The Lockheed Constellation ("Connie") is a propeller-driven, four-engined airliner built by Lockheed Corporation between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, facility. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in numerous models, all distinguished by a triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage and most powered by four 18-cylinder radialWright R-3350engines. The Constellation was used as a civilian airliner and as a military and civilian air transport, seeing service in the Berlin Airlift and the Biafran airlift. It was the presidential aircraft for U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
A preserved C-121C Super Constellation, registration N73544, in flight in 2004.
Development of the Constellation
The Constellation's wing design was close to that of the P-38 Lightning, differing mostly in scale. The distinctive triple-tail kept the aircraft's height low enough to fit in existing hangars, while features included hydraulically boosted controls and a de-icing system used on wing and tail leading edges. The aircraft had a top speed of over 375 mph (600 km/h), faster than that of a Japanese Zero fighter, a cruise speed of 340 mph (550 km/h), and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft (7,300 m).
According to Anthony Sampson in Empires of the Sky, the intricate design may have been undertaken by Lockheed, but the concept, shape, capabilities, appearance and ethos of the Constellation were driven by Hughes' intercession during the design process.
World War II
The first Lockheed Constellation on January 9, 1943.
Lockheed proposed the model L-249 as a long-range bomber. It received the military designation XB-30 but the aircraft was not developed. A plan for a very long-range troop transport, the C-69B (L-349, ordered by Pan Am in 1940 as the L-149), was canceled. A single C-69C (L-549), a 43-seat VIP transport, was built in 1945 at the Lockheed-Burbank plant.
The C-69 was mostly used as a high-speed, long-distance troop transport during the war. A total of 22 C-69s were completed before the end of hostilities, but not all of these entered military service. The USAAF cancelled the remainder of the order in 1945.
TWA L-749A Constellation at Heathrow in 1954 with an under fuselage "Speedpack" freight container
Super Constellation (C-121C) during pilot training in Epinal - Mirecourt, France
After World War II the Constellation came into its own as a popular, fast, civilian airliner. Aircraft already in production for the USAAF as C-69 transports were finished as civilian airliners, with TWA receiving the first on 1 October 1945. TWA's first transatlantic proving flight departed Washington, DC, on December 3, 1945, arriving in Paris on December 4 via Gander and Shannon.
Trans World Airlines transatlantic service started on February 6, 1946 with a New York-Paris flight in a Constellation. On June 17, 1947 Pan American World Airways opened the first ever regularly scheduled round-the-world service with their L-749Clipper America. The famous flight "Pan Am 1" operated until 1982.
The Constellation had three accidents in the first 10 months of service, temporarily curtailing its career as a passenger airliner:
On June 18, 1946, an engine of a Pan American Constellation caught fire and fell off. The flight crew made an emergency landing with no loss of life. The same aircraft made a return flight across America in 11½ hours for repairs, carrying only three engines.
On July 11, a Transcontinental and Western Air aircraft fell victim to an inflight fire, crashing in a field and taking the lives of five of the six on board.
The accidents prompted the suspension of the Constellation's airworthiness certificate until Lockheed could modify the design.
The Constellation proved prone to engine failures, earning the nickname "World's Finest Trimotor" in some circles.
Sleek and powerful, Constellations set a number of records. On April 17, 1944, the second production C-69, piloted by Howard Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye, flew from Burbank, California, to Washington, D.C., in 6 hours and 57 minutes (c. 2,300 mi/3,701 km at an average 330.9 mph/532.5 km/h). On the return trip, the aircraft stopped at Wright Field to give Orville Wright his last flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight. He commented that the Constellation's wingspan was longer than the distance of his first flight.
On September 29, 1957, an L-1649A Starliner flew from Los Angeles to London in 18 hours and 32 minutes (about 5,420 mi/8,723 km at 292.4 mph/470.6 km/h). The L-1649A holds the record for the longest-duration, non-stop passenger flight. During TWA's inaugural London-to-San Francisco flight on October 1–2, 1957, the aircraft stayed aloft for 23 hours and 19 minutes (about 5,350 mi/8,610 km at 229.4 mph/369.2 km/h).
The advent of jet airliners such as the de Havilland Comet, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8 and Convair 880, rendered the piston-engined Constellation obsolete. The first routes lost to jets were the long overseas routes, but Constellations continued to fly domestic routes. The last scheduled passenger flight in the 48 states was made by a TWA L749 on May 11, 1967, from Philadelphia to Kansas City, Missouri. However, Constellations remained in freight service for years to come, and were used on backup sections of Eastern Airlines' shuttle service between New York, Washington, and Boston until 1968. Many old propeller airliners were used on overnight freight runs, even into the 1990s, as their low speed was not an impediment. An Eastern Constellation to date still holds the record for a New York to Washington flight from liftoff to touchdown in just over 30 minutes. The record was set prior to speed restrictions by the FAA below 10,000 ft.
One of the reasons for the elegant appearance of the aircraft was the fuselage shape—a continuously variable profile with no two bulkheads the same shape. Unfortunately, this construction was very expensive and was replaced by the mostly tube-shape of modern airliners. The tube is more resistant to pressurization changes and cheaper to build.
