Constellation News

Constellation News Archive - 2023

Lufthansa Starliner on the Move - October 24, 2023

Lufthansa's Starliner N7316C is on the move again after two plus years of storage in a hangar at Paderborn-Lippstadt Airport. During the overnight hours of October 16-18, 2023 the aircraft's fuselage was moved from Paderborn to a hangar at Hamburg Airport where it will be reassembled by Lufthansa Technik staff and retirees. In addition to the fuselage, two wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers and more than 200 boxes of parts will be moved to the Hamburg hangar. In October 2022 Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr announced that the Starliner and Ju-52 D-AQUI would be put on display in either Frankfurt or Munich in time to celebrate the airline's 100th anniversary on January 6, 2026. The folks in Hamburg have a formidable task in front of them to reassemble the giant aircraft. The disassembly and packing of the aircraft in Auburn, Maine during the Spring/Summer of 2018 was nothing short of chaotic, so putting Humpty Dumpty back together will take some doing. While all of us had once hoped that we would see an airworthy Starliner, this is not altogether a bad outcome. The aircraft will be beautifully restored and put on display indoors for all to admire. For more information about the latest developments, check out a recent Austrian Wings article. For a complete recap of Lufthansa's ill-fated Starliner restoration project going back to its inception in December 2007, check out this website's Constellation News Archives beginning with the 2007 Archive. (Note that the Austrian Wings article has a Google translate button, which does a credible job of translating the article.)

"First Air Force One" Update - September 3, 2023

I made my annual summer pilgrimage to Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia on August 16, 2023 and visited Hangar F, where VC-121A 48-610 "Columbine II" is undergoing a "better-than-new" restoration. For an update on the project, check out the article that I've posted on this website.

"Bataan" Makes Debut at EAA AirVenture 2023 - July 28, 2023 - Updated July 30, 2023

Air Legends Foundation VC-121A 48-613/N422NA "Bataan" made her debut at EAA AirVenture 2023, when she landed at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) yesterday afternoon at 3:16PM CDT. She was scheduled to arrive on Monday July 24th but #3 engine problems resulted in a three-day delay. The Connie had made a 6+ hour/1,735-mile non-stop flight from her home base in Chino, California to Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday July 22nd. The plan was to stage the aircraft near Oshkosh and make final preparations prior to the short flight to Oshkosh. The airplane had other ideas when the #3 engine problem reared its ugly head during engine run-up just prior to the planned takeoff to Oshkosh on Monday afternoon. Nigel Hitchman, who seems to be everywhere, photographed the old girl landing at Madison's Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) on Saturday afternoon. The icing on the cake was when the good folks at Wisconsin Aviation allowed Nigel ramp access to photograph the aircraft after it had parked.
I attended AirVenture Sunday thru Tuesday and had positioned myself in a front row seat along runway 36L on Monday afternoon to photograph the anticipated fly-by and landing. I got to see an interesting airshow and large array of aircraft but, alas no "Bataan." On Tuesday morning I made arrangements with Lisa at Air Legends to photograph the Connie at Madison later in the day. Photographs don't do this aircraft restoration justice..."Bataan" was truly gorgeous! Two mechanics were on stands working on the #3 engine and I felt cautiously optimistic that she would eventually make her way to AirVenture.
She didn't make it on Wednesday but on Thursday afternoon she arrived at AirVenture to an enthusiast crowd. Again, Nigel Hitchman captured the moment with his camera.
Shae Leighland-Pence and Roger Syratt were kind enough to share their photos of the aircraft on display on Boeing Plaza. Shae also shared a short video of the aircraft's arrival at AirVenture.
UPDATE - "Bataan" departed Oshkosh on Saturday July 29th at 2:56pm for the short flight to Madison. Too late in the day to depart for Chino, the aircraft overnighted in Madison and departed the next morning at 10:48am. As usual, Nigel was perfectly positioned to capture the Connie's departure from Oshkosh.
Prior to her trek east, "Bataan" had flown to Aurora, Oregon to get some interior work done. Her flight over the Cascades was captured in a four-minute YouTube video titled Connie Over the Cascades. Many thanks to Nigel Hitchman, Shae Pence and Roger Syratt for their photos and to Lisa at Air Legends Foundation for arranging ramp access at Wisconsin Aviation in Madison.

