UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Lockheed Aircraft Corporation Civil Aviation

After World War II, 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 kilometers) and could cross the Atlantic on regularly scheduled flights.

In the 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. 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. Although Lockheed overcame the problem, the public lost confidence in the plane, and its production ended after only 174 aircraft were built. 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.

In the mid-1950s, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation moved firmly into the military aviation sector. 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." In the early 1960s, Lockheed produced the C-141 "Starlifter," the first pure jet cargo aircraft in the military transport fleet. Lockheed also received a contract in 1965 to build 115 C-5 "Galaxy" jet transports.

Although primarily a military planebuilder, 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. This decision 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 it needed.

TriStars were 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.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:29:14 ZULU