With the shutdown of Constellation production, Lockheed elected not to develop a first-generation jetliner, instead sticking to its lucrative military business and production of the modest turboprop-poweredLockheed L-188 Electra airliner. Lockheed would not build a large civil passenger aircraft again until its L-1011 Tristar debuted in 1972. While a technological marvel, the L-1011 was a commercial failure, and Lockheed left the commercial airliner business permanently in 1983.
The initial military versions carried the Lockheed designation of L-049; as World War II came to a close, some were completed as civil L-049 Constellations followed by the L-149 (L-049 modified to carry more fuel tanks). The first purpose-built passenger Constellation was the more powerful L-649 and L-749 (which had more fuel in the outer wings),[page needed]L-849 (an unbuilt model to use the R-3350TurboCompound engines adopted for the L-1049 ), L-949 (an unbuilt, high-density seating-cum-freighter type, what would come to be called a "combi"), followed by the L-1049 Super Constellation (with longer fuselage), L-1149 (proposal to use Allison turbine engines) and L-1249 (similar to L-1149, built as R7V-2/YC-121F),L-1449 (unbuilt proposal for L1049G, stretched 55 in (140 cm), with new wing and turbines) and L-1549 (unbuilt project to stretch L-1449 95 in (240 cm)), and L-1649 Starliner (all new wing and L1049G fuselage). Military versions included the C-69 and C-121 for the Army Air Forces/Air Force and the R7OR7V-1 (L-1049B)EC-121WV-1 (L-749A)WV-2 (L-1049B) (widely known as the Willie Victor) and many variant EC-121 designations for the Navy
After TWA's initial order was filled following World War II, customers rapidly accumulated, with over 800 aircraft built. In military service, the U.S. Navy and Air Force operated the EC-121 Warning Star variant until 1978, nearly 40 years after work on the L-049 began. Cubana de Aviación was the first airline in Latin America to operate Super Constellations. Pakistan International Airlines was the first airline from an Asian country to fly the Super Constellation.
An abandoned Constellation display in Florida. (1970's)
The Breitling Super Constellation: Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling sponsored a restoration of a C-121C Super Constellation, registration N73544, that is based in Basel and has since been featured in its advertisements. This plane is now registered in the Swiss Aircraft registry as HB-RSC.
The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) secured and restored a former USAF C-121C Super Constellation (54-0157). The aircraft was subsequently painted in pseudo-Qantas livery (with the usual Qantas lettering along the fuselage replaced with the word "CONNIE") and registered in Australia as VH-EAG. The aircraft is currently based in Wollongong. This Constellation is one of two flying in the world.
An L-1049H Constellation that was built originally in 1957, stored for several years, and then delivered to cargo carrier Slick Airways was restored in 1986 by the Save-a-Connie, Inc. organization in Kansas City, Missouri, now known as the Airline History Museum. Originally painted in red and white with Save-a-Connie it was later repainted in the 1950s livery of TWA to resemble its original "Star of America" Constellation. The aircraft appeared at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at the original TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the airline with the paint job donated by TWA in Kansas City for the occasion. The "Star of America" has appeared at many airshows and was even used in The Aviator, the 2004 film depicting the life of TWA's one-time owner Howard Hughes, the man often credited with helping design and develop the original Constellation series. After being grounded for the past few years, Star of America is currently being returned to airworthiness and is expected to appear at 2009 air shows.
One Super Constellation named City of Miami is parked on an unused runway in the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. It was struck by a runaway DC-4 at Aguadilla-Borinquen Airport, on February 3, 1992, resulting in damage to the right wing and main spar.
ZS-DVJ c/n 1042 (L-1649A) of Trek Airways on display at OR Tambo International Airport, South Africa at the South African Airways Technical area. The aircraft is owned by the South African Airways Museum Society.
L-749A restored at Aviodrome
The Dutch National Aviation museum Aviodrome acquired a VC-121A Constellation. It was restored to airworthy condition and ferried from Tucson, AZ to the Netherlands, where restoration continued. It is now painted in the KLM livery of the 1950s, depicting a KLM Lockheed L-749A. Thanks to a donation by Korean Air, who donated two airworthy engines, this aircraft is scheduled to be flying again in the summer of 2009. Renamed Flevoland, this is the only flying example of the "short" version of the Constellation.
N7777G is displayed in TWA colors (although this aircraft never flew for TWA) at the Large Item Storage facility for the UK Science Museum at Wroughton, near Swindon. This aircraft was used by the Rolling Stones to transport equipment during their 1973 Australian tour. It is the only UK Constellation and is viewable on certain open days.
L-049 c/n 2072, federal registration N9412H (delivered as Air France's first Constellation in June 1946 as L-049 F-BAZA) is parked adjacent to a flight school and cafe at Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey. It was sold to Frank Lembo Enterprises in May 1976 for $45,000 for use as a restaurant and lounge, and flown in to the airport in July 1977. It was sold to the State of New Jersey along with the airport in 2000, and the interior was refurbished and used as a flight school office in 2005.
