Constellation News

Constellation News

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

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----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 10 April 2014----