See Constellation News Archive - 2015 For Additional News
Drone Photos of Nantes Super Constellation – February 20, 2017
Pierre Planel sent me some interesting photos of Super Constellation F-BGNJ taken from a drone. I normally only post photos on my Photos Page but these are the first drone photos I've received and I consider them indeed newsworthy. The aircraft is owned by Amicale du Super Constellation and is on display at Nantes Airport in France. Over the years the group has spent a lot of effort restoring the aircraft and proudly displays her to the general public during regular open houses.
Museum Plans to Resume Disassembly of South African Starliner – February 19, 2017
Work it set to resume on the disassembly of L1649A ZS-DVJ at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. The aircraft is owned by the South African Airways Museum Society (SAAMS) and disassembly began in mid-2011 with the intent of moving the aircraft by road to the museum’s home base at nearby Rand Airport. Unable to continue the disassembly at the SAA facility, the aircraft was towed across the airport to Denel Aviation on May 12, 2012. Disassembly continued in 2013 and into 2014 with the engines, empennage and other components being removed and transported to Rand. The story continues on the museum’s website…
On 13 August 2013 work began on the removal of the Starliner engines. The four engines were sent to Anderson Aeromotive based in Grangeville, Idaho, USA, for potential overhaul and/or the recovery of components suitable for overhaul for the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS) Starliner N7316C which was being restored to flying condition in Maine USA. The SAA Museum society received dummy engines in return to install on ZS-DVJ once she is at Rand Airport.
On 18 February 2014 the go-ahead was given by the Museum for Airside Enterprises (Pty) Ltd to manufacture fuselage shoring, consisting of rigging equipment, wing cradles and belly cradle. The items were duly manufactured in 2014 and stored. No further progress was made with the Starliner during the rest of 2014 as well as 2015 and 2016 as it was decided to work on relocating the museum's Vickers Viking, ZS-DKH, from OR Tambo to Rand Airport. The Viking was relocated on 22 January 2017.
And so it was that on 17 February 2017, the man who had successfully headed up the Viking move, Matt Harvey, found himself at Denel Aviation listening to Richard Hunt explaining how to "take apart" the Connie and move it to Rand Airport. The task ahead was major; the Viking move had acted as a rehearsal and Matt and his team had some insight as to what lay ahead - albeit on a much larger scale.
In addition to Mat and Richard, other team members present on 17 February included Ray Hudson, Ken Wadmore, James Engels, Kyle Baytopp, Keith Lennard, Mike Paterson, Digby Sherwood, Ian Cruickshank, and John Austin-Williams. This will be the second road trip for the aircraft…its first was from Warmbaths to Johannesburg in May 1979. I wish the folks at the SAA Museum luck in their ambitious endeavor and will be posting updates on the project.
Yankee Air Museum Raising Funds to Save EC-121K – February 17, 2016
As reported on this website on October 25, 2016, the Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti, MI has acquired EC-121K BuNo 141311 that had been on display at the defunct Octave Chanute Museum in Rantoul, IL. There had been quite a bit of concern that this aircraft would be scrapped but the folks at YAM stepped up and made a commitment to save the aircraft and move it to their facility in Michigan. This of course is going to take money and the museum recently added a page to their website soliciting donations for this very worthwhile project. I wish them all the luck with the move and look forward to seeing the aircraft on display in their new facility.
NC-121K Sighting in North Carolina – February 16, 2017
Rob Stanton recently sent me a short email and photo of the forward fuselage section of NC-121K BuNo 141292. This aircraft made the last U.S. military Constellation flight on June 11, 1982 and was donated to the Florence Air and Missile Museum in Florence, S.C. for static display a few weeks later. The museum closed in September 1997 and the aircraft was disassembled with the forward fuselage going to Brian Hicks and the engines, propellers, landing gear, rear cargo door and other parts going to the AMC Museum for the restoration of L1049E N1005C. Rob stated in the email that the aircraft is located on Alexis High Shoals Road in Dallas, N.C. and the photo was taken on February 11, 2017. Previous reports have the aircraft in nearby Stanley, N.C. and I’m curious to know if the airplane has been moved. Can anyone confirm?
Manila Super Connie Moved to Container Port – December 14, 2016
The Qantas Founders Museum issued a media release this week announcing that C-121J N4247K had been moved from Manila International Airport to the Manila International Container Port in preparation for shipment to museum headquarters in Longreach, Australia. Now that the aircraft has arrived at the port, it can be prepared for its sea journey to Australia, which is expected to happen in mid-2017. For more information about this exciting development, check out the media release.
Lufthansa Starliner Restoration Project Update – November 6, 2016
Check out the article I wrote on my August 2016 visit to the Lufthansa Technik restoration hangar in Auburn, Maine. Real progress is being made on the project and I'd like to thank Andreas Pakszies and Dan Stevens for making the visit possible.
New Security Fence at EuroAirport Basle-Fribourg-Mulhouse – November 3, 2016
The fence builders have been busy at EuroAirport Basle-Fribourg-Mulhouse, which is the home of Breitling Super Constellation HB-RSC. Matthias Pühl reports that by the August 28, 2016, a new corrugated steel fence had almost been completed at one of his favorite vantage point for photographing and videoing HB-RSC. He sent me the last video he was able to take and also some photos of the new and improved fence. It’s a shame that airports are becoming less accessible to enthusiasts but I guess that’s the price we all have to pay to keep us safe from all the crazy folks out there wishing to do bad things.
Orphaned Willy Victor Finds a Home – October 25, 2016
The Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum closed its doors on November 1, 2015 resulting in quite a bit of uncertainty about the fate of its aircraft collection. Many of the smaller and more historic aircraft have found new homes but there has been considerable concern that the larger aircraft, including the former museum’s C-97G, C-133A and EC-121K (WV-2) aircraft, would be scrapped in place. In June 2016 the Michigan based Yankee Air Museum confirmed that they were in discussions with the U.S. Navy to obtain EC-121K BuNo 141311 for its collection. On October 18, 2016, the Rantoul Press newspaper reported that officials from the Yankee Museum had visited Rantoul the week before and the Super Connie's move was a “done deal.” While the aircraft arrived under its own power in June 1983, there was no chance of making it airworthy and disassembly is expected to begin later this year for the road trip north to Michigan. The museum’s Executive Director Kevin Walsh said the aircraft is in surprisingly good shape and, after reassembly and restoration, it will be placed on display inside the museum’s recently acquired 144,000 square foot facility in Ypsilanti. A lot of credit for the aircraft’s condition needs to go to retired Cmdr. Gerald Durbin and a group of U.S. Navy veterans who spent 11,500+ man-hours restoring the aircraft between 2000 and 2005. Their efforts probably saved this historic aircraft from the scrapman.
Unfortunately, there were no takers for the C-97G and C-133A and both will be scrapped later this year. Perhaps knowing its fate, the C-133A apparently made an unplanned final flight during a violent thunderstorm on June 20, 2016. High winds turned the aircraft 90 degrees and, since there were no skid marks, local officials assumed that it briefly became airborne. While the aircraft wasn’t damaged, the same cannot be said for a chain link fence that it came down on.
Constellation Alternators Looking For a Home – October 21, 2016
I received the following email from Jim Fink, who is looking for homes for his large inventory of Constellation alternators. While there are only two airworthy Super Constellations and three additional Constellations under restoration, I thought that some in the enthusiast community might be interested in owning some “genuine” Constellation hardware.
“I just came across your site and I hope you might be able to help me. I have an absurd number of Westinghouse 30KVA alternators that went on Connies. While he was alive my father and I rebuilt aircraft alternators for use in field geophysics. We specialized in the 3 phase, 400 Hz, 30 KVA Westinghouse models 9102 and 8978-2. The 400 Hz aircraft alternators were relatively light and powerful; both desirable traits for portability in exploration geophysics. He has long since passed, I am 73 and no longer rebuilding them. In the 1980s we scoured the surplus sources throughout the west and acquired 100s of them. I am now left with many alternators looking for new homes and I want the space that they've taken up for years. I've enclosed two photos of racks of the 30 KVA Westinghouse alternators in various states of assembly. The two models were opposite rotations. The majority of 9102's have been sold off but there are about 50 8978-2's and a couple of 9102's left. I am writing you because the only aircraft, that I am aware of, on which these were installed, were the Connies. I'm sure they were also installed on other aircraft but I never tracked those down. I also have several Bendix 9 KVA alternators and a number of others as well as some 3 KVA inverters. Any help or guidance as to the best people to contact or places to advertise them would be greatly appreciated. I have a reasonably detailed inventory and the relevant tech manuals.....Jim Fink”
If you’re interested in acquiring an alternator, feel free to email Jim.
Military Constellation Instruments Available – September 17, 2016
John Turanin recently contacted me saying that he had about 1,000 aircraft instruments, with some appearing to have been used on C-121 military Constellations.
