FROM FACTORY DEMONSTRATOR, TO RECORD
SETTER, TO THE SMITHSONIAN
NC7952 is a Lockheed Vega 5 (S/N 22; ATC #93) manufactured
December 4, 1928 by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank,
CA. It left the factory with a Wasp CB engine (S/N 941) of
420-450HP. It was a 5-place airplane weighing 4,033 pounds gross.
It was used by the manufacturer as a demonstrator in the
east coast states for over a year, then it was purchased
by Amelia Earhart on March 17, 1930.
Image, below, courtesy of Tim Kalina. Note the absence of engine cowling compared to the color images further down the page. Another image on this site is here.
Lockheed Vega NC7952, Burbank, CA, circa December, 1928
The airplane came to Tucson at
least four times in 1928-29, during its demonstrator
period, it was piloted by Bob
Cantwell, E.L. Benway, Bob
Starkey and Harold
Bromley. Earhart herself landed with it twice, on November
30, 1929 and July 25, 1930, just before and shortly after
she purchased it.
In her hands, it set two records, and suffered a couple
of accidents (the strength of Earhart's piloting skills has
been argued). On August 25, 1930, at Langley Field,
VA, pilot Earhart, "...fell backwards through combination
backrest/door in landing and aircraft went over on its back.
Aircraft sent to Detroit plant of Detroit Aircraft Corporation.
Wing, landing gear and tail surfaces repaired." During these
repairs, it was made a Vega 5B under ATC 227 (converted to
a 7-place airplane). It was painted deep red, with gold trim.
Follow this link to see a movie of the interior of a Register Vega. Click on VEGAMOVIEAVI. The movie demonstrates the geometry of the combination backrest/door. Its design was an accident waiting to happen.
A note to the CAA dated September 3, 1931 reads: "Decided
to scrap fuselage and replace it with the one from Vega #68.
The old Ser.#68 was replaced by #22 when this change was
made, thereby allowing #22 to retain its original license."
A new Wasp engine (S/N 3812) was installed in 1932, and
a "NR" registration (restricted for long-distance
flying) was issued to Earhart. She then flew it from Harbor
Grace, New Foundland to a bog in Ireland May 20-21, 1932.
Another note in the file reads, "near accident 10/22/32
involving a Braniff Vega. Earhart was landing in crosswind
and Braniff pilot got over her somehow."
The airplane was sold on June 27, 1933 to the Franklin Institute,
Philadelphia, PA for $7,500 (with obsolete Wasp engine S/N
888). Transferred in 1966, it is now on exhibit at the National
Air & Space
Museum, Washington, DC. Not only a record setter, it is the
oldest Lockheed airplane in existence.
UPLOADED: 03/11/06 REVISED: 11/22/07, 07/30/08, 04//11/09