Constellation News Archive - 2010
“Winky’s Fish” Super Connie Faces an Uncertain Future in Manila – December 27, 2010
Well known aviation photographer Paul Filmer recently sent me some photos of C-121J N4247K. Paul photographed the long-time resident of Manila International Airport in February 2010 and then again in December 2010. This former U.S. Navy R7V-1 has been grounded in Manila since being impounded by airport authorities in early 1988. Paul reports that the aircraft is in reasonable condition considering it has not flown in 22 years. During the past few years a number of organizations have been interested in acquiring and restoring the aircraft but nothing has come of their efforts and the aircraft continues to deteriorate and sink further into the ground. For a history of the aircraft, check out this link. Many thanks to Paul for sending the photos.
October 2010 NARF Work Party at Robbins AFB – December 5, 2010
Dr. Gerald Durbin and volunteers from the Naval Aircraft Restoration Foundation (NARF) were busy again in October 2010 at the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB, Georgia sprucing up EC-121K BuN 141297. NARF is a non-profit 503(c)(3) corporation dedicated to the restoration and preservation of historic US Navy aircraft. Formed in 2007, the group sets up camp at the museum every May and October to work on the museum’s EC-121K and P2V-7 Neptune BuN 147954, which is on display as a USAF RB-69A.
BuN 141297 spent most of her US Navy career flying out of Pax River for the Naval Research Lab (NRL) and, as a result, most of her standard electronic gear had been replaced with specialized equipment. The group’s intent is to restore the interior of the aircraft to its original “Willy Victor” configuration and they have been building authentic replicas of the radar and electronic consoles for installation. Dr. Durbin visited the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida numerous times and has spent many hours meticulously documenting the location and dimensions of components, switches and gages on the consoles of EC-121K BuNo 143221. These sketches fill three notebooks! Fabrication of the console frames and sheet metal is almost complete and many of the knobs, switches and other components have been replicated. A number of electronic components, common to both EC-121 and P2V aircraft, were salvaged from former Hawkins and Powers P2V-7’s being scrapped at Greybull, Wyoming and will be used on the faux consoles.
During the October 2010 encampment, the NARF volunteers worked on the flight deck lights, installed aft bunks, removed face plates and other needed parts from salvaged black boxes and cleaned and oiled the R3350 engines. Six workers from the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center C-17 line repaired the left flap, removed and patched the right air scoop, removed the antenna mounts from the tip tanks and cleaned and painted the left wing leading edge; their help was much appreciated by the NARF volunteers! For more information about NARF, check out their website.
Center Tail Fin From NC-121K BuN 141292 "Surfaces" - December 4, 2010
I received an email last week from Dr. Larry Duckert saying that he had acquired the center tail fin of NC-121K BuN 141292 and asked if it was possible to obtain some photos of the aircraft prior to its disassembly. I replied that I’d trade him a photo of it while it was in service with the US Navy for a photo of the tail fin and the story on how he had obtained it. Larry responded with a photo and the following story. “I am a surgeon at the University of Washington Medical Center. One of my hobbies is aviation history (Imperial German actually) but the margins sometimes are soft. I live on Whidbey Island, WA. near the Naval Base at Oak Harbor. Many of my friends are retired Navy and P-3s are common place in this neighborhood. I have always had a passion for "Connies" since they are esthetically beautiful. I happened across the tail fin for sale on Ebay, of all places, from a surplus outfit in Cleveland. I bought it to preserve this small part of history and had it shipped to Oak Harbor. I have also acquired a part of the fuselage with the BuNo. With this in hand I have been able to do some preliminary research with much encouragement from my Navy friends. Now I am off to the races. I am proud to say that Oak Harbor Navy not only has a PBY restoration project in progress but also a NC-121K. They may have all the pieces, but I can get mine in my garage.” BuN 141292 had the distinction of flying the last US military Constellation mission on June 11, 1982. It made its final flight two weeks later on June 25th when it was flown from NAS Key West to the Florence Air and Missile Museum in Florence, SC.
I checked my “Constellation Survivors” MS PowerPoint presentation, which included 29 photos of BuN 141297 taken from 1970 to 2005. Interesting enough I found a photo of Larry’s tail fin sitting in the field at Florence, SC in April 1999. In addition to Larry’s tail fin, the forward fuselage has been saved and is stored in North Carolina by another private collector, Brian Hicks. My hat's off to them both for saving these small pieces of Naval Aviation history!
Progress Continues on the Lufthansa Starliner Restoration Project – November 11, 2010
Progress continues on the Lufthansa Starliner project in Auburn, Maine. Michael Austermeier, Director of Operations, reports that work continues on the aircraft’s airframe with recent efforts concentrating on the cockpit and wing areas. The cockpit is a very complex structure with lots of hidden areas so the team has spent considerable effort in completely disassembling it and priming/painting all these areas before reassembly. The team is reassembling the cockpit and recently turned its efforts to the right wing where they are working on the first of a number of wing plank replacements that will be required. The team is moving slowly and methodically, documenting their efforts to create a template for the later plank installations. In order to cope with the complexity of the project, a server was recently installed and software uploaded for tracking repairs, parts, purchase orders and inventory. A planning/scheduling specialist and two material specialists were recently added to the team to manage the workload. Michael also reports that they recently received an FAA repair station certificate for the Auburn operation.
As reported on the Lufthansa Technik website, work also continues on the other side of the Atlantic on replacement frames for the passenger door conversion. Premium Aerotec of Nordenham, Germany is currently fabricating upwards of 30 fuselage frames and door frames for the project. Due to the shape of the Starliners fuselage, each frame is different and is being custom built by a team of hand-picked employees. The first 12 frames were completed in October 2010 with the remaining to follow early in 2011. Check out the Lufthansa Technik website for additional updates about this exciting project.
