Museum of Flight acquires Electra 10-E

SEATTLE — The Museum of Flight will add a restored, antique Lockheed Model 10-E aircraft to its collection. This is the same type of plane Amelia Earhart was flying on her ill-fated attempt to fly around the world in 1937.

The aircraft will be flown to the museum in September 2013 and become the centerpiece of a new permanent exhibit honoring Earhart. The museum already owns the only known piece of Earhart’s Electra, officials note. This artifact and the airplane will help tell the story of the world’s most famous women aviator in ways that cannot be found in any other museum.

The acquisition was announced by aviator and adventurer Dottie Simpson, who was 13 when Earhart disappeared. She noted: “The exhibit will be an inspiration to both girls and boys with dreams of a future in aviation or space.”

In the late summer of 2012, The Museum of Flight launched a now-successful fundraising campaign to acquire an Electra. The aircraft the museum has taken ownership of has had many different owners, designations and exterior color schemes.

The Electra was built as a Model 10-A and registered as NC14900. The 15th Electra built by Lockheed, NC14900 was delivered in 1935 to Northwest Airlines, the first airline to put the Electra into service.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, NC14900 was “drafted” into the U.S. Army Air Forces, along with many other Electras. Redesignated a UC-36A, painted camouflage and given the USAAF serial number 42-57213, it spent a short time as a VIP transport. Once more military transport aircraft became available, 42-57213 was returned to Northwest in May 1944 and was once again known as NC14900.

After the war ended and larger DC-3s were available in surplus, NC14900 was sold to VARIG, the first Brazilian airline and registered PP-VAR. The aircraft also saw brief military service in Brazil, as part of the Brazilian Air Force (and known at this time as FAB-1002.)

Once back in the United States, the aircraft saw many private owners as N2067A before it was returned to Lockheed and completely converted to a Model 10-E configuration. It was then registered as N72GT.

In 1994, Linda Finch happened upon N72GT, which was one of only two airworthy 10-Es. With the assistance of Pratt & Whitney, the manufacturer of the original engines, and using original Lockheed drawings and vintage photographs, Finch restored the aircraft to the specifications of the most famous Lockheed 10-E the world has ever seen…Amelia Earhart’s.

From rivets to the exterior color scheme, and even the historical registration of NR16020 worn on Earhart’s aircraft, Finch faithfully restored the plane. But Finch didn’t just recreate the look of Earhart’s aircraft — she also reenacted Earhart’s flight plan. In 1997, the 60th anniversary of Earhart’s flight, Finch took off. She flew as close to Earhart’s original flight plan as possible (she was unable to fly over Libya and made more stops than on Earhart’s flight plan while crossing the Pacific) and in all, she touched five continents on the journey. While flying over Howland Island, which was to be Earhart’s final destination, Finch dropped a wreath in salute of Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan.

Among the thousands of items in the museum’s collection is a piece of crumpled metal approximately 4 inches by 5-and-a-half inches in size, which could be easily passed over by the casual observer. Yet this scrap of aluminum holds a significant place in aviation history — it is the only known piece remaining of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 10-E Electra.

For more information:


  1. says

    The Lockheed Electra coming to Seattle should be CN 1015, a 10A first delivered to Northwest airlines in March of 1935. The aircraft did see service in the US Air Force, the Brazilian Air Force, and Brazil’s airline Varig, but also flew for the charter Tiburzi Airways of Danbury CT (from which Bonnie Tiburzi became the first commercial airline pilot for American Airlines in 1973). Then the aircraft went to a string of small charters: Carson in Boston, Zephyr then Tamair both in Florida, until flown by Linda Finch in 1997.

