The Chicken Works: The Aviation Art of JP Santiago

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The Lockheed L-2000 SST

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A while back I was digging through my digital archives came across my Lockheed SST renderings that I did back in 2002 when I was still using JASC Paint Shop Pro 7.0 and hadn't converted yet to the vastly better Adobe Illustrator 10.

American studies into a supersonic transport go back to the 1950s when various versions were proposed by Convair based on the B-58 Hustler. Things remained paper studies until John F. Kennedy moved plans ahead in July of 1961 with the formation of a presidential committee made up of members of the FAA, NASA, and Department of Defense with $11 million of preliminary research funds.

In 1962, alarmed at the progress being made in Europe by the British and French on preliminary work on the Concorde, the STAG (Supersonic Transport Advisory Group) recommmended plans go forward on the US SST program, especially with news coming from the USSR that the Tupolev OKB was itself working on the Tu-144. The following year, the de facto "flag carrier" of the US, Pan American, announced they had placed options on 6 Concordes. The day after Pan Am's announcement, JFK committed the government to the construction of a larger, faster, and better SST than what Europe or the Soviet Union was working on. While most remember Kennedy's speech calling for the landing of a man on the Moon by the end of the 60s, he had also called for the flight of a US SST in the same timeframe.

The FAA invited bids from the industry and North American, Boeing, and Lockheed submitted bids. With no SST selected, airlines rushed to place options led by TWA and Pan Am. By 1964 63 options were placed, compared to 37 for the Concorde. BOAC itself placed 6 options!

Boeing and Lockheed submitted their proposals in 1966 while North American pulled out (their design was based on the XB-70 Valkyrie).

Compared to the advanced design and technological impressiveness of the Boeing 2707, the Lockheed team submitted a more simpler and easier to produce design powered by Pratt & Whitney JTF17 turbofans and a double-delta wing. Each engine had its own nacelle under the wing and utilized a vertical plate instead of a conical centerbody (as on the Boeing 2707) to manage the incoming supersonic airflow.

Cruising speed was set at Mach 2.7 with a passenger load of 255 over a range of approximately 4000 miles. Whereas the Boeing 2707 structure used nearly 90% titanium alloys, the L-2000 used much-easier to produce and cheaper stainless steel and restricted titanium use to only specific areas where it offered a clear advantage over stainless steel.

Much to the surprise of industry observers, the Boeing design was selected on New Year's Eve 1966 and Lyndon B. Johnson gave the funding go-ahead in April 1967. Ultimately the Boeing 2707 had to be redesigned with a fixed delta wing and by 1971, with the US SST program behind schedule, overbudget, and becoming the hottest political potato inside the Beltway, was cancelled by Congress.

The rendering of the L-2000 was as close as I could get to design with what information I had on hand back then. As you can see it's a lot simpler-appearing design that the Boeing 2707 and resembles a scaled-up Concorde in many ways.

Lockheed never gave the L-2000 a name or a logo, but since this would have been the ultimate jet transport of its day, I had chosen "Starliner II" since the first Lockheed Starliner was the ultimate piston-engined airliner of its day. The Starliner II logo is based upon Lockheed's corporate logo that was in use in the late 1960s.

As TWA was the first US airline to place options on the US SST program, it was only fitting that one of the Starliner II's wear the twin-globe Starstream livery. Although this livery in TWA's fleet featured a baremetal underbelly below the cheatline, I decided to omit that in the same style that BA's Concordes lack the blue underbelly that the rest of BA's fleet featured. It might have been done on a TWA SST to give the plane a cleaner, more futuristic look and to protect the metal from the damaging effects of UV radiation at high cruising altitudes.

I could see TWA marketing the L-2000 as the "Starliner SST". With TWA and Pan Am as transatlantic rivals, TWA would have used their SSTs to run between the US East Coast and Europe. I can just picture these Starliners parked at the futuristic TWA Flight Center at JFK!

(By the late 1960s, TWA had orders for not only 12 Boeing 2707s, but 6 Concordes as well.)

Pan American was the second airline to place options on the US SST and as the "Chosen Instrument", it's not much of a historical stretch to see the L-2000 in the colors of Pan Am. For the same reasons I outlined above, Pan Am very likely would have dispensed with the baremetal underbelly below the blue fuselage cheatline. I could see Juan Trippe calling his birds the "Star Clipper SST" and each aircraft would have been christened such. This rendering is for the first one to join Pan Am, "Star Clipper Stratosphere".

