The National Airline History Museum (NAHM) Needs Your Help – May 13, 2013
NAHM NEEDS YOUR HELP! The Kansas City based museum has ambitious plans to reenact the record setting April 17, 1944 flight of the second prototype Constellation, 43-10310 (c/n 1962). Howard Hughes and Jack Frey flew non-stop from Burbank, CA to Washington, DC in 6 hours and 51 minutes at an average speed of 331 mph. Even though they were delivering the aircraft to the Army Air Force, they had arranged for the aircraft to be painted in Transcontinental & Western colors and the passenger list included Hollywood celebrities and Orville Wright. The military brass were none too happy about the aircraft being painted in civilian colors but Hughes and Frey scored a publicity coupe when the aircraft was greeted in Washington by a large contingent of press.
The museum plans on re-enacting the flight on its 70th anniversary with their Super Constellation N6937C. The aircraft, painted in 1950’s era TWA colors, hasn’t flown since 2005, when it suffered an engine failure. The failed engine has been replaced and all four engines have recently been run with no significant issues noted. In August 2012 the aircraft underwent an extensive inspection for corrosion and none was found. Having determined the aircraft to be in excellent condition, the museum set a goal of returning her to the skies in 2014.
N6937C is an L1049H Super Constellation and was one of the last Constellations built. If all goes according to plans, it will be the only airworthy civilian example as all other fliers are former military aircraft. Stored for a number of years in Mesa, AZ, she was made ready for a ferry flight by a group of former TWA employees and flown to Kansas City Downtown Airport in July 1986. After a two year restoration, she was ready for prime time and was the centerpiece of many airshows until grounded in 2005 by the engine failure. The NAHM estimates that it will need approximately $3.7M to make the aircraft airworthy and stage the re-enactment. Inspection of the aircraft is expected to begin on September 1, 2013 with the first flight tentatively scheduled for January 1, 2014. Most museum staff are volunteers and it has undertaken a massive fundraising effort to raise the necessary funds. Check out the museum’s website for current information on the project and how you can make a donation. Sure would be nice to see N6937C back at Oshkosh in 2014!
SCFA Super Connie First Flight of 2013 – May 11, 2013
SCFA Super Connie HB-RSC made her first flight of 2013 on April 28th, when she flew from Zurich to Epinal. Willy Stotzer was kind enough to forward two photos of her departure from Zurich a day later but I was in Alaska and was unable to update the website until today. (Lots of propliners in Alaska but unfortunately no Constellations.) Good luck to the SCFA folks and here's hoping them a successful 2013 flight program.
SCFA Super Connie HB-RSC Received C of A Today – April 24, 2013
Arie Wubben reports that SCFA Super Connie HB-RSC received her Certificate of Airworthiness today and will be back on the European airshow circuit in 2013, including an appearance at the Paris Air Show. My hat’s off to all the folks at SCFA for their perseverance and hard work in overcoming the frustrating engine problems they faced in 2012. Check out the SCFA website for the latest airshow and flight schedule. I wish them a successful 2013 and hopefully HB-RSC will be thrilling airshow crowds for many years to come.
Sao Tome Super Connies Doing Well in Retirement – April 20, 2013
L1049H Super Connies CF-NAL and CF-NAM were parked at Sao Tome in January 1970 after use on the Biafran Airlift. Both aircraft had been originally delivered to National Airlines in October 1957 and had flown with Canadian operator Nordair between 1964 and 1968 before being acquired for the airlift by CanRelief Air Ltd in April 1969. With no buyers for the aircraft, they were abandoned and had been slowly deteriorating.
I had received reports from time to time and in 2007 there were plans to declare the aircraft national monuments to commemorate the humanitarian airlift, which was based out of the airport. It also appeared from December 2008 photos that the two aircraft were being used as centerpieces for a bar or restaurant.
I received an email and photos today from Rob Schleiger, who flies Dornier 328 jets in Nigeria and had the opportunity to visit the restaurant yesterday and sample its menu. Rob gives the restaurant a thumbs-up and reports that the food is excellent with the fish dishes being his favorite. French or Portuguese is spoken at the restaurant but Rob says that simply pointing to the menu pictures also works well for ordering your meal.
Rob’s photos show a well kept facility with a swimming pool, which will hopefully bode well for the aircraft. The right photo shows CF-NAM with Nordair and JointChurchAid titles still visible. Hopefully, as long as the aircraft still have a function, in this case being part of the restaurant, they will not be cut up for scrap. Thanks much to Rob for his report and photos.
Disturbing News from the Museum of Aviation – March 24, 2013
I received an email from Patrick Carry today with some disturbing news from the Museum of Aviation at Warner-Robins, GA. The Macom.com website reported on March 23, 2013 that, due to Air Force personnel cuts in 2011 that resulted in the elimination of 8 civilian positions, the museum is getting rid of 29 aircraft, including EC-121K BuNo 141297. Most of the lost positions were restoration specialists and the museum claims that it doesn’t have enough personnel to properly maintain the aircraft, especially those on display outdoors. The report goes on to say that the National Museum of the Air Force will decide the fate of the affected aircraft with decisions having being made to date on only half of them. Citing the prohibitive cost of moving the larger aircraft to other museums, the museum has already decided to scrap their B-52 and EC-135 and at this point, things don’t look good for the Super Connie.
