Lockheed's flying Flatbed - A bizarre concept

By Willie Bodenstein


Imagine being the owner of a large construction and earth moving company and you successfully tender for a contact in the DRC. Only problem is you need to get your equipment there in a couple of days. No problem, all you do is to charter Lockheed's Flying Flatbed and it is on site in a couple of hours.

That, I imagine was the reason for the creation of Lockheed's Flying Flatbed.

Designed in 1980 the Lockheed "Flatbed" was a rather strange looking aircraft similar to a flatbed truck but approximately the same size and weight as an Airbus A300. The 'Flatbed' it was proposed, would carry its cargo in the open on the flat bed section that starts behind the forward cockpit fuselage and ends before the large twin vertical stabilisers.

By utilizing a swing-away nose, removable fairing and retractable ramps and with its four engines CFM-56 turbofan engines mounted on top of the low wings to keep its height above ground as low as possible, heavy equipment could be driven onto and off the cargo platform.

The bed of the aircraft consisted of parallel I-beams as the primary load-carrying structure, with metal sheeting on the top to provide a smooth walking surface. Like most cargo aircraft, rollers could be raised through small holes cut in the bed to allow palleted loads to be rolled on and off without requiring a forklift.

A key feature of the 'Flatbed' was its ability to quickly load and unload multimodal containers and various cargo and passenger pods.

Using scale models of both the Flatbed and tank and bridge launcher, aerodynamicists studied drag figures and later translated the data into speed and fuel-burn figures. The resulting performance numbers indicated the concept was surprisingly plausible.

However, despite this the idea was never exploited and the 'Flatbed' would be just one more of aviation's oddities.

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