”A few years ago a friend who owned an aircraft instrument repair shop retired and I took on his old 'boneyard' inventory of ~1000 instruments ranging from NOS to core condition. Most were from military aircraft from the 1940s to 1970s and many were procured when US air bases were closed in the 1970-80s and the inventory was liquidated. Since then, in my spare time I've been working to get them into the hands of aircraft restorers and artifact collectors.”
“I've come across some that appear to have been used in C-121s, based upon what I can glean from C-121 flight manuals and photos of C-121 instrument panels. I've posted a few on my website (search for Constellation) and on eBay. I'm just looking to get them into the hands of those who can put them to good use, either for restoring to flight service or static display. For true restorations by 501(c)(3) organizations, I'm happy to donate them. I’ve just completed an inventory list of what I have and would be happy to provide it to anyone who wants a copy. My email address can be found on the website.”
Lufthansa Starliner Restoration Project – August 31, 2016
I visited Auburn, Maine on August 24th and toured the Lufthansa Technik restoration hangar. I’m happy to report that much progress has been made on the restoration of Starliner N7316C since my last visit in October 2014. I will be writing a report on my visit for this website in the next few weeks and also be preparing an article for Air Classics Magazine for publication later this year. The August 2016 issue of Air & Space Magazine includes an interesting article on the project and it has been posted on the magazine’s website.
July 2014 Video of C-121A HI-393 in Santo Domingo – August 21, 2016
On April 19th I noted that C-121A HI-393 had recently been photographed in Santo Domingo, DR. Martin Maldonado recently posted a video on Facebook documenting a detailed July 2014 walk-around of the aircraft. She’d been picked pretty clean but all the major pieces were still in place.
Visit to Dynamic Aviation – August 15, 2016
I visited Dynamic Aviation headquarters in Bridgewater, Virginia on August 2, 2016. Dynamic Chairman and Founder Karl Stoltzfus gave me a tour of the impressive facility located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. Quite a bit had changed since my last visit in December 2002, when I photographed four parked K&K Aircraft DC-3 sprayers that had been recently retired in favor of more modern King Air aircraft.
Of course, the main reason for my visit to Dynamic was to see and photograph VC-121A Columbine II, which arrived from Tucson, Arizona on March 23, 2016. Details about this amazing flight can be found in a series of February and March 2016 reports on this page. An engine and two props were borrowed from Ron Lewis for the flight and these have been removed and returned to California. While restoration has not yet begun, a large new hangar is nearing completion and this will house Columbine, C-47 Miss Virginia and the rest of Karl’s collection including a pristine T-6, Stearman and a Twin Beech that is currently undergoing restoration. Karl estimates that restoration of the Constellation will take about 2-3 years once it begins.
The second reason for my visit was to photograph C-121G N105CF. Stored for many years at Marana Regional Airport in Avra Valley, Arizona, it had been stripped pretty clean by previous owners Super Constellation Flyers Association and Historical Aircraft Restoration Society. The aircraft was disassembled in February 2016 by the Dynamic crew working on Columbine and trucked to Bridgewater. To facilitate transportation, the fuselage had been cut and the wings and empennage removed. Parts are currently being harvested from the aircraft but there are no immediate plans to scrap it. It is highly unlikely that this aircraft will ever fly again.
Karl took me to the restoration hangar where a beautifully restored T-6 and Stearman were housed along with Karl’s first Beech 18, which was undergoing an extensive restoration. Also stored in the hangar was a Travel Air, which was Karl’s father first airplane. His father owned Chris D. Stoltzfus and Associates, which operated a large fleet of vintage aircraft out of Coatsville, Pennsylvania from 1936 to 1981. C-47 Miss Virginia had been at AirVenture the week before and I was also able to photograph her during my visit.
Karl told me it was his intent to do an absolute first class restoration of Columbine II and to bring her back to how she looked while serving as Dwight Eisenhower’s Air Force One. I commend him on this and look forward to seeing the finished product in 2-3 years.
Breitling Super Connie Videos From Mt. Stanserhorn, Switzerland – July 18, 2016
Willy Stotzer recently forwarded links to some incredible YouTube videos of the Breitling Super Connie HB-RSC performing at Mount Stanserhorn, Switzerland on June 10, 2016. For full enjoyment, view the videos on full screen.
Breitling Super Connie Wows Airshow Crowd in Dübendorf – July 4, 2016
After completion of annual winter maintenance, Breitling Super Connie HB-RSC received flight approval from the Swiss Federal Air Office on April 27, 2016. Although there have been some flight cancelations due to bad weather this spring, the Super Connie has made appearances at a number of European events. Paul Zogg recently forwarded some great photos from an event in Dübendorf, Switzerland on July 1, 2016 and its evident that the old girl put on quite a show for the crowd.
#1 Engine Installed on Salina Connie – June 21, 2016
Gordon Cole returned to Salina the first week of June and immediately began work on completing the buildup of the #1 engine. With help from Larry Bruzda and Bill Garrison, the engine was ready for installation on the 15th but the weather forecast wasn’t promising. The bad weather held off and, with a crane supplied by Bill's brother Richard of McIntyre Welding, the engine was installed on the 15th. Shortly after the engine was secured, a severe line of thunderstorms rolled through with 70mph winds and heavy rain. Tornados were reported nearby and golf ball sized fell just a few miles away but the old Connie came through the storm unscathed.
Before the thunderstorm arrived, the temperature had been 111° F and, since there was still a lot of work to do on the #1 engine, Gordon fashioned a canopy for the work stand to protect the crew from the brutal sun. Once the #1 engine is installed and test run, the crew will turn their attention to the other three engines. Since the aircraft has been stored for many years, all of the engine hoses and other “soft lines” will have to be replaced.
Third Constellation Being Made Ready for Flight – May 27, 2016
After an eleven year drought, there’s a very real possibility that a third U.S. based Constellation will be returning to the skies in 2016. Gordon Cole arrived in Salina, Kansas on Monday May 16th determined to prepare L749A N1206 for its first flight since November 1992. Gordon is serious about restoring the long grounded airplane and he and J.R. Kelley arrived in Salina with a fully equipped mobile work station and a lift truck. Joined by local friends Larry Bruzda and Bill Garrison, J.R. and Gordon immediately went about setting up the infrastructure to support the restoration effort.
With all the required tools, equipment and parts in place, the group began the task of resurrecting the airplane. They pressure washed the airplane and engines; cleaned out the interior of the aircraft moving the tooling/equipment to a 53 foot trailer; filled the aircraft tires with nitrogen; prepped the nacelle for installation of the #1 engine; bead blasted and inspected the engine mount bolts; and began building up the replacement #1 engine. The engine is located at Bill’s hangar in nearby Hutchinson, Kansas and the engine/QEC is mounted on a transfer stand, which allowed the crew easy access to the accessory section of the engine. Before installation on the aircraft, the starter, fuel pump, generator, hydraulic pump, tach generator, magnetos, exhaust pipes and intake pipes had to be installed. While some of this has been completed, bad weather delayed the effort and the engine is now scheduled to be installed in early June.
After ten productive days in Salina, J.R. and Gordon headed back home on the 25th for a few days to take care of family business. When I spoke to Gordon, he told me that he planned on working on the airplane through the summer and into the fall, if needed. The restoration of this one-of-a-kind aircraft is being self-funded by Gordon but he is considering initiating a “Go Fund Me” effort to supplement the expensive replacement of the oil, fuel and hydraulic lines.
I wish Gordon good luck and hope to visit Salina this summer to check out progress on the restoration.
L1049H HI-542CT Sighting at Aguadilla-Borinquen Airport – May 5, 2016 (Updated July 1, 2016)
Mark Wittmayer was in Puerto Rico yesterday and reports on L1049H Super Connie HI-542CT that is parked outside the new Lufthansa hangar at Aguadilla-Borinquen Airport. The aircraft was moved to that location in the last year or so after being parked at a remote corner of the airport since its unfortunate ground collision with a DC-4 on February 3, 1992. Abandoned since then, Mark reports that word at the airport is that Lufthansa had it moved to its current location where they plan on restoring it. Already heavily involved with the Starliner restoration project in Auburn, Maine, my assumption is that the restoration will be cosmetic only. If anyone has any additional information about Lufthansa’s intentions, please email me. For additonal photos of the aircraft taken on June 28th by Chris Carey, check out the Constellation Photos page of this website.
HARS Super Connie Feature Attraction at Wings Over Illawarra Airshow – May 2, 2016
HARS Super Connie VH-EAG was the star attraction at the Wings Over Illawarra Airshow this past weekend. Robert Hedges reports that, in addition to flying a solo routine, the veteran Super Connie flew in formation with the RAAF Aerobatic Team The Roulettes. This gorgeous aircraft is a former USAF C-121C that was restored by a team from HARS and flown from Tucson, Arizona to Australia twenty years ago in February 1996. Since that time it has been active on the Australian airshow circuit. Thanks much to Robert for the photos and congratulations to the folks at HARS for a job well done!
Breitling Super Connie Completes Annual Inspection – May 1, 2016
As reported on Facebook, the Breitling Breitling Super Connie successfully completed its annual winter maintenance and inspection and was certified airworthy by Swiss aviation authorities on April 27. With this major requirement completed, the aircraft is ready to begin the 2016 airshow season.
Columbine III Moved to New Display Building at NMUSAF – April 25, 2016
VC-121E Columbine III and VC-118 Independence were moved from the old Presidential Hangar at the National Museum of the USAF to the museum’s new Fourth Building on Saturday April 23, 2016. The massive new display hangar will open to the public on June 8, 2016 and will house the new Presidential, R&D, Space and Global Reach/Transport Galleries. The two aircraft joined VC-54C Sacred Cow and VC-137C 26000, which were moved to the new facility on April 9, 2016. Many thanks to Nick Franga and NMUSAF for providing photos of the move.
Endangered Connie Hangs on in Santo Domingo – April 19, 2016
Former USAF C-121A 48-611/HI-393 continues to defy the odds and was recently spotted by Andreas Hartmann on a visit to Santo Domingo. Stripped of most of her useful parts in 1994 to support the MATS Connie, the derelict aircraft has somehow avoided a number of mass scrappings at the airport since then. A few years ago she was dragged out of the jungle of vegetation that had enveloped her and spent some time on the hardstand leading to rumors that perhaps a static restoration was in the winds. Nothing became of these rumors and she is back on her tail behind the derelict B707 in Andreas’ photo. Many thanks to Andreas for his photo and report.
Lufthansa Starliner Restoration Project Achieves Major Milestone in March – April 4, 2016
The Lufthansa Technik website reported on March 31, 2016 that structural work on L1649A N7316C had been completed. Project Manager Andreas Pakszies announced in a March 31st news release that “The structure will be concluded by the end of March.” The three small photos included in the news release show what appears to be significant process since my last visit to the restoration hangar in October 2014. Installation of the main frames has been completed, the nose landing gear has been installed and the horizontal stabilizer has been attached. The engine nacelles are in work at a Florida subcontractor and are expected to be delivered in May. Once they are installed, the main landing gear can be attached resulting in the aircraft being back on its feet for the first time since restoration began in 2008.
Another March 31st news release announced that former Lockheed-Martin Engineering VP Tom Blakely succeeded Dr. Rainer Sebus on April 1, 2016 as head of engineering in Auburn. Blakely retired from Lockheed-Martin in 2012 after a 33 year career with the company. He held many senior engineering management positions on programs ranging from the P-3 Orion to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Manila Connie Still Awaiting Shipment to Australia – April 2, 2016 (April 4, 2016 Update)
I received an email from Heinz Rentmeister the other day, which included a photo of C-121J N4247K, which is still at Manila International Airport awaiting shipment to Australia. Hi Ralph, I'm attaching a shot of Winky's Fish Super Connie the way it can be seen from Terminal 3 in MNL. Thought it might interest you. Not a quality shot, just documentary. It seems like activities have come to a standstill. Taken from a distance of about 800m through thick glass and extreme heat on March 8, 2016. Cheers...Heinz If anyone has any information on what’s delaying shipment, I’d appreciate an email.
As so often happens, the answer to my question unexpectedly appeared two days later on April 4th in a media release issued by the Qantas Founders Museum. According to the release, the early stages of the project have been funded and completed. These include the purchase of the aircraft, extraditing it from the ground, disassembling it, making it ready for towing, moving it to a storage area and preparing it for transportation by ship. With this done, the museum is appealing to businesses and individuals for donations to pay for the shipment of the aircraft from Manila to the museum’s facility in Longreach, Australia. While it will most likely be transported by ship, the museum is also investigating the possibility of shipping it by air using an Antonov freighter. This would avoid the lengthy overland portion of the shipment in Australia.
The museum plans on restoring the aircraft to represent a 1950’s era Qantas Super Constellation, which will involve replacing the U.S. Navy C-121J style round windows with the more numerous square shaped windows found on civilian Super Constellation airliners. To donate to this worthy project, go to the Qantas Founders Museum website donation page and follow the links or contact the museum via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starliner Ownership Transferred to New Lufthansa Subsidiary – March 25, 2016
Ownership of L1649A N7316C was recently transferred from Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS) to Lufthansa Super Star GmbH (LSSG), which is a newly established subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. DLBS will continue to own and operate vintage Lufthansa aircraft such as the Junkers Ju 52 and Dornier Do 27. LSSG will be responsible for completing the Auburn restoration project and future operations of the Starliner. Due to its non-profit status in Germany and the United States, donations to LSSG are tax deductible in both countries. There have been many rumors lately about the viability of the restoration and this announcement is good news indeed! For more information, check out the LSSG website.
