Constellation News Archive - 2011
Dutch Aviodrome Closes Its Doors – December 24, 2011
I received the following message from Eelco Groenenberg yesterday reporting on the news of the apparent demise of the Aviodrome Aviation Theme Park in Lelystad, Netherlands.
“Today is a sad day. The Dutch museum Aviodrome, home of Constellation N749NL, closed its doors today. The museum filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on November 8, 2011 and has been actively seeking financial sponsors. Yesterday the word came that no parties had been found and the museum was declared bankrupt. Although the search for funds continues, it will be difficult due to the poor economical climate. The employees of the museum are hopeful that a solution will be found. The worst case scenario is the auctioning off of the museum’s collection. Let's hope this will not happen because the museum houses very rare planes, some of them in flying condition, like the Lockheed 749 Constellation and a Douglas DC-2.”
In addition, Luchtvaartnieuws reports that 56 staff members will be terminated, with 36 on December 29, 2011 and the remaining 20 on January 9, 2012. Preparations are underway for the auction of the museum’s buildings and all equipment, which is expected to take six weeks. The DC-3’s of DDA Classic Airlines are not included in the bankruptcy and KLM plans on creating a foundation to care for the DC-2. No mention is made about the museum’s Constellation. With all the blood, sweat, tears and money expended on the restoration of this airplane and its 5,000 mile flight from Arizona to Holland, it would be a real shame if a new owner wasn’t found who can properly care for this historic aircraft. A new owner who gets her back flying again would be even better!
EC-121T N548GF Ferry Flight to Chino Appears Imminent – December 10, 2011
It appears that EC-121T N548GF (53-548) is close to making her long anticipated ferry flight from Camarillo to the Yanks Museum home in Chino, CA. The museum has been working on the aircraft for four months and, on Thursday December 8th, engine and taxi runs were successfully completed. The FAA is apparently onboard and being supportive, which is really good news. Frank Wright, the museum’s restoration managers, says she’s ready to go and he’s hoping the flight to Chino will happen in early January. Check out the museum’s website for additional information and updates.
Long Awaiting Air-Britain DC-3 75th Anniversary Book Released - November 27,2011
Please forgive another bit of non-Constellation news but I couldn’t resist plugging the new Air-Britain DC-3 75th Anniversary book, since it features a number of my photos, including two on the back cover. The book provides updates and corrections to Air-Britain’s two volume DC-3 70th Anniversary edition, which was published in 2005. In addition, the book features 15 articles, a section on survivors and many additional photos, both historic and recent. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has the slightest interest in DC-3’s. It is available from Air-Britain and, in the US, from the Airways Magazine on-line bookstore.
Breitling Sion Air Show Video Clip – November 23, 2011
SCFA member Willy Stotzer forwarded me a link to a video clip
taken at this year’s Breitling Sion Air Show. The 3 minute 41 second video features the gorgeous Breitling Super Constellation in some very nice takeoff, landing and low fly-by sequences. It ends with a short segment featuring the Breitling DC-3 taking off. Check it out…
Manila Super Connie Deemed an “Eyesore” and Safety Hazard – November 10, 2011
I received emails from Rich Woods and Trygve Johansen yesterday informing me of an interesting development regarding C-121J N4247K. The emails contained a link to a notice from the Manila International Airport Authority calling for owners of a number of “abandoned” aircraft at the airport to remove or dismantle their aircraft. These aircraft are parked in the General Aviation Area of the airport. The airport authority claims they need the area and have deemed the aircraft to be eyesores and health/safety hazards. The notice claims that, if the aircraft are not removed in 30 days, the authority will begin the process of auctioning them.
N4247K has been stored at the airport since 1988, when it was impounded by authorities after a dispute between owner William “Winky” Crawford and some local businessmen. Crawford has been deceased for some years now so it can be safely assumed that the aircraft will be auctioned. In the past, there have been a number of organizations and individuals interested in buying this aircraft but its uncertain ownership and the Philippine bureaucracy made this all but impossible. Rather than being bad news, I see this as a positive development in that there is now a clear path for interested parties to purchase the aircraft. Hopefully this happens and the aircraft can be saved from the scrapman.
