Constellation News Round-Up – July 22, 2014
---Korean Air Constellation---
I recently received an email from Keuntaeg Kim, who is a Service Engineer with Korean Air at Jeju Island, South Korea. The former MATS Connie was flown to Korean Air’s Training Center there in April 2005 and is currently on display in Air Korea colors as HL4003. Keuntaeg is preparing a display for the Connie’s cabin and forwarded some photos, which he kindly allowed me to include on this website. The aircraft photos were taken on November 4, 2013 and the cabin photos on June 5, 2014. It’s great to see that the old girl is being well taken care of.
For additional information about the MATS Connie’s 2005 flight to Korea, check out the April 2005 news piece and Bye Bye MATS Connie article on this website.
---Museum of Aviation EC-121K Interior Work Nearing Completion---
The Naval Aircraft Restoration Foundation (NARF) is dedicated to the restoration of historic US Navy aircraft and foundation volunteers have been working since 2007 on the restoration of the Museum of Aviation’s EC-121K BuNo 141297. In addition to performing regular preventive maintenance on the aircraft's exterior, volunteers have spent considerable time and effort recreating the original interior, which had been removed by the Navy when it converted the aircraft for R&D work. I visited the group in May 2008 and wrote a short article about their efforts. The organization is headed by Dr. Gerald Durbin, a retired Navy Commander, and 141297 is the group’s second EC-121K restoration. The group restored EC-121K BuNo 141311 at the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul, Illinois from 2000 to 2005.
When the current effort began in 2007, all EC-121’s had either been scrapped or were in museums and none of the original electronic gear was available. Faced with this dilemma, Dr. Durbin decided to recreate the equipment. He spent countless hours at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola taking measurements and photographing equipment installed in EC-121K BuNo 143221. He recently emailed members a status report, announcing that the interior work on 141297 should be completed during the group’s encampment in October. This is great news and I have included his report below.
"Busy working on the replacement panels for the Connie at Warner Robins. Spent many hours doing layout work and trying to figure out how to do white lettering on Black background in AutoCAD."
"Making good progress now and hope to have all the panels finished in a couple weeks. After I finish the panels (need to be installed during the first two weeks in October – hint), will start on the upholstery for the chairs and bunks."
These are the completed face plates:
"Since the originals were silk screened or engraved, and that is rather expensive, I have printed the faceplates out and passed the archival paper on the panels. Most have a aluminum back with a Plexiglas faceplate. The printouts could be used for silk screening also (if funds were available). I hope to have all the face plates and upholstery accomplished before October so they can be installed. This will almost complete the interior except for maintenance. Estimated time spent getting to this stage – probably in the neighbor hood of a thousand hours of effort. One has to love these old birds!"
Cdr Gerald Durbin, PhD
---South African Airways Museum Starliner Update---
Greg Smith visited the South African Airways Museum at Rand Airport and reports that only a few pieces of L1649A ZS-DVJ, including the empennage and four engines, have made their way to the airport. The empennage was removed in June 2013 and, according to the museum's website, the engines arrived from the US on June 4, 2013. Greg spoke to folks at the museum and they said the remainder of the aircraft was still in Johannesburg and they weren’t too optimistic about it being moved to Rand anytime soon. The project status was last updated on the museum’s website in June 2013 and a recent email to the media liason folks has yet to be answered. If anyone has any additional information about the project I would really appreciate if they would contact me via email .
---Interesting YouTube Video---
Andreas Schmidt recently forwarded me a link to vintage YouTube video documenting the development of the Allison 501-D13 turboprop engine used on Lockheed Electra. Constellations were used as engine test beds during development and the video contains some interesting Constellation footage. I greatly appreciate the help that folks like Andreas provide by passing on interesting pieces of information and news.
Lufthansa Starliner Project Update – July 17, 2014
Since my September 2013 visit to Auburn, Lufthansa has continued to make steady progress on the restoration of L1649A N7316C. Now in its 8th year, this monumental project is undoubtedly the most extensive and ambitious restoration ever undertaken of a classic aircraft and Lufthansa should be commended for their efforts. While no official completion date has been released, 2015 looks do-able for a first flight and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it happens.
