Model G Hydro-Aeroplane: Lockheed’s First Aircraft

After years as an exhibition pilot and several close calls, Allan Lockheed believed by 1912 that he knew enough to design and build a better aircraft than the ones he had been flying. He and his brother Malcolm proceeded to do exactly that—and more. Their first aircraft was the biggest seaplane in the United States at the time, and they turned it into a commercial success.

Allan and Malcolm meticulously produced a series of designs for the aircraft, labeled A through G. Model G was the best, they decided. Working nights and weekends in a small garage near the San Francisco waterfront, they built the wood and fabric biplane and mounted it atop a single, sled-shaped pontoon. Unlike the planes Allan had previously flown, Model G had the engine up front. In addition to the pilot’s seat, there were two seats for passengers—hopefully of the paying kind.

The Model G at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco

By June 15, 1913, the Model G Hydro-Aeroplane was ready for a test flight. Allan revved up the engine, pushed the throttle, taxied out onto San Francisco Bay, and the first Lockheed aircraft lifted off and started climbing. “He [Malcolm] was yelling on the ground and I was yelling in the airplane,” said Allan. “We’d worked two years on that machine and missed some meals to make it—but it flew and it flew good.” Allan circled back to pick up Malcolm and made two more thrilling 20-minute flights, cruising at an altitude of 300 feet and a speed of 51 mph.

The Model G carried paying passengers until it suffered minor damage later that year. Then, two years later, Allan and Malcolm spotted a potentially lucrative opportunity: the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco with its millions of visitors. They repaired the Model G and began taking visitors for rides at a cost of $10 for 10 minutes. In less than two months, the brothers served 600 passengers without a single accident and made a profit of $4,000—enough to fund the design and development of their next venture, the F-1 Seaplane.

Model G in flight over San Francisco Bay

Sources and Additional Reading

  • Boyne, Walter. Beyond the HorizonsThe Lockheed Story. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.
  • “First Lockheed Aircraft—The Model G Hydro-Aeroplane.” Lockheed Horizons.
  • “A History of Lockheed, The Early Period—1913-1931.” Lockheed Horizons. Issue 12.