Design and development of the Lockheed 18 Lodestar began as a result of the poor sales achievement of the Lockheed 14 Super Electra, the prototype being flown for the first time on 21 September 1939. Converted from a Super Electra, it differed primarily by having the fuselage lengthened by 1.68m to provide accommodation for 15 to 18 passengers, depending upon the other facilities provided; some were produced with high-density bench seating for a maximum of 26 passengers and were available with a variety of engines by Pratt & Whitney and Wright. Despite the improved economy demonstrated by the Lodestar, Lockheed failed again to achieve profitable sales in the United States as most operators were committed to purchasing DC-3s from the Douglas Company. Fortunately, the type appealed more to export customers, with airlines or government agencies in Africa, Brazil, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the UK, and Venezuela ordering 96 aircraft. There was only limited military interest before World War II. Still, later procurement, particularly by the US Army Air Force, raised the total of Lodestars built by Lockheed to 625 before production ended. Unlike the Hudson, the Lodestar has no record of stirring action, but the type was able to fulfill an essential medium-range transport role. Only small numbers saw post-war service, mostly with small operators. Still, companies like Howard Aero and Lear Inc carried out several exciting conversions as executive transports in the USA.