Constellation News

Constellation News

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 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

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    ----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 18 February 2019----