Constellation News

Constellation News


The 2019 edition of the Propliner Annual is due for publication on April 15th. As its title implies, Propliner Magazine is totally dedicated to Propliner aircraft and is a “must-have” for any aviation enthusiast and especially Propliner enthusiasts. Orders for this bumper 144-page publication can be placed at www.propliner.co.uk

In Search of HI-328 – May 27, 2019

Tim Crowley traveled to St. Thomas in March 2019 in an effort to find and photograph the wreck of L749A (VC-121A) HI-328, which crashed into the ocean while on final approach to Harry Truman Airport, St. Thomas on October 26, 1981.

The aircraft saw military service as a VIP transport with the USAF from 1949 to 1968 and was one of five VC-121As acquired by Mel Christler in 1970. Christler Flying Service operated the Connie as a large acreage sprayer until 1979 when it was sold to Argo SA. Tim is the grandson of Mel Christler and, while he was able to find pieces of the aircraft, he was unable to find the main wreck. The first photo shows the wreck in 1981, shortly after it crashed. For additional information and lots more photos of the dive, check out Tim’s article on this website.

Kermit Weeks Talks About the Fantasy of Flight Starliner – May 25, 2019

Kermit Weeks recently produced a 24 minute "Kermie Cam" YouTube video where he gives viewers a nice guided tour of the Fantasy of Flight Starliner and discussed how he came to acquire the airplane along with his plans for the aircraft.
In addition, he discussed the ill-fated Lufthansa Starliner restoration project. Kermit said he acquired the aircraft from Maurice Roundy for a grand total of $12,000, which he considered quite a bargain. He plans on restoring the aircraft and making it into some sort of attraction for what he refers to as "Act Three" at Fantasy of Flight. He seemed sincere in his plans to restore the aircraft and hopefully it happens. The video gives some interesting insights on Kermit's thoughts about the airplane and the Lufthansa project. It's definitely worth viewing!

Starliner Restoration Completed in Time for TWA Hotel Opening – May 16, 2019

With the external restoration of Starliner N8083H completed the previous week, it was an all-hands effort to get the interior of the Starliner outfitted as a cocktail lounge in time for the TWA Hotel’s scheduled opening on May 15, 2019. The May 15th opening was billed as a soft opening with a grand opening event planned for the fall. While the airplane was ready on the 15th the same couldn’t be said for the hotel with many rooms still under construction. As to be expected with a project of this size and complexity, opening day was a bit rocky but hopefully things will smooth out a bit when I spend the night of June 30th at the hotel. I’ll be sure to include a full report on my stay, including a report on the Constellation (Starliner) cocktail lounge. Many thanks to Georg, Jean-Louis, Roger, Carlos and Bill for providing these great photos.

TWA Hotel Starliner Gets Props – May 5, 2019 (May 6, 2019 Update)

Carlos Gomez and Roger Jarman, with help from Bill Hirsch, spent a very rainy Sunday morning installing props on the #3 and #4 engines of the TWA Hotel Starliner. The fiberglass props were manufactured by Atlantic Models and one would be hard pressed to tell them from the real deal. Roger said they even sound like the real deal when you rap on them with your knuckles. By noon the guys had enough of the rainy weather and will complete the installation of the remaining two props tomorrow, when the forecast calls for much better conditions. Installation of the props completes the external restoration of this once derelict airplane and all concerned deserve kudos for a job well done!
The weather on Monday morning was much better and the crew set out immediately to complete the job of installing the props. By mid-morning props had been installed on the #1 and #2 engines and all that was left to do was to finish up some minor details. Here are some photos from Monday. Thanks much to Roger Jarman and Bill Hirsch for sharing their photos.

TWA Hotel Starliner Cocktail Lounge Nearing Completion – May 4, 2019

Work is nearing completion on the conversion of Starliner N8083H into a cocktail lounge at JFK Airport's soon-to-be-open TWA Hotel. Worldwide Aircraft Recovery completed reassembly of the aircraft a week ago and work immediately began on outfitting the interior. Carlos Gomez and Roger Jarman will be installing the props on May 5/6 and that will complete the exterior restoration. I’m looking forward to June 30th when my wife and I have a reservation at the cocktail lounge. In the early 1970’s I lived less than a mile away from Jim Flannery’s Restaurant, which featured a Super Connie cocktail lounge. (see photo) For whatever reason, I never took the time to visit it…I won’t be making that mistake again!