Connie to AirVenture 2023 - July 10, 2023

It's been at least twenty years since a Constellation has graced center stage at AirVenture but it looks likely that VC-121A 48-613/N422NA "Bataan" will be making her first visit to the "big show" in July. After a week or so of flight testing at Chino, she was flown to Aurora State Airport in Oregon for a bit of interior work before heading east to Oshkosh. I will be attending the first two days of AirVenture and I hope to see her there. Fingers crossed....

RIP - Connie Survivor Count Down by One - June 28, 2023

Michael Kelly recently visited Santo Domingo Airport (SDQ) and reports that Constellation HI-393 is no longer in the airport's boneyard. A recent Google Earth image confirms that the aircraft is gone. It had been stored at the airport since 1983 and in October 1994 her engines, propellers and other useful spares were sold to Vern Raburn in support of the MATS Connie, which was an airworthy "flyer" at the time. Over the years more and more parts were removed until it became essentially an empty hulk. It's not a big surprise that the airplane was finally scrapped, as the airport has been slowly cleaning up the boneyard. I actually was a bit surprised in September 2021 when a Google Earth image showed that it was still there.

South African Starliner Gets Some TLC - June 26, 2023

Peter Brill reports that South African Airways Museum Starliner ZS-DVJ is getting a well-deserved facelift as crews have been busily painting the aircraft during the past month. On display for many years at Johannesburg's O. R. Tambo International Airport, the aircraft was disassembled and moved to Rand Airport on October 13, 2017. Reassembly began in 2018 and was completed in October 2019. Painted by South African Airways in Trek Airways colors in February 2004, the aircraft was past due for painting. Peter reports that Trek Airways titles will be applied in due course. Many thanks to Peter his report and for forwarding the photos.

VC-121A "Bataan" Makes First Post-Restoration Flight - June 24, 2023

VC-121A 48-613/N422NA "Bataan" made it first post-restoration test flight on the early evening of June 20, 2023. From all accounts the flight went well and more test flights are scheduled in the upcoming weeks. The flight was the culmination of a 7+ year restoration effort that began shortly after the aircraft was ferried from Valle, Arizona to Chino, California on January 14, 2016. At least two videos of the event have been posted on YouTube. Lewis Air Legends posted a video titled Restoration First Flight and "Skyes9" posted a very nice 5-minute video of the event.
The airplane exterior looked absolutely stunning when Mike Yamada photographed her in the hangar a day prior to the big day.
Mike also photographed the aircraft on its second test flight, which occured on June 22, 2023.
Completion of the aircraft's interior is scheduled to take place during the upcoming months. For more information about the aircraft and the restoration project, check out the May 6, 2023 and previous posts on this website.

C-121G Forward Fuselage Destroyed - May 9, 2023

The forward fuselage of former U.S. Navy and NASA C-121G/R7V-1 N420NA was destroyed when the folks from MOTORART harvested its skin for the latest addition to their PLANETAGS product line. I had no idea that this cockpit existed in Wade's Salvage Yard in Atco, New Jersey and, when NEWS surfaced of its existence in late 2021, I naively hoped that some organization would see fit to save it. Sad news, but at least the aircraft will continue on as a "survivor"...even if it's in the form of many thousands of small trinkets for the enthusiast community.

Bataan Completes Initial Engine Testing - May 6, 2023

Lewis Air Legends VC-121A 48-613 "Bataan" got one step closer to its first post-restoration flight when initial engine testing was completed at Chino Airport yesterday. Vintage Radials of Tehachapi, California rebuilt the aircraft's R3350 engines and owner Mike Nixon was on hand to witness yesterday's testing. The Connie was acquired from The Planes of Fame Museum in April 2015 and ferried from Valle, Arizona to Chino on January 14, 2016. Restoration began almost immediately thereafter and kicked into high gear last summer when the aircraft was moved into a hangar. Rumor is that the Connie will be heading to AirVenture for its debut and if true, it will be the first Constellation to attend in many years. For more information about the aircraft and project, check out the April 6, 2023 and other linked posts on this website.

