Constellation News Archive - 2021
Unidentified Super Constellation Forward Fuselage Found in New Jersey Boneyard – November 4, 2021 - Updated November 6, 2021
Dave Broome visited Wade’s Salvage in Atco, New Jersey on November 6, 2020 and photographed the amazing collection of aircraft parts and pieces stored at the facility. Dave posted 155 photos from the visit on Flickr and I recently received an email from Antti Hyvärinen pointing out a photo from Dave’s collection of a previously unidentified Super Constellation forward fuselage. I’m absolutely shocked that this “survivor” has escaped detection by the enthusiast community for 50+ years. If you have any information regarding the identity of this aircraft, I would greatly appreciate an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I plan on making a trip to Wade’s Salvage but, in the meantime, if anyone local can do some investigation at Wade’s, it would be much appreciated. Here’s a link to Dave’s amazing Flickr photo post. https://flickr.com/photos/tags4crew/albums/72157720050989535
UPDATE - I received a message from Gregory Edward Earl Smith suggesting that the most likely identity of the forward fuselage was former NASA R7V-1/C-121G N420NA c/n 4143. Gregory noted the history of this airframe from Peter J. Marson's Constellation book. "Per Peter Marson: R7V-1 to US Navy as 131642 (Oct 53)....Withdrawn from NASA use, transferred to Army in Jan 73. Used as target for testing explosive devices on aircraft structures. For sale by Department of Defense in Aug 78. Presumed scrapped - last reported in a New Jersey scrapyard." Considering the history of N420NA and the markings on the fuselage stored at Wade’s Salvage, I believe it is almost certainly C-121G c/n 4143 N420NA. Many thanks to Gregory for his help in solving this little mystery and to Dave Broome for unearthing another "survivor."
News Report on the Crash of 1961 TWA Flight 529 – September 5, 2021
A few days ago Chicago TV station WGN aired a report on the 60th anniversary of TWA Flight 529, which tragically crashed just minutes after departing Midway Airport on September 1, 1961. L049 N86511 was brought down by a bolt working its way loose in the elevator boost system, causing the airplane to pitch up violently and enter an accelerated stall. The report is very well done and is well worth a watch. It highlights how far airline safety has come since 1961, when there were six U.S. airline crashes killing 200+ people. For more information about the crash, check out the Aviation Safety Network Report.
R3350 Engine Test – September 4, 2021
Vintage Radials of Tehachapi, California was contracted to rebuild the R3350 engines for Lewis Air Legends VC-121A Bataan. Mike Nixon, owner of Vintage Radials, recently posted a video of the third engine being run on a test stand. He reported that the fourth engine should be completed by the end of September. It appears that the project is picking up steam and hopefully Bataan's first flight isn’t too far in the future.
Restoration of VC-121A Columbine II Continues – August 22, 2021
I visited Dynamic Aviation on July 16, 2021 and am happy to report that restoration of VC-121A Columbine II continues, albeit at a reduced pace. There are currently three veteran hands-on employees assigned to program full-time with others assigned as necessary. Recently the rear cargo door was re-skinned and the latching mechanism rebuilt by a team of specialists from the "revenue" side of the company. Currently two of the employees are assigned to completing the aircraft wiring, which is estimated to be 75% complete, with the third full-time employee assigned to the aircraft’s interior. The first R3350 engine should be completed at Anderson Aeromotive by late summer/early fall 2021. There has been quite a bit of progress since my last visit in June 2020 and I was assured that Dynamic Aviation CEO Michael Stoltzfus is totally committed to completing the restoration. I’ve written an article about my visit and the project, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Air Classics magazine and on this website.
Restoration of VC-121A Bataan Continues – August 8, 2021
Good news from Chino, California! Lewis Air Legends VC-121A Bataan was recently moved from an outside work area adjacent to the Planes of Fame facility to a hangar on the south side of Chino Airport. The aircraft had been on display at the Planes of Fame annex in Valle, Arizona until April 1995, when it was sold to Lewis Air Legends. Made airworthy, it was ferried from Valle to Chino on January 14, 2016 for an ambitious restoration, which includes plans to fly the aircraft on the airshow circuit.