During the past 10 years, Dr. Gerald Durbin and a group of dedicated volunteers have spent countless hours during May and October each year working on the restoration of BuNo 141297. During its long military career, the aircraft was assigned to the Naval Research Lab for special testing and all of the equipment normally installed on an EC-121 had been long removed before the aircraft was retired. Using the consoles and electronic equipment installed in the National Museum of Naval Aviation’s EC-121K (BuNo 143221) as patterns, Dr. Durbin was able to replicate most of the equipment and install it in BuNo 141297. For more information on Dr. Durbin’s efforts, check out my May 2008 article on this website.
Frank Miklos recently emailed me a photo of L049 N90831 taken in Pittsburgh, PA (probably Allegheny County Airport) in 1951. The photo was taken by Frank’s grandfather, Charles L. Miklos, and shows his father getting on the airplane. N90831 is currently on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, AZ painted in the same early 1950’s color scheme shown in the photo. Many thanks to Frank for sharing this photo.
First News of 2013 – March 17, 2013
It’s hard to believe that it’s mid-March and this is the first news item for 2013! Arie Wubben recently emailed me with the great news that the SCFA Maintenance folks will hand over Super Connie HB-RSC to the Operations guys on April 17th. The 2013 flying program includes flights to the Farnborough, Fairford, Olbia and Paris Air Shows. The schedule also includes numerous flights for members, which were also canceled last year after the engine failure. Arie was kind enough to also send me a presentation, which included some very nice photos of HB-RSC. For more information about the 2013 flying program, check out the SCFA website.
From the other side of the world, David Wood reports that HARS Super Connie VH-EAG attended the “Airshows Dowunder Airshow” held at Avalon, Victoria on March 1-3. She was sporting her newly repainted “lipstick” engine cowls and will undergo a fuselage repaint during the upcoming offseason. For additional information about the Super Connie and other aircraft in the collection, check out the HARS website.
I visited the AMC Museum in early March and had a look at their “faux” C-121C with its new extended nose radome. Other than lacking a front cargo door, the aircraft looks very much like a real C-121C. The folks at the AMC Museum deserve a lot of credit for a job well done. Who could have ever imagined that the pile of aircraft parts, including engines, rear cargo door and landing gear from NC-121K BuNo 141292, would have ever turned out this well.
SCFA Super Connie Being Readied for 2013 Season – December 28, 2012
After arriving in Zurich, Switzerland on November 5th, the mechanics at SR Technics have been busy prepping HB-RSC for the 2013 flying season. Particular attention is being paid to the rudders and vertical stabilizers, as can be seen in the below photos. In addition to the sheet metal work being performed, all rudder bearings have been changed. With a refurbished #2 engine and winter maintenance well underway, SCFA members and enthusiasts have reason to be optimistic for a successful 2013 season Thanks to Willy Stotzer for forwarding the photos and news update.
SAA Museum Starliner Moved Out of Harm’s Way – November 29, 2012
As reported on this website on May 8, 2012, in early 2012 South African Airways (SAA) notified the SAA Museum that Starliner ZS-DVJ was no longer welcome in their maintenance area and it would be scrapped if not moved. Faced with this ultimatum, museum volunteers began disassembling the aircraft in anticipation of a ground move to museum headquarters in Rand. On May 12, 2012, the aircraft was successfully towed across OR Tambo Airport to Denel Aviation where disassembly continues. For updates on this project, check out the SAA Museum website.
PIA L1049H RC Model Nearing First Flight – November 21, 2012
Toronto based aviation enthusiast Sameer Haqqi recently completed a beautiful 1:14 scale radio control Super Constellation model and reports that it's very close to making its maiden flight. The model is painted as AP-AJZ in 1960’s era Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) colors . L1049H AP-AJZ was delivered new to PIA in March 1958 and served with the airline until June 1969 when it was donated to the Indonesian Air Force. It is believed to have been scrapped in the early 1970’s. Sameer will be offering a 1:14 scale kit of the Super Constellation for sale in the near future and anyone interested in purchasing this unique and beautiful model can email Sameer directly. The project also earned Sameer recognition as a “Modeling Icon” by the RCpak website. Sameer promises to forward a video of the first flight, which I will post on this website.