    If the piece at the museum is from Earhart’s CN 1055 Electra 10E however, then it’s not from the aircraft in which she disappeared in 1937. That aircraft was CN 1065. Bought by Hal Vanderbilt (next door neighbor to President Roosevelt in Hyde Park). That Electra 10E was modified the same as Earhart’s with 1200 gallon gas tanks spread out through the fuseloge and wings. It was flown by the famous team of Eastern Airlines pilots Merrill and Lambie from New York to London and back — the first commerical Atlantic flight (see the Monogram film of 1937). Then flown to Miami FL where they met up with Earhart and Noonan who had begun their world flight. On the last day in Miami for Earhart, they flew it for a six hour test run, and returned with what was not the same aircraft, then the following day, flew on to their destiny.

    Taken from, Amelia Earhart’s Radio
    Douglas Westfall, historic publisher

    • Ted Huetter says

      Verifying history demands dialogue, hence we offer some rebuttal to Mr. Westfall’s comments:

      We did not comment on the subsequent owners of “our” aircraft, after the aircraft returned from Brazil, and before Linda Finch acquired it, because there were actually several other private owners additional to those that Westfall named, and it would have overcomplicated the story line of our press release sent to General Aviation News and other media. We basically wanted to illustrate how long and varied her career was.

      The aircraft that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were lost in was NR-16020, Lockheed Model 10-E Electra Special Manufacturers Serial Number 1055. Our Museum of Flight Senior Curator has actually held the actual registration files in his own hands and examined them, and the fragment we have was indeed from that aircraft after it ground-looped in Hawaii PRIOR to Earhart’s around-the-world attempt, which she subsequently decided to do going East instead of West. We do not see the connection of MSN 1065 to this story. MSN 1065 was a Lockheed Model 10-E (NC-16059) which, as Westfall stated, was built for H. S. Vanderbilt.

      -Ted Huetter, Public Relations Manager, The Museum of Flight

      • says

        I truly believe the piece at the Seattle museum is from Earhart’s ground loop in Hawaii.

        Flight Radio Officer, Paul Rafford Jr. flew for Pan Am for 48 years and began interviewing the men who were stationed around the globe on Earhart’s world flight. Of some 25 interviews within his book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio (Paragon, 2006), four of the men were in Miami during Earhart’s stop over.

        On the day before Earhart’s departure, she and Noonan took the Electra (# 1055) on a six-hour test flight and returned the same day (May 31st, 1937.)

        Four Pan Am radio engineers worked on Earhart’s Electra near the end of her Miami layover:

        John Ray – Removed the 200 foot trailing antenna prior to the test flight, reducing the daytime transmission range from 1,500 miles to about 200.

        Upon Earhart’s return to the Miami airport:

        Charlie Winter – Pulled the 500kc crystal from the Electra’s radio. There was no trailing antenna on the aircraft which made the crystal unusable for long range transmissions.

        Bob Thibert – Installed and calibrated a D/F loop on Earhart’s Electra and stated that there had never been a D/F loop on that aircraft as there were no bolt holes.

        Len Michaelfelder – Moved the ‘V’ antenna mast from over the cab, back several feet, shortening the antenna and reducing it’s transmission capabilty for the 3105kc and 6210kc frequencies.

        Dick Merrill and Jack Lambie flew the Daily Express (# 1065) to Miami for the May 24, (1937) reception to be greeted by the Mayor plus 10,000 fans, and received silver trophies for their achievement. Earhart, Noonan, and Putnam met them at the event.

        Rafford, 94 this April, is considered the earliest if not the oldest Earhart researcher on record.

        Best Regards, Douglas

      • Jeff says

        Mr. Huetter,

        Your statement “we do not see the connection of MSN 1065 to this story” is certainly understandable. I’ve seen some of Mr. Westfall’s work, and he seems to have a bizarre theory that Earhart swapped planes in Miami–trading her original C/N 1055 for the 1065 airframe–for some sinister purpose. The motivation for this remains, at best, unclear but is implied to have something to do with Earhart being on a spy mission for the military. This is one of the many variations of the “she was captured by the Japanese” collection of theories to explain her disappearance. The idea of a plane swap is considered fringe even by the Japanese capture theory community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *