Wind-tunnel work on the Electra was undertaken at the University of Michigan. Much of the work was performed by a student assistant, Clarence Johnson. He suggested two changes be made to the design: changing the single tail to double tails (later a Lockheed trademark), and deleting oversized wing fillets. Both of these suggestions were incorporated into production aircraft. Upon receiving his master's degree, Johnson joined Lockheed as a regular employee, ultimately leading the Skunk Works in developing advanced aircraft such as the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
The Lockheed Electra was one of the first commercial passenger aircraft with retractable landing gear to come equipped with mudguards as standard equipment, although aircraft with fixed landing gear commonly had mudguards much earlier than this.
Lockheed 10B of Marshall Airways (Australia) in 1970, had been initially delivered to Ansett Airways in 1937
After October 1934, when the US government banned single-engined aircraft for use in carrying passengers or in night flying, Lockheed was perfectly placed in the market with its new Model 10 Electra. In addition to deliveries to US-based airlines, several European operators added Electras to their prewar fleets. In Latin America, the first airline to use Electras was Cubana de Aviación, starting in 1935, for its domestic routes.
Flight deck of a Model 10A, which has been updated with a more modern instrument panel
Besides airline orders, a number of non-commercial civil operators also purchased the new Model 10. In May 1937, H.T. "Dick" Merrill and J.S. Lambie accomplished a round-trip crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The feat was declared the first round-trip commercial crossing of that ocean by any aircraft. It won them the Harmon Trophy. On the eastbound trip, they carried newsreels of the crash of the Hindenburg, and on the return trip from the United Kingdom, they brought photographs of the coronation of King George VI. Bata Shoes operated the Model 10 to ferry its executives between their European factories.
Probably the most famous use of the Electra was the highly modified Model 10E flown by aviatrixAmelia Earhart. In July 1937, she disappeared in her Electra during an attempted round-the-world flight.
Many Electras and their design descendants (the Model 12 Electra Junior and Model 14 Super Electra) were pressed into military service during World War II, for instance the USAAF's C-36. By the end of the war, the Electra design was obsolete, although many smaller airlines and charter services continued to operate Electras into the 1970s.
1042 Muriel – Electra 10E on static display with the Amelia Earhart Foundation in Atchison, Kansas. Delivered to Atchison in August 2016, it was previously owned by Grace McGuire who had planned on using it to recreate Amelia Earhart's around-the-world flight.
1052 – Electra 10A on static display at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Originally an XR2O-1 used for transporting high ranking staff by the U.S. Navy, it is now painted in Northwest Airlines colors. At one point it was intended to use this machine for a recreation of the Earhart flight but it was not carried out.
1091 – Electra 10A airworthy with Ivo Lukačovič at Točná Airport in Točná, Prague. Registered previously as OK-CTB (now N241M), it was one of two owned by Bata Shoe Co. in Prague, Czechoslovakia before WWII. At the outbreak of WWII it was evacuated to England, and onward to Canada where it served with the RCAF. After a succession of US owners, it was eventually reacquired by Bata Shoe, and fully restored by Wichita Air Services in Newton, Kansas. Wearing its original colors and registration marks, it was ferried back to Prague in May 2015.
1112 – Electra 10A on static display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. Originally purchased by Trans-Canada Air Lines as their first new aircraft, it was transferred to the RCAF in 1939, with whom it served for most of World War II. After the war it was operated by a number of private owners. It survived into the 1960s when Ann Pellegreno between June 7 and July 10, 1967 flew the aircraft on a round-the-world flight to commemorate Amelia Earhart's last flight in 1937. After being acquired by Air Canada, it was restored in 1968 and donated to the museum.
1116 – Electra 10A airworthy at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was one of a second batch of three Electras delivered to Trans-Canada Airlines. Found in Florida in the early 1980s by a vacationing Air Canada employee, it was returned to Winnipeg for restoration. In 1987 it flew across Canada in honor of the 50th anniversary of Air Canada – who owns and operates the aircraft.