The Lockheed Constellation ("Connie") is a propeller-driven, four-engine airliner built by Lockheed Corporation between 1943 and 1958 at Burbank, California. Lockheed built 856 in numerous models—all with the same triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage. Most were powered by four 18-cylinder Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclones. The Constellation was used as a civil airliner and as a military and civilian air transport, seeing service in the Berlin and the Biafran airlifts. The Constellation series was the first pressurized-cabin civil airliner series to go into widespread use. Its pressurized cabin enabled large numbers of commercial passengers to fly well above most bad weather for the first time, thus significantly improving the general safety and ease of air travel. Three of them served as the presidential aircraft for Dwight D. Eisenhower.
A USAF C-69, the military version of the Constellation
Lockheed had been working on the L-044 Excalibur, a four-engine, pressurized airliner, since 1937. In 1939, Trans World Airlines (TWA), at the instigation of major stockholder Howard Hughes, requested a 40-passenger transcontinental airliner with a range of 3,500 mi (5,600 km)—well beyond the capabilities of the Excalibur design. TWA's requirements led to the L-049 Constellation, designed by Lockheed engineers including Kelly Johnson and Hall Hibbard.Willis Hawkins, another Lockheed engineer, maintains that the Excalibur program was purely a cover for the Constellation.
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 Lockheed P-38 Lightning, differing mostly in size. The 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 maximum 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, Lockheed may have undertaken the intricate design, but Hughes' intercession in the design process drove the concept, shape, capabilities, appearance, and ethos. These rumors were discredited by Johnson. Howard Hughes and Jack Frye confirmed that the rumors were not true in a letter in November 1941.
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. However, some aircraft remained in USAF service into the 1960s, serving as passenger ferries for the airline that relocated military personnel, wearing the livery of the Military Air Transport Service. At least one of these airplanes had rear-facing passenger seats.
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 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, D.C., on December 3, 1945, arriving in Paris on December 4 via Gander and Shannon.
TWA transatlantic service started on February 6, 1946 with a New York-Paris flight in a Constellation. On June 17, 1947, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) opened the first-ever scheduled round-the-world service with their L-749Clipper America. The famous flight "Pan Am 1" operated until 1982.
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 (about 2,300 miles (3,700 km) at an average 331 miles per hour (533 km/h). On the return trip, the aircraft stopped at Wright Field in Ohio to give Orville Wright his last flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He commented that the Constellation's wingspan was longer than the distance of his first flight.
On September 29, 1957, a TWA L-1649A flew from Los Angeles to London in 18 hours and 32 minutes (about 5,420 miles (8,720 km) at 292 miles per hour (470 km/h). The L-1649A holds the record for the longest-duration, non-stop passenger flight aboard a piston-powered airliner. On TWA's first London-to-San Francisco flight on October 1–2, 1957, the aircraft stayed aloft for 23 hours and 19 minutes (about 5,350 miles (8,610 km) at 229 miles per hour (369 km/h).
Constellations carried freight in later years, and were used on backup sections of Eastern Airlines' shuttle service between New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston until 1968. Prop airliners were used on overnight freight runs into the 1990s, as their low speed was not an impediment. An Eastern Air Lines Connie holds the record for a New York to Washington, D.C. flight from take off to touchdown in just over 30 minutes. The record was set prior to speed restrictions by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) below 10,000 feet (3,000 m).
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. This construction was expensive and was replaced by mostly tube-shaped modern airliners. The tube is more resistant to pressurization changes and cheaper to build.
After ending Constellation production Lockheed chose not to develop a first-generation jetliner, sticking to its military business and production of the turbopropLockheed L-188 Electra. Lockheed did not build a large 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 civilian L-049 Constellations followed by the L-149 (L-049 modified to carry more fuel tanks).
The first purpose-built passenger Constellations were the more powerful L-649 and L-749 (which had more fuel in the outer wings),L-849 (an unbuilt model to use the R-3350turbo-compound engines adopted for the L-1049 ), L-949 (an unbuilt, high-density seating-cum-freighter type, what would come to be called a "combi aircraft").