Lufthansa’s goal of carrying passengers in the aircraft required compliance with strict current airline standards, thus considerably increasing the scope of the project. The cockpit required extensive upgrading, with Honeywell adapting their C-130J glass cockpit for use in the Starliner. The 1950’s era flight gages will be replaced, with the captain and co-pilot each having two state-of-the art displays. The overhead panels have been completely redesigned and modern radios, including a TCAS, will be incorporated. About the only thing that will remain unchanged in the cockpit is the original flight engineer panel. There are still some things are best accomplished by old fashioned “steam gages.”
Work continues on the rest of the aircraft with the wings nearing completion. If they haven’t already been pressure tested, this testing should be completed in the very near future. Lots of sheet metal work is currently happening with flaps completed, cowling nearing completion and many other sheet metal items in work. Work was also recently completed on the landing gear assemblies, which were found to be in worse condition that originally thought. Adding to the problem were incomplete or missing technical drawings in repair manuals and the need to replace materials that were no longer available or suitable for use. An example was the magnesium nose wheels that were replaced with Airbus A320 wheels. Including brake and hydraulic components, the landing gear assemblies required over 80 special repair procedures.
Work continues on the cabin interior in Hamburg. Three mockup sections of the Starliner fuselage were built and apprentices have been fabricating interior components. To reduce costs and save time, B737 and A320 cabin components are being adapted for use in the Starliner including overhead baggage racks, passenger service units, air ducts, passenger oxygen units, toilets and the front galley. Fit checks will be performed on the mockups prior to installation in the aircraft thus allowing production of these components in parallel with the work being performed in Maine and minimizing issues when it’s time to install the cabin interior in the aircraft.
Ray Sheehan, Jr. recently sent me some photos he took of N7316C back in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s when the aircraft was abandoned at Stewart Airport in New York. At that time the aircraft was essentially worthless and, if not for the heroic efforts of Maurice Roundy, would probably have been scrapped in place. I’ve included a few of the photos to give a bit of perspective on how far Lufthansa has taken the aircraft.
For regular updates on the project, check out the DLBS-Starliner Project website. Also check out the netAirspace.com forum for some interesting photos and updates.
Manila Airport Authority Plans to Auction Super Connie – July 13, 2014
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) announced on July 7, 2014 that it was moving forward with a plan to auction 12 “abandoned” aircraft that are currently stored in the airport’s general aviation area. MIAA Legal Department Manager Perla Eslao Dumo said that “abandonment proceedings” are in process for the disposal of 12 aircraft, including Super Constellation N4247K, three DC-3’s and five DC-9’s. The MIAA is currently waiting for clearance from the Hearing and Adjudication Board of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, where a petition to auction the aircraft is pending. While the MIAA has threatened this action in the past, it appears the authority is serious this time as a private firm has been employed to appraise the value of each aircraft. While no date has been set for the auction, one can reasonably assume that it will happen in the not too distant future. Check out the February 19th, March 9th, and March 31st news articles from the 2012 Constellation News Archive and the May 25th and November 10th news articles from the 2011 Constellation News Archive for additional information about the MIAA’s efforts to rid the airport of what the administrators consider an eyesore.
N4247K has been stored at the airport since 1988, when it was impounded by authorities after a dispute between owner William “Winky” Crawford and some local businessmen. Crawford has been deceased for a number of years and while there have been a number of organizations and individuals interested in buying this aircraft, its uncertain ownership and the Philippine bureaucracy have made this all but impossible. Hopefully this provides a clear path for one of these parties to purchase the aircraft thus saving it from the scrapman.
New Columbine II Video Released – June 4, 2014
On May 18, 2014 I reported that Tim Crowley would be releasing a short documentary video about the current situation involving VC-121A Columbine II . The video was posted June 2nd on YouTube so have a look at it and pass the link on to your enthusiast friends. This airplane is definitely worth saving.
