Super Connie still grounded

Jun 2, 2006

Canada's last remaining Super Constellation airplane will stay in the country, for now. Caught in a cross-border tug-of-war, the Super Connie, as it's also known, has been at the centre of a storm of controversy since the Seattle Museum of Flight purchased the plane in 2003. Plans to move the aircraft to Seattle hit a snag when it was determined the plane required an export permit.

An application for a permit was submitted on April 24 and, after the case was reviewed by a Department of Canadian Heritage officer, the permit was denied. Department spokesperson Len Westerberg said the officer determined the Super Connie was "of significant cultural and historical importance to Canada" and decided not to issue the permit.

In accordance with the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, an applicant has 30 days from the date of refusal, May 25, 2006, to ask for a review by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board. To date, no appeal has been requested.

Paul Cabot, curator and manager of the Toronto Aerospace Museum, said the news came as a "minor victory" in a three-year battle but "the war is just beginning.

"There's cautious optimism right now," said Cabot. "But, the process is far from over."

Cabot said he plans on approaching prospective donors to start raising funds for the museum to purchase the plane. However, he said he would be happy to see the aircraft snapped up by any Canadian museum.

Meanwhile, if an appeal of the case is requested, it will be conducted at the next heritage department meeting, slated for September. In the interim, the plane will be made available for purchase at fair market value by Canadian institutions.

The Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, along with input from experts, will determine what the dollar amount of "fair market value" is, said Westerberg. The owner of the plane, believed to be Catherine Scott, cannot be compelled to sell the aircraft, even if the appeal is denied.

The Super Constellation was once Trans-Canada Air Lines' flagship plane. Prior to the advent of jet propulsion, the prop plane was billed as the most luxurious way to fly overseas.

For years, the Super Connie operated as a restaurant at Pearson International Airport and, until recently, was housed on airport property.