In 1954 American Airlines was in the market for a 75 to 100 passenger for its short to medium range domestic routes. In response Lockheed developed the low wing L-188 Electra powered by four sleek turboprops instead of the usual large radial engines or jet turbines. The combination of engine and the Hamilton Standard propeller offered a much more reliable and fuel efficient aircraft that could travel at 375 mph for 2000 miles at an altitude of 20,000 – 25,000 feet. When production ended in 1961 there had been 170 Electras completed.
QANTAS received the first of their four Lockheed L-188C Electra on October 30, 1959 with the inaugural flight on December 18, 1959. The QANTAS Electras had a place for a navigator added as well as a provision for an extra 1,000 gallon fuel capacity. The initial route allowed 84 passengers to fly comfortably from Sydney to Hong Kong. These aircraft flew commercial service with QANTAS until the mid-1970s when some were sold to Varig Airlines in Brazil. Varig operated them until 1992 when they were sold to Zaire.