Camarillo EC-121T News – October 24, 2010
I recently emailed Frank Wright, Restoration Operations Manager at the Yanks Museum, inquiring about the status of EC-121T 53-548/N548GF, which is currently parked at Camarillo Airport. As reported on August 27, 2010 on this website, the Yanks Museum has been attempting to ferry this aircraft to its headquarters at Chino Airport for almost six years. Frank reports that, during the past year, his efforts have been focused on expanding the museum but that he hopes to get back on the EC-121T next spring.
Hopefully 2011 will be the year of the ferry flight to Chino but if you are in the Los Angeles area, the Yanks Museum should be a must stop on your itinerary. In addition to a collection of beautifully restored aircraft on display indoors in the East and West Hangars, they have a fascinating collection of larger aircraft parked on the East Tarmac area outside the restoration hangar. These include a Convair C-131F, C-46F, C-47A, HU-16B and former Hawkins and Powers PB4Y-2 N2872G. For additional information about the Yanks Museum, including directions, check out their website at www.yanksair.com.
Starliner Report From South Africa – October 15, 2010
Chris Horst sent me an email about his recent visit to the SAA Museum in Johannesburg, the home of L1649A ZS-DVJ. This aircraft is one of only four surviving Starliners and is the only aircraft that was never converted to a freighter. Chris was kind enough to send me the following report and photos.
"We went up to SAA Technical without an appointment and kindly requested to have a look at ZS-DVJ as we had been up to the SAA museum at Rand earlier that week. I only took a compact camera as photography is forbidden at SAA. But a signed permit by a SAA manager changed all that! A guide took us out to the hangar of SAA Technical and the Starliner. The hangar houses some nice Harvards and an early SAA 737. On the ramp stands ZS-DVJ. Walking around and underneath this machine time seems to have done very little to it. Sadly, it will never fly again, as it has a spar problem. Our guide pointed out that the sunny, dry and salt free air is ideal to preserve an aircraft. He even dared to say that ZS-DVJ is/was in better nick than the US bird they are restoring. I must say that, having also seen the other Starliners, I am temped tot believe this."
"The Exterior: The nose wheel is being restored by SAA Technical. The original front door is missing. This is in the US for the Lufthansa restoration project (as you will know!). The FAA does not accept replica parts and so the DVJ will lose its original door and will get a replica. This copy will be made in by the restoration project."
"The Interior: Not a single dial is missing! The cockpit is complete and in good nick. The museum fitted old 747 chairs in the main cabin an converted the rear part in to a conference room. The cabin was cool and dry despite it being warm outside."
"The plan is to move DVJ to Rand in the near future, but there seems to be no time table for the move."
It been quite a while since the last report on ZS-DVJ so the report and photos from Chris are much appreciated.
Musee de l'air 2010 Open House – September 26, 2010
The annual Journées du patrimoine 2010 open house at the Le musée de l'Air et de l'Espace at Le Bourget Airport was held on this year on September 18th and 19th. This annual event allows visitors access to workshops and storage areas not usually open to the general public and this year my friend Antti Hyvärinen paid a visit and sent me the following report and photos of L749A Constellation F-ZVMV.
"Here are some pics from Le Bourget, taken last Saturday. They had this once in a year storage area open doors and went there to check out the Connie. Unfortunately she was parked in a corner behind all the other planes and behind fence. Despite several attempts I could not get anywhere near her. So, the pics aren´t that good as I had to shoot behind all the junk. Hope this is any interest anyway! Also saw a Connie engine in a hangar corner with a cowling."
Super Constellation CF-TGE Moves to MOF Air Park – September 22, 2010
I recently received an email from Matthew Anderson containing some photos and a report about the recent move of the Museum of Flight's (MOF) Super Constellation from the soon to be demolished Boeing Plant II to the museum's Air Park at Boeing Field. Here’s Matthew’s report. “I thought you might be interested to know that at 4:00 in the morning on September 19th, 2010, CF-TGE made its final move to the Air Park across the street from the Museum of Flight. The B-17 also moved next to the Museum. I went to go see the Connie, and took pictures of it standing next to the Air Force One. The engines, props, and outer wings are not yet installed, but it is finally on display.”
Thanks to Matthew for providing the report and photos. My friend Bob Bogash, the MOF project manager on the Super Connie restoration effort, recently updated his website with a comprehensive report on the September 19th move and 56 year history of the aircraft. Check them both out for lots more information and photographs of this fascinating aircraft and project. Bob, a retired Boeing executive, makes a habit of pulling off almost impossible projects and has moved on to raising a Boeing 314 from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Good luck to Bob on this project and I look forward to seeing the B314 on display at the museum some time in the not too distant future.
Photos from The Science Museum in Wroughton – September 19, 2010
Doug Westwood visited the Science Museum in Wroughton, England on September 8th and sent me photos of L749A L7777G. This aircraft was delivered to KLM in September 1947 as PH-TET (later re-registered PH-LDT). Acquired by Wein Alaskan Airlines in April 1964, it was re-registered N7777G and served with Wein until September 1968. Owned by a number of leasing companies from 1968 to 1973, it was used by the Rolling Stones on tour in February 1973. Sold to Lanzair in November 1973, it was abandoned in Dublin Ireland in March 1974. The museum disassembled the aircraft and transported it to Wroughton in August 1983 and painted it in 1960's era TWA colors. Thanks Doug for the photos.
News and Photos from Greenwood Lake – September 17, 2010
It appears that the folks at Greenwood Lake Airport (4N1) are taking good care of Constellation N9412H. The aircraft is one of only four surviving early model L049 Constellations. N9412H was purchased by Frank Lembo and flown into the small Greenwood Lake Airport during the winter of 1976-77 for use as restaurant/lounge. The restaurant didn't work out and the aircraft has been utilized over the years by a number of different enterprises. The aircraft, along with the airport, was sold to the State of New Jersey in 2000. Dan Ruggiero attended a recent airshow at the airport and sent me the following report on September 12th.
