop a stretched-fuselage version of the Super Electra under the designation Ki-56: 121 were built, of which one survives, in the Australian War Memorial’s reserve collection.)

Although built in greater numbers than any of the other Lockheed twins, few 14s survive. The only active aircraft operates in the markings of A26-211, one of a number of Royal Australian Air Force Hudsons that participated in the Battle for Milne Bay in 1942, Japan’s first defeat in the war in the Pacific.

First flight: Super Electra - 29 Jul 37 (c/n 1401, X17382); Hudson - 10 Dec 38 (c/n 1601, N7205)

Production: 3,172 comprising: 112 Super Electras and 2,941 Hudsons at Burbank, CA; and 119 Super Electras in Japan by Tachikawa (64 aircraft) and Kawasaki (55).

First delivery: Super Electra - 12 Sep 37, to Northwest Airlines (c/n 1402, NC17383); Hudson - 13 Jan 39, to Royal Air Force (c/n 1601, N7205)

Last delivery: Super Electra - 2 Jun 40, to DETA (c/ns 1507 and 1511, CR-AAV and CR-AAX); Hudson - 17 Jun 43, to Royal Air Force (c/n 7589, FK813)

Variants: 14-H - prototype and initial production version for Northwest Airlines and others, powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney S1E-G Hornet radials and with seating for up to 14 passengers, (20 built);

14-H2 - 14-H powered by S1E-G2 Hornets for Trans Canada Airlines and others (32 built);

14-WF62 - export version powered by Wright SGR-1820-F62 radials (21 built);

14-WG3B - export version for Japan and others, powered by Wright GR-1820-G3B Cyclones (34 built, Allied code name “Toby”);

14-N - executive transport version, powered by GR-1820-G105, -G105A or -G102 Cyclones (4 built);

XR4O-1 - 14-H for use as a staff transport by US Navy (1 built);

Type LO - Japanese-built staff transport powered by Mitsubishi Ha-26-I radials (119 built, Allied code name “Thelma”);

B14L/Hudson I - armed maritime patrol version for Royal Air Force powered by Wright GR-1820-G102A radials, featuring internal bomb-bay, a dorsal machine gun turret and glazed nose for the navigator (351 built);

414/Hudson II - Hudson I with strengthened airframe components and constant speed propellers (20 built);

414/Hudson III - Hudson II with increased defensive armanent and powered by GR-1820-G205As (428 built);

B14S/Hudson IV - B14L for Royal Australian Air Force, powered by Pratt & Whitney Wasp SC3-Gs (130 built);

B14S - unarmed version of Hudson IV built for use as a flying testbed by Sperry Gryroscope Co. (1 built);

Hudson V - Hudson III powered by Twin Wasp S3C-4Gs (409 built);

A-28 - lease-lend version powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1830-45 Twin Wasps for Australia (52 built as Hudson IVA);

A-28A - lease-lend version of Hudson V powered by Chevrolet-built R-1830-67s (450 built: 410 supplied as Hudson VI to RAF, 36 to Canada and 4 to New Zealand);

A-29 - lease-lend version of the Hudson III (416 built: 32 supplied as Hudson IIIA to RAF, 133 to Canada, 41 to Australia, 14 to New Zealand and 23 to China; 153 retained by USAAF and 20 delivered to US Navy as PBO-1);

A-29A - A-29 with convertible interior for troop transport (384 built for lease-lend: 289 to RAF, 4 to Canada, 65 to Australia, 23 to New Zealand and 3 to China);

AT-18 - gunnery trainer version for USAAF, powered by Wright R-1820-87 Cyclones (217 built);

AT-18A - unarmed navigational trainer with accommodation for up to three students (83 built).

Conversions: 3 Lockheed 14s were converted by the manufacturer in 1939 as prototypes for the Lodestar and at least four were converted by Hamilton Aviation to 18-56 Lodestars in 1955/56 (one survives).

