- Aircraft History, Specification and Information -
Lockheed L-188 Electra
Lockheed 188A Electra - C-FZCS - Air Spray
1959 Lockheed 188A Electra
C-FZCS (sn 1060)
Air Spray air tanker "487" just touching down runway 34 @ the Penticton Airport in British Columbia, Canada
Photo taken Aug. 2009
Photo © Marcel Siegenthaler
Lockheed 188A Electra - C-GZVM - Air Spray
1958 Lockheed 188A Electra
C-GZVM (sn 1036)
An Air Spray "LongLiner" air tanker taxing for take-off @ the Penticton Airport in British Columbia, Canada
Photo taken Aug. 2009
Photo © Marcel Siegenthaler

The Lockheed L-188 Electra is an American turboprop airliner built by Lockheed. It was the first turboprop airliner produced in the United States. It first flew in 1957 and when first delivered had only slightly inferior performance to that of a turbojet airliner but at a lower operating cost.

Design and development

The design of the Electra was started by Lockheed in 1954, and the following year the company received a launch order from American Airlines. The prototype first flew on December 6, 1957. The aircraft is a low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear, powered by four Allison 501D-13 turboprops. Standard accommodation was for 66 to 88 passengers, with an optional high-density layout for 98 passengers. The initial production version was the L-188A. Later a longer-range L-188C was produced. A total of 170 aircraft were built, with production stopped earlier than planned due to the lack of confidence in the design after two fatal crashes. The aircraft were modified following the accidents but by then customers were interested in operating turbojets. Most of the aircraft currently in service are operated as freighters. In 1957 the United States Navy issued a requirement for an advanced patrol aircraft. Lockheed proposed a development of the Electra which was later placed into production as the P-3 Orion.

Operational history

Civil operations
American Airlines was the launch customer, followed by Eastern Airlines and Braniff Airways. Many airlines in the US flew Electras, but the only European airline to order the type was KLM. In the South Pacific, TEAL and Air New Zealand flew the Electra. In Australia TAA and Ansett operated Electras on routes between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and to Port Moresby from 1959 until 1971. Qantas also operated four Electras, VH-ECA,B,C & D at about the same time across the Tasman. The Electras flew in commercial service until the mid-1970s. Some units were sold to Brazilian airline Varig, operated with a perfect safety record until 1992 on the Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo (that route is called Ponte Aérea - air bridge, in Portuguese) shuttle service before being sold to Zaire. Others were retired into air cargo use. A total of 144 L-188s were built, 57 of which have been destroyed in accidents, according to the Aviation Safety Network. The most recent Electra accident was in July 2003.

Military use
In 1973 the Argentine Navy bought three Electra equipped with cargo door. These were used to toss political prisoners (the "disappeared") into the Rio de La Plata, in the infamous Death flights. The planes were also used in transport duties during the Falklands War in 1982.

In 1983, after the retirement of their last SP-2H Neptunes the Navy bought further civilian Electras airframes and modified several for maritime patrol, and widely used them until their replacement by P-3s in 1994. One of the Argentine Navy's Electras, known locally as L-188W Electron (for electronic warfare), is preserved at the Argentine Naval Aviation Museum (MUAN) at Bahia Blanca.


Lockheed L-188A
Initial production version

Lockheed L-188AF (All Freight version) and L-188PF (Passenger-Freight version)
Freighter conversions of L-188A

Lockheed L-188C
Long-range version with increased fuel capacity (6940 gallon fuel capacity from 5450 gallons on L-188A) and a higher operating gross weight ( Maximum takeoff weight is 116000lb compared to 113000lb of the "a" version).

After Lockheed's modifications for the whirl mode fix, "ElectraII" and "Super Electra" were names attached to the Electra.

Lockheed L-188CF
Freighter conversion of L-188C

Lockheed YP-3A Orion
One Orion aerodynamic test bed, fuselage shortened by seven feet.


Civil operators

- Ansett Airlines
- Trans Australia Airlines

- Amerer Air


- Air Spray (aerial firefighting)
- Buffalo Airways


Republic of the Congo
- Trans Service Airlift

Costa Rica


El Salvador
- TACA International Airlines



- Sahsa

Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific Airways

- Loftlei∂ir Icelandic Airlines


- Garuda Indonesia Airlines
- Mandala Airlines

- Royal Air Lao



- Fred. Olsens Flyselskap

New Zealand


- Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas (LAP) - 1 L-188A & 2 L-188C

- Líneas Aéreas Nacionales SA


São Tomé and Príncipe

- Falconair

- Winner Airways (B-3057, cn 1018. Borrowed from Eastern Air Lines for only 2 months in 1970)

United Kingdom
- Air Bridge Carriers
- Atlantic Airlines
- Channel Express

United States
- Air California
- Air Florida
- Air Holiday
- American Airlines
- Braniff Airways
- Eastern Air Lines
- Evergreen International Airlines
- Fairbanks Air Service
- Great Northern Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Intermountain Aviation
- Johnson International Airlines
- McCulloch International Airlines
- National Airlines (NA)
- Northwest Orient
- Overseas National Airways
- Pacific Southwest Airlines
- Reeve Aleutian Airways
- Southeast Airlines
- TPI International Airways
- Western Air Lines
- Zantop International Airlines


