Constellation News

Constellation News

Qantas Flyers Museum Super Connie Gets Qantas Titles – July 3, 2018

The exterior restoration of Super Constellation C-121J N4247K is nearing completion and on July 1st QFM volunteers added Qantas titles to the aircraft. The airplane looks spectacular and a far cry from what it looked like when it arrived in Longreach a year ago on May 24, 2017. Volunteers can now turn their attention to completing the detail markings and replacing the circular windows with rectangular ones. The aircraft is a former U.S. Navy R7V-1/C-121J aircraft and has circular windows rather than the rectangular windows found on civilian Super Constellations and U.S.A.F. C-121C's. Kudos to the museum for their amazing effort in the restoration of this once near derelict aircraft!

Recent Photos of Lufthansa’s Starliner – June 29, 2018

I recently received these photos of Starliner N7316C after the wing had been removed from the fuselage. The wing has obviously been spit in half and, while doing so doesn’t preclude the possibility of the aircraft being restored to an airworthy condition, it makes that task significantly more complicated.

SCFA Super Connie Remains Grounded for 2018 Season – June 26,2018

The Super Constellation Flyers Association recently announced on their website that repairs to their Super Connie HB-RSC would not be completed in time for the Summer 2018 airshow season. While this is no doubt disappointing to the organization and its members, completion of these much needed repairs should allow the aircraft to remain airworthy for many years to come. My hat’s off to the SCFA for their perseverance in their efforts to keep this airplane flying. If only the CEO of Lufthansa had the same spirit and insight, there would have been three flying Constellations in the not too distant future!

Auburn-Lewiston Airport Update - June 25, 2018

I visited Auburn-Lewiston Airport (LEW) in Maine on June 21st and 22nd to check on the restoration/reassembly of L1649A N8083H and on the ill-fated restoration of Lufthansa’s L1649A N7316C. The Lufthansa Technik (LHT) hangar door was open and I can confirm that the wing has been removed from the fuselage and both were inside the hangar. I spoke to some LHT employees and was told that the fuselage and wing will be stored in the hangar and not outside until they are shipped to Germany some time in 2019. LHT and contractor employees were busy packing a multitude of parts for shipment to Germany and disposing of what is no longer required. Some of the surplus material is being used for the restoration of N8083H. Employees working on the project in Auburn, including senior LHT staff, had no idea that the program was being canceled until they were called into a meeting where the bad news was delivered by LHT managers from Germany. At that time, the front landing gear had been installed; the engine nacelles installed; leading edge plumbing installed; wiring had begun and the main landing gear were scheduled to be installed in the very near future. System testing was expected to begin in the next 12 months with first flight shortly thereafter. The employees I spoke to showed little anger towards Lufthansa but all seemed very disappointed that the project wasn’t taken to completion and had pained looks on their faces while talking about the decision.
The situation with the restoration of N8083H was much more upbeat. Atlantic Models has teamed with Propliner “guru” Carlos Gomez to reassemble and restore the aircraft, which had been parked outside the LHT hangar and used as a parts source for the restoration of N7316C. Early on, Carlos shipped a considerable number of nacelles and sheet metal components to Miami, where they were repaired prior to actual work beginning on the airplane. Carlos and three sheet metal specialists arrived in Maine shortly after Memorial Day and have made tremendous progress in reassembling the aircraft. The empennage has been almost completely reassembled; the leading edges and engine nacelles repaired and installed; landing gear doors repaired and installed; and the nose radome repaired and installed. Reassembling the airplane is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Parts had to be located, identified, conditions evaluated; and repaired as necessary. These parts had been considered surplus to LHTs restoration effort so LHT made little effort to inventory them and most were stored in unheated storage containers around the hangar. With considerable effort on the part of Carlos and his team, most of the parts necessary to reassemble N8083H were found with the plan to have Atlantic Models fabricate fiberglass replicas of the remaining parts. Atlantic Models is also fabricating replica propellers and spinners. The cockpit was almost completely stripped of instrument panels and instruments along with control yokes and crew seats. Yokes and seats have been acquired and panels will be restored and instruments installed. Once the exterior sheet metal work is complete, the aircraft’s exterior will be cleaned, primed and painted in a 1950’s era airline color scheme that I’m not at liberty to divulge, but I’m sure most readers are aware of. I’m also not at liberty to divulge what happens to the airplane next but again, I’m sure most readers are well aware of why the airplane is being reassembled and restored. The weather gods totally cooperated during my visit and I’d like to thank Carlos and his team for their hospitality.