SCFA Super Connie Photo Memories – May 3, 2019

In light of last week’s bad news concerning HB-RSC, Jürgen Schelling forwarded me some photos of happier days when the Super Connie roamed the skies of Europe and thrilled airshow crowds. Thanks Jürgen for sharing these memories.

Indian Naval Museum Super Connie Update – May 3, 2019

Debasish Chakraverty visited the Naval Museum in Goa, India on May 3, 2019 and reports on the museum’s L1049G IN315. "Here is an update on IN315 c/n 4614. I saw her a few hours ago today at the Indian Naval Museum in Goa, India. She is still intact, though in rough condition. Thought I’d let you know as the last update regarding this airframe dates back to 2013. Here are a few pictures.” While the museum deserves credit for preserving the aircraft, it's a shame that its exterior has been allowed to deteriorate. An occasional washing would do wonders for its appearance. Thanks much to Debasish for the report and photos.

The End of an Era - SCFA to Disband – April 28, 2019

I just heard the distressing news that the Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA) was unable to secure the CHF 20 million needed to repair HB-RSC and the organization will be disbanded. In addition to the funding required to perform the FOCA mandated spar repairs, the agency also mandated that flights would not be allowed over major cities and that the number of passengers allowed would be significantly reduced. With the immense cost of repairing the aircraft and the new flight restrictions, there was no viable path forward and the board had little choice but to disband the organization. This is heartbreaking for all those who put their heart and soul into keeping the airplane flying and for those who looked forward to seeing the aircraft perform at airshows around Europe. The sad fact is that we're now down to one airworthy Constellation! The board issued the following statement explaining their decision.

Super Constellation Flyer Association

The Super Constellation Flyers Association will be disbanded

Hope has not fulfilled itself. At its meeting of 23 April 2019, the SCFA board had to note with great regret that the CHF 20 million needed for the rehabilitation of our association "HB-RSC" had not been guaranteed by the required date of 20 April 2019

This applies to the "resolution of resolution" which was taken by the association members at their annual meeting of the general assembly of 2 February 2019

The then elected liquidator, Peter Manzoni, will now record his work and implement the liquidation of the SCFA, which will take over several months.

The fate of our super Connie is not yet definitively sealed. About what is supposed to happen in the future the “Star of Switzerland” will only be decided in the next weeks and months. The Board of directors will do everything possible to make our "Star of Switzerland" accessible to all aviation friends and the public in the future.

The shop team is holding the planned annual program and will set up the Super Connie shop at various events (shop locations and data are published in "Red" at www.superconstellation.org/agenda.) newcomers will not be recorded provisionally.

Of course, we will continue to inform you about the state of things: on our new website (www.superconstellation.org) and by email.

The SCFA Board of Directors
Hans "Breiti" Wide Moser, President

Interior Restoration of Qantas Founders Museum Super Connie Underway – April 27, 2019

As reported on this website in July 2018, the Qantas Founders Museum had completed the external restoration of Super Constellation C-121J N4247K with the aircraft being painted to represent L1049H VH-EAM Southern Spray. In November 2018, Qantas Founders Museum received funding as part of the Queensland Government's Outback Tourism Infrastructure Fund for the restoration of the aircraft's interior. The project began in February 2019 and is expected to be completed by November 2019 with the goal of creating a unique experience and display area inside the aircraft. Congratulations to the museum and its dedicated volunteers for saving this iconic aircraft.
For many additional photos of the aircraft, going back to the projects inception in 2014, check out the photo album on the museum's Facebook page.

TWA Hotel Starliner Update – April 26, 2019

Jay Eisterhold posted a photo on Facebook yesterday of the TWA Hotel Starliner showing that all engines, leading edges and the triple tail have been installed. Looks like Marty will make his deadline for completing the reassembly by Friday!

TWA Hotel Starliner Reassembly Nearing Completion – April 25, 2019

As previously reported on this website, hotel developer MCR purchased the near-derelict former TWA L1649A Starliner N8083H in 2018 and hired Carlos Gomez and Roger Jarman to restore it back to its former glory for use as a cocktail lounge at the new TWA Hotel at JFK Airport. I flew up from Orlando to JFK on Jet Blue the morning of April 23rd to get a first-hand look at the aircraft, which was being reassembled by Marty Batura and his crew from Worldwide Aircraft Recovery. Engine installation was underway with the crew working on the #4 engine. Once all four engines are in place, the empennage and leading edges will be installed and the reassembly will be pretty much complete. Marty told me that he hoped to finish up by the end of the week and move on to his next job in North Carolina. Once reassembly is complete, Carlos and Roger will be installing the four fiberglass props that were manufactured by Atlantic Models.
The folks at MCR had arranged for me to photograph the aircraft and to also tour the hotel complex, including the convention center, one of the hotel towers and the lobby, which is the old TWA passenger terminal. There’s still a lot of detail work to be completed but the project is on schedule for a May 15th opening of both the hotel and the Starliner cocktail lounge. I'm looking forward to June 30th when my wife and I will be staying at the hotel before flying home to Florida the next day. I plan on writing an article about the restoration and colorful history of the aircraft for a future issue of Air Classics magazine.
During my visit I noticed that there was plenty of room on the plaza to add another aircraft and the perfect aircraft to join the Starliner is former TWA CV880 N828TW. Even though the aircraft was retired by TWA in 1974, it retains its basic TWA colors and the original TWA passenger interior remains intact. The Convair is owned by Scroggins Aviation and has been stored in Mojave, California since 1980. This iconic aircraft is very much in danger of being scrapped and would make a wonderful companion for the Starliner!
Also, check out the March 25, 2019 post on Worldwide's Facebook page for a very interesting real-time video of the amazing late-night roadtrip the fuselage took from Times Square to JFK Airport. I’d like to thank Jaimee Zanzinger at MCR for making the visit possible and Mary-Claire Barnes for the great tour of the Starliner and hotel.

British Museum Offers Up Constellation For Loan – April 19, 2019

The Science Museum Group announced on its website that their Trident, Comet and Constellation aircraft would be available for loan to a suitable organization. L749A N7777G is painted in 1960’s vintage TWA colors and has been part of the museum’s collection since 1983. The aircraft is located in a museum hangar at Wroughton, but the facility is rarely open to the public. This announcement could be good news or it could be bad. There are not many museums with a facility large enough to display the aircraft indoors and moving it to an outdoor display would definitely not be good for the vintage Constellation. This is a strange situation and it ought to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

TWA Hotel Starliner Arrives at JFK Airport Construction Site – April 9, 2019

Richard Brooke Gilder reports that Starliner fuselage N8083H was moved on April 9th to the TWA Hotel construction site at JFK Airport. The fuselage was moved from its temporary storage location at the airport by Worldwide Aircraft Recovery, who is reassembling the aircraft at the construction site. Richard forwarded photos of the fuselage arriving at the construction site and Bob Bogash forwarded photos of the fuselage being mated with the wing assembly.

South African Starliner's Triple Tail Installed– April 6, 2019

Reassembly of South African Airways Museum Starliner ZS-DVJ continues with the empennage being installed in March. Peter Brill forwarded photos documenting the museum team's efforts and claims that the entire 7,000 lb structure is held in place by four large bolts.