EC-121H Forward Fuselage "Found" at Pima Air & Space Museum – November 6, 2011
Dave Cohen reports that, as of October 5th, the forward fuselage of EC-121HK N51006 was stored at the Pima Air and Space Museum. For many years this aircraft moved between Davis Monthan AFB, the Pima Air and Space Museum and a number of scrap yards that surround the AFB. Picked clean of useful parts over the years, it was only a matter of time before she was scrapped and that happened in early September this year. The good news is that the Historical Aviation Restoration Society (HARS) is transporting the forward fuselage section to Australia for preservation.
Vintage Propliners Forum Website Launched - November 6, 2011
Marc Hookerman launched The Vintage Propliners Bulletin Board website today. Marc is an extremely knowledgeable aviation professional who also happens to be an avid propliner enthusiast. The site contains five forums including General Propliner Discussion, Notable Recip Activity, Notable Turboprop Activity, Propliner Photographs and Propliner Videos.
HFF DC-7B Flight with Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles – October 22, 2011
While a DC-7B flight is obviously not a topic that normally appears on this website, I thought I’d make an exception in this case. My good friends Roger Jarman and Carlos Gomez and the Historical Flight Foundation are offering a once in a lifetime flight on DC-7B N836D with “Miracle on the Hudson” US Airways pilots Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles. The DC-7B will depart Opa-locka Airport on the morning of November 18, 2011 on a round-trip flight to Charlotte International Airport to visit the Carolina Aviation Museum. Sully and Jeff are being checked out in N836D and will be at the controls of the aircraft for at least parts of the flight. While not at the controls, they will be visiting with the passengers. The A320 involved in the “miracle” is on display at the museum and viewing it with Sully and Jeff should be a highlight of the trip. There are only 40 seats available at $1,000 apiece and more information about the flight and how to book a seat can be found on the HFF website.
Not Current News, But a Very Cool Video - October 20, 2011
Michael Prophet recently emailed me this YouTube video of Super Connie N6937C making a very low pass at an airshow in Quincy, Illinois in 1994. I wonder what the FAA had to say about the crew’s antics?
Air-to-Air Photos of Breitling Super Connie – September 21, 2011
Dietmar Schreiber recently sent me some very nice air-to-air photos of Breitling Super Connie HB-RSC. The photos were taken on July 28, 2011 over southern Germany at 3,500 feet on a flight from Memmingen, Germany to Basle, Switzerland. Thanks much to Dietmar for sharing his photos.
EC-121H 53-535 "Disappears From Pima Air and Space Museum - September 13, 2011
Ben Fisher reports that the remains of EC-121H N51006 have disappeared from the grounds of the Pima Air and Space Museum. Ben went to check up on the old girl on Tuesday September 6th and, much to his surprise, there was no sign of the aircraft. In Ben's own words "You would never have know a Connie was sitting there for all those years." Bob Delahunty confirmed that the forward fuselage section was heading to Australia; some parts to other Constellation restoration projects and for display at the Pima Air and Space Museum; and the remainder of the aircraft regrettably scrapped.
EC-121H 53-535 Being Scrapped in Tucson – August 31, 2011
The population of Constellation survivors will be one less with the scrapping of EC-121H N51006. This aircraft was delivered to the USAF as RC-121D 53-535 in March 1955. Retired in December 1969, it went to the Pima Air and Space Museum in October 1973, where it was on display until October 1981 when it returned to Davis Monthan AFB for storage. Sold in 1989 it was stored in various scrap yards around the base and stripped of valuable parts by a number of owners. HARS acquired the aircraft and moved it from the Allied Aircraft yard to the Pima Air and Space Museum in June 2008. Ben Fisher emailed me photos of the aircraft taken on August 30, 2011 and Bob Delahunty, President of HARS, confirmed that the aircraft is indeed being scrapped. The forward fuselage section will be transported to Australia for restoration. Parts salvaged from the aircraft will be used as spares for the organization’s airworthy Super Connie VH-EAG and also for the restoration of C-121G N105CF, currently stored at Marana Regional Airport near Tucson. HARS has generously offered other parts and pieces to the Pima Air and Space Museum and other Constellation restoration projects. I'd like to thank Ben for sending me the photos and Bob for the prompt response to my email.