Qantas Founders Museum Super Connie Back on Her Legs – June 19,2018

May 25, 2018 was a big day for the Qantas Founders Museum when Super Constellation N4247K was back on her legs again for the first time since being rescued from Manila Airport in 2015. Check out the museum’s website for a comprehensive project overview from inception including 300+ photos. In addition, the website also has a detailed article on recent progress. For those who prefer Facebook, check out the museum's page

Wings Installed on Qantas Founders Museum Super Connie – May 13,2018

Work continues at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach on the reassembly and restoration of Super Constellation N4247K. The wings were attached during the week of May 7th and it won’t be too long until the old girl is back on her feet again. Pete from Picton visited the museum on May 13th and forwarded some photos, which I have included with a May 11th museum photo. Kudo’s to the museum for rescuing the aircraft from the scrapman in Manila and making her whole again. Thanks much to Pete for sharing his photos.

Lufthansa Responds to On-line Petition – May 2, 2018

As of today, the Fly-Connie-Fly on-line petition has over 7,600 signatures. Many thanks to all those who have taken the time to sign the petition. Last week Andreas Bartels, Lufthansa’s Head of Communications, sent the following email in response to the petition.

Dear Petition Organizers,

Thank you for your Email and the 7,200 signatures.

Your support and excitement for our Starliner Project is well appreciated. We will for sure not “kill it”.

The aircraft is supposed to be shipped to Germany as the next step of the project will take place at Lufthansa’s home base.

With best regards,
Andreas Bartels
Head of Communications
Lufthansa Group

Mr. Bartels doesn’t specify whether what the “next step” of the project will be. Will the aircraft be reassembled for static display or will it be made airworthy? Also, what “home base” is he referring to…Lufthansa Technik or Lufthansa corporate? I guess only time will tell.

Restoration Continues on Qantas Founders Museum Super Connie – April 27, 2018

As reported on February 19th, work is underway on the restoration of N4247K at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, Australia. The museum released a couple of photos of the aircraft painted in basic Qantas colors. The first was taken on March 20th and the second on April 21st. It appears in April 21st photo that the museum might be close to reattaching the wings.

”Pirate Airplane” Soldiers on in Santa Cruz, Bolivia – April 27,2018

Sandro Rota recently visited Santa Cruz, Bolivia and photographed veteran Constellation N2520B that locals have named “Avion Pirata” which translates to “Pirate Airplane.” The aircraft was forced to land at Santa Cruz in July 1961, while reportedly on a smuggling flight from Miami to Uruguay with cigarettes and whiskey. It was stored at the airport until the early 1970s when it was moved to a children’s park at Parque Boris Banzer. By 1979 it was in use as a library and later painted in Pepsi colors. The Pepsi colors were removed by 2000, when the aircraft was painted silver with a teal accent stripe and white top. Purchased by AeroSur in early 2003, the aircraft was painted in that airline’s colors. By 2015 it had been painted overall silver. The good news is that the aircraft looks to be in relatively good condition and hasn’t been the target of vandals and graffiti artists. Many thanks to Sandro for sharing his photos.

Disassembly of Lufthansa Starliner Begins in Auburn – April 16, 2018

I received a report this morning that disassembly of N7316C has begun in Auburn. I guess the April 24th executive board meeting will just be the rubber stamping a decision already made by Lufthansa leadership. The empennage has already been removed as has the wing leading edge. The engine fairings will be next in preparation for the removal of the wing next month. Sad to say but the dream of an airworthy L1649A/Starliner is over. As of today, the Fly-Connie-Fly petition has over 7,000 signatures! Thanks to everyone who signed the petition and sent letters and emails to Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr and Supervisory Board Head Karl-Ludwig Kley.
As I’ve previously stated, separating the wing from the fuselage and then moving both to Germany without damaging either will not be an easy task. Reassembling them in Germany and then getting the aircraft certified for flight will present a unique and even more challenging technical and bureaucratic hurdle for Lufthansa. After pulling the plug on the restoration in Maine, I find it highly unlikely that the airline would be willing to undertake the substantial financial and technical challenges of making the aircraft airworthy. Above are some 1950’s era Lockheed production photos of the wing and fuselage assemblies.

Lufthansa Board Meets on April 24th to Decide Fate of Super Star/Starliner Project – April 8, 2018

As previously reported on this website in March, Lufthansa executive management has decided to shut down the Super Star restoration project in Auburn, Maine and move the aircraft to Germany. The executive board meets on April 24th to make its final decision on the project. Having come so far with this project, it makes little sense to shut it down so close to completion. As I’ve stated before, I believe that once the wing and fuselage are separated, there is little chance that the aircraft will ever fly again.

If you haven’t signed the Fly-Connie-Fly petition, please join the 6,400 who have signed to date. Also email Lufthansa’s CEO Carsten Spohr and the Head of Lufthansa’s Supervisory Board Karl-Ludwig Kley and politely implore them to reconsider the executive board’s decision before it’s too late. If we do something now, we have a chance to change the decision….if we do nothing, the airplane will be disassembled and moved to Germany.

On-line Petition to Lufthansa Executive Management – March 19, 2018

The on-line petition Fly-Connie-Fly has been created in an effort to reverse the recent decision by Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr and Chairman of Lufthansa’s Supervisory Board Karl-Ludwig Kley to shut down the Super Star restoration project in Auburn, Maine. As reported in the Auburn-Lewiston Sun Journal on March 15th, the company plans on removing the 150 foot wing and shipping the aircraft to Germany for completion of the restoration.

Separating the wing from the fuselage and shipping the project to Germany will most likely result in the aircraft never flying again. Dismantling and moving the project would also entail costs that could be better used to complete the restoration in Auburn.

Aviation enthusiasts all over the world! Please sign the Fly-Connie-Fly petition to Lufthansa management letting them know you want Lufthansa to complete this project in Auburn and make this unique flying monument available for the public to enjoy. Thanks for your help.

Lufthansa Starliner Restoration Update and Call to Action – March 18, 2018

On the morning of March 15th I reported on this website that Lufthansa was shutting down its L1649A Super Star restoration project at Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine. I also posted the report on a number of aviation related Facebook pages.

Later that day Lufthansa Technik announced in an article published in the Auburn-Lewiston Sun Journal newspaper that they would be “removing the wings from the historic aircraft and taking it to Germany later this year to finish the decade-long restoration.” Auburn based Lufthansa Technik project manager Oliver Sturm was quoted in the article as saying “The airplane is too complex to finish here because it’s a very old aircraft, coming from the ’50.” (Wow...did he really say that...the project is complex to be completed in the United States?)

For a number of reasons I believe that, if the aircraft is disassembled and moved to Germany, it will never fly again. This belief is based on recent confidential communications I've had with individuals involved in the project and the considerable challenge of moving the aircraft from the United States to Germany without damaging it. The wing is a 150 foot long one-piece structure that is an integral part of the fuselage structure. Once the wing has been separated from the fuselage, the fuselage will have to be supported for the long land/sea voyage to Germany. I don't believe this has ever been done before and the possibility of damaging the fuselage during the de-mating process and enroute to Germany should be a major concern.

If the airplane goes to Germany, I believe that the best case scenario would have the aircraft becoming the world’s most expensive static display airplane. The worst case scenario would have it disassembled and stored in warehouse, or even worse, stored outside and exposed to the weather.

It is imperative that we make every attempt to change Lufthansa’s decision to shut down the Maine based restoration and move the aircraft to Germany. Email Lufthansa’s CEO Carsten Spohr and the Head of Lufthansa’s Supervisory Board Karl-Ludwig Kley and politely implore them to reconsider the executive board’s decision before it’s too late.

An on-line petition is in the works and I will publish a link to it when I receive it.

Peter Brill Reports from Rand on Latest Status on Starliner ZS-DVJ – March 18, 2018

Peter Brill recently visited Rand Airport and reports on the latest status of the restoration of Starliner ZS-DVJ......."Here are the latest photos of the SAA Starliner ZS-DVJ reassembly at Rand, South Africa. I met the project manager Matt Harvey as guest of the SAA Museum who went out of his way to show me around. The main issue in the moment is to line up the wings which had to be split for transport. On the Starliner there are no inner or outer wing panels like on the earlier Connie models. So there was no other option than to unbolt the two wing halves. Once these are joined up again the fuselage will follow and the aim is to have the Starliner on its feet as soon as possible as it is occupying valuable space at Rand in the moment. Thanks Matt for your hospitality."......Many thanks to Peter for sharing his report and photos.

Lufthansa Shuts Down Super Star Project – March 15, 2018

I was informed this morning by a number of sources that the Lufthansa Board of Directors has decided to pull the plug on the Super Star (L1649A) project in Auburn, Maine. The restoration was begun in 2008 and, after spending a reported $200M on the project, the board has made the misguided decision to end the project, which was nearing completion. I’ve made a number of visits to Auburn over the past ten years and the aircraft (N7316C) was being restored to the highest standards and would have provided Lufthansa with a great tool for promoting the airline. It’s a bit perplexing to me to why, after spending so much money on the project, the board would shut it down when it was so close to completion. It’s obvious that the board is more worried about the airline’s bottom line than preserving its legacy. Perhaps if we create a large enough “shitstorm” about the decision, the board might be convinced to reverse it.

Super Connie Restoration Underway at Qantas Founders Museum – February 19, 2018

Since arriving at the museum on May 24, 2017, volunteers and staff have wasted no time in moving forward with the restoration of C-121J N4247K. The aircraft had been parked in the weeds at Manila International Airport since 1988 and was in desperate need of attention when the museum acquired it at auction in September 2014. On February 13th a makeshift paint booth was lowered over the fuselage and by the 19th it had been sandblasted and painted. It’s great news that this long neglected aircraft is finally receiving the TLC it deserves and I will provide future project updates as I receive them.
For additional information and photos, check out the museum’s website and Facebook page. The museum's facebook page also includes a short video of the aircraft being lowered into position for painting. Many thanks to Nicole Kuttner at the museum for providing recent photos.

Turkish Navy Discovers Air France Constellation – February 17, 2018

The Turkish Navy recently located Air France L749A Constellation F-BAZS 1½ miles off the coast of Turkey in 842 feet of water. The aircraft made a successful emergency night landing in the Mediterranean on August 3, 1953 after the #3 engine separated from the aircraft while on a flight from Paris to Tehran. With 34 passengers and a crew of 8, the airplane stayed afloat for an hour allowing the rescue of all but 4 elderly passengers, who drowned. The aircraft was delivered to Air France in 1950 and is remarkable intact after being submerged for almost 65 years.
For additional information about the accident, check out the ASN and Wikipedia accident reports.

LSSG Publishes Super Star Chronicle – Issue #1 – February 16, 2018

In mid-December 2017 Lufthansa Super Star gGmbH (LSSG) published Super Star Chronicle Issue #1, which provides a very nice overview of progress on the restoration of L1649A N7316C. Included are an overview of 2017 accomplishments; challenges faced by the team in overhauling the myriad of components needed to complete the restoration; the incorporation of modern escape slides; and the role of reverse engineering in the project.

Former TWA Starliner to be Centerpiece of JFK Airport Hotel – January 28, 2018

On March 13, 2017 I reported that L1649A N8083H was the most likely candidate to become the centerpiece of a 500 room hotel being constructed adjacent to the old TWA terminal at JFK Airport. I recently confirmed that the aircraft will indeed be used for the project and ownership is scheduled to be transferred on March 1, 2018. The aircraft will be set up as a high end cocktail lounge seating about 40 guests with the interior fitted out to replicate a 1950’s era airliner. No fuselage cuts will be required as the aircraft passenger doors will be used to access the cocktail lounge. The cockpit has been stripped of many parts and components but, since N7316C will have a glass cockpit, most of the parts to restore the cockpit should be available. The current plan is to have the fully restored cockpit on display for cocktail lounge customers.
Work will begin once aircraft ownership has been transferred and will be performed on the ramp adjacent to the Lufthansa hangar at Auburn-Lewiston Airport, where N7316C is nearing the end of its epic restoration. The aircraft will be made externally complete with sheet metal repaired as necessary, the rudders metalized and all other components such engine cowlings, propellers, gear doors, radome, etc. installed. Since engines will probably not be installed, 4,000 lbs of ballast will have to be placed in the forward fuselage or a tail stand incorporated. Finally, the exterior will be given a good cleaning and then painted in 1950’s era TWA colors before being disassembled by Worldwide Aircraft Recovery for the planned November 2018 350 mile road trip to JFK Airport. On its way to JFK Airport, the aircraft will travel through four boroughs of New York City, including a swing through Times Square in Manhattan!

It sounds like a very exciting project and I wish the restoration crew luck in this very ambitious endeavor. I will be posting updates as the project progresses.

See Constellation News Archive - 2017 For Additional News

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----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 3 July 2018----