Interesting Photos of Long Forgotten Landing Incident at LGA – November 20, 2012
Jason Cook recently sent me some very interesting photos of a long forgotten landing incident at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) involving TWA L049 Constellation N90816. Jason believes that the photos were taken by his uncle in the early 1950’s, when he was a student at the nearby Academy of Aeronautics. The photos show N90816 sitting in the grass after apparently overrunning runway 22 on a very foggy day. The aircraft appears undamaged and was only feet from the perimeter road and the Grand Central Parkway. Had the aircraft traveled only a few hundred feet further, the outcome would have been much different. If anyone has any additional information about this incident, I would very much appreciate them contacting me. After retirement from TWA, the aircraft went on to serve with Edde Airlines and Pacific Air Transport before being put to pasture at Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL), where it was scrapped in 1989 or 1990. It had the distinction of making the last flight of an L049 Constellation, when it was ferried from Van Nuys Airport (VNY) to FLL in May 1979. Thanks to Jason for sharing the photos.
SCFA Super Connie Flown to Zurich for Winter Maintenance - November 5, 2012
SCFA Super Connie HB-RSC completed a successful ferry flight from Lahr, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland this morning. The aircraft will undergo winter maintenance before returning to the airshow circuit in 2013. Check out the SCFA website for photos of the flight.
AMC Super Connie Nose Job Complete – October 31, 2012
AMC Museum volunteers and USAF reservists at Dover AFB recently completed the along-awaited “nose job” on the museum’s Super Connie. Museum director Mike Leister forwarded me an “After” photo of the aircraft. Compare this photo to the “Before” photo. Kudos to the volunteers and reservists for a job well done! For more information about the project, check out my January 31 and June 28, 2012 reports and the October 2007 "Connie Needs a Nose" article.
Possible New Home for VC-121A “Columbine II” – October 29, 2012
After being stored at Marana Regional Airport (AVQ), near Tucson, AZ, since 2003, it appears that VC-121A 48-610/N9463 could be departing for a new home in the not too distant future. The aircraft is currently owned by a group, including the Crowley family and Harry Oliver, and Brett Crowley reports that discussions are currently underway regarding the possible donation of the historic aircraft to the National Museum of the USAF (NMUSAF). Brett is the grandson of Mel Christler (Christler Flying Service) who operated four C-121A’s as large acreage sprayers in the 1970’s and 80’s. The aircraft hasn’t flown since being ferried to Marana in May 2003 and Brett reports that, if a deal can be struck, the aircraft will be made airworthy for delivery to the Air Force. Christler Flying Service used 48-610 as a spare’s plane to keep the other four aircraft flying and it was restored in 1990 by Mel, Harry Oliver and a group of friends and relatives using parts from VC-121B 48-608 (N608AS). The Connie was flown to a number of events in 1990/91, including the Eisenhower Centennial and the Andrews AFB 1991 Open House in Maryland.
SCFA Committee Releases Statement on #2 Engine – October 27, 2012
The SCFA Committee recently released the following statement regarding the status of their #2 engine, which has arrived back from Anderson Aeromotive.
On October 11, 2012, engine number 2 has arrived in Lahr, after being
shipped back from the US. It will be mounted in the upcoming days. The
Breitling Super Constellation will then be repositioned to Zurich
airport, where it will undergo annual winter maintenance and
inspections. After discovering metal particles in the oil filter during
test runs in Lahr, the engine was shipped to Anderson Aeromotive in
Grangeville, Idaho. Several SCFA technicians were present while Anderson
mechanics conducted detailed checks. The results showed that the engine
had not been damaged during the test runs in Lahr. In order to best
check the engine, two cylinders were removed in order to facilitate
access to the crank shaft. The engine was then tested at various power
settings, and no problems were noted.
Initially, the origin of the oil chips was unknown, but finding oil
particles in engines such as the Connies is not uncommon; they are a
result of specific construction characteristics associated with the oil
coolers installed in that particular type of engine. Due to their size,
they cannot be opened. Cleaning them can only be accomplished through
pressure flushes. Depending on the nature or origin polluting sources,
particles can accumulate, and clog the system. This appears to be what
occurred with the Connies' engine.
Our Lahr mechanics, supported by one of our longtime American engineers,
faced a difficult decision; they did not want to risk damaging the
engine by conducting further pressure flushing procedures, which is why
they opted for the more cumbersome, yet more conservative route of
returning the engine to Anderson for inspection.
Anderson Aeromotive was founded in 1976. The company has 35 employees
and is the most renowned repair and maintenance station for Pratt &
Whitney as well as Curtiss Wright radial engines. There are 80 Curtiss
Wright R-3350 engines in stock at Anderson, the same model that powers
our Super Constellation. Anderson disassembles them, stores them in an
ideal environment, and refurbished on demand. This was the case with our
Connies' engine as well.
The maintenance and inspections conducted during the upcoming winter
season in Zurich is not related to the problems we encountered with the
refurbished number 2 engine, but it will be done in order to comply with
regulations and requirements set forth by the FOCA. These inspections
include, but are not limited to, an aircraft annual inspection, and an
inspection of the rear cabin (the front of the cabin was inspected
during the last maintenance interval, when new insulation materials were
installed). Additionally, there will be several other, less time
consuming tasks and procedures that will require our attention during
the winter season.