Lufthansa Starliner Restoration Update – August 6, 2011
I recently visited Auburn, Maine where steady progress continues on the extensive restoration of Starliner N7316C. From its modest start in 2008, the project has grown dramatically with over 50 workers currently employed on-site in Auburn.
N7316C has been disassembled to the point where the fuselage and wings must be externally supported. As mechanics and technicians disassembled N7316C, corrosion and cracks were found in the wings and fuselage during visual and NDT inspections. Due to corrosion between the stringers and fuselage skins, many of the stringers and substantial portions of the fuselage skin will be replaced, including most of the lower fuselage skin. In addition, many of the fuselage frames were found to be damaged and will be replaced.
The Starliner’s massive wing is another area that required special attention. Visual and NDT inspection revealed that sections of the bottom wing plank had cracks and corrosion that couldn’t be repaired. The only viable solution is to remove the affected plank sections and splice in replacements. The bottom wing plank varies in width and thickness along the wing and fabricating new plank sections is not a simple process. Fortunately a company, USA Machine, was found which has extensive experience milling similar plank sections for the U.S. Navy’s P-3 aircraft.
Passenger door frames have arrived from Germany and the front door frames have been dry fitted prior to permanent installation. The passenger doors obtained from the South African Airways Museum are still in Germany and will be delivered later this year after repairs are completed. Floor beams need to be replaced and flooring will be inspected prior to reinstallation.
In addition to the work being performed in Auburn, specialized work has been farmed out to Lufthansa Technik in Germany, including overhaul of the landing gear assemblies and the above mentioned passenger doors. Six R3350 engines are being overhauled by Anderson Aeromotive in Idaho with the first engine recently completing its test run. A multitude of electrical, mechanical and hydraulic components are being overhauled by various specialty shops as well as the cockpit instruments.
As the scope of the project has grown, additional personnel and facilities have become necessary. The project had previously been managed in Germany but on May 1, 2011 Andreas Gherman arrived in Maine to oversee the entire program directly on-site in Auburn. Dr. Rainer Sebus is the new on-site engineer in charge and he is responsible for coordinating the engineering efforts in both Maine and Germany.
I’d like to thank Michael Austermeier for taking the time out of his busy day to give me a tour of the hangar and to Lufthansa for allowing me access to the project.
South African Starliner ZS-DVJ Being Evicted From OR Tambo International Airport – July 18, 2011
The authorities at OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) have long wanted L1649A Starliner ZS-DVJ gone from their airport. The aircraft is owned by the South African Airways Museum Society and they received word in January 2011 that the aircraft had to be relocated or it would be scrapped. This museum plans on moving the aircraft to its facility at Rand Airport (QRA). While Rand Airport is only 9 miles southwest of OR Tambo Airport, the aircraft is not airworthy and will have to be disassembled and moved by road to its new home. This is not a trivial or inexpensive undertaking and a team has been formed by the museum to plan the disassembly and move.
ZS-DVJ (c/n 1042) was delivered new to Lufthansa Airlines in January 1958 as D-ALOL. It was in service with the airline for less than five years when it was leased to World Airways in October 1962 and then sold to Trek Airways in March 1964 as ZS-DVJ. Leased to South African Airways and Luxair for short periods of time, the aircraft was retired by Trek in April 1969 and stored at Johannesburg. She made her last flight in October 1971 when she was flown from Johannesburg to the Klein Kariba Resort near Warmbaths for display. In late 1978, ZS-DVJ was donated to the SAA Museum. The aircraft was moved by road to OR Tambo International Airport (then Jan Smuts International Airport) in May 1979, where she was reassembled. Restoration began in February 1984 and completed four years later. Repainted in 2004, she is one of four surviving L1649A Starliners and the only one with its passenger interior intact.