TWA Hotel Starliner Paraded Through Manhattan to Times Square – April 5, 2019

I didn’t think it could be done in this day and age but the folks at MCR and Worldwide Aircraft Recovery managed to transport the 116 foot long fuselage of Starliner N8083H from JFK Airport in Queens and then parade it through the streets of Manhattan to Times Square. On Saturday March 23, 2019 there were thousands of people on hand in Times Square and even the Mayor, Elmo and the Naked Cowboy stopped by to have a look at the airplane. The fuselage was on display in Times Square at Broadway and 45th Street on Saturday and Sunday before returning to JFK Airport where it will become a cocktail lounge at the new TWA Hotel.
As reported extensively on this website, N8083H had been used as a source of spare parts by Lufthansa Technik for the restoration of N7316C at Auburn, Maine before being sold to MCR in 2018 for use as a cocktail lounge. Teaming with Roger Jarman and Atlantic Models, Carlos Gomez led a small crew that resurrected the aircraft between June and September 2018. The aircraft was disassembled and moved by Worldwide Aircraft Recovery to JFK Airport in October 2018 where it was stored in an old de-icer shed.
The disassembled aircraft remained at JFK until Friday March 22 when the fuselage was loaded onto a Worldwide lo-boy trailer and transported to Manhattan and parked at the Avenue of the Americas and Canal Street. Escorted by 75 of New York City’s finest, the fuselage made its way up Avenue of the Americas, through Columbus Circle and down Seventh Avenue before landing at a pedestrian plaza in Times Square.
After being displayed at Times Square for two days, the fuselage was returned to JFK Airport during the early hours of Monday, March 25, where it will undergo its final transformation into a cocktail lounge outside the TWA Hotel. Beginning May 15, guests will be able to visit the lounge and check out the authentic 1950’s vintage cockpit.
The event was captured on a short YouTube video. On April 3rd a crew from Worldwide lifted the first of two wings into position at the TWA Hotel worksite. The two wing sections will have to be joined together before being attached to the fuselage. I will provide further updates and photos as I receive them.

Interior Restoration Continues on Nantes Super Constellation – April 4, 2019

Tonio Gellus reports that "Super Constellation F-BGNJ 'November Juliet' is continuing to regain its identity thanks to the fully restored armchairs we recently installed. The aircraft will be open for display at Nantes Airport at the next European Heritage Days on September 20-21,2019."

Starliner's Triple Tail Ready for Installation – February 26, 2019

Peter Brill reports that volunteers at the South African Airways Museum are close to installing Starliner ZS-DVJ's iconic triple tail. In addition, work has begun on installing engine cowlings on the aircraft's four R3350 engines.

Propliner Information Exchange Website – February 22, 2019

I know it’s not Constellation specific but I’d like to announce the launching of my Propliner Information Exchange website www.proplinerinfoexchange.com. It's meant to be a companion to this website and will feature news, photos and articles about Propliners. Please have a look and email me your thoughts and/or suggestions.

Good News/Bad News From Switzerland – February 18, 2019

On February 12, 2019 SCFA President Hans “Breiti” Breitenmoser issued a statement to SCFA membership containing both good news and bad news about the organization's Super Constellation HB-RSC. He begins the statement by saying “Our Connie will be able to fly again – that is the good news. However, in order to achieve this goal, patience and financial means are required.”
As the result of the August 2018 Ju-52 accident, additional inspection requirement had been imposed by FOCA resulting in the November 2018 discovery of chipping in the leading edge wing spar of HB-RSC. After discussions with a team of technical experts, it was determined that both wings would have to be removed and opened up to inspect for corrosion damage. Any damage found would have to be repaired prior to the aircraft receiving FOCA approval to fly again.

Inspection and repair of the wings, leading/trailing edge spars and T-beams will take an estimated four years to complete at a total cost of between CHF 15M and CHF 20M. Before work can begin the entire amount will have to be secured by either cash or a bank guarantee.

Hans went on to say ”The obstacles in our way seem nearly insurmountable. The board unanimously feels the urge to attempt the nearly impossible, to restore and continue to operate the Super Constellation. In spite of this, we are well aware of the many obstacles in our way, and the question...how can we possibly find the funds to continue our project?, is ever present in our minds.”

The board identified four options on how to proceed:
Option 1 - restore and continue the operation of the aircraft
Option 2 – prepare the aircraft for a ferry flight to a new owner
Option 3 - donate the aircraft for a static display
Option 4 - dismantle the aircraft and sell individual parts, or scrap

33 of 51 associate members were present at the February general assembly meeting, which lasted four hours. At the end of the meeting everyone was in agreement that the group would do everything in their power to continue the Swiss Connie project. No concrete financial offers were made at this meeting but each associate member vowed to invest time and effort in an attempt to raise the necessary funds to restore the aircraft. The group imposed a three month time limit on finding a solution to the problem and a progress update was promised for the middle of March.