I just wanted to pass along a few pictures if the Greenwood Lake Airport Constellation. I took them yesterday during the 2nd Annual Greenwood Lake Airshow in West Milford, NJ. The aircraft interior has been finished with a wood floor and plastered cabin walls and matches the interior of the airport building it is attached to. It looks like electrical, lighting, and HVAC have all been added. There are a few display cases and a pair of airline style seats towards the front of the cabin. The cockpit appeared to be complete and was roped off. It was a bit crowded due to the airshow and I could not get a clear picture of the cockpit and forward part of the cabin. The airframe looked to be in decent condition and I did not see any noticeable problem areas. Thanks for all your hard work keeping track of the remaining Connies.
Thanks Dan for the report.
Engines from L749A F-BAZJ "Discovered” in France – September 16, 2010
You never know where parts and pieces of a long scrapped aircraft are going to show up and a recent email from Duncan Curtis proved this point. Duncan recently emailed me photos of engines from Constellation F-BAZJ that are still being stored by Ailes Anciennes in Toulouse, France. This aircraft was delivered to Air France in June 1947 and served with the airline until being withdrawn from service in November 1960. It was converted for search and rescue duty after retirement from Air France and served with the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) until withdrawn from use in December 1969. The aircraft was flown to Toulouse Blagnac on January 7, 1970 for storage and scrapped by mid-1975. Peter Marson’s 2007 Constellation book reports that fuselage was in three sections after scrapping. It would be very interesting indeed if any of these were tucked away somewhere in France!
Corrosion Repairs Continue on Super Connie HB-RSC – August 28, 2010
Wing corrosion repairs continue on Super Constellation HB-RSC. The cost of repairs is estimated to be 400,000 CHF and currently about half the funds have been raised for the project. In addition to their own maintenance team, SFCA has enlisted the help of Lufthansa Technik and SR-Technics. The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) requested additional inspections for corrosion and, to the relief of all parties, none was found. Repairs are expected to be completed in December 2010, just in time for HB-RSC to participate in the 2011 airshow season. For additional information about this project, check out the SCFA website at www.superconstellation.org. Thanks to SCFA member Peter E. Burgauer for the report and photos.
Yanks EC-121T Still Grounded in Camarillo – August 27 2010
Del Mitchell visited Camarillo Airport on August 14th and got a close look at EC-121T N548GF/53-548, which has been parked at the airport since 2000. As reported previously on this website, the aircraft was acquired by the Yanks Museum of Chino, CA in December 2005 and they have twice prepared the aircraft for an anticipated ferry flight to Chino only to be thwarted by paperwork. A crew of five spent the better part of the summer of 2009 getting her ready for the flight but she still sits at Camarillo. Del reports that the aircraft needs a good washing and that some corrosion is visible on the fuselage, wings and wheel well doors. Several emails to Yanks have gone unanswered but I'm still optimistic that the plan to move the aircraft to Chino is still progressing, albeit slowly. Del provided photos of the aircraft taken during his visit.
AHM Super Connie Engine Run – August 25, 2010
Jim Stella reports that the Airline History Museum had all four engines on Super Constellation N6937C running last Saturday, August 21st. This is great news indeed and hopefully this is the first step to getting her back flying again. What a sight it would be to have her flying in formation with HFF DC-7B N836D at AirVenture 2011!
"Connie Belle" - August 22, 2010
I recently received an email from Don Ricci, who calls himself the “Noseartguy”. While buying aircraft panels, he found a left horizontal stabilizer from a military C-121 and used it as a “canvas” to paint the “Connie Belle”. Here’s his email...I thought you might get a kick out of this. My name is Don Ricci. I am with the Pacific Coast Air Museum here in California and I have been working as a nose artist for about 10 years now. I have been lucky to have some of my work fly on several warbirds such as P-51’s, T-33s, T-28’s A-26s, and B-25. I also recreate nose art on spare exterior panels for clients to hang in their homes or offices, hangars, etc. Recently while purchasing a bunch of exterior panels to utilize as canvases for my nose art, I came across a part of a horizontal stabilizer. I found it amongst some old T-33 parts and had to have it. After some cleaning and research I found it to be the left horizontal stabilizer part from an Air Force C-121! What a find! I was ecstatic and new exactly the type of nose art I wanted to put on the piece…..1940’s style pin up and her name will be “Connie Belle”. She is turning out great. The aluminum polished up great! Feels good to know a part of such a majestic bird became one of my favorite pieces. She will début at the Wings Over the Wine Country Airshow on August 21/22. I can’t wait to see how she is received! We even got the formation light working. She is going to look great hanging on a wall with the light blazing away. Just wish the nose art was on a full C-121!
Thanks to Don for sharing the the "belle" with us. She sure is a gorgeous blond! For more information about Don and his art, check out his website at www.noseartguy.net.
Fantasy of Flight Museum Moves Starliner N974R – August 21, 2010
Al Sardari and Tammo Hopman both recently reported that Starliner N974R has been moved from the display area of the Fantasy of Flight facility in Polk City and parked next to the DC-3 “signpost” along Interstate 4. The really bad news for Constellation fans is that the aircraft is no longer accessible to visitors and Al reports that a 250mm lens will be required to get a decent photo of her. Tammo reports that it appears a few windows along the fuselage and the right cockpit window are missing and the aircraft is looking pretty unkempt with other missing components. Hopefully the move is temporary and this beautiful vintage airliner will be restored soon and moved back to the display area. Thanks to Al and Tammo for their reports
New Constellation Book Set for Publication on September 2nd - August 8, 2010
A new book on the Constellation is set for publication by Editions Privat on September 2, 2010. The 143 page book is titled “The Legendary Constellation” and was written by aviation author André Rouayroux. It will be available in French, German and English language editions. The first half of the book describes Constellation operations back in the aircraft’s glory days of the 1950’s when it flew for many of the world’s leading airlines. The second half of the book describes Francisco Agullo’s quest to bring an airworthy Constellation back to the European continent. The book is profusely illustrated with some familiar photos but also with many that were new to me. This is definitely not a book full of technical facts but a book that tells a nostalgic tale of the airliner’s glory days and a very detailed rendition on how Breitling Super Connie HB-RSC found a home in Switzerland. The language can be a little awkward at times since it was obviously translated from French by a non-native English speaking translator but I found the book to be a very nice read. For additional information about the book and where to purchase it, email Isabelle de la Raitrie.
