Class of 2009 – Loughead Brothers
The biographical information below was compiled by Alan Renga, Assistant Archivist, for the 2009 International Hall of Fame Gala. For more information on the Museum’s Library and Archives, click here.
They were the founders of one of the most successful American aerospace companies, which produced some of the most innovative and groundbreaking aircraft the world has seen. Presenting the Loughead brothers!
The Lockheed story begins with the Loughead brothers, Allan, Malcolm and Victor, who all became fascinated with aviation after witnessing several glider demonstrations while growing up in San Francisco. The lesser known Victor (who was actually a half brother) was educated as an engineer and published two early technical works on aviation by 1910. Victor’s interest in aviation compelled Allan to learn how to fly. Malcolm had already gained fame for developing a reliable hydraulic automotive brake. Malcolm and Allan set up the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company in San Francisco and built their Model G, which was an original design, but commercially unsuccessful. For the next two years the brothers had a few adventures, from gold prospecting to fighting in the Mexican Revolution. During the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco they charged the crowds for flights in their Model G and made enough money to start the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company in 1916 which was located in Santa Barbara.
Their first project in Santa Barbara would be very ambitious: the F-1, the world’s largest sea plane which could carry 10 passengers. The brothers hired Jack Northrop (a fellow SDASM Hall of Fame honoree), a 20-year-old draftsman, to work on the project. The F-1 finally flew in 1918 and the brothers soon received a request to build flying boats for the Navy. After World War I, the company devoted its energies to the S-1, a single-seat biplane for civilian use that never was economically successful. Financially strained, Loughead Aircraft closed in 1921.
Malcolm Loughead quit the aviation industry, moved to Detroit and became successful with a hydraulic-brake system he developed for cars. Tired of his name being mispronounced “Log-head,” Malcolm officially changed the spelling to Lockheed to match its pronunciation. He called his new company the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Company. In the meantime, Allan became a real estate salesman until 1926 when he reunited with Jack Northrop and started the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation- specifically incorporating the “Lockheed” spelling to associate themselves with Malcolm’s successful brake company. Their first aircraft was Lockheed Vega, an incredibly successful high-speed monoplane. With a range of one thousand miles, a cruising speed of 185 miles per hour and capacity for six people, the Vega quickly became a popular choice for many of the world’s top aviators, including Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post.
Jack Northrop left Lockheed in 1928 to start his own successful aircraft business and in 1929 Lockheed was sold to the Detroit Aircraft Corporation and Allan Loughead resigned from the company. Like his brother, he would legally changed his name to Allan Lockheed in 1934. He went on to form two other aircraft manufacturing companies in the 1930s. Both were unsuccessful. After WWII, he continued his career as a real estate salesman while occasionally serving as an aviation consultant. His love of flying never diminished, though, and Allan Lockheed kept an informal relationship with the Lockheed Air Corporation until his death in 1969.
Even though the Brothers were no longer directly involved in Lockheed, the company would thrive the next few decades, Lockheed would produce such famous airplanes as the Electra, the P-38, L049 Constellation and the L-1011 Tristar. In 1995 Lockheed merged with merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin.
If it wasn’t for the Loughead Brothers early interest in aviation and their willingness to follow through on their dreams, Lockheed aircraft never would have come into existence. If this were the case, aerospace history would be much different and some of the most innovative and significant aircraft in history never would have been built. For their contributions to aviation technology, the San Diego Air & Space Museum takes great pleasure inducting the Loughead Brothers into its International Aerospace Hall of Fame.