Lockheed 18 Lodestar

Maybe not one for the purists, an unidentified Lodestar has been used by Randy Palumbo for his artwork, imaginatively entitled "Lodestar". It was first displayed at Burning Man in 2018 and spent most of 2022 in the United Kingdom (Chatsworth, 15 Sep 22)

In order to improve the Super Electra’s commercial appeal, Lockheed re-designed it to feature a fuselage lengthened by 5½ ft. This allowed the incorporation of an additional two rows of seats. Keen to distance the new aircraft from its commercially unattractive predecessor, it was given a new model number name: the Model 18 Lodestar. The first three Lodestars were converted from Lockheed 14s, the first ‘true’ Model 18 making its first flight on 2 February 1940 and entering service the following month. Although the Lodestar was offered with a wide choice of powerplants, commercial take up was slow and it was military interest that eventually surged production numbers.

First flight: 21 Sep 39 (c/n 18-1954, NX17385, converted from Lockheed 14 c/n 1404)

Production: 625, at Burbank, CA (excluding conversions from Lockheed 14s)

First delivery: 30 Mar 40, to Mid-Continental Airlines (c/n 18-2001, N25604)

Last delivery: 29 Jan 44, to US Army Air Force (c/n 18-2625, 43-16465)

Variants: 18-H2 - prototype airliner, converted from Lockheed 14-H but retaining the wing, tail surfaces and engines from the 14-H (3 converted);

18-07 - initial production version with seating for up to 14 passengers, powered by Pratt & Whitney S1E2-G Hornet radials (25 built);

18-08 - 18-07 powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1820-SC3G Twin Wasp radials (33 built);

18-10 - 18-07 powered by R-1830-S1C3Gs (37 built);

18-14 - 18-07 powered by R-1830-S4C4Gs (4 built);

18-40 - 18-07 powered by Wright GR-1820-G102A Cyclones (26 built);

18-50 - 18-07 powered by Wright GR-1820-G202A Cyclones (3 built);

18-56 - 18-07 powered by Wright GR-1820-G205A Cyclones for US Army Air Corps and US Navy (see below);

C-56 - 18-50 equipped as 17-seat transport for evaluation by US Army Air Corps (1 built)

C-57 - 18-14 staff transport for US Army Air Corps (13 built);

C-57B - 18-08 paratroop transport for US Army Air Corps (7 built);

C-59 - 18-07 for lease-lend to RAF as Lodestar IA (10 built);

C-60 - 18-56 14-seat transport for US Army Air Corps (36 built);

C-60A - 18-56 18-seat paratroop transport for US Army Air Corps (325 built)

C-66 - 11-passenger transport for Brazil, powered by R-1830-53 Twin Wasps (1 built);

XR5O-1 - 18-40 staff transport for US Coast Guard (1 built);

R5O-1 - 18-40 staff transport for US Navy (2 built);

R5O-2 - 18-07 staff transport for US Navy (1 built);

R5O-3 - 18-10 VIP transport for US Navy (2 built);

R5O-4 - 18-56 7-seat staff transport for US Navy (12 built);

R5O-5 - 18-56 14-seat staff transport for US Navy (41 built);

R5O-6 - 18-56 18-seat paratroop transport for US Navy (35 built).

Impressments included various 18-07s as C-56A and C-56C, 18-08s as C-56D and 18-40s as C-56B and C-56E.

Conversions included: Learstar - aerodynamically improved version developed by William P. Lear for use as a rapid 12-passenger executive transport, powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1820 Cyclone radials (approximately 60 conversions, including a number as lower-cost Learstar II without interior completion; first flight 19 May 54);

DallAero Lodestar - heigher weight, payload and range with improved streamlining (4 conversions, plus 4 partial conversions);

Gulfstar - Executive Aircraft Services conversion for Gulf Oil Co., featuring aerodynamic improvements, installation of panoramic windows and other minor changes (5 conversions);

Howard 250 - aerodynamically improved version, powered by Wright Cyclones, featured soundproofed cabin for up to 10 passengers (31 conversions, including 5 with Business Aircraft Corporation tricycle gear; first flight 3 Apr 61).

Lockheed 14 and 18 survivors
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