Military operators

- Argentine Navy

- Bolivian Air Force


- Honduran Air Force

- Mexican Air Force

- Panamanian Air Force


As of August 2006 a total of 15 Lockheed L-188 Electra aircraft (all variants) were reported in airline service, with Trans Service Airlift (1), Amerer Air (2), Atlantic Airlines (10), Segers Aviation (1) and Bigojet (1):

  • AirSpray 1967 Ltd., Red Deer, AB, Canada, seven L-188 converted into firefighting airtankers with a 3000 US gallon capacity tank.
  • Atlantic Airlines, Coventry, United Kingdom, eight L-188
  • Amerer Air, Linz, Austria, had two L-188 but it recently ceased operating. The aircraft were sold to Buffalo Airways, Canada.
  • Buffalo Airways of Yellowknife owns and operates two L-188.
  • Trans Service Airlift.

Accidents and incidents

  • On February 3, 1959, American Airlines Flight 320 en route from Chicago to New York City crashed on approach, killing 65 of 73 on board. This crash pushed the deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens (also in a plane crash) off the front pages.
  • On September 29, 1959, a Braniff Electra (Braniff Flight 542) crashed in Buffalo, Texas en route to Dallas, Texas from Houston, Texas. Twenty-nine passengers and five crew members died in the crash. The Civil Aeronautics Board blamed the crash on the "whirl-mode" prop theory and in flight separation of a wing from the plane.
  • Just under six months later, on March 17, 1960, an Electra operated as Northwest Orient Flight 710, en route from Chicago to Miami, Florida, broke apart in flight over Perry County, Indiana crashing in a farm field eight miles east of Cannelton. All 63 people on board were killed (57 passengers and six crew members).

These last two, in-flight, accidents mirrored each other and shocked the aviation industry. The FAA Administrator requested Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to reevaluate the Electra. NASA and Lockheed engineers eventually determined that the engine mounts—following the failure of an engine mount during a hard landing—allowed too much precessional movement of the propellers at a critical frequency which allowed "whirl-mode" aeroelastic phenomenon, "flutter" in flight. This flutter, by pure chance, occurred at the wings' natural resonance frequency, which further excited the harmonic oscillations, which increased the wing flutter, that eventually led to separation of a wing from the fuselage. The engine mounts were redesigned and the wing stiffened so the problem was solved by 1961.

  • On October 4, 1960, Eastern Air Lines Flight 375 crashed on takeoff from Boston, Massachusetts's Logan International Airport, killing 62 of 72 on board. The crash was eventually determined to be the result of bird ingestion in three engines rather than structural failure.
  • On February 16, 1967 Garuda Indonesia Airways Flight 708 crashed while attempting to land at Manado-Sam Ratulangi Airport 22 of 92 passengers and crew on board were killed. The crash was eventually determined to be the result of an awkward technique resulting in an excessive rate of sink on touchdown. Marginal weather at the time of landing was a contributing factor.
  • On May 3, 1968, Braniff Flight 352, which was en route from Houston to Dallas, disintegrated over Dawson, Texas. All 80 passengers and five crew members were killed. This was the worst air disaster in Texas at the time. The Probable Cause found by the NTSB was excessive loads put upon the aircraft structure while attempting to recover from an unusual attitude resulting from loss of control in thunderstorm turbulence; the operation in the turbulence resulted from a decision to penetrate an area of known severe weather.
  • On August 9, 1970, LANSA Flight 502, crashed shortly after takeoff from the Cusco airport, killing 99 of the 100 people on board, plus two people on the ground.
  • On December 24, 1971, LANSA Flight 508, which was en route from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru, entered an area of strong turbulence and lightning and disintegrated in mid air due to structural failure following a lightning strike and fire. Of the 92 people on board, 91 were killed. One passenger, Juliane Köpcke, survived the crash.
  • On June 4, 1976, an Air Manila Lockheed L-188 Electra L-188A (RP-C1061) crashed just after takeoff from the Guam Naval Air Station. NTSB report # AAR-77-06.
  • On January 21, 1985 chartered Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 crashed after takeoff from Reno-Cannon International Airport en-route to Minneapolis, Minnesota with 71 people aboard.

Specifications (Model 188A)

General characteristics
Crew: Five (3 flight deck)
Capacity: 98 passengers
Length: 104 ft 6 in (31.85 m)
Wingspan: 99 ft 0 in (30.18 m)
Height: 32 ft 10 in (10.00 m)
Wing area: 1,300 sq ft (120.8 m²)
Empty weight: 57,400 lb (26,036 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 113,000 lb (51,256 kg)
Powerplant: 4× Allison 501-D13 turboprop engines, 3,750 eshp (2,800 kW) each

Maximum speed: 390 knots (448 mph, 721 km/h) at 12,000 ft (3,660 m)
Cruise speed: 324 knots (373 mph, 600 km/h)
Range: 1,913 nmi (2,200 mi, 3,540 km) with maximum payload, 2,409 nmi, 2,770 mi, 4,455 km with 17,500 lb (7,938 kg) payload
Service ceiling: 28,400 ft (8,665 m)
Rate of climb: 1,970 ft/min (10 m/s)

Last updated March 15, 2010
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lockheed L-188 Electra".
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