Super Connie F-BGNJ Celebrates Her 60th Birthday – May 27, 2014
Amicale du Super Constellation held a party on Saturday May 24, 2014 to celebrate the 60th birthday of their gorgeous L1049G Super Constellation F-BGNJ. The aircraft was delivered to Air France in November 1953 and served with Air France, Air Fret and CATAIR. Re-registered F-BRAD by Air Fret, the aircraft flew in the Biafran Airlift in 1968/69 before being sold to CATAIR on December 31, 1969. F-BRAD was retired by CATAIR in early 1973 and ferried to Nantes, France in May 1974 for use as a tourist attraction. Amicale du Super Constellation has restored the aircraft to her original F-BGNJ Air France colors. To celebrate the event, Amicale du Super Constellation organized a luncheon for association volunteers, which was served inside the aircraft. The menu was very similar to what a passenger might expect to be served on an Air France Super Constellation flight in the 1950’s. Each "passenger" received an invitation with a boarding ticket and was invited dress in 1950’s era attire. Also invited to the party was a restored 1958 Renault. The little boy in the photo is association member Pierre Biron’s son, Nino who was very proud to pilot the old lady! Many thanks to Pierre Biron for forwarding the report and photos.
Columbine II Update – May 18, 2014
On July 15, 2013 I reported on the efforts of Mel Christler's three grandson's to find a suitable home for former Eisenhower presidential aircraft VC-121A Columbine II . This historic aircraft, USAF serial 48-610, has been stored at Marana Regional Airport (AVQ) near Tucson, AZ since May 2003 and, to date, the brothers have been frustrated in their efforts to find a new home for her. 48-610, along with four other VC-121A aircraft were sold to Christler Flying Service in 1970, with the other four aircraft being converted to large acreage sprayers. It is the only primary presidential aircraft ever sold by the government and it definitely belongs in a museum. The owners would like to trade Columbine II for a surplus military transport, such as an early model C-130, but the bureaucrats at the National Museum of the USAF (NMUSAF) have been unwilling to do so, citing a myriad of rules and regulations. It’s interesting to note that it was recently reported in the Coulson Group’s May 2014 newsletter that officials at the National Naval Aviation Museum (NNAM) in Pensacola are currently finalizing a deal with Coulson, which will bring former US Navy Martin Mars “Philippine Mars” to the museum in exchange for two C-130’s and a Grumman F-6F Hellcat. Now a Martin Mars is a very cool aircraft but the Mars being traded doesn’t have nearly the historical significance of Columbine II and you've got to really wonder what the NMUSAF folks are thinking. Could there be two sets of rules? Are there one set for the Navy and one for the Air Force? I doubt it.
Tim Crowley is heading the brother’s efforts and has also been in contact with a number of private museums, warbird collectors and even the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. Tim has received upwards of 20 inquiries over the past year, but to date no serious offers have been received. It appears that everyone wants the aircraft but no one has the funds to buy the aircraft and make her ready for a ferry flight to a new home. The owners have recently hired former Constellation Group mechanic and flight engineer Tim Coons and another mechanic to determine what it will take to get the old girl airworthy. To date, 3 of the 4 engines have been run and they have a good idea on what the path forward will involve. Matt Larsen recently forwarded me a link to a YouTube video showing the #4 engine being run up on March 14, 2014. If the required funding can be raised, the plan is to resume the restoration in earnest around November and depart Marana next spring.
Tim is currently pursuing a new plan to raise the required funds. He has hired a film crew to document the aircraft's history and current situation in an effort to generate interest in the project and convince the folks running the likes of the History, National Geographic and Discovery channels that there might be some money to be made in producing a documentary about the aircraft. With all the mindless reality show garbage that these folks produce every year, perhaps they would find it refreshing to produce something worthwhile. One can only hope so. Time is running out on the aircraft at Marana Airport...the parking lease expires in 2017 and the airport has already indicated that the lease will not be renewed. If the airplane is still at the airport in 2017, the owners will have to either spend the money to move it to another location or part it out. Not a happy thought.
I’d like to thank Matt for the link and Tim for the status update. In 2013, Larry Hatteberg produced an interesting short news documentary on the aircraft. The video that Tim is having produced wll be released shortly and posted on this website.