Helena EC-121T Update – August 7, 2010
Former Willy Victor crewman, Doug Freeman, recently visited EC-121T 52-3417, which is currently undergoing restoration at the Helena Regional Airport in Montana. This aircraft is owned by the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, OR and crews have been working on getting her ready for a ferry flight to McMinnville. Doug’s report is as follows.
To summarize the status; there is no chance to get it flying this year. Therefore they have removed the rudders, elevators and a whole lot of fuel pumps, hydraulic pumps, and other such items, including some of the avionics for rework over the winter. Some items will be done locally and some in Oregon. They turned over (not trying to start) all four engines using the starters. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 seem to be OK while number 4 apparently has at least one broken rod. The plan is to borrow a good engine to get it to Oregon, then put the bad one back on for static display.
The interior is in pretty rough shape, I assume the plan is to redo that for static display after the ferry flight. As you can see from the photos, the cowlings are off the engines and according to Karl they will be left off over the winter with the engines will be just fine. It will certainly make the engines less inviting to birds. I did notice some minor internal differences between our Navy Connies, and this USAF one, and a different search radar. We had APS-20, they had APS-95. Perhaps there was a different design based on mission. We flew the offshore tracks, they had the inshore areas. All of the consoles are there. Unlike BuNo 141311, all the windows have been closed so no birds got inside. As a point of reference, BuNo 143221 at Pensacola looked to me like it was a little tired inside but all the gear was there.
Many thanks to Doug for passing on this update and for sharing his photos. For additional information about this project, check out the June 22, 2010 news article on this website.
SCFA Super Connie Simulator For Sale – July 29, 2010
Antti Hyvärinen reports that the SCFA simulator is being offered for sale on the SimAviatik website for €120,000. This simulator was painstakingly crafted by SCFA member Christian Müller from the cockpit remains of C-121C HI-548CT. If you have deep pockets, this could be the ultimate toy for you! For additional information about the simulator, check out the January 18, 2010 news article on this website.
Gone West - Former MATS Connie Captain Frank Lang - July 12, 2010
I received an email from Shawn Dorsch yesterday with the sad news that Frank Lang had passed away on Saturday July 10th. Most aviation enthusiasts will forever associate Frank with the MATS Connie, which he commmanded for 10+ glorius years. I first met Frank in March 1997 when I participated in the MATS Connie Flying School at Avra Valley Airport near Tucson. To say the least, Frank was a colorful character and I will never forget my one hour at the controls of the MATS Connie with him in the opposite seat. I was a regular visit to Avra Valley over the next eight years and enjoyed a number of flights on the MATS and Dutch Connie, which was undergoing restoration at Avra Valley. The following is a tribute written by Frank's good friend Shawn Dorsch.
Frank was the Chief Pilot of the MATS Connie. Before becoming the Chief Pilot for the MATS Connie and leading the resurrection of numerous Lockheed Constellations to flying status, Frank was a pilot of many Hollywood stars and other famous people. Frank had over 10,000 hours in Lockheed Constellations and over 40,000 hours in total. No one has done more to restore as many Lockheed constellations to flying status as Frank Lang. Frank led Vern Raburn's efforts to restore and fly the MATS Connie after Vern purchased the aircraft from John Travolta. Frank led the effort to get the aircraft certified in the Transport category, and he put together and managed all the flight crews and was the pilot on virtually all the flights for over 10 years.
Not only did Frank get the MATS Connie flying again, but he was also instrumental in getting most, if not all, of the other airworthy Connies back into the air including...
1) Helping prepare the Australian Connie for its ferry flight across the Pacific from the United States.
2) Ferrying the Dutch Aviodrome Connie across the Atlantic.
3) Helping ferry the Breitling Connie across the Atlantic.
4) Helping with virtually every other Connie project except the Save-A-Connie TWA project in Kansas City.
One of the more interesting things about the MATS Connie, was that it was constantly on tour around the world, and Frank was only home with the airplane in AZ for about 6 weeks each year. Frank and the MATS Connie were frequent visitors to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, often coming a few times each year and leaving the airplane on display between air shows in the region. In 1998, Frank flew the MATS Connie to Europe, where it participated in many of that summer's airshows. In 2005 he ferried the aircraft to South Korea for retirement and display at the Koreanair museum at Jeju Island. He and the crew departed Avra Valley on April 1, 2005 and flew the northern route via Alaska at 10,000 ft with no de-icing boots. Their route included stops at Oakland, CA; Anchorage, AK; Cold Bay, AK; Hakodate, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Bussan, South Korea; and finally Jeju Island, South Korea.
I had the pleasure of flying the MATS Connie with Frank for several years when he was in the southeast, and had the greatest adventure of my life when I was invited to be part of the team to ferry it on its final flight across the Pacific to Korea. Frank was sometimes very hard on people, but I always thought he was fair. He was very well known for being exact about time, and leaving people if you were not at the plane ready to depart at the specific time.
I learned an unbelievable amount about flying and life in general from Frank Lang, probably most importantly about how to keep your cool when you are flying and things go wrong. On the flight to Korea none of the following seemed to cause even a ripple of concern for Frank.