The museum has received considerable technical assistance from Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLSB), which is currently restoring Starliner N7316C at Auburn-Lewiston Airport (LEW) in the United States. In addition, SAA Technical and the SAA Apprentice School have also provided valuable assistance to the project. For additional information about this aircraft and its impending move, check out the SAA Museum Society’s website.
HI-393 Back on Her Tail in the Weeds at Santo Domingo – July 9, 2011
Carl Aronson forwarded me recent photos of Constellation HI-393 sitting on her tail in the weeds at Santo Domingo. Back in June 2007 the aircraft had been rescued from the weeds and was sitting on its nosewheel for the first time in many years. At that time there were rumors around the airport that there was some interest in restoring the aircraft for static display. It appears that any restoration plans have been shelved, at least for the time being. Thanks Carl for forwarding the photos.
Super Connie N468C “Found” in Belize – July 8, 2011
It's been a very long time since the last report or sighting of L1049H N468C, which crash landed in Belize in May 1976 after experiencing a runaway prop. The aircraft fuselage was salvaged and moved to Blue Creek, where it was reportedly used as a storage shed. 35 years is a long time for an aircraft to be used as a storage shed and I had my doubts about its survival. These doubts proved ill founded when Eric Prado posted recent photographs of the fuselage on Flickr. In his own words, Eric recounts how he managed to find and photograph this almost forgotten Super Connie.
“I was traveling through Belize to photograph wildlife reserves, Mayan ruins and caves, and while in Orange Walk Town, I'd remember reading about this Connie and being an avid aviation photographer, I couldn't resist looking for it. The Blue Creek area was only roughly 40 miles West of where I'd been staying."
“The area of Belize this is in is largely a German-speaking Mennonite area. I don't know much about them, but they aren't the friendliest people - not mingling with locals any more than they have to, and preferring to keep among themselves. I drove through the Blue Creek area a couple times, not seeing anything, and finally stopped at a restaurant. The only person around was the woman running the restaurant, who either didn't understand me, the question, or simply didn't know what I was talking about. She said there were hangars and an airfield nearby off the main road, though I never found them.”
“As I was about to give up, and drive the road back down the escarpment, I turned on a little road trying to find the hangars she mentioned, but that came to a dead-end. Craning my neck to turn the car around, I happened to look up, and saw the fuselage on a rise just above me. I'd almost gone right past it without seeing it. No hangars, no airfield, just what appears to be a junk yard with a Connie!”
Many thanks to Eric for hunting down this aviation relic and for sharing his photographs.
Manila Airport Super Connie Moves Again – May 25, 2011
Since it was impounded by airport authorities in June 1988, Super Constellation N4247K has been stored in many locations around Manila International Airport. I recently received an email from Bill Riopel informing me that it has been moved yet another time.
"I thought you may be interested in this. I was looking at Google Earth and was surprised that the Connie was not in the old location where it was three years ago and I feared the worse. I began a 'ground' search and found they had moved a number of derelict aircraft. The Super Connie and several others were moved about 300 meters to the southeast from where they had been earlier as it appears they have built two new hangers in previous (lawn) parking area. The up shot is, it would appear that the airport authorities do not seem to be eager to scrap any of these aircraft. That is a plus, but sadly it is only a matter of time. Attached are two Google Earth photos showing the old and current locations."
Check out these Google Earth images Bill included with his email.
Swiss Aviation Authorities Scrub Breitling Super Connie Flight Plans - May 24, 2011
Citing additional issues found during inspection of HB-RSC, Swiss aviation authorities have at least temporarily delayed the Breitling Super Connie's return to the European airshow circuit. Crew training, which had been scheduled for the week of May 16th, was scrubbed as were all flights until some time in June. The following press release was posted on the SCFA website.
Connie's first flight postponed
The FOCA inspections for the corrosion repairs conducted on HB-RSC, which were originally planned to have taken place in the middle of March, have been completed in Lahr. These inspections could not be completed until after the corrosion repairs were finished in the beginning of May.The comprehensive inspection resulted in identifying three areas for which the FOCA will require additional repairs. Our maintenance team has already developed a plan to fix the areas in need of attention. At the moment it is not possible to determine when these tasks will be completed, but we are confident that all necessary repairs will be finished for the Connie's visit at Paris LeBourget.