These were 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)).
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 (1970s)
C/N 2072 — parked adjacent to a flight school and cafe at Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey. It was delivered as Air France's first Constellation in June 1946 as L-049 F-BAZA, before being sold to Frank Lembo Enterprises in May 1976 for $45,000 for use as a restaurant and lounge. It was flown to the airport in July 1977, and, along with the airport, was sold to the State of New Jersey in 2000. In 2005, the interior was refurbished for use as a flight school office.
C/N 2553 — on display 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 Constellation in the United Kingdom and is viewable on certain open days.
C/N 1042 — 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.
Under restoration or in storage
L-1049 Super Constellation
C/N 4519 — to display by the Amicale du Super Constellation located at the Nantes Airport in Nantes, France. It was delivered to Air France on November 2, 1953, and was upgraded to a L-1049 G in 1956, serving 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 it as F-BRAD, and operated it 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.
C/N 4830 Star of America — to airworthiness by the National Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. This aircraft was originally built in 1957, stored for several years, and then delivered to cargo carrier Slick Airways. It was restored in 1986 by the Save-a-Connie, Inc. organization, later renamed as the National Airline History Museum. It was originally painted in red and white with Save-a-Connie, but 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 scheme 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.
C/N 1018 — returned to airworthiness by Lufthansa Technik North America in Auburn, Maine. This aircraft was purchased at auction in 2007, along with C/N 1038, by the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Foundation. Lufthansa has built a hangar at the airport, which will allow the aircraft to be restored indoors. Lufthansa announced in March 2018 that it will be transported back to Germany and further restoration decisions will be made after it arrives.
C/N 1038 — This aircraft was purchased at auction in 2007, along with C/N 1018, by the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Foundation, and stripped of all usable spares to support the restoration of C/N 1018. The aircraft was subsequently sold and transported to JFK International Airport to become a cocktail bar in the TWA Hotel, a retro-aviation themed hotel built on the former TWA Flight Center.
The Breitling Super Constellation
S/N 54-0156 — Flies with the Super Constellation Flyers Association out of Basel, as The Breitling Super Constellation. Its restoration was sponsored by Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling, and is now registered in the Swiss Aircraft registry as HB-RSC. This Constellation is one of two flying in the world.
S/N 54-0157 — Flies with the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) out of Illawarra Regional Airport near Wollongong, Australia. Following its restoration, it was painted in pseudo-Qantas livery including the Qantas logo on the tail, (with the usual Qantas lettering along the fuselage and on the wing-end fuel tanks replaced with the word "CONNIE") and registered as VH-EAG. This Constellation is one of two flying in the world.
S/N 48-0609 — on display at Jeongseok Airport on Jeju Island, South Korea. It was donated to Korean Air in 2005, and restored to airworthy condition at Tucson, Arizona. It was then ferried to South Korea, where it made its final flight, under its own power, from Seoul to its current location for static display. It has been repainted in 1950s Korean Air colors, and rendered unable to fly by the presence of unservicable engines.
L-749A restored at Aviodrome
S/N 48-0612 — on display at the Dutch National Aviation Museum Aviodrome. It was restored to airworthy condition and ferried from Tucson, Arizona, to the Netherlands, where restoration continued. It is now painted in the KLM livery of the 1950s, depicting a KLM Lockheed L-749A. Renamed Flevoland, this is the only airworthy example of the "short" version of the Constellation. However, thanks to Korean Air, which donated two airworthy engines from S/N 48-0609 (see above), this aircraft was scheduled to be flying again, but the flights were cancelled. As of 2016, the aircraft is on display in the Aviodrome museum.
N4257U on display at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka
S/N 52-3418 — on display at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka, Kansas. This aircraft was delivered to the Air Force in October 1954. It served an additional 22 years, until it was retired and flown to Davis Monthan AFB for storage on April 7, 1976. It June 1981, it was ferried to Topeka, Kansas, with Frank Lang in command.
