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L-188 Electra
An Electra freighter of NWT Air at Vancouver Airport in August 1983.
Role Short-medium-range transport
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed
First flight 1957
Introduction 1958
Primary users American Airlines
Eastern Air Lines
Braniff Airways
Pacific Southwest Airlines
Produced 1957–61
Number built 170
Variants P-3 Orion

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

L188C Electra of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operating a passenger service in July 1965

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.[1] 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 by the military dictatorship to toss political prisoners (the "disappeared") into the Rio de La Plata, in the infamous Death flights.[2]

In 1983, after the retirement of their last SP-2H Neptunes the Navy bought further civilian Electras airframes and modified several for maritime patrol,[3] and widely used them until their replacement by P-3s in 1994.[4] 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.


An L-188CF of Atlantic Airlines.
Initial production version
L-188AF (All Freight version) and L-188PF (Passenger-Freight version)
Freighter conversions of L-188A
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.

Freighter conversion of L-188C
YP-3A Orion
One Orion aerodynamic test bed, fuselage shortened by seven feet.


Civil operators

 Republic of the Congo
 Costa Rica
 El Salvador
 Hong Kong
  • Royal Air Lao
  • Fred. Olsens Flyselskap
 New Zealand
  • Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas (LAP) - 1 L-188A & 2 L-188C
 São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Falconair
  • Winner Airways (B-3057, cn 1018. Borrowed from Eastern Air Lines for only 2 months in 1970)
 United Kingdom
 United States

Military operators



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):[5]

Accidents and incidents

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 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.


General characteristics

  • Crew: Six (3 flight deck)
  • Capacity: 99 to 127 passengers
  • Length: 104 ft 6 inches (31.81 m)
  • Wingspan: 99 ft (30.18 m)
  • Height: 32 ft 10 inches (10 m)
  • Wing area: 1300 sq ft (120.8 m2)
  • Empty weight: 61,500 lb (27,895 kg)
  • Useful load: 22,825 lb (10,350 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 116,000 lb (52,664 kg)
  • Powerplant:Allison 501-D13 turboprop engines, 3,750 shp (2,800 kW) each


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft


  1. ^ ASN.
  2. ^ Pagina 12 Aviones de la muerte
  3. ^ official site picture
  4. ^ La Nación La Armada renueva su flota aérea para el control del mar
  5. ^ Flight International, 3-9 October 2006
  6. ^ "Accident Synopsis 09291959". AirDisaster.Com.®=N9705C&airline=Braniff+Airlines. Retrieved 2009-07-03.  

External links


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