Breitling Super Connie Ready for Her 10th Anniversary Celebration - April 29/30, 2014
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since HB-RSC arrived in Basel, Switzerland on May 8, 2004 after an epic 12 day journey from California. I heard from Arie Wubben this week that, after spending the winter in a hangar in Zurich, HB-RSC received her CoA, which is valid until May 2015. There will be training flights in Epinal, France this week followed by a flight from Zurich to Basel to on May 10th to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the aircraft’s arrival in Basel. For more information about the 2004 flight, check out my article chronicling the event. Also, a 20 minute video about the aircraft will be released later this year. The following photos were taken at Zurich on April 20th.
HB-RSC successfully completed crew training flights on Monday and Tuesday, April 28/29, at Epinal, France and returned to Zurich on Wednesday. Rolf Eichenberger forwarded the following photos from Epinal.
New Photos Uncovered of 1952 TWA Crash Landing at NAS Fallon – April 10, 2014
A few months back I received an email from Stan Kindig saying that he was at NAS Fallon when TWA Super Connie N6904C made a crash landing on the base’s 7,000 foot runway during the early evening hours of December 7, 1952. The next day he took some photos of the aircraft with his Kodak Brownie camera and still had the photos, and more importantly, the negatives which he generously allowed me to scan. The 60 year old negatives were in remarkably good condition as evidenced by the photos below. As seen in the photos, the aircraft was severely damaged but, with only 699 hours of flight time, it was decided to repair the Super Connie and a team from Lockheed was dispatched to Fallon. N6904C reentered service with TWA on September 24, 1953 and served with the airline until leased to Worldwide Airlines in 1960. After a year with Worldwide, the aircraft went on to serve a number of small airlines but by 1968 it was stored in derelict condition at Miami and presumed scrapped shortly thereafter. For additional information about this incident, including the NTSB report, check out my January 2006 article on this website. I’d like to thank Stan for allowing me to publish these very interesting photos of a long ago event.
Forward Fuselage of EC-121H 53-535 "Found" at Pima Air and Space Museum – March 23, 2014
Acquired for parts in 2007, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) scrapped EC-121H 53-535/N51006 at the Pima Air and Space Museum in August 2011. It was reported, at the time, that the forward fuselage section had been saved by HARS and would be transported to Australia for restoration. Since that time, there have been no reports on the fuselage until Nigel Hitchman photographed her tucked away in the restoration area of the Tucson museum in early March 2014. Museum visitors are not allowed in the restoration area so I asked my friend Ben Fisher, who is a docent at the museum, to help me get a close up photograph. As luck would have it, the fuselage had been moved and was now completely surrounded by “stuff” but Ben and museum staffer Louie Lopez managed to get some interesting photographs of not only the exterior, but also the interior. Thanks much to Nigel, Ben and Louie for forwarding their photos.
New Photos of Helena EC-121T – March 18, 2014
Steven Van Horn visited Helena Regional Airport on Sunday and passed along some great photos of EC-121T 52-3417/N4257L. While all four engines were uncowled and the rudders were missing, the aircraft otherwise appears to be intact and in good condition. The rudders are at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum and will be forwarded to Castle Air Museum. Steven lives in Bozeman and his father was an EC-121 radar operator with the 552nd AEW Wing at McClelland AFB until he retired in 1975. Many thanks to Steven for the photos.
Super Connie AP-AFQ Removed From Survivor List – February 27, 2014
On February 4, 2014 I reported that the fuselage of Super Connie AP-AFQ had been noted by a spotter at the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Training Center at Karachi International Airport (KHI). While it seemed unlikely that the fuselage could have survived unnoticed all these years, the spotter was quite certain that it was a Constellation fuselage and I added the report to this website. Sameer Haqqi volunteered to help confirm the identity of the fuselage and got in touch with his contacts at KHI.. They performed a thorough check of the training center and surrounding area and unfortunately what they found was not AP-AFQ but the fuselage of B737 AP-BCB. I’d like to thank Sameer very much for his help in providing a final resolution to this matter. It would have been nice to add another Constellation to the survivor list but it was not to be.