With the move, it appears that the restoration has kicked into high gear. Relocating the airplane to a hangar will greatly improve working conditions for the restoration crew, who were working inside an extremely hot fuselage baking under the strong southern California sun. Lots of effort is being spent recreating the interior of the aircraft to exactly duplicate how it looked while serving as General MacArthur’s personal aircraft during the Korean War. I thought the interior that was ripped out was pretty impressive when I visited the annex in Valle so the new one is probably going to be spectacular. The engines are currently being refurbed under the direction of Jim “JD” Dale and the aircraft has been completely rewired by Chuck Gabe and his crew. The empennage has been completed and will be reattached in the near future. I've included photos of the aircraft taken in 2017/2018 and of the move.
ANG Connie Crew Saves Christmas – July 1, 2021
Jim Holder is a retired Eastern Airlines and ATA captain who flew Super Connies for the Mississippi ANG back in the 1960's. The unit was based at Jackson, Mississippi and operated a total of eight C-121C's from 1962 to 1967. Included were 54-156, which became the "Camarillo Connie" N73544 and later the "Breitling Connie" HB-RSC; 54-157 which is currently the sole remaining airworthy Connie operated by HARS as VH-EAG; and 54-177, which is on display in West Virginia ANG colors at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.
Jim recounts a story from December 1962 when a good-hearted Mississippi ANG flight crew saved the Christmas holiday for 40-50 service members and their families.
In 1961/62 the USAF "Connie" Mobile Training Detachment (Otis AFB in Massachusetts) came to Jackson MS to check us Air Guard Types out in the C-121C…
In late December 1962 the school was wrapping up and the few guys remaining had to get back to Otis for the Holidays!
So an older First Lt (who had just checked out as AC) with this young Second Lt the co-pilot, (highest rank on board was an old grizzled Sarge with striped galore, our Flight Engineer) we set out for Otis…
……..None of the senior pilots wanted to take them home so us two young guys had the honor! Along with a grumpy Flight Engineer......
Anyhow, on a clear cold day we hauled those few guys up to Otis with me in the right seat, as the rules were I could only fly in the left seat if no passengers were on board…
At Otis we took on a pretty good load of fuel and, with me in the left seat, we headed for home (Jackson)…
We sailed on by Washington, DC and were looking at landing at the new Jackson Airport about 6:00 PM…
However, we got a call from the Air Force Command Center asking if we would turn around and go back to Dulles, as there were 40-50 military members and their families who wanted to get down south but all the airline flights were full…
They could at least get down south to Jackson and somehow find their way on to their southerly destinations…
Before I continue I must tell you of another Mississippi ANG Flight to Dulles, however this was in a C-119J Flying Boxcar (not a nice airplane), a year or two earlier…
Seems some school dormitory had burned down and the flight was to load up a bunch of military beds and haul them back for the students… A Two Star General was on the Jump Seat for some reason! This was on the Flight Plan (highest rank on board)
Anyhow the story that came back was when they landed at Dulles the tower told them to exit at the end of the runway take some paved road that led to a dirt road down into the woods and someone would come get them tomorrow!!!
Clearly not completely true but it seemed that was how they were treated, and the general was pissed!!!! That C-119J did not get much respect, General or not!
So now this new Second Lt lands on the same runway to find a “Follow Me” truck waiting for us! It guided us to the main military ramp where I pulled up directly behind Air Force One! That beautiful Boeing 707!
They literally laid down a red carpet and when the Sarge opened the door back in the rear a Major in full dress blues comes running up to the cockpit and starts to talk! He then stared at us, two Lt’s and the butter bar in the left seat! Who flew this big Connie in to Dulles? He was the Duty Officer and a command pilot himself! To say he was surprised is an understatement!
Anyhow they loaded us up with great Flight Lunches, boarded all the folks (who had to face rearward as that was the deal for USAF passengers back then) including one young sergeant who claimed he had some training that qualified him to be a military Flight Attendant (required)…
The AC and I swapped seats and off we headed south… We each had two great hot Flight Lunches so it was dining time…. Each of the passengers had one too so it was a happy bunch on board the big Connie!
John (the AC) said "You know, we are giving the folks a big Christmas Present but why not make it better!" His thought was to find out exactly where the folks were going and we could make a few stops to let those off closer to home or wherever… The grouchy Sarge said it was fine with him so we got the young Flight Attendant up and asked him to find out where they were all going… It turned out that a landing in Atlanta, Mobile and New Orleans would really help most on board! (only a few wanted to go to Jackson)…
This back in the days when airports were smaller and less crowded so our stops in those three cities were no problem…. Called ahead and they had stairs waiting for us… All bags were "Carry On" so no problem there…
Only problem was when we called "Redbird" (our ANG Flight Ops in Jackson) just prior to landing we learned that somehow they had not gotten the word on what we were doing and the Duty Officer was some kind of mad!!!! Not knowing probably violated some rule for sure but what made him really fuming was that he could not go home until we landed in Jackson!