BuNo 124438 — to airworthiness by Gordon Cole at Salina, Kansas. This aircraft was the first of two WV-1s delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1949. Essentially, it was a prototype for the EC-121 Warning Star that followed. Retired from the Navy in 1957, it served the FAA from 1958 to 1966, before being flown to Salina in 1967 for retirement. It remains parked there, and was last flown in 1992.
S/N 48-0610 Columbine II — to airworthiness by Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia. This aircraft served as the first Air Force One, during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, before it was replaced by Columbine III as Eisenhower's primary presidential aircraft in 1954. After a long period of storage at Marana Regional Airport, near Tucson, Arizona, this aircraft made its first flight, since 2003, in March 2016, when it was ferried to Bridgewater for additional restoration.
S/N 48-0613 Bataan — to airworthiness by Lewis Air Legends in San Antonio, Texas. 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 transferred to NASA. Following its permanent retirement in 1970, it was placed on display at a museum at Fort Rucker near Daleville, Alabama. It was acquired by the Planes of Fame Air Museum at Chino, California in 1992, and overhauled into airworthy condition for a flight to Dothan, Alabama, where it received additional work. After a thorough restoration back to its original configuration with a "VIP interior", it was placed on display at the Planes of Fame secondary location in Valle, Arizona. Then, in 2015, it was sold to Lewis Air Legends, and prepped for a ferry flight to Chino, arriving there on January 14, 2016.
A British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Lockheed L-749A Constellation crashed and caught fire as it attempted to land at Kallang Airport on 13 March 1954, killing 33 of the 40 passengers and crew. The accident occurred when the aircraft struck a seawall on approach to the runway. The inquiry attributed this to crew tiredness, noting that the captain had been on duty for over 21 hours. It also criticised the response of the airport fire unit. This is the highest death toll of any aviation accident in Singapore.
Air France Flight 009 was a scheduled international flight that crashed into a mountain while attempting to land at Santa Maria Airport, Azores on a stopover during a scheduled international passenger flight from Paris-Orly Airport to New York City. All 48 people on board were killed.
On 1 September 1953, an Air France Lockheed L-749 Constellation, registered in France as F-BAZZ, flying Flight 178, a scheduled flight from Paris to Nice, crashed into the Pelat Massif in the French Alps near Barcelonnette on the first stage of the flight, between Orly Airport and Nice Airport. All 42 on board were killed, nine crew and 33 passengers including the French violinist Jacques Thibaud and the French pianist René Herbin.
Air India Flight 245 was a scheduled Air India passenger flight that crashed into Mont Blanc, France, on 3 November 1950. On the morning of 3 November 1950, the Lockheed L-749A Constellation Malabar Princess registration VT-CQP, piloted by chief pilot Alan R. Saint 34 Years, British and co-pilot V. Y. Korgaokar, carrying 40 passengers and 8 crew on the route Bombay-Istanbul-Geneva-London, while flying over France, crashed into the Mont Blanc mountain, killing all on board.
Avianca Flight 671 was a Lockheed Constellation that crashed and burned on landing at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 21 January 1960, killing 37 people, making it the worst accident in Jamaican aviation history. The aircraft was a Lockheed L-1049E Super Constellation that was used by Avianca for its Bogota-Montego Bay routes.
Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 was a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner chartered by the United States military that disappeared on March 16, 1962, over the Western Pacific Ocean. The aircraft was transporting 93 U.S. soldiers and 3 South Vietnamese from Travis Air Force Base, California to Saigon, Vietnam. After refueling at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, the Super Constellation was en route to Clark Air Base in the Philippines when it disappeared. All 107 aboard were declared missing and presumed dead.
The airliner's disappearance prompted one of the largest air and sea searches in the history of the Pacific. Aircraft and surface ships from four branches of the U.S. military searched more than 200,000 square miles (520,000 km2) during the course of eight days. A civilian tanker observed what appeared to be an in-flight explosion believed to be the missing Super Constellation, though no trace of wreckage or debris was ever recovered. The Civil Aeronautics Board determined that, based on the tanker's observations, Flight 739 probably exploded in-flight, though an exact cause could not be determined without examining the remnants of the aircraft. To date, this remains the worst aviation accident involving the Lockheed Constellation series.