1) The heater broke shortly after departure from Oakland CA and we flew the entire way with no heater, cockpit temperatures reached minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit and we just bundled up, bought 300 little hand warmers in Anchorage and kept going.
2) Could not retard the power on the #3 engine while on final approach to Anchorage (we got ramp checked, first time ever in my life, by 4 guys from the FAA).
3) Had two GPS units fail at same time while shooting an instrument approach going into Cold Bay, AK.
4) Could not extend the front landing gear when landing at Cold Bay in IFR conditions. We eventually got down, with Frank doing a soft field landing at Cold Bay and stopping on the runway. We found the nose gear was down but NOT LOCKED!
5) We could not start the #2 engine at Cold Bay for two days. In the end, Frank performed a high-speed taxi, got the engine windmilling and then started the engine just like you would start a car by rolling it down hill and putting it in gear. We were all amazed!
6) Had made three missed IFR approaches into Seoul Inchon before being able to land.
Frank probably inspired me more than anyone else to preserve aviation, no more so that when I saw the look on his face as we came in to make the final ever landing in the MATS Connie, and then when I reached up to shut the engines down, one by one, knowing that those R-3350s would never ever run again, right after they had just flown me safely across the Sea of Japan in 2005!.
BURRO QB FRANK LANG
Left - The mighty MATS Connie fires up her #2 engine at Avra Valley Airport.
Center - Frank and KLM pilot Henk de Waard relax for a few moments after another successful test flight of the Dutch Connie in May 2002.
Right - Frank opening up Super Connie N105CF to give me a quick look inside.
Both - Frank being interviewed in Holland after completion of the ferry flight from the US on September 28, 2002.
Left - Frank getting ready to fly Maurice Roundy's L1649A N974R from Sanford, FL to Kermit Weeks Fantasy of Flight in October 2001.
Center - Climbing up into the MATS Connie for the last time at Avra Valley on April 1, 2005.
Right - Taking a well deserved snooze in a very cold airplane on the ferry flight to South Korea.
Left - The ferry crew at Cold Bay, Alaska with Frank in the center and the MATS Connie in the background.
Center - Frank and Shawn Dorsch in the cockpit of the MATS Connie just after shutting down the engines in Jeju Island for the final time.
Right - Frank salutes the MATS Connie for a final time after arriving at Jeju Island.
Below is an email from Frank's nephew Greg, who was a B747 pilot for Northwest.
From: Greg Arnold
Sent: Saturday, July 10, 2010 10:30 AM
Subject: Frank Lang
Frank Lang passed away early this morning in a hospital in Houston where he has been staying with his son. He went into the hospital just over a week ago with a bladder and kidney infection that led to a blood infection (as far as I know). They performed a minor operation to put in a stint of some kind on the kidney .....about the 3rd of July, and they found cancerous tumors of the bladder and kidney. That is about all the detail that I know.
The family will tentatively get together for a memorial sometime in a couple of weeks in Roseville Illinois. No plans at all yet.
Gregory Lang Arnold
First MATS C-121C 54-153 and Turboprop Powered YC-121F 53-8158 - July 6, 2010
One of the things I enjoy about hosting this website is receiving emails from former Constellation aircrew members. I received an email today from Ken Miller, who was a navigator at Charleston AFB in the mid-1950’s. He crewed C-121C’s from their arrival at Charleston in September 1955 to November 1957, when he departed Charleston. He sent me a photo of the first C-121C delivered to the USAF, 54-153 “City of Charleston”, taken in September 1955 shortly after it arrived at Charleston. Ken flew roundtrip from Charleston to Germany on YC-121F 53-8158 and sent some photos taken while refueling at Lajes, Azores in February 1957. This aircraft was one of four turboprop powered Super Connies built for the USAF and USN and more information about these interesting aircraft can be found on the Q&A page (March 23, 2009) of this website. Many thanks to Ken for sharing his photos.
Helena EC-121T Being Made Ready for Ferry Flight – June 22, 2010
As reported in multiple 2009 Constellation News articles on this website, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum acquired EC-121T 52-3417 in May 2009 and plans on restoring her for a flight to the museum’s facility in McMinnville, Oregon. This aircraft served as a training airframe for 28 years at the University of Montana - Helena and J.R. Kern and Tim Coons, of MATS Connie fame, examined the veteran aircraft in July and deemed her worthy of restoration. Work began on cleaning up the aircraft last September before winter set in and Tim and Terry Naig returned to Helena in late May for two weeks to perform a more extensive inspection and start bringing her systems back to life.
Evergreen curator Stewart Bailey reports “Terry Naig and Tim Coons went up to Helena for a two week period from May 24 to June 4 to do a little bit more of an inspection and see what systems they could bring back to life. Overall, they found the aircraft to be in excellent shape, and were able to get some of the systems to work. They were able to test the fuel system and found the fuel tanks to be in good shape. There were some leaks as was expected, but nothing serious; especially since the plan is to replace all of the fuel lines anyway. Additionally they tested the electrical system and got all the instruments working and tested the hydraulics using the auxiliary pump to get the controls and flaps to work. They also pre-oiled all the engines and performed a basic inspection. It was found that one engine had a bad piston and another engine was locked up. As Terry told me, the objective of the two weeks work was to know what the issues are that we are facing and to start checking into the symptoms so that we can create a comprehensive maintenance plan.”
“Still ahead is plenty of work to fix “bird-related” problems such as cleaning out the elevators, rudders, etc. and getting them re-surfaced. They also need to overhaul the carburetors and do further work on getting the engines ready to run. Terry says we may need to borrow or lease a couple engines to make the ferry flight to McMinnville, but they need to dig deeper into the issues with the two bad engines to determine what can be fixed and what has to be replaced.
So, first report from this summer’s work is good. They’re very confident that the aircraft can be made ready for a ferry flight, and will be going back up to Helena later this summer to continue with the next phase of the work.”