It was only about 11:00 PM!!! What’s The Big Deal?
That was my best ANG Connie Flight and it added to my 400 hours on the Connie which was probably why Eastern hired me on the spot in October 1963… Of course they put me on the DC-7B in Chicago but later on I did get to fly the Connie a little bit…
Another item… John (the AC) also applied at Eastern a few months after I was hired and they wanted him but that class would have gone to NYC which was more than he could take! He later became a Full Time Mississippi ANG employee and retired a Full Colonel there…
It is possible that we had 54-156 on that flight or maybe 54-177 on display at Dulles…
Jim Holder, Captain EAL/ATA
Salina Connie Photo Update – August 24, 2020 (March 23, 2021 Update)
Clarke Converse was on a cross country drive to Texas and was passing by Salina Regional Airport when he caught sight of Gordon Cole’s L749A Connie N1206. Curious, he drove onto the airport to have a closer look and was lucky enough to run into a fellow who had ramp access. "Starship Connie N1206…she's sitting at the North end of the Salina, Kansas airport. I saw it from the highway and made my way towards her and got lucky enough to run into somebody that had access to the flight line and escorted me out to go check her out. The gentleman that was escorting me said they tried to fly it several years ago (actually almost 30 years ago) and shelled out an engine. It hasn't moved since and truthfully on my walk around there are so many holes in the aluminum from corrosion that I don't think she'll ever fly again but stranger things happen."
UPDATE: I received a phone call from Gordon Cole who took strong exception to Clarke's report on the condition of the aircraft. He said there is an area on the wing where birds had made a nest and water got in resulting in some corrosion. He said that the corrosion didn’t affect a structural component and can be easily repaired. Gordon also takes exception to Clarke’s statement that “there are so many holes in the aluminum from corrosion that I don't think she'll ever fly again."
N1206 is the sole survivor of two ‘Willie Victor’/EC-121 prototypes delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1949. They consisted of a 'short' L749 Constellation fuselage fitted with a larger Super Connie empennage to compensate for the large upper and lower radar radomes. The military was so impressed with the concept that both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force bought many hundreds of WV-2’s and EC-121’s, which incorporated the larger Super Constellation fuselage. After retirement from the Navy, the FAA acquired the aircraft in 1958 and sent it back to the Lockheed factory to have it completely civilianized. It was assigned the civilian registration N120 and served with the FAA until 1966 when it was registered N1206 and flown to Salina, where it has remained parked ever since.
Gordon acquired the aircraft in 1985 and attempted to fly it to Sherman, Texas on November 8, 1992 but was forced to return to Salina due to engine problems. The aircraft has been worked on intermittently and I spent a few days in July 2009 working on the aircraft with Gordon. Gordon has lots of projects going on, some aviation and some non-aviation, and hopefully one day he’ll have the time to get the airplane back in the air for at least one more flight. I’d like to thank Clarke for sharing his report and photos.
Greenwood Lake Connie Update – March 19, 2021
The Greenwood Lake Airport website features a short dirt-mag.com article and some photos of its resident Constellation N9412H, which is being used as a pilots lounge and flight school office. After retirement from airline service, the aircraft was flown to the airport in 1977 for use as a restaurant. Here’s a YouTube video of the aircraft's arrival at the airport on a runway that was never intended to accommodate aircraft the size of the Constellation. The pilot made it look easy!
Work Continues on R3350 Engine – March 9, 2021
As reported on this website on January 25, 2020 Patrick Smart has been rebuilding an R3350 engine that was once installed on Super Constellation 5T-TAF. He recently sent me an email saying that he had made quite a bit of progress since January 2020 but still needed a 43h60 prop dome. "I test built the prop yesterday and all went well until I fitted the dome assembly. The one I had acquired from Karl is from an early Connie and is not for the 43h60 so I am still on the lookout for a complete dome assembly." Patrick plans on running the engine once it is complete so it is essential that he find the proper dome assembly. The engine looks gorgeous and I wish him good luck in finding the elusive dome assembly.
