Lockheed Model 9 Orion Passenger Plane
The Lockheed Model 9 Orion was designed as a 6 passenger singe engine commercial passenger plane in 1931. The model 9 was the first airliner to have retractable landing gear and was the last plane to use many of the elements from Lockheed’s previous Altair, Vega and Air Express designs. It was also the last Lockheed wooden monoplane design. The first Orion entered service with Bowen Air Lines at Fort Worth, Texas, in May 1931. Even though the Orion had an excellent record it flew as an airliner only until 1934 because the Civil Aeronautics Authority issued a ruling prohibiting further use of single engine and single pilot passenger aircraft. The ruling brought an end to the Orion as a passenger airplane. They were then used for cargo, mail carrying, private use and charter. Because the aircraft had a complicated wood construction and needed to be sent back to Lockheed to be repaired they were often disposed of after any type of significant accident. Although designed as a passenger plane, the Orion’s speed made it a natural for air races. The Orion had a top speed of 222 mph making it faster than the fighter planes of the time. Two flew in the first Bendix race in 1931 and on 11 July 1935, Laura H. Ingalls flew a Lockheed Orion from Floyd Bennett Field to Burbank, California, establishing an East-West record for women. Two months later she flew it back to set a West-East record. At least 12 of the used Orions were purchased for service in the Spanish Civil War and destroyed in use. Lockheed built a total of 35 Orions and one survives today. The Lockheed model 9 Orion was flown by Swissair, Spanish Republican Air Force, American Airways, Air Express, Bowen Air Lines, Northwest Airways, Transcontinental and Western Air, United States Army Air Forces, Varney Speed Lanes and Wyoming Air Service.