The Lockheed 5B Vega

Introduced in 1927, the Vega was the first product of Allan Loughead’s Lockheed Aircraft Company and its designer Jack Northrop. It sported a cantilever (internally braced) one-piece spruce wing and a spruce veneer monocoque fuselage (a molded shell without internal bracing), which increased overall strength and reduced weight. A NACA engine cowling and wheel pants reduced drag and provided streamline style.

Amelia Earhart bought this Vega in 1930. After a nose-over accident later that year, the fuselage was replaced and strengthened to carry extra fuel tanks. Three types of compasses, a drift indicator, and a more powerful engine were also installed. In 1932 Earhart flew the Vega nonstop and alone across the Atlantic and across the United States. She sold it to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute in 1933. The Smithsonian acquired it in 1966.

Gift of the Franklin Institute

In 1932, Amelia Earhart flew this Lockheed Vega 5B for the first female nonstop solo transatlantic flight and a U.S. transcontinental flight.

Aircraft Details
Wingspan: 12.5 m (41 ft)
Length: 8.4 m (27 ft 6 in)
Height: 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)
Weight, empty: 1,199 kg (2,634 lb)
Weight, gross: 2,495 kg (5,500 lb)
Top speed: 298 km/h (185 mph)
Engine: Pratt & Whitney Wasp CB, #3812, 500 hp
Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corp., Burbank, Calif., 1928

Take a look at the Vega’s wheels. Do you see the covers over them? They may look like fancy red shoes, but they’re called wheel pants. They help reduce drag and allow the plane to fly faster. Other elements that helped reduce drag on this plane were the single-wing design, the lack of struts, and the engine cowling.

Amelia Earhart Departs on Solo Flight Across Atlantic, May 20, 1932

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Look Inside the Cockpit (requires Adobe Flash)

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Look Inside the Cabin (requires Adobe Flash)

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