Lockout of Airline History Museum Continues - April 14, 2023

Kansas City's Airline History Museum is involved in a continuing legal battle with Signature Aviation over the lease of its longtime home in Hangar 9 at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. The situation has escalated to the point where the museum has been locked out of the hangar since July 2022. The museum issued a press release on April 12, 2023 titled "LONGTIME TOURIST ATTRACTION ENDANGERED BY LOCKOUT", which summarizes the situation. The museum's aircraft collection includes a Lockheed Super Constellation, Martin 404, Douglas DC-3, Northrop Delta and a Lockheed L1011. With the exception of the L1011, all of the aircraft are housed inside the hangar and none are currently airworthy. If the museum loses its battle with Signature, these iconic aircraft will most certainly be evicted from the hangar and be relegated to outdoor storage or even possible scrapping. Kansas City TV stations KMBC-TV and WDAF-TV have both recently aired reports regarding the situation. For more information about the situation, check out the AHM website and a September 17th news item on this website.

"Bataan" Restoration Nearing Completion - April 6, 2023

An amazing restoration project is nearing completion at Chino Airport in California. VC-121A 48-613/N422NA "Bataan" was acquired by Rod Lewis in April 2015 and was made airworthy for a ferry flight from Valle, Arizona to Chino Airport, which occurred on January 14, 2016. Work on the aircraft began on an outdoor ramp soon after arrival at Chino but the pace accelerated when it was moved to a hangar during the summer of 2021. Tony Dann forwarded photos taken of the aircraft in February 2022 showing that much progress had been made since the move indoors. Kermit Weeks visited the hangar in January 2023 and posted a 24-minute YouTube video yesterday, which clearly shows the amazing scope of the project. If a placard on the entry stairway can be believed, there's a good chance we'll see the Connie at AirVenture 2023. Lewis Air Legends also created a very nice 45-minute YouTube video documenting the January 2016 ferry flight from Valle to Chino.

Super Constellation For Sale - April 4, 2023

Former Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA) C-121C HB-RSC was recently advertised for sale on the AvBUYER website. "DIAG Aviation is please to offer a very special and historical Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation Aircraft. The aircraft was last flown in October 2016 on the Swiss Registration. HB-RSC was professionally disassembled and can be transported world wide. Aircraft is professionally stored. Call or email for more details."
The aircraft was sold to a German investment group in 2019, disassembled in Zurich and shipped to Eschbach-Bremgarten, Germany, where it was stored in a warehouse. While it was widely reported that the new owners intended to restore the aircraft to an airworthy condition, this never happened and it remained disassembled. One can only surmise that the daunting scope of the necessary repairs and the prospect of dealing with European aviation authorities was enough for the new owners to abandon the project and offer the aircraft for sale. For more information about the 2019 disassembly and sale of the aircraft, check out the Constellation News Archive - 2019 page.

USAF Standard Aircraft Characteristics Documents - March 15, 2023

Noah Stegman Rechtin is the Collections Manager at the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, Ohio. He recently sent me PDFs of some interesting documents that he found in the museum's collection including USAF Standard Aircraft Characteristics data sheets for the C-121A, C-121C and RC-121D aircraft. The documents date from the mid- to late-1950s and provide a treasure trove of interesting information regarding the three Constellation models in use by the USAF at the time. Many thanks to Noah for passing along these interesting documents.

"Avion Pirata" Constellation Update - January 22, 2023

On his recent South American trip, Bo-G ran Lundkvist visited Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia where he photographed Constellation N2520B in a public park where it has been on display since the early 1970's. He reports on his January 15, 2023 visit to the park. "Fun experience today! Lockheed 049-46 Constellation ex N2520B (c/n 2081) was built in 1946 and is in a public park off Av. Uruguay in central Santa Cruz de la Sierra. In the early 1960s it was used for smuggling activities, and on July 30, 1961 it was forced by Bolivian Air Force P-51 Mustangs to land at Santa Cruz El Trompillo Airport and impounded. It was later moved via road to its present location a few miles away. It is considered a "symbol" of Santa Cruz city. Locals get together in the shade to cook and sell food. Very few Constellations are still around these days so it was great to see this one in nice fresh white and green paint. Quite easy to get to. In the Uber Search just type in "Avion Pirata" ("Pirate Airplane") and it comes right up! It s well cared for with a fairly recent paint job. BTW I m actually posing with the Constellation in the first photo!"

It s great to see that the aircraft is being so well cared for, even after all these years. Many thanks to Bo-G ran for his report and photos.

See Constellation News Archive - 2022 For Additional News

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----Created 31 January 2004------Updated 24 October 2023----