Sales of the 10–14 passenger Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra, which first flew in 1937, had proved disappointing, despite the aircraft's excellent performance, as it was more expensive to operate than the larger Douglas DC-3, already in widespread use. In order to improve the type's economics, Lockheed decided to stretch the aircraft's fuselage by 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m), allowing an extra two rows of seats to be fitted.
The prototype for the revised airliner, designated Model 18 by Lockheed, was converted from the fourth Model 14, one of a batch which had been returned to the manufacturer by Northwest Airlines after a series of crashes. The modified aircraft first flew in this form on September 21, 1939, another two prototypes being converted from Model 14s, with the first newly built Model 18 flying on February 2, 1940.
A total of 625 Lodestars of all variants were built.
Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar over Houston, 1947 or 1948
When the United States started to build up its military air strength in 1940–41, many American-operated Lodestars were impressed as the C-56. This was followed by the construction of many new-build Lodestars which were flown by the U.S. Army Air Forces as the C-60 and by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps as the R5O. Lend-lease aircraft were used by the RNZAF as transports.
One was purchased in 1942 to serve as Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas' personal aircraft. This aircraft was specially designed for that purpose and had 11 seats.
After the war many Lodestars were overhauled and returned to civilian service, mostly as executive transports such as Dallas Aero Service's DAS Dalaero conversion, Bill Lear's Learstar (produced by PacAero), and Howard Aero's Howard 250. A few of the latter were converted to tricycle landing gear.
While the surviving New Zealand NZNAC aircraft were sold back overseas in 1951/52, six more were later imported and converted for aerial topdressing.
Based on Model 18-08 fitted for trooping; seven aircraft built.
Repowered C-60A with Pratt & Whitney R-1830-51 engines; three aircraft converted.
Repowered C-57C with Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 engines; one aircraft converted.
Based on Model 18-07 powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1690-25 Hornet engines; 10 aircraft built, transferred to Royal Air Force as Lodestar IA.
Model 18-56 powered by Wright R-1820-87 engines; 36 aircraft built, some transferred to RAF as Lodestar II.
As the C-60 but fitted out as a paratroop transport powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engines; 325 aircraft built.
One C-60A fitted with experimental de-icing equipment.
Proposed 21-seat troop transport aircraft, never built.
Powered by Wright R-1820-87 engines; one aircraft built, 11-passenger interior for transfer to the Brazilian Air Force.
Original designation for C-60C
US Navy LodestarsEdit
One Model 18-07 acquired for evaluation powered by 1,200 hp (895 kW) Wright R-1820-40 engines.
Staff transport powered by 1,200 hp (895 kW) Wright R-1820-97 engines; three aircraft built, two for the USN and one for the United States Coast Guard.
Navy version of the C-59 powered by 850 hp (634 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1690-25 engines; one aircraft built.
Powered by 1,200 hp (895 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-34A engines. Originally 4-seater VIP transports; three aircraft built.
Powered by 1,200 hp (895 kW) Wright R-1820-40 engines. Impressed. 7-seater staff transports; 12 aircraft built.
Navy version of the C-60 powered by 1,200 hp (895 kW) Wright R-1820-40 engines. Similar to the R5O-4 but had 14-seats; 38 aircraft built and three former NEIAF aircraft.
Navy version of the C-60A for the US Marine Corps, equipped with 18 paratroop seats; 35 built.
Not all New Zealand machines became topdressers: Union Airways of New Zealand converted several to airliners in 1945–46 and these were taken over by National Airways Corporation in 1947, as illustrated.
In 1949, a Lockheed Lodestar in airline service in Australia crashed immediately after takeoff. All 21 occupants died in the crash or the ensuing conflagration. The cause of the accident was determined to be that the center of gravity was behind the rear limit. It is also likely the elevator trim tab was set for landing rather than takeoff.
On March 22, 1958, Mike Todd's private plane Lucky Liz, named after his wife Elizabeth Taylor, crashed near Grants, New Mexico. The plane, a twin-engine Lockheed Lodestar, suffered engine failure while being flown overloaded, in icing conditions at too-high an altitude for the loading. The plane went out of control and crashed, killing all four on board.
On September 4, 1962, a Lockheed 18-56-24 Lodestar operated by the Ashland Oil and Refining Company crashed near Lake Milton, Ohio. The flight was in-route to Ashland Regional Airport (KDWU) from Buffalo Airport, NY. Eleven passengers and two crew-members were killed. Investigation determined the crash a result of a malfunction of the electric elevator trim tab, which caused the loss of the plane's right wing during flight.
On August 21, 1983, a Lockheed L-18 LEARStar operated by Landry Aviation, Inc. crashed near Silvana, Washington. The flight was a planned parachute drop carrying two pilots and 22 parachutists. Nine parachutists and two crew-members were killed while 13 were able to parachute to safety after the pilots lost control and entered a vertical descent from 12,500 feet. Investigation determined the crash a result of a failure of the operator and pilot-in-command to assure proper load distribution during the parachute drop.
c/n 18-2020 – C-60 on static display at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Western Springs, Auckland. It was built for United Airlines in October 1940 and registered as NC25630. It was impressed into United States Army Air Forces with the serial number 42-53504. In September 1941 it was transferred to the Royal Air Force as AX756. Next, it was operated as G-AGCN by the British Overseas Airways Corporation in East Africa. After serving with the Spanish Air Force, it was sold back to the United States where it was registered as N9933F. Sold again to FieldAir in either 1957 or 1958 it was converted to an aerial topdresser and given the registration ZK-BVE. It was damaged in a wheels up landing in 1969.
c/n 18-2152 – C-60 under restoration with the Gisborne Aviation Preservation Society in Gisborne, Gisborne. It was previously operated by the Royal Air Force as EW984 and Spanish Air Force. Sold to civilian ownership, it was first registered in the United States as N9930F in 1955. It was converted to an aerial topdresser by Fieldair in 1957 and registered as ZK-BUV. It was a gate guardian at Gisborne Airport from 1973 to 1998.
^Pereira, Aldo (1987). Breve História da Aviação Comercial Brasileira (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Europa. p. 338.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Serra da Cantareira". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 37–41. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Uma desgraça nunca vem só". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 49–53. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2.
^"Accident description PP-PBI". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Alternativa derradeira". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 66–68. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2.
^"Accident description PP-PBH". Aviation Safety Network. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Mais um Lodestar". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 69–72. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2.