Castle Air Museum Acquires Helena EC-121T – February 21, 2014
On January 7, 2014 I expressed concern about the future of the Evergreen Air and Space Museum's EC-121T (52-3417/N4257L), which has called the Helena Regional Airport in Montana home since the early 1980's. This concern was based on the museum's parent company, Evergreen International Aviation, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on December 31, 2013. I contacted the museum’s curator Stewart Bailey and received encouraging news on the future of both the EC-121T and the museum.
”To give you the latest, I can tell you that the Constellation is no longer ours. The whole Evergreen bankruptcy thing got someone at the GSA to remember that we had GSA aircraft in the museum and they pulled our files. At that point, the regional office determined that because we had not moved the “property” in the one year time frame in the standardized contract, that we were in breach of contract and they essentially took it away from us. Our GSA rep in Salem argued with them, that you don’t just turn the key and fly a 60 year old airplane away, but to no avail. Luckily, at the same time as the GSA was repossessing it, the Castle Air Museum called expressing an interest in acquiring the aircraft. In very short order, since they are a GSA qualified museum, the ownership was transferred to them.”
While I’m sorry that my friends at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum lost the aircraft, I am very relieved that it was quickly acquired by Castle Air Museum, which is a first rate and very capable organization. Stewart goes on to provide a good news update on the Evergreen Air and Space Museum.
”As to what is going on with the museum; that is a much better story. Evergreen International Aviation, which was the parent company to the museum declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy (i.e. liquidation) on December 31, 2013. This did not affect the museum too much, because we are a separate 501(c)3 non-profit educational charity, not part of the company. The problem for us is that for all the years of its existence, the museum has been piggybacked onto the Evergreen corporate services such as IT, networks, HR and Payroll. We have spent the last 6 weeks trying to disentangle ourselves from that and set up new separate stand-alone systems for the museum. That has cost us a lot in time and resources, but when we are finished, we will be wholly free of Evergreen, the company. One issue we do have is that our restoration shop was in an Evergreen owned building, and even though all of the contents of the building belong to the museum, we have been locked out of the building by the court appointed trustee. All of my volunteers are just beside themselves, as they are bored and want to get back to work on our other projects which include an F-89J Scorpion, a Piasecki HRP-1 and a Boeing A-160 Hummingbird.”
“As far as the collection goes, the media have far overstated the impact to the museum. At this point, we only stand to lose two aircraft, the TBM-3 Avenger and the Ford Tri-Motor which Mr. Smith had used as collateral on a loan. These, along with most of the warbirds belong to Mr. Smith and as such are on loan to the museum and are not really the museum’s aircraft, so their departure, while sad, is nothing we can control. (Same as when a couple years ago, the National Museum of the Marine Corps took back the F6F Hellcat they had on loan to trade it to the Collings Foundation for a Boeing FB-5.) The press reports on the Spruce Goose were way out of line, as there is no potential of the Aero Club of Southern California taking it back. As they said, “They couldn’t keep it, which is why it was sold to Evergreen 20 years ago. They certainly don’t want it back.” The issue, which is being negotiated by the lawyers, is what we owe the Aero Club on the final payment. The negotiations are ongoing and will be settled soon, so there is no chance that the Spruce Goose will be going anywhere.”
I followed up with an email to the Castle Air Museum and received the following response.
“Yes, we have accepted the EC-121 from Helena. Stewart Bailey and Evergreen have graciously helped us in the transfer of responsibility. We are very excited about acquiring the aircraft because it fits our museum's mission statement; To Preserve Military Aviation for Future Generations. Many of our museum aircraft flew in the Cold War and Vietnam, so the early warning and control systems of the EC-121 fits in well. We understand that the aircraft systems and interior have been well preserved, so therefore the aircraft will serve as a wonderful classroom for students who are interested in history and that time-frame of military aviation. Castle Air Museum has been reaching out to students of all ages to teach them about military aviation. We are currently in the infancy stages of acquiring the EC-121. Proper planning is the key to getting it here safe and sound. It will make for and exciting and proud display at Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California.”
