LOCKHEED ORION 9 NX and NC960Y
THE VERY FIRST LOCKHEED ORION
This airplane is a Lockheed Orion 9 (S/N 168; ATC unassigned
at date of mfg.) manufactured during February 1931 by Lockheed
Aircraft Corporation, Burbank,
CA. It left the factory
with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp C engine (S/N 3900) of
450 HP. It was a seven-place airplane, weighing
5,200 pounds. It had five fuel tanks installed with
a total capacity of 122 gallons. It also had retractable
landing gear, a first for a multiple passenger, commercial
airliner. It was issued an NX license at manufacture,
because the ATC# had not been issued yet.
NX960Y first descended into Tucson on April 24, 1931 at
10:30AM. It was flown by Marshall
Headle, who worked
for Lockheed. He carried five passengers identified
in the Register simply as Hall, Squires, White, Van Auten
and Stroll. They were westbound from Detroit, MI to
Burbank, CA, sporting the NX registration.
You may see another image of NX960Y here.
Scroll down that page a bit.
On April 30, 1931
the airplane was sold to Bowen Air Lines, Inc., Fort Worth,
TX, with a lien held by Lockheed Aircraft Corp. The
second landing was on May 3, 1931. The
airplane again wore the NX registration number and was piloted
by Headle. He carried three unidentified passengers. They
were traveling eastbound from Burbank, CA to Fort Worth,
TX. This was undoubtedly the ferry flight from Lockheed
to Bowen. It was flown on Bowen routes throughout the
mid- and southwest between 1931 and 1933.
On May 6, 1931, ATC# 421 was issued to Lockheed for the
airplane. It was now called an “Orion 9” and
the NC registration was granted. The third and final
landing by NC960Y occurred sometime between August 24 and
September 4, 1931 (for some reason, visitors were not very
careful about entering dates in the Register during this
period). It was flown by P.F. Hotchkiss carrying three
passengers westbound from Burbank, CA to Fort Worth, TX.
It suffered a minor accident at Fort Worth on August 26,
1931. It was ferried to the Lockheed factory and repaired. It
had another accident at Tulsa, OK on June 2, 1933. Below, a San Francisco Examiner press photo of the Bowen Airline plane which crashed when taking off from the municipal airport at Tulsa, injuring Senator James Reed. The photograph was taken June 7th.
NC960Y On The Ground At Tulsa, June 2, 1933
pilot, R. Stein Lee (not a Register signer), and two passengers were injured; one
passenger unhurt. The airplane was not rebuilt and
its file was closed on November 15, 1933 when its license
expired. No further information.
On December 18, 2009, I received the following two photographs courtesy of Kim Jones at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, Tulsa, OK. They are peripheral to our business of the Register, but interesting because they show pilot R. Stein Lee (in sunglasses) with Will Rogers. The airplane in the background of both images is Wiley Post's white Lockheed Vega "Winnie Mae" (which may or may not have landed at Tucson).
Mr. Jones says of the photographs, "I think the images are 1931. That is the 'Winnie Mae' and it has the Pathe News rooster on the side. They had the reporting rights for Wiley and Gatty's around the world flight. They didn't sponsor Wiley on his solo flight in '33, so that pretty much dates it for us. We think the activity going on is when Wiley flew Will Rogers to Claremore, his home town."
R. Stein Lee (L) With Will Rogers, Circa 1931, Tulsa, OK
(Source: Tulsa Air & Space Museum)
Further, Mr. Jones states, "These photos came to us from the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of a man named Howard Gray. He was a chief mechanic at Tulsa Municipal Airport back in the 20s and 30s and had a box camera that he recorded people and planes that came through. Fortunately he wrote the names of the people on the backs of the photos. "
R. Stein Lee (C) With Will Rogers, Circa 1931, Tulsa, OK
(Source: Tulsa Air & Space Museum)
Will Rogers is second from right in this image. Note the camera angle in both photographs: low and tilted up. This reflects the hip-level positioning of the prism-view box camera used by Mr. Gray. The other people (except for pilot Lee, center) are unidentified.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 06/24/06 REVISED: 07/06/06, 11/09/09, 12/21/09, 01/08/14