Anderson Aeromotive Completes Inspection of SCFA Super Connie Engine – October 5, 2012 (Updated)
Willy Stotzer reports that Anderson Aeromotive has completed inspection of the #2 engine. The engine was returned to Anderson in August after metal chips were found in oil screens of the newly overhauled engine after completion of engine test runs at Lahr, Germany. HB-RSC has been parked in Lahr awaiting the return of the engine, which Willy says is in route from the US via Lufthansa airfreight. The folks at SCFA hope to get the engine installed and ferry the aircraft to SR Technics in Zurich by late October. Willy also reports on a subtle change to the Connie's paint scheme. The cheatline near the nose has recently been modified and is now conical to the end of the cap. (Note: This report was updated on October 27, 2012 with the intent of more accurately portraying the issues relating to the #2 engine.)
Progress Continues on the Starliner Project in Auburn – September 27, 2012
Christopher Junker recently visited the Lufthansa Starliner restoration hangar on September 11th and provided the following report: "Last Monday I was had a quick visit to Auburn where work continues on N7316C. The project staff was pleased that startup and preliminary testing of engine #3 went well at Anderson Airmotive and work on the remaining three engines is proceeding on schedule. Other project areas ongoing at this time include a redo of the rear fuselage pressure bulkhead area to eliminate any possibility of corrosion damage. Conversion of the freight door back to passenger door configuration appears complete. Two flap sections were complete and were being packed for shipment to Germany for testing. Goodyear is helping with new de-icing boots. The boots are unique to the Starliner, as the vertical and horizontal stabilizers along with the wing are larger than those of other Connie series. Inspection and repair of starboard spar and wing corrosion continues, with corrosion easier to detect and correct with the epoxy sealant removed. New type fasteners will be used, which will make sealing the ‘wet wing’ against fuel leakage easier to correct and prevent. A subcontractor has been selected to assist in the testing and repair of fuel leaks. Progress on the electronic, wiring, hydraulic and other systems is ongoing in the ancillary building across the street in Auburn and in Germany."
For additional information on the project, including engine work being performed by Anderson Airmotive, check out the Lufthansa Technik website . Many thanks to Christopher for his report.
Amicale du Super Constellation Open House – September 26, 2012
Pierre-André Biron reports on the recent open house in Nantes where the Amicale du Super Constellation organization had a chance to show off its former Air France L1049G F-BGNJ . On September 15 and 16, 2012 the Super Connie was opened to the public for the first time since the organization was formed in 2000. Members were encouraged that over 550 adults and children visited the aircraft during the two day event and plan on another ‘Journées Portes Ouvertes’ (Open House) in spring 2013. For the Super Connie's 60th birthday in November 2013, the group is planning a gala event with a very special guest. Stay tuned for more details as they become available. Pierre also provided some photos of the event, taken by Nicolas Cavoleau. Pierre is at the top right of the group photo with his small little son and lovely wife.
Lufthansa Starliner TV Documentary – September 15, 2012
I recently received an email from Joerg Reichle with a link to a very interesting 30-minute documentary about the Lufthansa Starliner restoration project. The documentary aired September 9, 2012 on German/Austrian 3sat TV and begins with footage from the start of the project during the summer of 2008. It includes segments from Bizjet-Oklahoma, Anderson Airmotive, Lufthansa Technik-Hamburg, Fantasy of Flight and the Auburn restoration hangar. Also included is vintage color footage of Lufthansa Starliner operations in the late 1950’s. Even though the program is in German, I highly recommend it to all propliner fans, even those of us who don't speak German. Thanks much to Joerg for forwarding the link.
National Airline History Museum Super Connie Passes Corrosion Inspection – September 4, 2012
After experiencing numerous episodes of drama during the past few years, there’s good news coming from the National Airline History Museum in Kansas City. It had been widely reported that there were major corrosion issues with the museum’s L1049H Super Connie N6937C. A detailed inspection of the aircraft’s wing spar was recently performed by an independent inspector with extensive Constellation experience and he gave it a clean bill of health with no corrosion found. John Roper, VP of Operations at the museum, reports that “I am preparing to move forward with a complete inspection of the aircraft with the intent to fly it early in 2013.” I wish John and the museum success in making this happen and hopefully we’ll see this beautiful aircraft back on the airshow circuit in the near future. The museum is also finishing up the restoration of former TWA DC-3 NC1945 and is hoping to have its first post-restoration flight before the end of 2012. They are currently raising funds for both projects and you can help with your donation. Check out the museum’s website for additional information about the museum, membership and how to make a donation.
Yanks Air Museum EC-121T A Possible 'Flyer' in 2013 - August 20, 2012
There’s great news from the Yanks Air Museum regarding EC-121T N548GF. Most of us probably thought that the January 14, 2012 ferry flight from Camarillo to Chino was this veteran aircraft's last flight but the folks at Yanks apparently have other plans. The museum recently announced in their newsletter that "we are working on raising funds for fuel costs to travel from Chino to multiple airshows in the upcoming years." This is great news and, if it comes to be, I might not have missed my chance to witness an EC-121 in flight! Stay tuned to this website for updates.
