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A Short but Rich Career

Lockheed Electra 10E 1065 was delivered to millionaire Harold S. Vanderbilt on August 26, 1936, registered NC16059, several months later King Edward VIII abdicated the throne; following Edward's abdication, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst made it known that he was willing to pay for high-quality photos of George VI's coronation the following May. Hearing this news two Wallstreet brokers, Ben Smith and Jack Bergen, purchased the 10E from Vanderbilt and had it shipped back to Lockheed for alterations; Lockheed modified Electra 1065 similar to Amelia Earhart's Electra, extra fuel tanks in the fuselage and wings. Following the needed fuel modifications, the Electra's total fuel capacity was 1,270 gallons - 120 gallons more than Earhart's Electra! The ship was christened the Daily Express, a British newspaper owned by Ben Smith's friend Lord Beaverbrook.

Now that an aircraft had been picked out all that was left was the crew. Hearst hired Henry Tyndell "Dick" Merrill, Eastern Airlines pilot, as pilot of the Daily Express and co-pilot Jack Lambie. The flight was scheduled to leave on May 7, 1937, but was delayed due to the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Having newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic and hoping to scoop other papers, Hearst loaded pictures of the Hindenburg disaster aboard the Daily Express to be carried over to England. The next morning the plane took off across the Atlantic; the trip was perfectly timed, bringing pictures of the Hindenburg disaster to the UK and bringing pictures of George VI's coronation back to the US on May 14 establishing the first round-trip commercial flight across the Atlantic.

Three months after the trans-Atlantic flight, the Electra was sold to the Soviet Union and used in the search for the lost transpolar aviator Sigizmund Levanevski. Following an unsuccessful search, the aircraft was given Soviet registration SSSR-N-214 in June 1938. In August that same year the aircraft was fitted with skis sent over from the United States. At some point in its career, its registration was changed on last time to CCCP-N214. Sadly, in 1939, the aircraft was dismantled and sold to Aeroflot for use as spare parts. During disassembly, Factory No. 156 - the Tupolev Design Bureau, made detailed drawings and photographs of the Electra and its parts.


Lockheed Electra 10E, NC16059

Daily Express, 1937

Daily Express mid-flight.

Electra 1065 during its career in the Soviet Union

Electra 1065 with skis

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