Few aircraft have, thankfully, had such a disastrous introduction into service as the Lockheed L-188 Electra, however over the time the type would prove to be a rugged and versatile plane. Nonetheless in hindsight it is difficult to see Eastern's large order for the type, which amounted to almost 1/4 of all Electras produced, as anything but a mistake. At least Eastern got its money's worth out of the type, which would serve into 1977.
The upshot of this was that Rickenbacker felt comfortable spending a lot of money on prop-liners to bridge the gap. The airline already had a substantial fleet of Constellations and Super Constellations when in 1955 it ordered a massive 40 DC-7s. Not content with this Rickenbacker followed up on September 27, 1955 with a huge order for 40 Lockheed Electra turboprops, with 30 options.
The cost of the deal totalled $100 million with the Electra's going for $2.4 million a piece. Even at the time the decision to buy this many Electra's, coming on top of the DC-7s, was controversial. As all the other airlines kept their powder dry and then binged on jets it became obvious it was foolhardy. The combined price of all the Connie, DC-7 and Electra orders totalled $225 million - nearly double what Rickenbacker had budgeted for jets. Even worse the Electra did itself no favours in service whatsoever.
Left: A 1958 Lockheed ad for the Electra
Below: From a 1959 inflight guide
- Eastern's Electras Pt2: Shuttle Survivors
Cearley Jr, G.W. Eastern Air Lines: An Illustrated History
Russell, D.L. Eastern Air Lines: A History, 1926-1991
Serling, R.J. From the Captain to the Colonel: An Informal History of Eastern Air Lines