In 1957, the face of private business aviation changed forever. The Lockheed L-329 JetStar was introduced (registration N329J - serial number 1001), which later became the world's first full production bizjet model. Kelly Johnson's unique sleek design originally had two jet engines, the Bristol Orpheus power plants, which only flew on the first two JetStars and first model came without the familiar slipper fuel tanks on the wing. The jets maiden flight was on September 4th of that year, catching the world by surprise. The first two prototypes were built in their Burbank California facility. Originally made in private as a transport for the US Air Force, cuts in military spending during its early stages forced Lockheed to look toward the private market to sell its plane. While in its test phases, a number of modifications were made to the aircraft including the addition of the wing tanks as in the second prototype (N329K) for extended range and later settling on the familiar four engine standard with the Pratt & Whitney JT-12 turbojets. The design had a number of unique features including the movement of the entire tail section as the vertical stabilizer, not just the elevator. This is why there is a visible "metal" strip at the base of the tail section which is never painted.
Commercial service of the JetStar started in 1961. The US Air Force eventually purchased a number of JetStar models, given the designation C-140/VC-140, and was a very popular transport for several for military, government, and foreign officials. President Lyndon Baines Johnson used the C-140 extensively during his terms and it was common to see a number of the aircraft at his Stonewall, Texas ranch.
In the mid 1970s, the JetStar was fitted with new model TFE731 turbofan engines made by Garrett AiResearch and newer fuel tanks. The reduction of noise from the original jets and longer range gave the aircraft new performance levels and additional life. The upgraded version was the model 731 and proved to be quite popular. A special JetStar was converted back into a two engine configuration in 1986. Called the "Fan Star", the engines used were the General Electric CF-34 turbofans, similar to those found in Canadair/Bombardier Challenger bizjets but only one was modified. Corporations and famous personalities were known to use the JetStar for their travels and tours including the group Menudo and comedian Bob Hope. The aircraft is still active internationally with private firms and other governments, although their numbers are decreasing. This is due in part by Lockheed’s cancellation of contract maintenance and repairs, sad news to some JetStar operators in which some have had to sell or scrap their planes.
In total, 204 airframes were built with deliveries coming between 1961 and 1978. Austin Texas area residents can now get a good view of this unique aircraft at the Johnson Presidential Ranch (officially the Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park). Recently put on public display with full presidential livery, it is parked in the exact location on the aircraft ramp as in the 1960s when it was in official use at the complex. From Austin, take Highway 290 west, past Johnson City, to Stonewall Texas. The LBJ Park will be on the right side and is usually open every day. It is about a 1 hour drive from west Austin. For more information, please call them at (830) 868-7128.