Super Constellation Flyers Association Committee
Constellation N1206 Departs Salina in 2011? - May 3, 2011
I recently spoke to Gordon Cole and he told me that the Salina Airport Authority informed him that he will have to vacate his long time parking spot at the airport by the end of the year. Gordon is currently building up the #1 engine on its QEC and plans to head to Salina in the next 30 days to install the engine and get the veteran aircraft ready for a ferry flight. All three of the engines currently installed on N1206 have been run during the past two years and, with the #1 engine installed and running, Gordon can concentrate on all the other mechanic systems that will need to be checked and repaired before a ferry flight is attempted. Gordon has offers from two nearby airports to host the airplane and short gear-down ferry flight is what he has in mind. A qualified flight crew has been recruited and hopefully we’ll see this gorgeous airplane fly in 2011 for the first time in many years. Keep on eye out for additional updates on this website.
Breitling Super Connie Rolls Out in New Colors – April 30, 2011
As advertised, the Breitling Super Constellation was rolled out in her new colors at Black Forrest Airport on Saturday April 30th. A large crowd was in attendance and they were not disappointed with what they saw. Unfortunately the Super Connie was not able to fly on Saturday due to the lack of final paperwork but she is scheduled to complete check flights during the upcoming week. Congratulations to the folks at SCFA for a great job and proving the doubters wrong! I look forward to seeing this gorgeous aircraft on the airshow circuit for many years to come. Thanks very much to Rainer and Ignaz for sharing their photos.
Breitling Super Connie Paint Shop Photos – April 24, 2011
The painting of HB-RSC at Zurich is well underway as shown in the below photos. By April 21st the primer, silver and white coats of paint had been applied. Many thanks to Rolf Harlacher for providing the photos.
Breitling Super Connie Makes First Flight in Over a Year – April 12, 2011 (Updated April 20, 2011)
The world's population of flying Connies recently increased to a total of two aircraft when corrosion repairs to the wing and rudder were completed on the “Breitling Super Connie.” The aircraft was flown from Black Forest Airport in Lahr, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland on Sunday April 10th for application of a new color scheme. This was the aircraft’s first flight in over a year and all systems worked well with the four R3350 engines performing flawlessly.
Soon after arriving in Zurich, the Super Connie was towed into a hangar where she joined two Swiss A340’s and a World Airways MD11. In preparation for painting, she was steam cleaned and washed, 1,000 gallons of avgas drained and her fuel tanks purged. Scaffolding was soon erected and sanding and masking began in earnest.
Painting is expected to take a couple of weeks with the aircraft being flown back to Lahr for a roll-out ceremony and open house on Saturday April 30, 2011. After the open house, HB-RSC will be flown to Basel, Switzerland for the official start of the 2011 airshow season. The aircraft is scheduled to appear at airshows in Friedrichshafen, Germany; Le Bourget, France; Bouchs, Switzerland; Sion, Switzerland; and Hamburg, Germany. Membership flights have also been scheduled at the airports at Samedan and Meiringen, Switzerland. More events are planned and the latest information can be found on the organization’s website at www.superconstellation.org
Avra Valley Connies – March 19, 2011
On a recent trip to Arizona, Michael O’Leary stopped at Marana Regional Airport (formally Avra Valley Airport) to check out the airport’s “Corrosion Corner.” As most readers know, the airport was for many years the home of the MATS Connie and the center of Constellation activity in the United States. In additional to a number or former Central Air Service DC-4’s, two Connies still call the airport home. One is Super Connie C-121G N105CF, which at one time was destined to be the SCFA’s flagship but is now stripped down to essentially a shell. The old girl was recently purchased by HARS who plan on dismantling the aircraft for transport to Australia, where it will be restored for static display. The other Connie is the historically significant VC-121A “Columbine II” 48-610 (N9463), which served as Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential aircraft from November 1952 to November 1954. Owned by Harry Oliver since the early 1990’s, the aircraft was flown to the airport from Santa Fe in May 2003 for storage. The aircraft has been for sale for some time and remains essentially intact and in good condition. Many thanks to Michael for sharing the photos.