Columbine II Completes Final Leg of Flight to Bridgewater, Virginia – March 23, 2016
The original plan was for Columbine II to depart Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday morning but some pesky fuel leaks delayed departure for a day. The Mid America Flight Museum issued the following post Tuesday afternoon on their Facebook page... "Good afternoon friends.... Columbine II had some fuel leaks that had to be addressed before continued flight to Bridgewater VA... The aircraft's owner sent his King Air to San Antonio for some gaskets of all things.... By the end of the day the leaks were fixed but not enough to time to make the 4 or so hour flight to its final destination.... So the crew is staying in Mt Pleasant one more night. Plans are for the aircraft to leave by 9:00 AM in the morning."
By 8:40am Wednesday morning, all four engines were running and Columbine II and the King Air departed for Bridgewater on schedule at 9:00am. The clear blue skies of Monday and Tuesday had been replaced by clouds with afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast. The first part of the flight was flown below 3,000 feet to stay clear of clouds but further east the weather improved and the two aircraft climbed to 9,500 feet for most of the remainder of the flight. By 1:00pm local time they had reached southwest Virginia and arrived safely in Bridgewater an hour later at 2:00pm. Congratulations to Karl, Brian and everyone else involved in this amazing project!
There are a number of videos posted on YouTube documenting the departure from Mount Pleasant and arrival at Bridgewater.
Departure from Mt. Pleasant
Arrival at Bridgewater #1
Arrival at Bridgewater #2.
Columbine II Departs Marana Regional Airport on First Leg of Flight to Virginia – March 21, 2016
After a 12 month restoration, Columbine II departed Marana Regional Airport today at 9:40am on the first leg of her flight to Bridgewater, Virginia. After a 4 1/2 hour flight, the aircraft landed safely at at the Mid America Flight Museum in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. The museum's B-25J "God and Country" and a Dynamic Aviation King Air had accompanied Columbine II on the flight. The Connie will be inspected and, if it goes well, she will depart tomorrow morning on the final leg to Bridgewater. The crew was the same as for Saturday's flight. Check out the museum's
Facebook page for videos and the latest information about the flight.
A number of videos were posted on Facebook and YouTube documenting the flight from Marana to Mount Pleasant.
Departure from Marana
Departure from Marana by Chopperguy
Air-to-Air by Erik Johnston
Arrival at Mt. Pleasant by Ethan Garrity
Flyby and Arrival at Mt. Pleasant
Columbine II Makes First Post-Restoration Flight Today – March 19, 2016
At 12:28pm local time today, Columbine II took to the air at Marana Regional Airport for the first time since May 2003. With a crew consisting of pilot Lockie Christler, co-pilot Scott McDonald and flight engineers Tom Woodward and Tim Coons, the aircraft completed an uneventful hour long flight circling the airport. There were about 50 people on hand to witness the flight and I’ve been told that there weren’t any abnormal oil or hydraulic leaks evident after the aircraft landed. Good news indeed! The flight follows a year-long comprehensive restoration by Karl Stoltzfus and the folks at Dynamic Aviation. Congratulations to all involved and I’ll be posting additional information as I receive it.
Columbine II Set to Fly on Saturday – March 16, 2016
I received an email from Dynamic Aviation this evening confirming that VC-121A Columbine II is scheduled to make her first flight since May 2003 on Saturday March 19th. If all goes well, the plan is to start the trip back to company headquarters in Bridgewater, Virginia on Monday. I will be providing updates as I receive them.
MOF Super Connie to Remain on Berm in Front of Museum of Flight – March 15, 2016
The Museum of Flight (MOF) is building a massive facility at Boeing Field to display its collection of larger aircraft. This has resulted in these aircraft being shuffled around its outside ramps and storage areas with some recently being moved into the partially finished building. I received an email from MOF volunteer Bob Bogash yesterday describing the most recent round of shuffling. Bob’s most recent project involved heading up the restoration of the prototype B727 in preparation for a ferry flight from the museum’s restoration facility at Paine Field to Boeing Field for display. Former United Airlines B727 N7001U was donated to the museum and hadn’t flown since arriving at Paine Field in 1991. Getting the airplane ready for the short 20 minute ferry flight to Boeing Field was an ambitious undertaking but, under Bob’s leadership, the aircraft was made airworthy and successfully completed the ferry flight on March 2, 2016 without incident. Bob also led the efforts to obtain the museum’s B737 prototype, its Lockheed Super Constellation and its Concorde. Bob describes the airplane shuffling in his email. “After the 727 arrived at Boeing Field, we moved the Connie off the Berm temporarily so we could move the B-47 off the Berm and into the new Pavilion. The 727 and Connie sat together in the parking lot for almost a week. Today, they were moved to the north end of the MOF complex - also temporarily. The Connie will be moved back to the Berm in the next few weeks. Then, this summer, for Boeing's 100th Birthday Bash, she will be moved back to the north side, with the 247 (to be flown down in the next month) going on the Berm, plus something else - possibly the 727. In October, the 247, AF One, and 727 go into the Pavilion and the Connie goes permanently back on to the Berm.” It’s great news for airplane photographers that the Super Connie will remain in its prominent position in front of the museum rather than being placed wingtip to wingtip in the new Pavilion, which should be completed in 2017.
