Lost Planes We Love: The Lockheed 1329 JetStar

Caution, if you are looking at some sort of historical retrospective on the Jetstar or facts and figures… stop reading — this is just an article based on pure opinion and observations.  Otherwise, enjoy!

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The Lockheed Jetstar is one of those airplanes that kind-of grows on you after a while.  If you were like me, you hated it at first sight in the aviation books you read as a kid.  Raised on the clean lines of the Gulfstream and Dassault Falcon lineage, I had little taste for the boxy-looking 1329 Jetstar myself.  Everything just seemed wrong: four engines where two should be… square windows… those big damn tanks on the wings… and what about that barn door of a tail huh?  Gosh, I wondered who in the heck would have loved it.

Later on, I found out it was me who would… along with many more.

Yeah, the Jetstar doesn’t have the sheer sexiness of it’s contemporaries, but that’s just it — without the Jetstar, there wouldn’t have been contemporaries!

The Jetstar was the first… the first of the screaming hot business jets. Sure, airplanes of various types had been used exclusively for business travel before the 1329, but many were war-weary surplus piston-powered hotrods burning 100 octane like the A-26 Invader that was converted by OnMark as the Marksman or Marketeer and the Lockheed Lodestar and Venturas that were converted by Howard as the 450 or 500 powerhouses.

The Jetstar was the first purpose-built bizliner that would burn kerosene — and that made it sexy for the captains of industry.

Gulfstream flew it’s first business plane, the G-I, in 1958 and marketed it accordingly — and though it burned kerosene too, it was just a turboprop. It had a big cabin and all, but for those less-educated in the field of plane-spotting, those twirly-thingies that spun around on the end of the whoosie-whatsits that made it go, made it look an awful-lot like a prop-job like all the rest before. When Mr. President of International Doodad Inc. hopped aboard, he couldn’t say he was “jetting off” and thus wasn’t nearly as cool as those who could pick up the sultry Jetstar.

So those who grew up seeing the Jetstar in the magazines and books of the 60′s loved it in all it’s roaring beauty.  Even though those four Pratt & Whitney JT12′s left a five-mile-long carbon trail behind them, it was still a thing of beauty because it was what the boys and girls aspired to — if they studied hard and ate all their vegetables, they might too someday become Mr. or Mrs. President of International Doodad Inc. and fly aboard their own Jetstar.

Of course, we all know what happened next.  Gulfstream caught on and came out with their G-II, which shared the nice big cabin of the G-I but had those sexy jets on the back… and then they came out with the III.  Bill Lear showed us that bigger wasn’t always better and gave us the Ferrari of the BizJet set with the tiny 23 and then the 25.  Then Cessna came along and showed us the Business Jet for the masses — the Citation, or “NearJet” as some called it.  Either way, the Jetstar was old-hat within a decades time and became something of a hand-me-down.  Lockheed never followed up with another business jet, so the Jetstar remained an only child.  The type attempted a revival with the P&W engines being replaced by TFE731s later as the 731 Jetstar and Jetstar II, produced between 1976 and 1978, but the airplane was surely on the decline.

Today there are indeed Jetstars operating around, but not many.  The FAA has about 70 of the 1329 on the civil register, but not all are flying.  Only two are registered in Arizona, one being a JT12 bird registered to Allied Signal (which makes me think it’s not flying) and a Jetstar II owned by a private company that seems to have recent photo records of operating (at least from Airliners.net and others). I fear that within a few years, even these holdouts will no longer see air under their wheels and will be grounded like those before them.  Perhaps they’ll go to a museum or worse, a technical school where their guts will be taken apart and put back together by mechanic trainees.  They might get parted out to maintain the examples still flying south of the border in Central and South America where they still remain fairly active.  But I fear many will just sit on the edge of airports with a “for sale” sign forever stuck inside the cockpit window, waiting for the day when the owner either falls behind on tie-down fees or they get fed up with having a broken plane, and the once-mighty bird gets reduced to scrap — a sad end, but unfortunately inevitable for many.

I hope one or two does stay flying — fueled by a passionate owner who gladly sinks hard earned cash into keeping the “first of many” in the air where it belongs.  Sure, it may be loud, dirty, and expensive as all hell — but it sure is sexy.

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4 Responses to “Lost Planes We Love: The Lockheed 1329 JetStar”

  1. Scott Apple

    Hey Ryan,

    Great read! The company I work for now(Discount Tire Company) had a JetStar II. They sold it before I went to work for them. I did do part time Mechanic work for them back in the late 90s and got my hands on it. The thing is built like a tank!! JWT Holdings also has a JetStar II based at SDL. It’s nice to see that machine take to the air every once in a while. Truely a great machine.

  2. Paul Filmer

    I with you on this one Ryan – you just can’t beat the old non-bypass jets :)

  3. Larry Simpkins

    As a Jetstar pilot I found your article interesting.
    Check out my Jetstar pictures at:
    http://www.skyhighpix.com/gallery/6464154_9AfMe#424424116_uraeg.

    Let me know if you would like a picture to add to your blog.

    Larry Simpkins

  4. Damon

    The JetStar, and it’s history are extremely sexy. I worked with a Dash 8 and a II. They needed a lot of upkeep, and liked their fuel, but they very rarely broke.

    The manuals might leave you beating your head against the microfiche machine, but you didn’t have to do it to often.

    The Iron Bird. I’ve been through some pretty rough storms in the old 1329′s. Stuff that would make you “Lear-y” of a lesser aircraft.

    For sheer look, I’ve always liked the NA-265-60. With the brightwork leading edge slate and leading edges, it’s a plane I rarely see, and seems to be daring you to go out and fly the snot out of it.

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