1951 Era YouTube Video of Constellation N105A – March 18, 2011
Nicholas Weiner sent me an email last week with a link to an interesting YouTube video taken at Miami Airport on March 28, 1951. The video was taken by his late grandparents, who were returning from their honeymoon on Eastern Airlines Flight 614. Constellation N105A was assigned to Flight 614 that day and the footage shows a very different Miami Airport than we know today. N105A was sold by Eastern in the early 1960’s and flew for a number of small airlines for the next 20 years. Along with L049 HI-270, it flew the last Constellation passenger flights on January 19, 1978 from San Juan, PR to Santo Domingo, DR. Sold in February 1980, the aircraft was abandoned after being impounded in Colombia while reportedly on a drug smuggling flight. There have been a number of reports that this aircraft survives, but none have been confirmed and the last photos I have are from 1980 when the aircraft was in Trado colors. Also check out a longer version of the "honeymoon video" on YouTube.
February 3rd Fantasy of Flight Visit – February 13, 2011
While on a visit friends in central Florida, my wife and I decided to visit Kermit Weeks Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City to photograph Starliner N974R. This aircraft was one of three Starliners owned by Maurice Roundy and made its final flight from Sanford, Florida to Fantasy of Flight on October 19, 2001. The aircraft, along with Starliners N7316C and N8083H, was acquired by Lufthansa in December 2007 and has been stored at Fantasy of Flight since arriving in 2001.
I had received a number of reports that N974R had been moved to a location adjacent to Interstate 4 and was no longer easily photographed. I contacted the museum prior to my visit and upon arrival was pleasantly surprised to see the aircraft had been moved and was now parked adjacent to front entrance. Having notified the museum beforehand, I was met by a cadre of friendly museum employees. Mary Jane and Peg hooked us up with Gary, who walked us out to the Starliner. Gary, a retired United Airlines mechanic, told us that Kermit Weeks had recently taken ownership of the aircraft and that it had been moved to the front gate for painting in Lufthansa colors. The engines had been removed and replaced with run-outs a few years ago and the aircraft stripped of useful parts by Lufthansa to support the restoration of N7316C but the aircraft was externally complete, if not a bit weatherworn. It’s good to see that this lovely lady will be well cared for and will be enjoyed by future generations of aviation enthusiasts.
The museum runs a tram tour of the storage area and restoration hangar not accessible to visitors on foot. In addition to former Piedmont and PBA Martin 404 N40415, Kermit Weeks has quite a collection of rare aircraft awaiting restoration and three hangars full of airworthy classics. Of particular interest were the Allison V-1710 engines stored in the restoration hangar that were still in their original crates. These engines, which powered the P-40, P-38 and early P-51 aircraft, were rapidly being consumed in non-aviation applications and Kermit’s collection will hopefully find their place in the front ends of warbirds. The visit was capped off with a flying demonstration by the museum’s Fieseler Fi 156 Storch WW II STOL aircraft and an excellent lunch at the Compass Rose Diner. Fantasy of Flight is a great destination for any aircraft enthusiasts and check out their website for additional information. I'd like to thank Mary Deatrick, Mary Jane, Peg, Smilin Jack, Gary and Don for making the visit a very enjoyable one.
German Starliner Book – February 12, 2011
I recently exchanged emails with Wolfgang Borgmann regarding the Stratocruiser restoration project he is involved with. Wolfgang is also the author of a very nice book dedicated to the Lockheed L1649A Starliner, which I recently obtained a copy of. While the book is in German, there are extensive photographs of Super Constellations and Starliners, while in service with Lufthansa. The book also has photos and text dedicated to Maurice Roundy, the South African Starliner, the Lufthansa Starliner restoration effort, the Dutch Aviodrome L749A restoration effort, and the Swiss Super Constellation Flyers Association C-121G/C-121C restoration efforts. The book is hardbound with high quality paper and, while the text was in German, I still enjoyed the photos and would recommend it to all propliner enthusiasts, whether they can read German or not.
See Constellation News Archive - 2010 For Additional News
----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 28 June 2012----