KLM Flight 633 was a passenger flight from Amsterdam to New York City. On 5 September 1954, immediately after takeoff from Shannon Airport, the Super Constellation Triton ditched on a mudbank in the River Shannon. 28 people were killed in the accident. It was caused by an unexpected re-extension of the landing gear, possibly compounded by pilot error.
The Lockheed C-121 Constellation is a military transport version of the Lockheed Constellation. A total of 332 aircraft were constructed for both the United States Air Force and United States Navy for various purposes. Numerous airborne early warning versions were also constructed. The C-121 later saw service with smaller civilian operators until 1993.
The Lockheed C-69 Constellation was a four-engined, propeller-driven transport pressed into military service during World War Two. It was the first military version of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft line. It first flew in 1943, and production of the 22 constructed was shared between the United States Army Air Forces (15) and commercial carriers. Most of the C-69 aircraft built were later converted into civilian airliners under the new designation L-049.
The Lockheed L-049 Constellation was the first model of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft line. It entered service as the C-69 military transport aircraft during World War II for the United States Army Air Forces and was the first civilian version after the war. When production ended in 1946 it was replaced by the improved L-649 and L-749 Constellation.
The Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation is an American aircraft, a member of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft line. The L-1049 was Lockheed's response to the successful Douglas DC-6 airliner, first flying in 1950. The aircraft was also produced for both the United States Navy and Air Force as transport, electronics, and airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The Lockheed L-1249 Super Constellation was a turbine-powered version of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft family. Built in 1954 and 1955, the aircraft were used as prototypes for possible future turboprop military transport aircraft for both the United States Air Force and United States Navy. Both aircraft saw very short lives and the airframes were later used to build L-1049 Super Constellations.
The Lockheed L-1649 Starliner was the last model of the Lockheed Constellation line of airliners. Powered by four Wright R-3350 TurboCompound engines, it was built at Lockheed's Burbank, California plant from 1956 to 1958.
The Lockheed L-649 Constellation was the first real civilian version of the Lockheed Constellation line, as the Lockheed L-049 Constellation was a simple redesign from the military Lockheed C-69 Constellation. The L-649 was planned to be the new standard version of the Constellation, but the L-749 Constellation, a co-jointly produced improved deritative, was chosen over the L-649 by most airlines. Most of the few L-649 aircraft built were delivered and operated by Eastern Air Lines.
The Lockheed L-749 Constellation is the first Lockheed Constellation to regularly cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. Although similar in appearance to the L-649 before it, the L-749 had a larger fuel capacity, strengthened landing gear, and eventually weather radar.
The Lockheed Model 44 Excalibur was a proposed American airliner designed by Lockheed. The Model 44 was the first four-engined design from the company, a low-wing monoplane with a retractable tricycle landing gear. Originally fitted with twin fins, the design ended up with three fins. It was to be powered by four 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial engines. Pan American Airways was close to ordering the Excalibur when Lockheed abandoned the project to devote its resources into developing the Model 49 Constellation that had been ordered by Trans World Airlines.
The Lockheed XB-30 (company model L-249) was the design submitted by Lockheed after the request by the United States Army Air Forces for a very heavy bomber, the same request that led to the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the Douglas XB-31 and Consolidated B-32 Dominator.
TWA Flight 529 was a Lockheed Constellation L-049 propliner, registration N86511, operating as a scheduled passenger service from Boston, Massachusetts to San Francisco, California. On September 1, 1961, at 02:05 CDT, the flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Midway Airport (ICAO: KMDW) in Chicago, killing all 73 passengers and five crew on board; it was at the time the deadliest single plane disaster in U.S. history.The accident was investigated by the Civil Aeronautics Board, which concluded its probable cause was the loss of a 5/16 inch bolt which fell out of the elevator control mechanism during the climb from Chicago, resulting in an abrupt pitch up followed by a stall and crash.
This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.