Lockheed Corp., originally the Lougheed Hydro-Aeroplane Co., was founded by brothers Allan and Malcolm Lougheed (the name was always pronounced “Lockheed”) in 1912. Based in the San Fransciso area, the firm originally produced a series of uninspiring flying-boats. Its fortunes improved starting from 1920 when it acquired the services of designer Jack Northrop, the first of several draftsman who placed Lockheed consistently in the forefront of aviation innovation through the present day.
In the 1930s Lockheed, by then based in Burbank, California, produced innovative high-performance light transport aircraft using wood monocoque construction and the latest aerodynamics. Later, after Northrop had left to start his own company and was replaced by the equally innovative Kelly Johnson, it made many types of civil and military aircraft for every purpose.
Besides advanced design, Lockheed aircraft were known for their high quality of construction and finish. The early wooden types were hand-built, bespoke airplanes, fetching high prices for buyers who wanted the best, and favored by racers and record-seekers for their superior performance. As it moved into the era of mass-produced designs, Lockheed continued to focus on premium products built and sold in smaller numbers than those of its competitors.
During the era when designers could incorporate trademark features into the shapes of their aircraft, Lockheed favored twin tails with ellipse-shaped fins for its multi-engine aircraft. This feature, especially as implemented on the P-38, is sometimes said to have inspired the “tail fins” introduced by stylist Harley Earl on the 1948 Cadillac automobile, variations of which appeared on many American cars through the mid 1960s. By way of literal trademarks, Lockheed named most of its designs after stars and constellations.
For most of its history through the 1970s, Lockheed’s main plant was at the Burbank Airport on the east side of the field. Most of the major plant buildings have been removed, but some smaller office buildings remain.
Lockheed merged with General Dynamics in 1993 and with Martin Marietta in 1995 to form the present-day Lockheed Martin corporation, now based in Bethesda, Maryland. A huge defense contractor that consumes several percent of the U.S. Department of Defense expenditures, Lockheed Martin produces the F-22 and F-35 fighters and continues to manufacture the C-130 Hercules.
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