Aircraft undercarriage, starboard, Lockheed Altair, Lady Southern Cross, with wheel and oleo strut, metal / rubber, made by Lockheed, USA, 1933
The single engined Lockheed monoplane aircraft of the late 1920s and 1930, encompassing the Sirius, Orion, Altair, Air Express, Explorer and Vega, were considered to be revolutionary in their time. According the their 'biographer', Richard Sanders Allen in 'Revolution in the Sky', those fabulous Lockheeds, the pilots who flew them, "...became the most copied, coveted, newsmaking airplanes of their era". They achieved a number of records in the hands of such famous aviators as Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post, Hubert Wilkins and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, to name a few. As well as providing record breaking aircraft the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, as it became, used the basic designs and manufacturing techniques to produce small airliners such as the Orion, Air Express and Vega. After the completion of the last of this series of designs Lockheed went on to design and manufacture such significant airliners as the Lockheed 10 Electra and the Lockheed 14 Super Electra. During World War II, Lockheed designed the Constellation which became the backbone of many airlines restarting services post-world War II. Qantas based its fleet on the Constellation before converting to the gas turbine powered Boeing 707.
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith is Australia's most renowned pioneer aviator. He established a number of records in a variety of aircraft, most notably the Fokker Trimotor, "Southern Cross". His interest in competing in the MacRobertson Air Race of 1934 gave him the impetus to purchase the Lockheed Altair as an aircraft with the capability of achieving first place, but engineering problems and lack of time mean that he had to withdraw from the race. In testing the aircraft in Australia, he established a number of city to city speed records in the Altair. To 'save face' for withdrawing from the race he flew the Pacific instead in the west east direction establishing another record. Smithy and his copilot/engineer, Tom Pethybridge, lost their lives endeavouring to break yet another record, the England-Australia speed record.
The undercarriage is one of the few surviving components of the Altair and the only major component to have been located and preserved after the loss of the aircraft and Smithy and Tom Pethybridge
The tyre is made by Goodrich Silvertown Airplanes, Ohio, The United States of America and the oleo strut is made by AEROL / The Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company, Ohio, The United States of America.
The wheel and oleo strut were made c. 1933
In the Lockheed range of single engined monoplanes of the late 1920s, 1930s, only the Altair and Orion appear to have had retractable undercarriages. The undercarriage leg may have been manufactured by Lockheeds themselves although manufacture by a subcontractor cannot be ruled out at this stage. The leg was fitted with an oleo or shock absorber, in this case by Aerol/ the Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company and the wheel and tyre also made by separate organisations.
The wheel and oleo strut, part of the starboard undercarriage were used by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's in his Lockheed Altair aircraft VH-USB "Lady Southern Cross", for his leg from the United Kingdom to Australia.
History of Lockheed Altair VH-USB copied from http://www.adastron.com/lockheed/altair/altair1.htm
21JUL30 Completed as a Sirius 8A s/n 152 under Approved Type Certificate #300 with a Pratt and Whitney Wasp (serial number 3104) for Captain George R. Hutchinson of Baltimore, Maryland for a New York to Paris record attempt. The aircraft was named "Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A." Licensed as 'NR118W'.
02AUG30 Crashed at Los Angeles. As a result of the crash, Capt Hutchinson abandoned his planned flight to Paris.
04AUG30 A Lockheed Aircraft Corporation inter-departmental communication from Carl B. Squier (General Manager) advised that "this plane was damaged at Mines Field August 2nd on takeoff with Hutchinson as pilot. Ship can be repaired at nominal cost."
10SEP30 The Dept of Commerce wrote to Lockheed and to Hutchinson advising that the licence of Sirius NR-118W had been suspended as a result of the accident at Los Angeles.
31 Sold to Victor Fleming and Douglas Fairbanks of Beverly Hills, California for sport flying.
16NOV31 An agreement was signed between Lockheed and Victor Fleming of MGM Studios, Culver City, California for the "reconstruction" of Sirius NR-118W.
