Foot of page

The Lodestar was the ultimate development of the Lockheed L10 Electra, which made its first flight in 1934. These aircraft were among the the first truly modern and successful commercial aircraft and featured cantilever monoplane layout and all-metal stressed skin construction. Their retractable undercarriages, variable pitch propellors and other innovations made them fast, safe and comfortable. Production models of the Electra sold for a price of $35,000. It was of comparable size to the Boeing 247 but was smaller than the Douglas DC2 which carried 14 passengers against the Electra's 10. However, the Electra had a higher cruising speed than the DC2 which was an important marketing feature for some airlines. A total of 148 L10 Electra's were made. They were operated by 8 airlines in the US and many more were exported to Canada, Latin America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Several other versions followed. The L12 Electra Junior (130 built) seated only 6 passengers but cruised at 213 mph. Shortly afterwards the deep fuselage L14 Super Electra (112 built) was brought out which carried 14 passengers, it was claimed to be the fastest airliner of its day with a maximum speed of 247 mph. Then in 1939 came the L18 Lodestar (625 built). This machine cruised at 229 mph and sold for $85,000. Lodestars were operated by commercial airlines throughout the world. Compared to the DC3 the Lodestar cruised some 50 mph faster but carried only 15-18 passengers where the DC3 took up to 28, using similar power plants. A similar ratio applied in the topdressing role for which both aircraft were later adapted in New Zealand; the Lodestar lifted 3.5 tons of "Super" while the DC3 could hoist 5 tons into the air.

The Hudson bomber was developed from the L14 originally for British use though it also saw wide service with a number of other Allied air forces. Oddly enough, a military variant of the L14 also served during the Second World War with the Imperial Japanese Army, 119 having been built under licence in Japan. Military versions of the Lodestar were known as the Ventura and they too served first with the RAF. The Ventura was not particularly successful on daylight raids over Europe but Sqn. Ldr. L.H. Trent of 487 Squadron R.N.Z.A.F. received the V.C. as a result of a Ventura raid carried out on 3rd May 1943. It was withdrawn from RAF Bomber Command in 1943 but later variants were used by RAF Coastal Command and by Commonwealth Air Forces in Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Venturas saw extensive service with the RNZAF over the Pacific and for a time were based in Gisborne on coastal patrol duties. The RNZAF also operated nine Lodestars as C60 transports during WW2 and after the war seven of these were used by Union Airways and NAC.
Another six were operated by Fieldair from1955 to 1973, but in 1998 only two NZ Lodestars remained, ZK-BUV in Gisborne and ZK-BVE in Auckland, both becoming rather dilapidated.

ZK-BUV was built in 1941 as a C60 for the USAF (#41-29631). Before being bought in 1958 by Fieldair in the USA it also served with the RAF (EW984), was used by the Spanish Airforce and had a spell of airline use in Spain with the Compania Auxiliar Nationale Aviacion until it went over to Minnesota Airmotive back in the USA (N9930F). From then on, ZK-BUV flew topdressing sorties with Fieldair until its last flight on November 28th 1972 from Oringi, near Dannevirke, with Jim Irving as pilot. It had done a total of 12000 flying hours. During its 9000 hrs as a top dresser it had dropped some 90,000 Tons of fertiliser. In August 1973 it was placed at the entrance to Gisborne Airport. Of the remaining Fieldair Lodestars, three were destroyed in accidents, one was dismantled for parts and ZK-BVE went to MOTAT after a wheels up landing at Palmerston North. ZK-BUV has now been retired from its duty as gate guardian at the airport and is housed in a new hangar recently erected by G.A.P.S. to preserve and recondition this Lodestar and other aircraft associated with the East Coast region.

Lockheed L.18 "Lodestar"
A/C Name: "Lodestar"
Type: Airliner ( 3 crew + 18 passenger )
Length: 49' 10" 15.19 m
Height: 11' 10" 3.60 m
Wingspan: 65' 6" 19.95 m
Wing area: 551 sq ft 51.25 sq m
Empty weight: 11680 lbs 5309 kg
All up weight: 18500 lbs 8409 kg
No. of Engines: 2
Powerplant: Wright R-1820-G205A Cyclone (9 cyl radial)
Horsepower (each): 1200 hp
Max Speed: 266 mph 425 km/hr
Cruise Speed: 229 mph 366 km/hr
Normal range: 1000 miles 1602 km
Max Range: 1660 miles 2660 km
Ceiling: 30 000 ft 9150 m

Top of Page

This page was prepared by cadstuff@xtra.co.nz