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Lockheed Vega
Red Lockheed Vega 5b flown by Amelia Earhart in breaking two world records.
Role transport
Manufacturer Lockheed Aircraft Limited
Designer John Knudsen Northrop and Gerard Vultee
First flight July 4, 1927
Introduction 1928
Status 6 surviving examples (?)
Primary users Commercial air carriers
Number built 132

The Vega is a six-passenger monoplane built by the Lockheed company starting in 1927. It became famous for its use by a number of record breaking pilots who were attracted to the rugged and very long-range design. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly the Atlantic single handed in one, and Wiley Post flew his around the world twice.

Design and development

Designed by John Knudsen Northrop and Gerard Vultee, both of whom would later form their own companies, the aircraft was originally intended to serve with Lockheed's own airline routes. They set out to build a four-seat aircraft that was not only rugged, but the fastest aircraft as well. Utilizing the latest designs in monocoque fuselages, cantilever wings and the best engine available, the Vega delivered on the promise of speed.

The fuselage was monocoque, built from sheets of plywood, skinned over wooden ribs. Using a large concrete mold, a single half of the fuselage shell was laminated in sections with glue and then a rubber bladder was lowered into the mold and inflated with air to compress the lamination into shape. Two fuselage halves were then nailed and glued over a previously made rib framework. With the fuselage constructed in this fashion, the wing spar had to be kept clear, so a single spar cantilever was mounted atop the aircraft. The only part of the aircraft that wasn't particularly streamlined was the landing gear, although production versions wore sleek "spats". It was powered by the Wright Whirlwind, which delivered 225 horsepower (168 kW).

Operational history

U.S. Army Air Corps Y1C-12.

The Y1C-17

The first Vega 1, named the Golden Eagle, flew from Lockheed's Los Angeles plant on July 4, 1927. It could cruise at a then-fast 120 mph (193 km/h), and had a top speed of 135 mph (217 km/h). The four-passenger (plus one pilot) load, however, was considered too small for airline use. A number of private owners placed orders for the design however, and by the end of 1928, they had produced 68 of this original design. In the 1928 National Air Races in Cleveland, Vegas won every speed award.

In 1928 Vega 5 Yankee Doodle (NX4789) was used to break transcontinental speed records. On August 19–20, Hollywood stunt flier Arthur C. Goebel broke the coast-to-coast record of Russell Maughan by flying from Los Angeles, California to Garden City, New York in 18 hours and 58 minutes, in what was also the first nonstop flight from west to east. On October 25, barnstormer and former mail pilot Charles B.D. Collyer broke the nonstop east to west record set in 1923 by the U.S. Army Air Service in 24 hours and 51 minutes. Trying to break the new west-to-east record on November 3, Collyer crashed near Prescott, Arizona, resulting in his death and that of the aircraft owner, Harry J. Tucker.[1]

Looking to improve the design, Lockheed delivered the Vega 5 in 1929. Adding the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine of 450 hp (336 kW) improved weights enough to allow two more seats to be added. A new NACA cowling increased cruise speed to 155 mph (249 km/h) and top speed to 165 mph (266 km/h). However, even the new six-seat configuration proved to be too small, and the 5 was purchased primarily for private aviation and executive transport. A total of 64 Vega 5s were built. In 1931, the United States Army Air Corps bought two Vega 5s; one designated C-12 and one as the C-17. The C-17 differed by having an extra set of fuel tanks in the wings.

The Vega could be difficult to land. In her memoir, Elinor Smith wrote that it had "all the glide potential of a boulder falling off a mountain."[2] In addition, forward and side visibility from the cockpit was extremely limited; Lane Wallace, a columnist for Flying magazine, wrote that "Even [in level flight], the windscreen would offer a better view of the sky than anything else, which would make it more of a challenge to detect changes in attitude or bank angle. On takeoff or landing, there'd be almost no forward visibility whatsoever."