SCFA Super Connie Grounded for Remainder of the 2012 Season – August 14, 2012
HB-RSC will be grounded for the remainder of the 2012 airshow season after metal chips were found in the oil screens of their newly refurbished R3350. As reported on the SCFA website, the chips were found after the engine completed a 75 minute ground run on August 8th. The R3350 will be returned to Anderson Airmotive for repair, which is expected to take at least two months. Björn Kannengiesser provided the following photos taken of HB-RSC minus her #2 engine at Lahr on August 12, 2012.
Lufthansa Starliner Project Update – July 27, 2012
Pete Ferraro and his father Dick visited the Lufthansa Starliner restoration hangar on July 18, 2012 and were treated to a tour of the facility. They provided the following report on the status of this amazing project and photos.
The crew is working six days a week. The structural work on the wing continues with more planks being fitted. Re-skinning the fuselage is moving quickly. The tail section is removed and the horizontal stabilizers and vertical fins are being rebuilt. Two engines are finished at Anderson with the third getting ready to run shortly. Best estimates are that the structural work will be finished by the end of the year with the next phase of the project starting after that. Wiring, hydraulic plumbing, system component installation all will continue. A rough estimate for the first part of project completion, barring any unforeseen problems should be by late next summer. The cockpit will be configured with original instruments, although the 1950's technology radar, radios and the like will give way to modern components. Four Lufthansa pilots and 3 flight engineers have been trained, including some simulator instruction, and will be ready for first flight next year.
For news updates on the project, check out the Lufthansa Technik website. I’ve been following this project since its inception and hope to be in Auburn to witness the first post-restoration flight. Many thanks to Pete and Dick on their report.
KLM B777 Captain Tom Beudeker recently sent me an email recounting an interesting Constellation flight that occurred more than 63 years ago. His father, Frans Beudeker, was the second flight engineer and Tom recently found photos of the flight in his father’s photo album. While 15 hour 45 minute flights are routine these days, this was not the case in 1949. What makes the flight even more remarkable was that it was almost entirely over water during cyclone season without reliable weather information. Tom's report:
In 1949 Indonesia was still a Dutch colony and, as a result of Dutch actions there, the governments of other far-east countries including India, Pakistan, Singapore and Ceylon had closed their airspace to KLM flights. KLM had to find a route to Jakarta (then called Batavia) and decided to fly non-stop 2,883 nm over the Indian Ocean from the island of Mauritius to Batavia. They originally planned to fly from Reunion Island to Batavia, but Mauritius was closer and had a longer runway, resulting in Reunion becoming a fuel stop in route to Mauritius.
In January 1949, L749 Constellation PH-TDF “Franeker” was prepared for a mail-only flight. The passenger seats were removed as well as the galleys and other unnecessary equipment to reduce weight. Only 5000 kg of mail was on board. On the morning of January 29, 1949, the Connie was taxied out to the runway at Plaisance Airport in Mauritius. With the props in reverse, she was backed to the very end of the runway. The engines were shut down and wings sprayed with water to cool down the wings and fuel to get more fuel in the tanks. With no navigation except a sextant and maps, they took off for what turned out to be a 15 hour 45 minute flight over the Indian Ocean. It was cyclone season and they had no enroute weather reports for the flight. After six hours a sextant plot was taken and it showed they were 150 nm south of their intended route. Enclosed is a picture of the crew after their arrival in Batavia. The crewmember with the white cap is my father, second Flight Engineer Frans Beudeker. The fellow on the left is pilot/navigator Lionel Metz. He was a master navigator and the successful outcome of the flight was very dependent on his considerable astro-navigation skills. He is 88 years old and living in Charlottesville, VA, where I recently visited him. During my 2+ hour chat with him, he told be stories about my father, the 15 hour 45 minute flight and the navigation techniques he used. He told me that he was in a state of total happiness when flying in the Connie at night with all the stars around him. He is also one of the founders of the Dutch Air Line Pilot Association. My father is my all time hero. Next January I will retire as a pilot, but will continue to work for the Aviodrome museum and hope that our Connie will fly again someday.
Photo descriptions from left to right starting with the first row of photos
The proud crew with Captain Haje de Haas (with sunglasses) in the middle. (This picture was on the front page of all the newpapers in The Netherlands)
The interior of the PH-TDF during flight. Clearly visible the pilots coats on hangers and the pallet with the mail on the left
Engine #4 “nicely humming over the ocean” as my father commented in his photoalbum
PH–TDF on the runway of Reunion;
Sister ship PH-TDB at Plaisance Airport. This is the L749 Connie the same crew flew the return flight from Batavia to Mauritius
My father behind the FE panel. This picture was made in a Super-Connie, because the ignition analyzer is mounted in the front panel
Many thanks to Tom for sharing his photos and this interesting piece of Constellation history.
