The Lockheed Jetstar was used by a diverse range of operators over the years, and saw success in both military and civilian fields. Flying with designation C-140 with the US Air Force and designations L-329 and L-1329 for business services, the rear-engined quadjet saw a 19-year production run between 1961 and 1980.

VIP passengers liked the JetStar

Conducting its first flight on September 4th, 1957 and entering service in 1961, the Lockheed Jetstar was the first dedicated business jet to be introduced. It was the largest model in its class for a long period, providing the capacity for 10 passengers and two crewmembers. The JetStar was also Lockheed's only business jet.

The initial prototype served a particularly special role, as it was used to transport Lockheed Vice President of Advanced Development Projects Kelly Johnson around. After entering service, several familiar names flew on the type, including President Richard Nixon, the Shah of Iran, and the Puerto Rico-based band Menudo.

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A plane fit for a king

Additionally, another one of the most notable civilian customers was Elvis Presley, who owned two units at different times. The 1962 Lockheed JetStar L-1329 was the third plane in his personal fleet. He shared the aircraft with his father, Vernon Presley. It featured red velvet interior, a music system, and its own bathroom.

Another JetStar, nicknamed Hound Dog II, was bought for approximately $900,000 (≈$4.3 million today) as Elvis awaited renovation work to be completed on another jet, Lisa Marie. The aircraft had the following specifications:

  • Crew: Two pilots and (typically) one flight attendant.
  • Capacity: 8-10 passengers, depending on the exact configuration used.
  • Engines: 4 × Garrett TFE731-3 turbofans.
  • Cruise speed: 438 knots (811 km/h).
  • Service ceiling: 43,000 ft (13,105 m).
  • Range: 2,604 NM (4,820 km).

A military powerhouse

Away from transporting the biggest names in show business, the Lockheed VC-140B JetStar was taken on by the US Air Force to carry the country's President, as well as other officials. The aircraft was designed and deployed in record-breaking time. The military was a fan of its ease of maintenance and versatility in the field.

Lockheed highlighted that the plane was the Air Force's answer to an urgent requirement for a jet utility trainer transport. Air Force Magazine noted that different departments could utilize the aircraft's benefits as follows:

“For SAC: The Strategic Air Command depends upon high speeds to rush high priority cargo from its headquarters to its retaliation bases. The new Lockheed JetStar can transport critical parts for bombers and navigation instruments to SAC bases with jet speed (but at much lower cost than the big jets). For ATC: The JetStar fills an indicated need of the Air Training Command for a "top-off" navigator bombardier trainer aircraft which more nearly equals the speed of jet bombers on operational duty. Cruising faster than 450 knots at altitudes up to 45,000 feet, the JetStar fills existing speed/altitude gaps between trainer and tactical aircraft in current use. For MATS: The Aids to Airways Communication Service, operated under the Military Air Transport Service, is charged with the responsibility of airways inspection."

Also seen on the big screen

Lockheed produced several different variants of the Jetstar. These included the JetStar II, which was fitted with revised external fuel tanks, and the 731, which was also modified with redesigned external tanks. In total, JetStar 202 units were produced, and the plane is still in action today. Most famously, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force and Mexican Air Force remain fans of the rear-engined quadjet.

The aircraft has been well spotted over the years, including appearances in popular fiction. With its unique rear-mounted four engines, the plane could be noticed in the James Bond movie Goldfinger, when one served as the title character's private jet. In the same movie, a C-140 took Bond to Washington to meet the President.

Altogether, the aircraft has left a legacy across the aviation spectrum. It is also one of very few designs that had four rear-mounted engines. In the world of airliners, two notable examples were the Ilyushin Il-62 and the Vickers VC-10.

Auctioning Elvis Presley's JetStar

Recently, one of Elvis Presley's former JetStars has been back in the news. As Simple Flying reported in December 2022, it was set to go up for auction in January, having sat unused, as pictured above, for some 35 years. According to Flying Magazine, it was sold for $260,000 on what would have been Elvis's 88th birthday.

What do you make of the Lockheed JetStar? Have you ever seen, or even traveled on, one of these aircraft? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Source: Air Force Magazine, Volume 40, 1957, Flying Magazine

2022-06-27T14:45:26Z dg43tfdfdgfd