At this time it hasn't been decided whether the aircraft will be disassembled and trucked to California or made airworthy for a ferry flight. I missed the Yanks EC-121T flight from Camarillo to Chino in 2012 so perhaps there might still be another chance for me to witness the final EC-121 flight. One can only hope to be so lucky!
1980's Era Photos of N6931C Cockpit Section Surface - February 17, 2014
Every once and a while I receive an email that adds a piece to the puzzle regarding the fate of a particular airframe. Today I received such an email from Olivier Richard with photos he took in the early 1980's of the cockpit section of L1049H N6931C. The aircraft made an emergency one-engine landing at Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe on September 3, 1975 and was subsequently scrapped there during the latter part of 1979. In Peter J. Marson’s 2007 Constellation book, it was reported that the cockpit section was salvaged and sent to the Musee de l’Air for preservation. It has since disappeared and I had never seen a photo of the cockpit section until I received Olivier’s email today. While it was quite battered, it was essentially intact and could have been restored. If someone can confirm the final disposition of the cockpit section, I would surely appreciate an email. Many thanks to Olivier for sending these most interesting photos!
HB-RSC Winter Maintenance Photos – February 5, 2014
Arie Wubben sent me the following photos of Super Constellation HB-RSC undergoing winter maintenance in Zurich Switzerland. All is going to plan and SCFA plans a full flying season for HB-RSC in 2014.
Super Connie AP-AFQ Added to Survivor List – February 4, 2014
Andy Martin recently forwarded me an email from a spotter who had visited Karachi International Airport in January 2014 and noted the fuselage of L1049C AP-AFQ at the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Training Center. While not visible from the street, the fuselage is visible from a nearby hotel. AP-AFQ was delivered to the Pakistani Government on February 1, 1954 for use by PIA. It was the first of five Super Connies operated by the airline and the first to be withdrawn from service. Parked at Karachi in 1964, it was cannibalized for spares and the fuselage salvaged and moved to the PIA-KLM Hotel Midway House for use as a cabin crew trainer. A 1969 photo shows the fuselage still in use as a trainer with at least its nose landing gear still in place. An early 1980’s photo shows the fuselage clearly out of use but still in place at the hotel. At this point it was assumed that the fuselage had been scrapped but apparently this is not the case. Thanks much to Andy for forwarding this very interesting spotter's report.
Helena EC-121T Faces Uncertain Future – January 7, 2014
The future of EC-121T N4257L/52-3417 became very tenuous on December 31, 2013 when Evergreen International Airlines and six other Evergreen entities filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. The aircraft is owned by the non-profit Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which could possibly be eventually drawn into the bankruptcy proceedings. Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires liquidation of a company’s assets and the filing estimated total company assets at $100M and total debt at $500M. While the museum and the other companies were supposed to be separate entities, over the years Evergreen owner Del Smith provided considerable monetary support to the museum and it’s uncertain whether it could survive without this support. What seems fairly certain is that, without Del Smith’s support, the museum doesn’t have the financial resources to complete the expensive restoration of the EC-121T for a ferry flight from Helena, Montana to the museum’s headquarters in McMinnville, Oregon.
After being retired by the USAF, the EC-121T was ferried to Helena, Montana in 1981 and used for aviation maintenance training at the University of Montana. Declared excess to the school’s needs in 2008, the aircraft was acquired by the museum in May 2009. A preliminary examination in July 2009 determined that the aircraft appeared to be in good condition and this was confirmed in late May 2010 when the museum performed a two week detailed survey of the airplane. The electrical, fuel and hydraulic systems were tested with no major issues and most of the instruments came back to life. The engines were pre-oiled and the team discovered that one of the engines had a bad cylinder and another was totally seized. While the scope of work required to prepare the aircraft for a ferry flight appeared to be do-able, apparently other museum priorities intervened and not much has been done with the aircraft since then. It would be a real shame if this airplane was lost but, with the recent reductions in federal and private funding to museums, it is entirely possible. One only has to look at what’s happening at the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB in Georgia, where the museum is looking to scrap a number of aircraft in its collection.
See Constellation News Archive - 2013 For Additional News
----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 22 July 2014----