Air Mobility Command (AMC) Museum Super Connie Gets a "Nose Job" – June 28, 2012
The AMC Museum’s Super Connie is receiving its long anticipated “nose job” this week. The aircraft is a former civilian L1049E airliner, which last served with Capitol International Airways as N1005C. It sat atop a restaurant in Penndel, PA for many years and was donated to the museum in 1997. It was restored to represent a C-121C from 2003 to 2007 but had a short radome, which was not representative of a C-121C. A search was started in 2006 for a radome and extension plug. Gordon Cole provided his spare radome for the project but finding the elusive extension plug proved more difficult. I send out an appeal on this website in October 2007, with little success until about a year ago. The folks at Lufthansa, who are restoring L1649A N7316C in Auburn, ME, had a spare extension plug that they allowed the museum to use as a pattern. Hank Baker, of the AMC Museum, made the trip to Auburn to retrieve the extension plug and a fiberglass replica was crafted by a group of Air Force reservists at Dover AFB. The radome has been attached to the extension plug and will be installed on the aircraft and painted this week. The museum’s Super Connie will look much like a military C-121C and the museum’s director, Mike Leister, will not have to listen to me give him a hard time about his funny looking airplane. Congratulations to the museum for completing the epic restoration of this historic aircraft! I hope to update the website with photos of the final product shortly. Many thanks to my good friend Mike Leister for providing the report and photos.
SCFA Super Connie Needs a New Engine – June 27, 2012
I recently received an email from Willy Stotzer of the Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA) informing me that the organization's Super Connie, HB-RSC, would be needing a replacement #2 engine. SCFA is going to have the offending engine replaced with an overhauled engine and hopes to resume their flying schedule in August. Here's Willy's report.
Contrary to our first assumptions, specific investigations have revealed that the #2 engine suffered significant damage after only few hours of running. It must be replaced due to two damaged rods. This will result in another delay of our flight program. The SCFA committee decided on June 20, 2012 to order an overhauled replacement engine from Anderson Aeromotive Inc., a US company specialized on airplane piston engines. It will be prepared in the US and sent to Lahr for installation. Our Connie is currently positioned there. Based on the preparation, delivery and mounting time we expect to start to fly in August. In order to catch up with some of the cancelled flights we plan to extend our flight season into October.
Many thanks to Willy for the report and good luck to the folks at SCFA in getting their airplane back in the air.
HARS Super Connie Aerial Excursion to Lord Howe Islands – June 23, 2012
The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Super Connie, VH-EAG, one of only two Constellations currently flying, made an interesting flight in April. Peter Berger reports that the aircraft and a group of HARS members departed Albion Park (YWOL) at 8:20pm for a five hour flight to the Lord Howe Islands. Cruising at a sedate 185 knots, the aircraft arrived overhead Lord Howe Island at 10:35am. Forty minutes were spent flying in the vicinity of the islands inspecting the reef at the lagoon where Catalinas and Short Sandringhams used to land. “Bald Pyramid” was also inspected before the aircraft turned back to home base, where it arrived at 1:20pm. Thanks to Peter for the first hand report and the photos. It’s great to hear that this wonderful aircraft is still flying on a regular basis.
Back on Line Again in Florida – June 10, 2012
I’m back on line after two weeks of being “unplugged” from the internet. I retired on June 1st and my wife and I have relocated from Maryland to The Villages in central Florida. After all the painting gets done and boxes unpacked I hope to have more time to spend on the website, aircraft photography and magazine articles. My email address will remain unchanged as Comcast provides service to my new home. BTW...the small garage door on the right side of the house is for golf carts. If one so desires, they can traverse the vast expanses of The Villages using the extensive system of golf cart "highways".
WV2 “Paisano” Crewmember Wishes to Contact Former Crewmembers – May 13, 2012
I recently received an email from Andrew Bass, whose grandfather Raymond Fairley was onboard WV-2 BuNo 126513, "Paisano", when it crashed at Williams Field, McMurdo Sound Antarctica on October 31, 1960. Ricky DeRoo and Cleland McBurney have previously provided accounts of the crash on this website, from the ground perspective, and Mr. Fairley will be providing an on-aircraft perspective in the near future. He would very much like to get in touch with other survivors and can be contacted by emailing his grandson Andrew.
South African Starliner Faces an Uncertain Future – May 8, 2012
I received an email today from Richard Hunt of the South African Airline Museum Society with some disturbing developments regarding their one-of-a-kind L1649A Starliner ZS-DVJ.