A one-off special, based on the metal-fuselaged DL-1, was built by the Detroit Aircraft Corporation, and exported to the United Kingdom for Lt. Cmdr. Glen Kidston. It was initially registered in the UK as G-ABFE but rapidly re-registered as G-ABGK to incorporate Kidston's initials.[3] This Vega was used by him to set a record-breaking time from the UK to South Africa in April 1931. Following Kidston's death the following month, the aircraft was eventually sold to Australian airline owner Horrie Miller for entry by him into the MacRobertson Air Race. Piloted in the race by Miller's Chief Pilot, Capt. Jimmy Woods, it overturned on landing at Aleppo en route, whereupon Woods withdrew from the race and the DL-1A was eventually shipped the remainder of the distance to Australia. Following repairs and another re-registration, to VH-UVK, the aircraft was used for charter and leisure flying by Miller, before being impressed by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941. It was finally broken for spares by the RAAF at the end of World War II in 1945.[3]


The UC-101

Vega 1
Five-seat cabin monoplane, accommodation for one pilot and four passengers, powered by a 225 hp (168 kW) Wright J-5, J-5A, J-5AB or J-5C Whirlwind radial piston engine.
Vega 2
Five-seat cabin monoplane, powered by a 300 hp (224 kW) Wright J-6 Whirlwind radial piston engine.
Vega 2A
Re-designation of one Vega 2 aircraft, modified for higher gross weights operators.
Vega 2D
Re-designation of two Vega 1s and one Vega 2, each fitted with a 300 hp (224 kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial piston engine.
Vega 5
Improved version, powered by a 410 hp (306 kW) Wasp A, 450 hp (336 kW) Wasp B or 420 hp (313 kW) Wasp C1 radial piston engine.
Vega 5A Executive
Executive transport version, with a plush interior.
Vega 5B
Seven-seat passenger transport version, built for higher gross weight operations with commercial operators.
Vega 5C
Seven-seat cabin monoplane, with revised tail surfaces, built for higher gross weight operations.
Vega 5C with a light alloy fuselage. Built by the Detroit Aircraft Corporation.
DL-1A/DL-1 Special
One-off air racing and record breaking version, c/n 155.
Seven-seat cabin monoplane, similar to the DL-1. Built by the Detroit Aircraft Corporation.
One DL-1 acquired by the U.S. Army Air Corps for service tests and evaluation.
One DL-1B acquired by the U.S. Army Air Corps for service tests and evaluation.
One Vega 5C impressed into service with the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942.


Wiley Post's "Winnie Mae," a model 5C, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

  • Both Wiley Post's Winnie Mae and Amelia Earhart's Vegas[N 1] are a part of the collection of the National Air and Space Museum. Earhart's Transatlantic Vega is on display at the original National Air and Space Museum building in Washington, D.C. The "Winnie Mae" is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Fantasy of Flight's Vega

Original 1929 Vega cn/72 restored to Wiley Post's "Winnie Mae" colors and now on display at Fantasy of Flight

  • In 1969, cn/72 first owned by the Independent Oil and Gas Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma was restored by Dave Jameson in the paint scheme of the Winnie Mae. The aircraft was also an airborne electronics laboratory for the General Electric company. It differs from the original with a larger R-1340 engine installation.[5] It currently resides at the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida.
  • The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan has c/n 40 ex-N965Y currently painted to represent one of Earhart's Vegas.


United States

Specifications (Vega 5)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Wingspan: 41 ft in (12.49 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
  • Wing area: 259 sq ft (25.548 m2)
  • Airfoil: Clark Y
  • Empty weight: 2,565 lb (1,163 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 4,500 lb (2,041 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Wasp R1340C, 500 hp (372.5 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 185 mph (298 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 165 mph (265 km/h)
  • Range: 725 mi (1,165 km)
  • Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,570 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,300 ft/min (6.6 m/s)

See also



  1. Amelia Earhart's Vega 5B, a company demonstrator was c/n 22 NC7952.[4]


  1. "Charles B.D. Collyer." Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register, December 25, 2011. Retrieved: December 27, 2012.
  2. Smith 1981, p. 94.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Goodall, Geoff. "Vega VH-UVK: The Story of a Unique Aeroplane." Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia, Volume 17, Issue 4.
  4. "Lockheed 5B Vega." NASM. Retrieved: May 18, 2011.
  5. "The Return of the Winnie Mae." Sport Aviation, October 1969.


  • Allen, Richard Sanders. Revolution in the Sky: Those Fabulous Lockheeds, The Pilots Who Flew Them. Brattleboro, Vermont: The Stephen Greene Press, 1964.
  • Boyne, Walter J. Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. ISBN 0-312-19237-1.
  • Francillon, René J. Lockheed Aircraft since 1913. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1987. ISBN 0-85177-835-6.
  • Smith, Elinor. Aviatrix. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. ISBN 0-15-110372-0.

External links

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