Thanks much to Stewart for the report and Karl Kruger for the photos and I’m looking forward to progress reports from Stewart and Karl on this exciting project.
Gordon Cole Successfully Runs #2 Engine on N1206 - June 5, 2010
Gordon Cole was back in Salina, Kansas this past week working on Constellation N1206. With help from his son Robert, and good friends Larry Bruzda, Billy Garrison and Mike Rausch, he finished up the #2 engine cylinder replacement and successfully ran the engine on May 31st and June 3rd. Gordon reports that, on June 3rd, he ran the engine for over an hour and everything worked as advertised. The generator came on line, temps and pressures were all within limits and a magneto check was successfully performed. They had removed the offending cylinder and installed a new cylinder back in March but a snow storm prevented them from completing the job and running the engines. Gordon was very pleased with the engine run and I’m impressed that the engine ran so well after being idle for so many years. Gordon will now focus his attention on completing the buildup and installation of the #1 engine.
Good News From Kansas City – May 31, 2010
I received an email today from Jim Stella reporting that the Airline History Museum successfully ran the #2 engine on Super Constellation N6937C on Friday May 28th. Jim is one of the mechanics that has been working on the Super Connie and the successful engine run is an important milestone in getting her back in the air. N6937C has been grounded since the #2 engine experienced a catastrophic failure during an engine run on July 20, 2005. A second engine run is scheduled for June 6th. Jim also reported that the museum is finishing up the restoration of DC-3 NC1945 and hope to have her flying some time in the not too distant future. Thanks much to Jim for passing along this very good news, which has been documented on the AHM website and in an online YouTube video.
SCFA Super Constellation N105CF Sold to HARS - May 11, 2010
Roger Jarman visited Marana Regional Airport (AVQ) in early May and photographed Super Constellation N105CF with Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) markings on its nose landing gear doors. The Super Constellation Flyers Association (SFCA) purchased the aircraft in September 2000 and ferried it from Santo Domingo, DR to AVQ, where it arrived on January 7, 2001. SCFA planned on restoring the aircraft and quite a bit of progress had been made by a contingent of Swiss volunteers and MATS Connie mechanics when the effort was abandoned in August 2002. N105CF was replaced by N73544 (now HB-RSC) when SCFA entered into a lease-purchase agreement with owner Bennie Younesi. HB-RSC departed Camarillo, CA on April 26, 2004 and arrived safely in Basel-Mulhouse Airport on May 8, 2004. It was purchased outright by SCFA in April 2007 and has been active on the European airshow circuit until grounded by wing corrosion in early 2010. It now appears that N105CF has been purchased by HARS and joins EC-121H N51006, which is currently stored at the Pima Air and Space Museum. Many thanks to Roger for passing along the photos.
Santo Domingo L749A HI-393 Survives – May 5, 2010
I recently came across Andrew Dilworth’s aerial photos of Santo Domingo Airport (SDQ), which confirmed that HI-393 still survives at the airport. HI-393 enjoys the company of a number of retired Dominicana and other airliners at the airport's boneyard. While not parked on the tarmac as she was a few years ago, the photo shows the aircraft to be intact so hopefully there are no immediate plans to scrap her.
Andrew is the chief pilot of Palo Alto based Skyhoppers Aerial Adventures, which offers flight training excursions on the island of Santo Domingo. Packages start at $2,998 for a three day excursion, which includes up to 10 hours of stick time in the company’s tailwheel Cessna 180. Skyhoppers doesn't offer on-demand or sightseeing flights and all participants must hold at least a student pilot certificate. Additional information can be found on their website at www.flyskyhoppers.com
Remains of Historic NC-121K Survive in North Carolina – April 25, 2010
I received an email from Jack Kurowski reporting that he had seen the forward section and wings of a C-121 parked in the weeds near his home in Dallas, North Carolina. He reported the Connie was just off the Stanley-High Shoels Road in Alexas, North Carolina and that it appeared to be in MATS colors. I showed Jack a photo of former US Navy NC-121K BuN 141292 and he confirmed this was the aircraft he had seen.
BuN 141292 was the last Constellation in service with the US military when it was retired in June 1982. After flying her last mission with VAQ-33 on June 11, 1982 she was stripped of all sensitive equipment and flown from Key West to the Florence Air and Missile Museum in Florence, South Carolina on June 25, 1982 for display. The aircraft never went on display and was damaged by a grass fire before being abandoned when the museum closed in 1997. The engines, landing gear and rear cargo door were used for the restoration of L1049E N1005C at Dover AFB. Other parts were salvaged by the Constellation Historical Society for their C-121C N73544. Brian Hicks acquired the forward fuselage section of the aircraft and trucked it to his parent’s property near Stanley, North Carolina. Thanks to Jack Kurowski's report, we now know that the aircraft remains a “survivor.”
Constellation Cockpit/Cabin Crew Invited to "Legends of Flight" 3D IMAX Film Premiere – April 17, 2010
The producers of the new "Legends of Flight" 3D IMAX film are inviting all Constellation cockpit and cabin crew members to a press conference at Reagan National Airport's (DCA) historic Terminal A on June 8, 2010 at 10:00am. Brunch will be served followed by an exclusive premiere of the film at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. For additional details contact Ryan Lilyengren by email or at 714-557-3663 extension 204. Click on the flyer to the left for larger view.