I hope you are keeping well. I would like to give you a brief update on our Starliner. The aircraft currently resides in the SAA technical area at ORT Airport in JNB. The SAA technical management have had a change of heart regarding the continued storage of this wonderfully restored aircraft and have unfortunately given the Museum an ultimatum to “remove or lose” the aircraft. Over the past few months, the SAA museum members have begun the process of attempting to transport the aircraft to the Museum’s home at Rand Airport in Germiston, where all the other aircraft and exhibits are housed. As one can imagine, this is no easy task, and the risk of completely destroying the aircraft in this process is significantly high. As this is the ONLY passenger configured aircraft of the other 3 remaining, we would like to avoid this at all costs. The Museum is in a really tight situation with this aircraft. This is a purely nonprofit organization and we rely solely on sponsors or donations to preserve the wonderful collection of aircraft and memorabilia they have. We are in desperate need of any support we can get to ensure the successful relocation of this aircraft. We have already started removing some items from the airframe, cowls, props, gear doors, and wing/body fairings to gain access to the joining bolts. On Saturday 12 May, we will attempt to tow the aircraft from SAA technical across the Airport to the Denel facility. Denel has offered us temporary parking as the museum contemplates the future of the great old Starliner. The blunt truth is, unless we can get the support and infrastructure needed to move the aircraft it will have to be scraped. Believe me, we are trying everything we can to avoid this. Thanks for your ear.
My very best regards,
For SAA Museum Society,
With all the hard work and effort that’s been put into this aircraft by museum volunteers, it would be a real shame if this unique aviation artifact was lost to the scrapper’s torch. It's the only one of the four surviving Starliners that has its orginal passenger interior intact. If you can help in any way, please contact Richard by email.
New Photos of Manila Connie N4247K – March 31, 2012
Heinz Rentmeister visited Manila in February and took some rather unique photos of C-121J N4247K. Not satisfied with just ground shots, Heinz hired a helicopter and got some really great aerial shots of N4247K. The ground shots were also unusual in that the sky was blue and the normal gray haze had cleared for his visit. Thanks very much to Heinz for providing the photos. As for news about the aircraft, I know that there are folks interested in buying the Super Connie but they have been frustrated in their attempts to to communicate with the airport authority. Sure would be a shame if this aircraft gets cut up when there are folks out there who would like to give her a new home!
Dutch Aviodrome to Reopen Under New Ownership – March 27, 2012
There’s good news from Lelystad! As reported on a number of websites, the Dutch Aviodrome was acquired by the Dutch Libema Groep on 23 March 2012. The Libema Group operates several theme parks in Holland and plans major changes to the facility, with it transitioning from a museum to a theme park. Reopening is planned for April 28, 2012, which the price of admission remaining at 15.75 euros. As reported in this website’s December 24, 2011 news item, KLM will acquire the DC-2 and it will reportedly be loaned back to the Aviodrome. The Lockheed Constellation reportedly will be purchased by the local Lelystad government and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Group and will likewise be loaned back to the Aviodrome for display. No word on whether either of the aircraft will fly again. The Libema Group will acquire the remaining Aviodrome collection.
Super Constellation Advertised For Sale – March 9, 2012
C-121J N4247K was recently advertised for sale on the Tradewinds website--->SUPER CONSTELLATION • HISTORICAL AIRCRAFT FOR SALE • Super Connie for your museum. Restoration possible. Interested? Let me know. • Contact Ed Alix - TRADEWINDS AVIATION, Broker - located Paranaque City, Philippines • Telephone: 639471807989 • Fax: 632-8265445
The really good news is that a clear path now exists for purchasing the aircraft. Hopefully an individual or organization with the resources to restore the aircraft steps forward and makes this happen. The sad alternative is a date with the scrapman.
YouTube Video of VC-121A N422NA Departing Fort Rucker in 1993 – March 3, 2012
Dave Hartman recently emailed me a YouTube link to an incredible video of VC-121C N422NA/48-613 departing Fort Rucker on June 23, 1993 . The aircraft had been General Douglas MacArthur’s personal aircraft during the Korean War and named “Bataan.” Retired by the USAF in 1966, it served with NASA from 1966 to late 1969. In 1970 it was flown to the US Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker for display. Declared surplus to the museum’s needs, N422NA faced scrapping before the Planes of Fame Museum acquired it in May 1993. The museum made the aircraft airworthy for the short flight to Dothan, Alabama where additional work was performed. The aircraft was flown to Addison, Texas in May 1994, where the VIP interior was recreated. N422NA was flown to museum headquarters in Chino, CA in late 1994 and then to the museum’s annex in Valle, AZ in early 1995 where the aircraft remains on display as “Bataan.” Thanks Dave for the link.
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Manila Airport Authority Acquires Ownership of C-121J N4247K – February 19, 2012
As reported on this website on November 10, 2011
, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) had deemed longtime airport resident C-121J N4247K an eyesore and health hazard. Along with a number of other abandoned aircraft at the airport, MIAA threatened to take possession of N4247K if its owner (William "Winky" Crawford who is long deceased) didn’t remove it from airport grounds.
MIAA has apparently made good on the promise and were recently granted legal ownership of the Super Connie.