Dynamic Aviation Crew Back at Avra Valley – March 10, 2016
John Barnitz visited Avra Valley (Marana Regional Airport) on March 8 and found that the Dynamic Aviation team had returned for the final push to get Columbine II ready for her flight to company headquarters in Bridgewater, Virginia. “There were four mechanics from Dynamic Aviation working on her. There was lots of support equipment and a semi-trailer full of tools and supplies. I talked with Brian Miklos who said he was the lead mechanic and he gave me a quick update. There was an electric specialist working on re-wiring some big relays on the table that had been set up underneath the forward crew door. I think these are prop relays since Brian had mentioned that it is hard to find parts for the electric props that are installed on the L749. The plan is to ferry her back to Bridgewater, at the beginning of April. Then they will complete the rest of the refurbishment and he said the plan was to fly it on the airshow circuit.” Many thanks to John for the photos and report.
Good News From Auburn on the Lufthansa Starliner Project – March 2, 2016
I recently received an email with a link to a short video on the Lufthansa Starliner restoration project. The upbeat video was released by Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung a few months prior to Lufthansa's July 2015 decision to drastically slow down work on the project. This action cast a dark shadow on the program and many wondered if Lufthansa would eventually pull the plug on it.
I'm happy to report that I recently received word from a reliable source that the project continues to move forward at a steady but reduced pace. If work continues at the current level, my source estimated that N7316C would be ready for flight in about two years. In the meantime, the flightcrew, consisting of four pilots and three flight engineers, continues training on the HARS and SCFA Super Constellations to maintain their proficiency and retain their type ratings. In addition to aircraft training, the crews are required to complete a ground refresher course and two days of normal and emergency procedures training in the Berlin Technical Museum L1049 static simulator.
At this point, after almost a year of very little news, steady progress at a reduced rate is great news!
Marana Regional Airport Visit – February 29, 2016
Nigel Hitchman visited Marana Regional Airport yesterday and photographed VC-121A Columbine II and C-121G N105CF. "Columbine II" appears to be very close to being ready for her first post restoration flight and the disassembly of the C-121G continues. As reported by this website on February 2nd, N105CF was acquired by Dynamic Aviation in October 2015 and is being disassembled for transport back to company headquarters in Bridgewater, Virginia. Nigel reports no sign of the Dynamic crew so it appears they have returned to Virginia. Undoubtedly they will be returning soon as I have confirmed that the flight to company headquarters in Virginia is planned for early April.
Columbine II Restoration Update – February 20, 2016
The crew from Dynamic Aviation has had a productive month and Columbine II is nearing her first flight. All four engines have been installed and were run on February 13th. Rudders have been installed and the aircraft completed a brief high speed taxi test at Marana Regional Airport on Thursday February 18th. The "Fighting Classics Aircraft Restoration" page on Facebook captured the event on video along with Joe Prax, who also posted a video on Facebook. BoneyardSafari has featured recent photos of Columbine II on Facebook and Ramón Purcell was kind enough to allow me to include them on this website.
Complaints About Santa Cruz Connie Make the Evening News – February 16, 2016
This 2014 YouTube video has some interesting footage of L049 N2520B, which has been a fixture at a park in Santa Cruz, Bolivia since the early 1970s. While I don’t understand Spanish, the report apparently is about complaints regarding an abandoned and neglected Constellation, which the locals have named “Avion Pirata.” Originally delivered to LAV in October 1946, the aircraft went on to fly with Braniff Airlines from 1955 to 1959, when it was retired by the airline. Acquired by less than reputable owners in late 1960, the aircraft was on a smuggling flight from Miami to Uruguay in July 1961 with cigarettes and whisky when it was "persuaded" to land in Santa Cruz by Bolivian P-51 fighter aircraft. It was stored at the Santa Cruz Airport until being moved to the park in Santa Cruz. For a time in the mid to late-1990’s it was painted as a Pepsi billboard. It was bought by AeroSur in 2003, painted in the airline’s colors and used by a travel agency. With the demise of AeroSur in 2012 the aircraft fell into disrepair as can be clearly seen in the video. The good news is that the aircraft has received a bit of TLC and has been repainted in an overall metal color scheme.