NARF Announces May 2010 Work Encampment at Robins AFB – April 12, 2010
I received an email from Gerald Durbin yesterday announcing this year’s May work encampment at the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB. Gerald heads a group of volunteers that meet twice a year at the museum to work on EC-121K BuN 141297 and P2V-7 BuN 147954. If you’re interested in getting your hands dirty working on two truely classic aircraft, send Gerald an email so he can give you the details. Here’s Gerald's email. ”Once again NARF is sponsoring a May work party during the first three weeks on May. We would like to see some new faces in addition to the regulars that show up each year to work on the planes. This year we have to remove two flap segments and re skin them, Finish repairing the upper radome, clean and oil engines, drill and install console knobs. Make a number of face plates for the missing black boxes and install the aft bunks, etc. Lots to do and need some good helping hands. If you can attend, if only for a short period of time, please email me so I can sorta plan out the work. The two planes are slowly coming along and in a couple years should look like they came out of the factory. Have been working on a web site for NARF and should have it up and running in a couple weeks. Please visit Navyarf.com (best I could come up with).”
I spent a few days with the group a few years ago and highly recommend it if you like working on old airplanes. These guys are doing great things to preserve two great aircraft and need your support. If you like old airplanes you are guaranteed to have a great time!
Lufthansa Super Constellation Model - April 4, 2010
I'm not a model collector, nor do I feature advertisements on this website very often but I'm going to make an exception for a very nice 1/72 scale (20.5 inch wingspan/19 inch lenght) Super Constellation model that recently caught my fancy. The model is metal and the workmanship and detail are excellent. It's shipped assembled and an be configured with or without landing gear. The cost of the model is $299.00 including Fed Ex ground shipping in the U.S. and it can be ordered from Kase Dekker. I've included some photos to allow you to judge for yourself.
Nantes Super Connie Update - April 4, 2010
I recently received an email from Pierre “Pappy” Biron updating me on the status of Super Constellation F-BGNJ. When I last reported on her back in October 2009, she had just been moved across the airport at Nantes and out of the military area where volunteers had been denied access for over a year. While access to the aircraft is still limited with police searches at the entry point, Amicale du Super Constellation volunteers have been able to get back to work on the veteran airliner. They are currently working on restoring the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and passenger seats. The group wants to recreate Air France’s ”Parisien Special” salon (also known as the “Golden Parisian” salon) and are searching for drawings, sketches, photos or any other information to assist them. If you have any material that could help them out, please email Pierre.
All this is going to take money and the association has launched an appeal for donations to fund this restoration effort. If you would like to contribute to this worthy cause, there is a PayPal link on the organization’s website http://superconstellation-nantes.fr which will allow you to make an online donation. Good luck to Pierre and the good folks at the Amicale du Super Constellation in their effort to save and restore this aircraft.
TWA Active Retired Pilots Association (TARPA) - April 3, 2010
I recently received an email from retired TWA pilot Jeff Hill, who began his airline career with TWA in February 1964 flying L749A Connies. Jeff is a member of the TWA Active Retired Pilot's Association (TARPA) and edits the organization's magazine TARPA TOPICS. The TARPA website contains an archive of prior magazines, which contain lots of material on the Constellation. The archives can be accessed clicking the Topics Archives button on the left side of the home page. Jeff also "guaranteed" that anything in the archives written by Ed Betts and Bob Buck would be well worth the time to any Constellation enthusiast. Many thanks to Jeff for pointing out this interesting website.
Engines and Props from L749A N6022C Surface in Uruguay – March 24, 2010
On March 3, 2010 I received an email from Wilman Fuentes, who is a volunteer with the Uruguayan group Aeronautical Museum Association Friends. He informed me that the organization had four R3350 engines and four sets of props from L749A N6022C and that they were looking to make a trade. N6022C served with TWA, Pacific Northern Airlines and Western Airlines before being retired from airline service in December 1968. While on a smuggling flight in August 1969, the aircraft landed in a field near Jose Pedro Vasela, Uruguay and the nose wheel got stuck in mud. Unable to depart, the flight crew was arrested and the aircraft abandoned. It slowly deteriorated and was finally scrapped some time in the late 1970’s with the props and engines obviously surviving. Not really a survivor but definitely an interesting “find.” Photo of N6022C was taken at Heathrow on May 12, 1954 while she was in service with TWA.
#2 Engine on L749A N1206 Gets New Cylinder - March 23, 2010
Gordon Cole was back at work on his Constellation in Salina, Kansas the week of March 15th. With help from his son Robert and friends Larry Bruzda and Scott Harmon they removed a bad cylinder from the #2 engine and just about had it ready for a test run when the bad weather finally won out on Friday. They had been battling cold temps and a wicked wind all week and Gordon plans to return in a few weeks to install the exhaust manifold and do final checks before running the engine.
Once the #2 engine has been successfully run, Gordon will concentrate on completing the buildup of the replacement #1 engine and get it installed on N1206. He hopes to have this completed and all engines running by early summer. While the airport development project that threatened his parking spot at Salina has been delayed due to the recession, Gordon still wants to move the aircraft and a number of museums have offered a home to his unique aircraft.
SCFA Member Christian Müller Completes Cockpit Simulator – January 18, 2010
I was cruising the web the other night and came upon a newspiece on the Super Constellation Flyers Association’s (SCFA) website announcing that Christian Müller had completed restoration of the cockpit from Super Connie HI-548CT. As reported by this website on July 21, 2008, HI-548CT was severely damaged in September 1998 when it was struck by C-46 HI-503CT during Hurricane George. HI-548CT was scrapped in 1999 when the cockpit section salvaged by Francisco Agullo and shipped to Switzerland.
Christian Müller began restoration of the cockpit in early 2006 as a flight simulator and recently completed the project. All instruments are functional and interface with Microsoft Flight Simulator software. Images are projected outside the cockpit allowing users to select any destination currently available on the simulator program. The simulator has been featured at a number of events and is currently available to SCFA members thus allowing them to test their Constellation flying skills. Christian forwarded some photos of the simulator, which clearly illustrate the realism of the projected images.
