The Lockheed 12A Electra Junior

After one has walked on this earth for a few years, we accumulate a set of experiences and memories that we often draw on to put in context our new experiences. Many times those new experiences must be of a truly “memorable” nature to cause one to emit an audible gasp…or better yet to voice the only word that comes to mind…”Wow”. Such was the case last Thursday evening as I had my first glimpse of a true aviation icon, the Lockheed 12A. With lines that I’m sure make a lover of fine aircraft just drool, the smaller version of the Lockheed 10, which is famous as Amelia Earhart’s airplane, is no less striking.

As the owner, Joe Shepherd, pulled it over to the gas pump, he mentioned (and not without just a bit of consternation) that it is often confused for a Beech 18, even by those who should know better (air traffic controllers!). While the lines are similar, if one will look closely, the differences become readily apparent. I’m not gonna spoil it for you here by telling what those differences are…you’ll have to discover that for yourself!

I will share that this aircraft has been lovingly restored to it’s former glory as an everyday working airplane. Joe said that there are some folks out there who pointedly believe that this airplane belongs in a museum. I was stunned, and asked him if he was serious. “Yes” was his reply. I mentioned that in my youth, I had owned a very nice sports car, and used to park it as far away from humanity as possible, and had just about shined the paint off. After a time my attitude changed, and it became an everyday car, something to be treasured for sure, but enjoyed nonetheless. I’m sure that Joe feels the same way about this beauty, and in fact, just the next day after our shoot, he flew it to California, in an effort to resurrect another Lockheed 12 from oblivion.

There were only about 130 of these aircraft ever built, as World War II came along, and the focus shifted to producing military aircraft. Until I had done some homework, I was unaware that this aircraft was very much ahead of its time. An all-metal skin, and retractable landing gear were new developments in aircraft of the 1930’s. It was also faster than just about every fighter plane in the US military inventory, with a maximum speed of 225 mph. She had a crew of two, and could carry six passengers, with a total payload of about 2885 pounds. The prototype first flew in June, 1936, and Joe’s aircraft bears a data plate production date of 3 December, 1936.

If you ever have the opportunity to see this aircraft up close, perhaps at Sun ‘n Fun or Oshkosh (where it has been an award winner by the way…), I’m sure that it will conjure up memories of how aviation used to be. It did for me…