In order to meet the competition presented by TWA and its Starliner SSTs, Pan Am would have undoubtedly placed their Star Clippers on transatlantic routes to Europe but also likely on some Pacific routes as well. Can you picture a Pan Am Star Clipper making the famous checkerboard approach into Kai Tak?

(By the late 1960s, Pan Am had orders for 15 Boeing 2707s and 8 Concordes.)

The Lockheed Starliner II would have likely entered service in the early half of the 1970s and at that time, Delta had not yet acquired any transatlantic routes (not until 1978, with Atlanta-Gatwick service using Tristars), but the merger with Northeast Airlines would have already been completed (1972) and this would have given Delta routes from the US Northeast to Florida. Delta would have used its SSTs for runs between Boston/New York and Miami. This would have been one of the few feasible domestic SST routes since it would take the planes well out over the Atlantic and away from any population centers.

The classic widget livery looks really sharp on the L-2000, and again, as outlined above, I've dispensed with the baremetal underbelly this livery would have ordinarily called for. I've seen pictures of the 2707 in the widget livery and the tail widget was oriented as I've done it here to carry through the sleekness of the design rather than use standard widget placement which calls for the trailing edge of the widget to fall on the vertical fin trailing edge. In the early rush for SST orders, every airline had a marketing name for their proposed SSTs. Though I haven't been able to find if Delta did the same, I'm going with "Deltastar SST".

(In the late 1960s, Delta only had 3 orders for Boeing 2707s and no orders for Concordes.)

This was fun exercise and I selected these three airlines since they were already L-1011 Tristar operators by the time the L-2000 Starliner II would have entered revenue service.

To show the comparison between the Concorde and the L-2000, I had whipped this up:

By the late 1960s Braniff had orders placed for 3 Concordes and 2 Boeing 2707s and undoubtedly, had the L-2000 Starliner II gone into production, been an early customer following TWA and Pan Am. And I should note that Braniff is the ONLY U.S. airline to have flown an SST, when they operated an interline service between DFW and IAD, at which point British Airways cabin/flight crews took over and continued the flight on to London Heathrow.

From what I've dug up, it looks like the L-2000 is approximately 60-75% larger than the Concorde. The Concorde is in the livery that Braniff had planned for theirs with the orange cheatlines, BI titles on the tail, and the "Braniff" scripted titles that were seen later on the Ultra liveries.

This Braniff livery is more historically realistic choice for the US SST (in this case the L-2000) as the Flying Colors were in use by the time the L-2000 would have entered service with Braniff in the mid-1970s. I thought about doing it orange like the Concorde, but Braniff did at one time plan to have a green 747 so the L-2000's livery became just a green version of the orange livery on the Concorde.

(So instead of Big Orange, would they have called it FAST ORANGE?) And speaking of Braniff...

Above is the L-2000 in my personal favorite of the Braniff liveries, the red Alexander Girard (or "Jellybean") livery from Braniff's "End of the Plain Plane" advertising campaign. There'd have to be some pretty doggone special paint that would allow the Jellybean livery to fly supersonic (consider that the special liveried Pepsi Concorde couldn't fly supersonic as the paint used would have peeled off in sheets). Assuming there was, above's what the Red Jellybean liveried Lockheed SST would have looked like. I took a bit of liberty in redoing the black cockpit mask to give it a more sleek and curvaceous line to accent the sleekness of the airframe- personally it looks better that way than what the traditional black cockpit mask on the Jellybean livery would have called for.

Not content with just ONE color of Jellybean, though, I had to add a few others....

Next to red, medium blue Jellybean is another favorite color of mine in the repretoire of Braniff liveries. Can you picture this color in the thin and dark blue skies of the stratosphere at 50000+ feet?

I wasn't a fan of the yellow Jellybean color until I played around with it on this airframe today- it's quite a stark contrast to the black cockpit mask and it's moving up my personal list of favorite Braniff colors. This is a color that would have been SEEN for miles!

And finally there's the light blue color which looks nice on the 727 airframe and does equally well on this hypothetical bird. For some reason the contrast between the cockpit mask and the lighter/brighter colors really makes quite the visual impact. But it's very important to note that by the time the US SSTs would have entered service in the early-to-mid 1970s, the Jellybean livery would have long since been replaced by the Flying Colors livery. So a Jellybean SST is a REAL fantasy and not a true historical what-if!

I do have plans to revisit the Lockheed L-2000 one of these days and bring these illustrations up to my current print-quality standards. Ahhhhh, so many ideas, so little time. But I'll get there.

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Aviation Art