Legacies of the Lockheed

Lockheed 10A Electra, c.1936

By Blair Stein


The Lockheed Model 10A Electra was the first all-metal aircraft designed by the American Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Built to compete with a string of “modern” airliners, including the Boeing 247 and the Douglas DC-2, in the late 1930s, the Electra’s twin-engine, ten-passenger design was rather typical of this period. Canadian Airways, a precursor to Trans Canada Airlines (now Air Canada,) used Electras on some of their earliest routes, starting with Vancouver-Seattle in 1936. TCA bought Canadian Airways’s Electras, and several more, and used them to inaugurate service in September 1937. Being a passenger on the Electra was uncomfortable. The aircraft could only fly up to about 19,000 feet, approximately half the altitude of modern airliners, and oxygen masks were necessary at those heights, as aircraft were not pressurized until the late 1940s. This also meant that the cabin temperature was nearly impossible to control; furs and hats became the fashion for 1930s passengers. The height of the cabin maxed out at approximately 6 feet, making maneuvering difficult for adult passengers and even flight attendants, despite a 5’4” height requirement. Finally, the wings were entirely metal, without the rubberized de-icing “boots” featured on the Boeing 247 and late-1930s DC-3 models. Ice bouncing and cracking off the wings and fuselage made for a bumpy—and noisy—ride. Air travel before the Second World War was largely for those who needed, rather than wanted, to travel by air: business and emergency travellers. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum’s model was the first purchased by TCA in 1937, but was transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force two years later to be mobilized for the war effort. A slightly different Lockheed Electra model was also the same type of aircraft used by Amelia Earhart on her ill-fated 1937 voyage around the world. American pilot Ann Pellegreno used the Museum’s model to re-create Earhart’s flight in 1967.