Two L-1649A Super Stars N7316C c/n 1018 and N8083H c/n 1038 (both ex-Alaska Airlines) are parked on private land next to the Lewiston-Auburn Municipal Airport in Auburn, Maine. The two aircraft were purchased at auction by the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Foundation. Lufthansa Technik North America has built a hangar at the airport, which will be used to overhaul N7316C to airworthy condition. The target date for completion of the overhaul is October 10, 2010.
L-049 c/o 1970, N90831, one of the first Trans-World Airlines (TWA) aircraft and a former C-69 transport, s/n 42-94549 is displayed in outdoor exhibit on airliner row at Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
L-049 c/o 2071, ex-KLM, ex-Capital Airlines, is in the museum Asas de um Sonho (Wings of a Dream), located in the TAM Airlines airfield, in Sao Carlos, SP, Brazil. Previously, it served as a children's attraction at the entrance of the Asuncion (Paraguay) International Airport.
L-749 c/o 2503 is in the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace (The Museum of Air and Space) located in Le Bourget Airport, 10 km north of Paris. Parked in museum storage area since 1975 in good condition with minimal corrosion. Ex-Pan American « Clipper America » del. 6 June 1947 reg. N C86520; to Aerovías Guest Mexico (XA-GOQ 01/1948), Air France from 01/1949 to 10/1960 as F-BAZR; CGTM (Compagnie Générale des Turbo-Machines) as F-ZVMV for use as flying engine test until December 1974.
L-1049G c/n 4519 F-BGNJ, formerly a C version, delivered to Air France on November 2, 1953, is undergoing a complete restoration for static display by the Amicale du Super Constellation located in Nantes Airport. It was upgraded to a L-1049 G in 1956 and was operational until August 8, 1967, having totaled 24,284 hours under Air France's colors. After retirement, it was sent to Spain, to be registered EC-BEN, briefly flying humanitarian and medevac missions in Biafra. Aero Fret bought it in 1968, brought it back home to France, registered as F-BRAD and operated on cargo hauls until 1974. When the Constellation landed in Nantes one last time to be scrapped, it was ultimately saved by Mr. Gaborit, who revamped it somewhat by his own modest means to finally park it near the terminal, accessible to visitors for a few years, until the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Nantes-Atlantique Airport bought it, to contract the Amicale du Super Constellation to undergo a complete restoration of the old aircraft.
L-1649A Starliner, N974R (c/n 1040) is on static display in front of the "Fantasy of Flight" attraction in Lakeland, Florida.
L-749 Constellation, N2520B, in Aerosur livery is on static display on the 1st ring road in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Known as "El Avión Pirata." 
N4247K c/n 4144 was impounded at Manila Airport, Philippines, by June 1988 and stored in deteriorating condition at the Manila Airport 
Dwight D. Eisenhower flew in three Constellations, named Columbine, Columbine II, and Columbine III.
L-749A c/o 2613. First of two WV-1's delivered to the US Navy in 1949. Essentially a prototype for the Super Constellations that followed. Retired from the Navy in 1957, and served the FAA from 1958 to 1966. Flown to Salina, Kansas, in 1967, where it remains parked. Last flown in 1992.
Three Constellations were used as Dwight D. Eisenhower's aircraft. The VC-121A Columbine (s/n 48-0614), was used during his role as SHAPE commander before he become president. It is currently on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, on loan from the National Museum of the US Air Force. Two others Constellations, the VC-121E Columbine III (s/n 53-7885), used as Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential aircraft, and an EC-121 Warning Star (s/n 53-555) are fully restored and on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Columbine III was retired to the Museum in 1966, and is displayed in the Museum's Presidential gallery. The interior of the aircraft is open to the public. The EC-121 Warning Star is on display in the Museum's Modern Flight Gallery.
C-121A serial number 48-0613 (Bataan) is on display at Planes of Fame in Valle, Arizona. This Constellation is in flying condition. According to the Museum's website, this aircraft was used as a personal transport by General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, and later by other Army general officers until 1966, when it was retired and transferred to the U.S. space agency NASA. After its acquisition by Planes of Fame, it was restored to its original configuration with a "VIP interior."
EC-121A serial number 48-0614, markings 7167th Special Air Missions Squadron, Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany, 1951 - First as a personal transport used by Dwight D. Eisenhower in his office as Supreme Commander, Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), is displayed in an outdoor exhibit at Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
N4257U on display at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka, Ks.
EC-121T serial number 53-0554, with markings from the 79th Airborne Warning and Control Squadron, Homestead AFB, Florida, 1974 is displayed in the outdoor exhibit at Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
RC-121D serial number 52-3418 (N4257U c/n 4336 federal registration) was delivered to the Air Force in October 1954. Then it was redesignated EC-121D 1962, converted to EC-121T but the upper radome was not removed. Reassigned to USAF Reserves at Homestead AFB, Florida by July 1974, it was retired and flown to Davis Monthan AFB for storage on April 7, 1976. Reassigned to the Combat Air Museum, Topeka, Kansas, on March 1981 as N4257U, the RC-121D was ferried to Topeka, Kansas, on June 1981 with Frank Lang in command.