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The Lockheed Vega was one of the most famous record breaking airplanes of the early 1930s. This big, high-wing, single-engine monoplane was designed by John Northrop and Gerrard Vultee, two aviation pioneers who later established their own aircraft companies.
Although the Vega first flew in July of 1927, it was during the early 1930s that the plane established its reputation for rugged reliability and airworthiness. It was designed originally as a transport aircraft, and although it carried only four to six passengers and a crew of two, it saw extensive service with several airlines, among them TWA and Braniff.
But it was as a record-maker and record-breaker that the Vega is best remembered. Interestingly, not one but two pioneering women fliers helped bring the Vega much of its early fame.
New York socialite Ruth Nichols took off in a Vega on June 22, 1931, in an attempt to become the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo. Her destination, like Lindbergh's, was Paris, but her luck ran out when she missed a landing at St.John, New Brunswick, Canada, crashed and was seriously injured.
A year later, however, another woman pilot, Amelia Earhart, succeeded where Ruth Nichols had failed. On May 20, 1932, Miss Earhart flew solo and nonstop from Harborgrace, Newfoundland to Culmore, Northern Ireland. And she too was flying a Lockheed Vega.
But the most famous Vega of all them was, without question, the Winnie Mae -- in which the renowned, one-eyed pilot Wiley Post twice flew around the world. Post's first circumnavigation of the globe was made in June of 1931 with Harold Gatty and took 8 days, 15 hours and 51 minutes. Two years later, in July of 1933, Post again piloted the Winnie Mae around the World--this time flying solo--in 7 days,18 hours and 49 minutes.
The Winnie Mae, which is now housed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was a Model 5B Lockheed Vega and was powered by a 450-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine. It has a wing span of 41 feet and a length of 27 feet, 6 inches, and its gross weight is over 4,200 pounds. The famed aircraft had a top speed of 180 mph.
Here is a photograph of a Winnie Mae replica taken by Mr. Charles Dills, who stands in the foreground of the photograph. The replica is found at the Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, FL. Mr. Dills has graciously allowed the ALLSTAR website to use the photograph.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: May 10, 2006