Piece of Canadian aviation history on way to U.S. museum
— but not without a fight `Super Connie' was a marvel of technology, design and
luxury, writes Scott Simmie
Feb. 7, 2006. 03:07 AM
"This is your Captain
"Welcome aboard the flagship of Trans-Canada Air Lines, the Lockheed
`Super G' Constellation. If you look out your starboard window, you'll notice
the wing is being removed ..."
Its flying days are long over. But as an historic airliner on Derry
Rd. in Mississauga gets dismantled and prepped for shipment to the United
States, there's a growing chorus of those who want to see it remain in this
The former Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) luxury plane has been sold to
Seattle's Museum of Flight, which has one of the best collections of notable
airliners in the world. It paid an undisclosed amount for the aircraft, a former
bar/restaurant called "Super Connie" that's been sitting abandoned for years.
Now the Air Canada Pionairs — an organization of more than 12,000 retired
Air Canada employees — has started an online petition to try to keep it here (http://www.canadiansuperconnie.org/
). The group has also
written the federal Canadian Heritage department, urging it to deny an export
permit for the plane.
"We believe the aviation history of Canada would be significantly
diminished if an export permit was issued allowing this rare aircraft to be
moved to Seattle," says a letter sent to the department's Moveable Cultural
Property office. "(We) support efforts by the Toronto Aerospace Museum to keep
this aircraft in Canada ... for the benefit of all Canadians."
In its day, the Super Constellation was a magnificent bird. With its
efficiency and fuel capacity, it could whisk passengers non-stop from Toronto
and Montreal to Europe in posh and pampered style — and in then-record time.
Tens of thousands of immigrants came to Canada on these aircraft. Advertisements
that appeared half a century ago in the Toronto Daily Star
as the "World's Finest Airliner!"
"You can't fly finer! You can't fly faster to Europe! — Than on one of
the big SUPER Constellations just put in service by Trans-Canada Air Lines,"
reads a 1954 TCA/Lockheed advertisement. "Take a look at one of these sleek
beauties — the roomiest, the most comfortable modern airliner in service
Aviation enthusiasts say it's Canada's only surviving passenger craft
from that era. Ken Swartz says he's checked out the fate of every trans-oceanic
propeller-driven airliner flown by Canadian operators of the day.
"All the original passenger-carrying piston-engine (aircraft) that
Canadian airlines flew across the Atlantic and the Pacific between 1947 and the
mid-1960s have disappeared from Canada, except Super Constellation CF-TGE, Fleet
No. 405," says Swartz, vice-chairman of the Toronto Aerospace Museum. "It really
is the last of its kind (in the country)."
But keeping "Super Connie" on Canadian soil may be easier said than done.
From the perspective of the Seattle Museum of Flight, this is a done
deal. An undisclosed amount of cash has already been paid, and Air Canada will
soon paint the craft in its original TCA colours before it heads south. Air
Canada points out that it has donated several aircraft to Canadian museums, but
that this one isn't its to donate.
"It's a private transaction," says spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick.
But, according to some, Canada didn't get a clear shot at keeping the
"The Toronto Aerospace Museum has been trying to acquire this aircraft
for several years," says manager/curator Paul Cabot. "We've been rebuffed at
The person who's been overseeing the sale and dismantling is Catherine
Scott, a colourful character with language to match. Last week, she initially
told the Star
she was the owner. During a later conversation, she said,
"I don't own the damn thing." She also says that "Canadian museums had many
years to buy this aircraft, and they did not."
The Toronto Aerospace Museum says it tried dealing with Scott repeatedly,
but that she seemed adamant the Super Connie head south. The museum says it was
also in occasional talks with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority over the
years — operating under the belief the GTAA was taking ownership of the craft
because no one had been paying rent on the GTAA land where it's been sitting
empty since 2002.
"So we were quite certain it would be made available to Canadian
museums," says Cabot. Certain enough that Cabot lobbied for, and received,
federal permission to park the plane outside the museum's home in Downsview
Park. The GTAA, meanwhile, expressed relief the aircraft is finally leaving its
property and heading to Seattle.
But where it will ultimately wind up may still be in the air. Canadian
Heritage has the power to delay the export of the craft, offering a grace period
to see if Canadian museums can match the U.S. bid.
"It would be nice to have something from the prop age and all the glamour
associated with that," says Howard Malone, president of the Canadian Aviation
Historical Society, Toronto Chapter. "The Constellation marked a pretty
important milestone in terms of the destinations it could reach."
As for the destination this Connie will reach, the flight plan still
calls for Seattle. But there may well be some turbulence along the way.