DALLAS – Today in Aviation, American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart took delivery of her Lockheed Electra 10E Special (NR16020) in 1936.
The aircraft, handed over on Earhart’s 39th birthday, would be used on her ill-fated round-the-world flight in 1937.
Earhart had previously joined Purdue University as a technical advisor to its Department of Aeronautics and a career counselor. The Purdue Research Foundation would subsequently stump up the US$80,000 to buy the aircraft.
Lockheed made many modifications to Earhart’s Electra, which she later dubbed her “Flying laboratory”. Engineers removed most of the cabin windows so special fuel tanks could be installed in the fuselage. This allowed 1,200 gallons of fuel to be carried instead of the standard 200 on passenger variants, giving the aircraft a maximum range of 7,242 km (4,500 miles).
A navigation station was positioned behind these fuel tanks. Radio communications were made possible following the installation of a Western Electric Model 13C radio transmitter and Model 20B receiver. The aircraft was also fitted with a Sperry GyroPilot gyroscopic automatic pilot.
Two Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1 nine-cylinder radial engines powered the aircraft, giving the type a maximum speed of 285 km per hour (177 miles per hour).
Round the World Attempt
The first round the world attempt had ended prematurely after the Electra crashed during take-off at Luke Field, Hawaii. Extensive repairs were carried out at Lockheed’s Oakland, California factory before recommencing the record attempt on June 1, 1937.
Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were last seen on July 2, when they departed Lae Airfield, Papua New Guinea, bound for their next fuel stop Howland Island. They never made it.
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