The aircraft was moved back into the hangar on February 15, 2019, where hopefully the repairs will be undertaken. I wish the folks at SCFA success in their challenging endeavor to keep this beautiful aircraft flying. Hopefully it will never come to Option 4! Check out this link for the full SCFA statement.

Engines and Landing Gear Doors Installed on South African Starliner – February 7, 2019

Peter Brill reports that engines and landing gear doors have been installed on South African Airways Museum Starliner ZS-DVJ. Next on the team's agenda is installation of the Starliner's triple tail so it shouldn’t be too long before reassembly is complete. Photos provided by Matt Harvey, who is spearheading the reassembly effort for the museum.

Interesting Constellation Production List Website – February 6, 2019

Dominique Ottello recently created a website consisting of a production list of all 856 Constellation and Super Constellation aircraft. The list includes c/n, type, registrations, original/final users and ultimate fate of the aircraft. The website is in English and French and provides users with a very useful reference guide.

Super Connie Lingers on at Aguadilla Airport – January 20, 2019

C-121C HI-542CT continues to deteriorate at Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Andrew Gibson photographed the aircraft on November 7, 2018 from his airline seat and it shows a very sad looking airplane with weeds growing up around it. The aircraft was abandoned by its owner AMSA after being damaged by a runaway DC-4 on Feb 3, 1992. It has remained parked at the airport ever since. In 2003 an organization calling itself the Ramey AFB Historical Association announced their intent restore the aircraft as a MATS C-121C, but nothing became of it and the aircraft continued to rot in place. There have been several legitimate overtures to buy the aircraft but airport authorities have declined all offers.

Additional Insight on Lufthansa Starliner Glass Cockpit – January 19, 2019

My January 5, 2019 newspiece on this website has apparently caused quite a stir in the enthusiast and Lufthansa communities. Over the past few years, I've exchanged emails with members of the cockpit crew and they requested that I post their response to the January 5th newspiece. I have carefully read their response and I urge you to do so also. It gives a very detailed account of how the cockpit configuration evolved from existing legacy instruments to legacy instruments with two small screens for each pilot to a full blown C-130J style glass cockpit curtesy of Honeywell. I've also carefully re-read the email which resulted in the January 5th newspiece and another email I received from a former LHT employee corroborating and expanding on the first email. After carefully reading all three documents, I believe that they’re all telling essentially the same story, but from different perspectives. Everyone involved with this project had the best intentions but that just wasn't quite good enough. Click on this to read the cockpit crew’s response.

Lufthansa Starliner Update – January 5, 2019

The latest word on Starliner N7316C is that the fuselage and wings will remain in Auburn until spring 2019 when they will be transported to Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire and loaded on to an Antonov transport for transport to Germany. A committee will decide the ultimate fate of the aircraft, which apparently doesn’t include making the aircraft airworthy due to costs for completing the project, future operating costs and the unavailability of avgas throughout much of the world. The option which seems to have the most support is completing the aircraft for static display outside the Frankfurt Airport. This would probably make it the world's most expensive expensive "lawn dart."

I also received additional perspective on the glass cockpit from an individual who worked at Auburn on the project. He responded after reading my December 11, 2018 post and his comments are very interesting, to say the least.
  • We did not deal with the Boston ACO, we dealt with the Atlanta ACO because of the location of the home office of Aeronautica, who was the lead engineering firm.
  • The FAA advised management very early on in the project that the glass cockpit was a major alteration to the original design and a substantial test flight program would be required with FAA oversight.
  • It was the flight crew who demanded a glass cockpit. The original plan called for restoration of the original steam gauges which were sent to Consolidated Instruments at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. They were to be overhauled to original specs but with anti-glare glass.
  • The flight crew declared that it was not possible to safely fly the aircraft with the original cockpit layout and stated at a meeting that they would refuse to fly the aircraft without the glass cockpit.

    See Constellation News Archive - 2018 For Additional News

    Page Top Home

    ----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 27 May 2019----