The Jet Age (1958 - Today)

Transition Aircraft: The Turboprops

Turboprop-powered aircraft, which used jet engines to turn a propeller, were introduced on medium-range routes.

Turboprops promised greater fuel efficiency and reliability than piston-engine aircraft. Beginning in 1955, when Capital Airlines bought the British Vickers Viscount and when the Dutch Fokker F-27 first flew, turboprops found brief success on medium-range routes before being replaced by pure jets.
Many regional and local-service airlines mounted turboprop engines on some of their piston-engine aircraft, such as the Allison-powered Convair 580 and the Rolls Royce Dart-powered Convair 600 series.

AA Lockheed L-188 Electra
Reprinted courtesy American Airlines, Inc

Lockheed produced the first U.S. turboprop-powered aircraft, the L-188 Electra II. American Airlines began flying them in 1959. However, wing failures caused by excessive vibration resulted in several fatal accidents and flight restrictions. Lockheed solved the problem, but sales plunged. By the time Electras returned to full service, jetliners had superseded them.

PSA Interior postcard
National Air and Space Museum Archives

The Lockheed Electra II featured a lounge in the rear of the cabin, as shown in this Pacific Southwest Airlines postcard.

Fokker F-27
National Air and Space Museum Archives

The most widely sold turboprop airliner in history, the Fokker F-27 Friendship first entered service in 1958 when it began flying with West Coast Airlines.

West Coast Air Lines Timetable Cover
Rolls-Royce Dart
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Rolls-Royce Dart

First introduced in 1948, the Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop combined the power of jet propulsion with the efficiency of propellers. It was widely used in the first generation of turboprop-powered aircraft, including the British Vickers Viscount and the Dutch Fokker F-27. The Dart enabled these and other new airliners to lower airline operating costs and bring greater speed and comfort to passengers traveling on short-to-medium length routes.
Gift of Rolls-Royce Ltd.

Type: Turboprop, 2-stage centrifugal flow compressor, 7 combustion chambers, 3-stage axial flow turbine
Power: 1,815 ehp at 15,000 rpm
Weight: 567 kg (1,250 lb)
Specific fuel
consumption: 0.317 kg/ehp/hr (0.700 lb/ehp/hr)
Manufacturer: Rolls-Royce Ltd., Derby, England, ca. 1970