HARS Super Connie Takes to the Sky – March 7, 2021
HARS Aviation Museum Super Constellation 'Connie' VH-EAG took to the skies at Albion Park on March 5th and thrilled onlookers with some touch and go’s! Of the 856 Constellations and Super Constellations built, VH-EAG is the sole remaining airworthy example. Howard Mitchell captured the event in some very nice photos, which he has allowed me to share on this website. Paul Stewart recorded the event and posted an eight minute professionally produced video on YouTube. Many thanks to Howard for allowing me to post his photos and to Paul for sharing his video on YouTube.
Kudos to all the folks at HARS, including the owners, restorers and volunteers for keeping this iconic aircraft airworthy for 25 years! They’ve done what many considered impossible and the enthusiast community owes them an immense debt of gratitude.
Howard also provided some photos of the interior of the aircraft, which has been totally restored. While much of the interior is original, the passenger seats are from a B767.
Super Connie Continues to Deteriorate in Aguadilla – February 27, 2021
Jim Price recently visited Rafael Hernández International Airport in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and photographed L1049H HI-542CT. Jim's amazing photos captured the aircraft from all angles and shows the continuing deterioration of this once proud aircraft. The Super Connie has been parked at various locations around the airport since it was hit by a runaway DC-4 on February 3, 1992. From Jim’s photos, it appears that the aircraft is beyond restoration but with enough funding even this derelict could be brought back to a static display condition. It’s too bad that it continues to just rot away...in a few years there will be nothing left to save. Many thanks to Jim for sharing his photos.
Lufthansa Starliner Moved to Paderborn Airport – February 23, 2021
Austrian Wings reports that Lufthansa moved the main fuselage of Starliner N7316C from a warehouse in Bremen to the airport at Paderborn, Germany during the evening hours of 22-23 February 2021. Here is an English translation of that report.
Photo report: Lufthansa secretly transfers Super Star to Paderborn
The Lufthansa Super Star is currently being secretly transferred from Bremen to Paderborn. A spokesman confirmed the transport to "Austrian Wings".
Almost three years ago Lufthansa announced the end of its Super Star project. The largely restored aircraft was brought to Germany by the USA shortly afterwards and has since been stored in a hangar in Bremen.
Tonight the historic airplane was transported from Bremen. The destination of the heavy transport is Paderborn Airport. The transport is currently paused at a motorway rest area about 12 kilometers from Paderborn.
A Lufthansa spokesman confirmed the relocation of the aircraft to Paderborn at the request of Austrian Wings: "The transport started shortly before midnight on Monday evening. The Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Foundation would like to accommodate the Super Star in an aircraft hangar instead of in a port hall in order to ensure that the aircraft maintains its value."
DLH Berlin-Stiftung (DLHBS) issued the following statement on February 22, 2021: "Since shipment of the airplane to Germany in late 2019, it was planned to work out a concept for the exhibition of the Starliner by the end of 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic delayed everything. One element of the concept already in place is that the plane would not be sold but remain with DLHBS. Future plans for the Starliner will therefore be worked out togther with LH. As the pandemic affected the financial situation, further developments cannot be expected until these financial problems are finally resolved. Therefore, the Starliner will probably remain disassembled for a longer period and another and better suited storage place was found in a hangar at Paderborn Airport. As stated by DLHBS, this decision has nothing to do with the presence of the Quax-Community at Paderborn Ap., responsible for the former DLH JU52, a Me108 and a Do27. The transport of the Starliner will be done in several steps – mostly during nighttime - between the February, 22nd and March 2021. But this schedule is preliminary and depends on several different parameters."
The good news is that the airplane is being protected...the bad news is that reassembly and completion of the static display restoration will be delayed. The wings should follow shortly with the remaining parts packed in 19 44-foot shipping containers to following in a week or so. I will post updates and hopefully some additional photos as I receive them. Thanks much to Volker Schreiner for passing on the Austrian Wings report.
Dynamic Aviation CEO Comments on 'Columbine II' Restoration Project – February 11, 2021
The aviation enthusiast community was shocked when word spread on Saturday February 6, 2021 that Dynamic Aviation had reduced the staff working on the restoration of 'Columbine II' in Bridgewater, Virginia. The former presidential Constellation had been rescued from an Arizona boneyard in 2015 by a team from Dynamic Aviation. From the beginning company CEO Michael Stoltzfus and his father, founder Karl Stoltzfus, shared a vision for the future of the iconic aircraft. However, Karl was the driving force behind the technical restoration of this unique aircraft. With his untimely passing in November 2020, many feared that the company may have decided to walk away from the project. The memory of how Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr had shut down the Starliner restoration project in March 2018 was still fresh in the memory of many in the enthusiast community.