Firsthand Account of 1970 C-121J Crash Landing at Williams Field - February 4, 2016
C-121J BuNo 131644 “Pegasus” was damaged beyond repair while landing at Williams Filed, McMurdo Field in Antarctica on October 8, 1970. The flight was the first of the 1970-71 “Operation Deep Freeze” season and had originated at Christchurch, New Zealand with 80 persons onboard.
Dennis Haddock was onboard that day and recently sent me the following firsthand account of the accident. "The aircraft in question, BuNo 131644, was damaged while making its third attempt to land at Williams Field with only ten minutes of fuel onboard. As the aircraft descended, it was not in line with the runway, which caused the aircraft’s front strut the hit a snow bank tearing off it off and driving the front of the aircraft into the snow. Seconds later the right wing and strut were torn off, spinning us down the ice runway. The aircraft was later moved from Williams Field.”
The bulk of the aircraft is still at McMurdo and thus qualifies as a “survivor.”
Avra Valley Update – February 2, 2016
A Dynamic Aviation work crew is back at Marana Regional Airport in Avra Valley, Arizona working on two efforts. With Bataan's successful ferry flight to Chino on January 14th, the loaner QEC/engine and prop have been removed and a truck was dispatched to Chino to pick them up. The folks at Lewis Air Legends are returning the favor and will be supplying a QEC/engine and additional props for Columbine II's flight to Bridgewater, Virginia. Dynamic’s point man at Avra Valley Brian Miklos says that work is progressing well and he expects the flight to happen sometime in late March. Right now my March and April calendar looks good for a trip to Arizona and hopefully I will be on hand for the departure.
The remains of C-121G N105CF were purchased by Dynamic Aviation in October 2015 and it is being disassembled for shipment back to Bridgewater. The rear fuselage, less empennage, was removed on January 31st as shown in the attached photo.
Recent Report on Sao Tome Super Constellations - January 23, 2016
Arthur Stevens and Carl Bruessow recently visited the two former Nordair/CanRelief Air Super Constellations that were abandoned at Sao Tome after the Biafran War. Arthur posted the following report and photos on Facebook and he and Carl were kind enough to allow me to include them on this website.
"A friend and colleague have just travelled to Sao Tome e Principe - a long held ambition of mine. Apart from travelling from Sao Tome to Principe and back on board a Dornier 228, I asked him to also check out the famous Sao Tome Constellations."
"They are both still there - CF-NAL and CF-NAM, abandoned after the Biafran War in the very early 1970s. Sao Tome formed an important staging post for accessing Biafra, including relief supplies as well of course for arms. Many interesting stories of derring-do and intrigue surrounds operations in these islands during the airlift (see Michael Draper's excellent book "Shadows")."
"For many years they languished in the bush at the airfield but in the more recent past they have both been converted into features of a bar/restaurant adjacent to the airport on Sao Tome. Clearly, although very little in the way of restoration has taken place, it is good to see that they are still there. It remains an ambition of mine to go and visit them in due course! Access to these islands is not especially easy - Air Portugal and TAAG Angola providing links through Cabo Verde and Luanda respectively."
VC-121A Bataan Ferried to Chino for Comprehensive Restoration – January 18, 2016
A veteran flight crew successfully ferried VC-121A 48-613/N422NA Bataan from Valle, Arizona to Chino, California on January 14, 2016. The aircraft had been on static display at the Planes of Fame Museum’s annex in Valle for 21 years and made the flight without incident. As previously reported on this website in 2015, Lewis Air Legends acquired the aircraft in April 2015 and a comprehensive restoration will be performed at Chino. Rod Lewis announced that he plans to put the aircraft on the airshow circuit after the restoration is complete. Congratulations to everyone involved in the effort to get this vintage aircraft airworthy and ferried to Chino. Almost immediately after the flight, a YouTube video was posted showing the departure from Valle. Another video posted on YouTube captured the landing at Chino Airport. Many thanks to Tom Martin and Michael O’Leary for allowing me to use their photos. The exclusive aerial photos taken by Mr. O'Leary will appear in the April issue of Air Classics Magazines, which can be obtained by calling 818-700-6868 extension 15.
----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 20 February 2017----