27APR34 John S.W. Stannage, Manager of Kingsford Smith Air Service Ltd at Mascot, N.S.W. wrote to the Australian Controller of Civil Aviation to advise: "It is Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's intention to bring into this country a Lockheed Altair aeroplane from the U.S.A." The Altair was to be manufactured from the Sirius NR-118W purchased by Lockheed from Victor Fleming less engine and propeller. As the Sirius had a fixed undercarriage the transformation into an Altair required the replacement of the Sirius' wing and undercarriage with a wing that could accept the retractable undercarriage.
25JUN34 Lockheed Altair s/n 152 sold to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
16JUL34 The Altair arrived in Sydney, Australia, completely assembled, as deck cargo on the Sports Deck of the S.S. Mariposa.
31AUG34 Record flight Melbourne to Sydney 2 hours 11 minutes.
08SEP34 Record flight Melbourne to Perth 10 hours 19 minutes.
09SEP34 On departure from Perth for Sydney, Smithy aborted the takeoff when the Altair, with a heavy fuel load, failed to become airborne at the nominated point. The aeroplane came to rest with the starboard undercarriage in a ditch. The only damage was confined to the starboard undercarriage which was found to be twisted out of alignment. After a temporary repair, the aircraft departed two days later, albeit via Adelaide as Smithy was reluctant to uplift a full fuel load on the suspect undercarriage.
11SEP34 Record flight Perth to Adelaide 6 hours.
11SEP34 Record flight Adelaide to Sydney 3 hours 32 minutes.
13SEP34 It was reported in the press that Smithy supervised the dismantling of the undercarriage which was taken to Cockatoo Dockyard for repairs after the take-off accident in Perth.
19SEP34 Record flight Sydney to Brisbane 2 hours 35 minutes.
20SEP34 Record flight Brisbane to Sydney 2 hours 16 minutes.
29SEP34 Smithy and P.G. Taylor departed Sydney in the Altair on their way to London to compete in the Centenary Air Race. Although Smithy was hoping to reach Darwin in one day, they were delayed by a dust storm at Cloncurry where they stayed overnight. During an examination of the engine it was discovered that the cowling was cracking at many of the rivet holes. Consequently, it was decided that they must return to Sydney for repairs.
19OCT34 Smithy and P.G. Taylor departed Sydney for Archerfield, Brisbane from where their trans-Pacific flight was to commence.
21OCT34 The Altair departed Archerfield, Brisbane for Suva, Fiji flown by Smithy with P.G. Taylor as navigator and co-pilot. Aircraft landed at Albert Park in Suva.
29OCT34 The aircraft departed Naselai Beach for Hawaii.
03NOV34 Departed from Wheeler Field, Hawaii.
04NOV34 Arrived Oakland, California at 0740 local time. Later the same day, Smithy and Taylor flew the Altair to the Lockheed factory at Burbank. A special check was carried out on the landing gear as Smithy had reported a violent shimmy from the starboard during tail high take offs with a heavy load. The landing gear was damaged again in a cross-winf landing accident on a flight by Smithy on or about the 23AUG35.
15SEP35 Smithy flew the Altair from Burbank, Los Angeles to Chicago en route to New York.
17SEP35 Smithy flew the Altair from Chicago to New York where it was loaded on the M.V. Dalhem bound for London .
OCT35 The Altair was barged to a field beside the Thames from where Smithy flew the aeroplane to Croydon.
07OCT35 Entered on the U.K. Register as G-ADUS.
05NOV35 The Altair was positioned from Croydon to Lympne from where Smithy and Tommy Pethybridge would depart on another attempt to break the England to Australia record.
06NOV35 Departed Lympne for Athens where the Altair was refuelled to the maximum capacity of its tanks.
07NOV35 Arrived Baghdad from Athens.
07NOV35 Arrived Allahabad from Baghdad.
07NOV35 The Altair was sighted passing overhead Rangoon, Burma. This was the last sighting of the "Lady Southern Cross".
08NOV35 The "Lady Southern Cross" is estimated to have crashed into the Gulf of Martaban in the vicinity of Aye Island at approximately 0216 local time.
01MAY37 A section of an aircraft undercarriage including a wheel and tyre was washed ashore at Aye Island. The wreckage was later identified by Lockheed as having come from the "Lady Southern Cross". No trace of Smithy or Tommy Pethybridge has ever been found.