I’ve been following the project since its 2015 inception and have made annual trips to Dynamic Aviation to visit with Karl and to check on the project’s progress. Karl considered the aircraft 'America's Airplane' and that it belonged to the American public. His vision was to restore the airplane and then showcase it around the country at airshow events. He thought it important that the American public be aware of the airplane’s history and specifically he hoped to inspire America’s younger generation to appreciate aviation history with the hope of inspiring them to pursue careers in aviation.
Shortly after my June 2020 visit to Bridgewater, I had a lengthy conversation with Michael who clearly shares his father’s vision concerning the aircraft. With this in mind I contacted him on Monday February 8th and, during our telephone conversation, he assured me that he and the Dynamic Aviation team still share Karl’s vision and are totally committed to the restoration of the aircraft. He reminded me that the six-year project has seen ebbs and surges in activity and Friday’s force reduction was an adjustment that needed to be made to ensure the eventual success of the project and stay on balance with the company as a whole. He explained that a small number of key employees are still assigned to the project and will continue to work on the restoration. Michael said that the 'pause' was required to take stock in the project and was not permanent. With that in mind, some of the employees with critical skills have been reassigned to the “revenue” side of the company and could be brought back at a later date.
Michael reiterated that he considers 'Columbine II' to be one of the most iconic and unique aircraft in the world and is fully committed to his father’s vision of completing its restoration to a flightworthy condition. After talking to Michael, I feel comfortable saying that I expect to see 'Columbine II' back flying, just not as soon as I would have liked. I’d like to thank Michael for taking the time to share his thoughts about the project.
Dynamic Aviation Reportedly Shuts Down Columbine II Restoration Project - February 6, 2021
Just heard from one of the members that the entire "legacy crew" at Dynamic Aviation were laid off yesterday and all work was stopped on the 'Columbine II' restoration project. If the stoppage is permanent, it would be real shame as the project has come so far. Will post additional information as I receive it.
Airline History Museum Threatened With Eviction – January 20, 2021
Alan Shope recently posted a Facebook video reporting that Signature Flight Support is attempting to force the Airline History Museum (AHM) from its longtime home in Hangar 9 at Kansas City's Downtown Airport. Signature wants the museum to vacate the hangar immediately and the museum is suing Signature to remain. AHM has been based at the airport since 1986 and in the hangar since 2000. The hangar is home to a collection of unique aircraft including Super Constellation N6937C, M404 N145S, a DC-3, T-6, Northrop Delta and Curtis Condor to name a few. It would be a real shame if the museum was forced to vacate the hangar, which would result in many of the aircraft facing an uncertain future and the reality of being stored outdoors and possibly scrapped.
Qantas Founders Museum Video – January 20, 2021
I recently received a message from Australian aviation enthusiast David Wood regarding the January 14th release of a YouTube video produced by Paul Stewart. The video beautifully illustrates the amazing transformation of the former "Manila Connie" by the Qantas Founders Museum. The airplane had been abandoned at Manila Airport for 30+ years and was in real danger of being scrapped when the museum stepped in and rescued it. Disassembled in Manila by a team of volunteers, the aircraft was transported to the museum by road and ship, where it was lovingly restored and placed on display as VH-EAM "Southern Spray." For more information about this amazing rescue and restoration, check out the March 28, 2020 news item and other news items on Constellation News Archive pages for the years 2014 thru 2019 .
"I thought this video tour of the ex USN R7V1/C121G, now owned by the Qantas Founders Museum, might interest you."
"The museum has done a brilliant job."
"The museum has left the military fit nose wheel landing lights in situ and has not fitted the spinner after bodies on the nose of the engines behind the propellers."
"Obtaining the correct nose undercarriage door with the integrated landing light, as fitted to commercial Super Connie’s fitted with a weather radar nose, would be nigh on impossible today. Ditto for the spinner after bodies."
"These points are really only important for model makers, trying to build a model of a L1049H and using either the HARS and the former Breitling C121C's, or the QFM Connie , as their reference aircraft. The AHM L1049H is the Connie to use for that."
"It is great that another Super Connie has been saved, even if it will never fly again"
See Constellation News Archive - 2020 For Additional News
----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 6 November 2021----