December 1961 Mercy Mission by TAP Super Connie CS-TLA – January 17, 2010
I received an interesting email from Bernardo Campos Pereira a few weeks ago with an interesting factoid about a very unusual mission flown by one of TAP’s Super Constellations. On December 12, 1961 the Indian Army began “Operation Vijay” which resulted in the annexation of the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Damman and Diu into the Indian union. In light of an imminent invasion by Indian troops, on December 17th the Portuguese government chartered TAP Super Constellation CS-TLA “Vasco da Gama” to undertake a flight to Goa to evacuate Portuguese civilians. Portuguese military DC-6’s were unable to undertake the mission because they weren’t allowed to refuel and didn’t have the range to make the 5,300 mile flight from Lisbon to Goa non-stop.
The aircraft departed Lisbon on December 17, 1961 and arrived in Goa 22 hours later after refueling stops at Beirut and Karachi. Onboard were four female paratroopers to aid in the evacuation. The airfield at Goa was bombed on December 18th, destroying buildings, the control tower and heavily damaging the runway. Miraculously, CS-TLA and a Goan DC-4 escaped unscathed. With the Indian Army closing in on Goa, which was defended by 3,000 Portuguese soldiers, rudimentary repairs were made to the airport’s runway. Both the Super Connie and DC-4 escaped Goa with civilian evacuees under the cover of darkness on December 18th using 2,100 feet of runway that had been hastily repaired. The Super Connie arrived in Karachi with a flat tire and 25 holes in the fuselage from runway debris. After spending five days in Karachi being repaired and awaiting further orders, CS-TLA returned to Lisbon. Goa fell to the Indian Army the afternoon of December 19th and Super Constellation CS-TLA went on to serve TAP for another six years before being sold in 1967. The crew were all TAP civilian employees and included.
Captain: Manuel Correia Reis
Co-pilots: Anselmo Ribeiro, Alcídio Nascimento
Navigator: P. Reis
Mechanics: A. Coragem, H. Dias
Radiotelegraph operator: A. Pereira
Stewardesses: Prazeres Carlota
Bernardo also provided logbook entries from the CS-TLA flights to and from Goa during December 1961. These logs were provided to him courtesy of the TAP Museum in Lisbon, Portugal. (Diário de Navegação nº 13, CS-TLA – Nº Inv. 179/DNAV, Sector de Documentação e Arquivo do Museu da TAP. Lisbon)
After retirement from TAP, CS-TLA participated in the Biafran airlift with the false registration 5N-83H before being flown to Faro, Portugal and abandoned in late 1969. By 1981 the old airliner had been converted to a restaurant but by 1989 it had been dismantled and stored at the airport where it was burned by vandals in 1999. The remains were transported to a local scrapyard marking the end of an aircraft with a very exciting history.
Thanks very much to Bernardo for providing this very interesting story about this long forgotten flight of Super Connie CS-TLA.
Wing Corrosion Grounds SCFA Super Connie for 2010 Season – January 13, 2010
I received an email tonight regarding the distressing news about the grounding of SCFA Super Connie HB-RSC for the 2010 season. Below is a message sent to SCFA supporters by SCFA President Urs Morgenthaler.
Heavy-heartedly the SCFA board has decided to keep our Super Connie on the ground for the year of 2010. The reason for this decision is the discovery of corrosion on the wing of the aircraft. The extent of the damage was not discovered until we conducted our annual inspection in December, which calls for a thorough check for corrosion. Thankfully our SCFA members will still have the opportunity to get airborne this year as our Douglas DC-3, HB-IRJ will be flying many scenic flights and appear at airshows this year. Among various destinations, it will also cover some of the flights that had been planned for our Connie.
The SCFA is set up as a member association; the exception however is that any support and work contributed is voluntary and nobody in our association is compensated for their efforts. As far as maintenance is concerned, our aircraft is treated like any other commercial aircraft of its category and is held to the highest standards. There are no compromises or exceptions; if something needs to be repaired, we will not shy away from any expenses necessary to maintain our aircraft.
This is a continuation of our strict safety standards that have been upheld for the past six years of operation.
Aft beam corroded
The annual major inspection, which was conducted at the hangar at Lahr Airport has revealed that the corrosion is extensive, particularly at the “Cap” of the aft beam of the wing. The corrosion has progressed further in the right wing than on the left side. Considering our aircraft is 55 years old, corrosion is nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary. This problem is usually discovered even in aircraft, which have only been in service for a few years and is a natural biproduct of aircraft age.
The SCFA maintenance team has consulted several experts to assess the extent of the damage and get advice on a plan of action to tackle the corrosion. The conclusion of the meeting was that it would be most practical and efficient to completely replace the cap of both aft beams. This requires the removal of aircraft wing parts. Unfortunately this will be a very time consuming process. Experts anticipate roughly 5000 man-hours of maintenance work to be necessary for this procedure.
Shortened flying season too costly
The required maintenance could be completed within six months. If the Connie was able to start into a new flying season in August 2010 we would start off the new season with a financial lag due to our normal operating costs as well as pilot training, insurance and maintenance costs. We would not have enough time in this flying season to secure our financial situation for the following year. It is for this reason the SCFA committee has decided to keep our Connie on the ground this year and resume flying operations in the spring of 2011.
Investment in the Connie's future
The cost of the entire corrosion treatment will be roughly half a Million Swiss Francs. Due to the extent of the damage, not all maintenance will be conducted by volunteers. This enormous amount exceeds the current possibilities of our association. As a result, we will be looking for new sponsors during 2010. All new sponsors will have the opportunity to invest in the bright future of our beautiful aircraft. After the corrosion treatment and with four overhauled engines our Connie will bring joyous moments in the air and excitement on the ground to many of her friends and fans in the years to come."
For the Executive Board of the Super Constellation Flyers Association
Urs Morgenthaler, President
I wish SCFA good luck in quickly resolving the problem and getting their aircraft back in the air for the 2011 season.
See Constellation News Archive - 2009 For Additional News
----Created 25 May 2011----