N427K is one of the few remaining restorable Constellations and, in the past, there had been a number of organizations
interested in acquiring the aircraft. Hopefully one of them is still willing and able to step up to the plate and
provide a new home for this long neglected veteran.
AMC Museum “C-121C” Scheduled For Nosejob – January 31, 2012
If you take a close look at the Air Mobility Command (AMC) Museum’s C-121C you’ll probably notice that it looks a bit odd. The nose doesn’t look quite right and that’s because the museum’s C-121C isn’t really a C-121C, but a former civilian L1049E Super Connie. After being retired from airline service in 1967, N1005C spent 30 years atop a restaurant in Penndel, Pennsylvania before being rescued from oblivion by the museum. The Super Connie was taken down from her perch atop the restaurant and moved by road to the museum at Dover AFB in October 1997. Using the engines, landing gear and a rear cargo door salvaged from NC-121K BuNo 141292, the aircraft underwent a four year restoration and was put on display at the museum during the summer of 2007. The only problem is that the aircraft had a short nose radome very different from the longer version found on all C-121C aircraft. An immediate search went out and the museum obtained a radome from Gordon Cole but finding the extension plug proved to be much more of a challenge. In October 2007 I wrote a short article on this website appealing to readers to search their storage sheds and hangars for an extra extension plug they might have in their possesion. While I got a few emails, no one appeared to have what the museum needed. While visiting the Lufthansa L1649A restoration hangar in Auburn, Maine a few years ago I noticed they had a spare plug sitting on a storage shelf and informed the museum. Mike Leister, the museum’s director, told me the other day that the Lufthansa folks had graciously offered to let the museum “borrow” the plug for the purpose of reverse engineering a copy. Museum volunteer Hank Baker was dispatched to Maine and the sheet metal guys at Dover crafted an authentic copy for installation on the museum's bird. Mike says that the new radome and extension plug will be installed this spring when the weather gets a little bit warmer. It’s a good ending to the story and I’m sure Mike won't miss me giving him a hard time about his funny looking C-121C! For more information about this airplane and its restoration, check out my Connie Needs a Nose article. For more information about the AMC Museum and their great aircraft collection, check out their website. Below are two photos of the AMC airplane and the real deal at Charleston AFB. Hopefully by this summer, there won't be a difference!
Camarillo EC-121T Arrives Safely in Chino – January 15, 2012
EC-121T N548GF departed Camarillo Airport shortly after noon yesterday and slowly circled the airport gaining altitude before heading to Chino via Palmdale. Engine starts were clean with all engines running smoothly when Al Malecha released the brakes for taxi to the active runway. The crew consisted of Al Malecha in command, Pat Farrell in the right seat and Geoff Berens at the flight engineer’s panel. Tim Coons, of MATS Connie fame, had assisted Yanks Air Museum in preparing the old girl for the flight and was also onboard providing another set of experienced eyes and ears. After what can be described as a routine 90 minute flight, N548GF landed safely in Chino. A large crowd gathered at Camarillo for the sendoff, including well known Constellation "personalities" Gordon Cole, Benny Younesi, Del Mitchell and Jerry Steele. While there was a large trailing oil stain of the right fuselage when she arrived at Chino, the 57 year old aircraft performed well during the flight and the landing appeared to be a "squeaker". Congratulations to Frank Wright and all the folks at the Yanks Air Museum for a job well done. Without their efforts, this historic aircraft likely would have rotted in place. Many thanks to Terry Wall, Michael O'Leary and Del Mitchell for the photos. Make sure you get your copy of the April issue of Air Classics, which will feature an article about the aircraft and the ferry flight. Check out the excellent YouTube video of startup and departure.
Camarillo EC-121T Ferry Flight Set for Saturday January 14th – January 13, 2012
Frank Wright and a crew from the Yanks Air Museum have been very busy this week making final preparations for the long awaited ferry flight of EC-121T N548GF from Camarillo to Chino. Over the past few days all four engines were successfully run at high power settings and the old girl moved under her own power for the first time in quite a while. Takeoff from Camarillo is planned for 11:00am Saturday with arrival at Chino at approximately noon. After the aircraft arrives, the museum will celebrate the event by hosting a number of family-friendly activities including aircraft tours, photo ops, the opportunity to meet the crew, and signed free posters. Sounds like a great event and I’m truly sorry I won’t be there to witness it. For additional information, check out the Yanks Air Museum website.
Fantasy of Flight L1649A Gets a Facelift – January 8, 2012
Rainer Spoddig visited Florida in December and sent me some photos of a much improved looking Starliner at the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City. N974R looks quite a bit better than when I visited the museum in February 2011. At that time a museum staff member told me that the aircraft had been transferred from Lufthansa to the museum and that a cosmetic restoration was underway. It’s great to see that the old girl is being taken care of. If it were not for Maurice Roundy’s efforts, this historic airplane would have most likely been scrapped at Sanford Airport years ago. Thanks to Rainer for the report and photos.