SCFA Super Connie Hamburg Airport Days

SCFA Super Connie - Hamburg Airport Days

15/16 September 2007

SCFA Super Connie at Hamburg Airport Days

Propliner enthusiast Rainer Spoddig reports on the 2007 "Hamburg Airport Days" event.......

On the weekend of September 15th-16th the well known "Hamburg Airport Days" took place with many exciting and extraordinary vintage and modern airplanes in attendance. As a prop enthusiast, there was no question I would attend the entire event and take the opportunity again to fly in the Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA) Super Connie for the second time after last year's first flight. The Super Connie was supposed to arrive Friday at 5:00 pm as were most of other visiting aircraft. Due to low temperatures and heavy rain with low visibilities the SCFA wisely decided to postpone their arrival until Saturday morning at 11:00 am, just minutes before the Airbus A380 thrilled the crowd.

After arriving in quite good weather the Swiss and Hamburg flags were raised through the cockpit windows. The first sightseeing flight was made early afternoon on 15 September and the approach on runway 33 looked like the Connie would land in the crowd. Unfortunately the picture is a bit blurry due to the heat haze. Late afternoon of the same day another flight was on the schedule. The Curtiss Wright Cyclones were fired up with the usual heavy oil smoke. The smoke reached me just seconds later and I smelled from burned oil for the rest of day. Wonderful!!
By the time the Super Connie returned it was quite dark, which gave me the chance for a "Mystic Flyer" shot. On Sunday morning it was time for my SCFA member sightseeing flight. I was happy to catch the only window seat facing backwards with a great view on the radials. This scene, which could also have been photographed decades ago shows the other vintage propliners on the apron. After the pushback the engines were fired up with the taxiing Goldtimer Foundation Li-2 coming into view.
The takeoff on runway 23 gave me the opportunity for this interesting shot. Soon after takeoff we headed to the coast of the Baltic Sea with the island of Fehmarn in the background. A few minutes later we were overflying the harbor at Heiligenhafen.
Next up was the ferry harbor of Puttgarden followed by the big northern river Elbe near the city of Stade.
After securing my initial photos, I made the obligatory visit in the cockpit with captain Ernst Frei, first officer Al Malecha and flight engineer Jerry Steele. This was my third flight with Al already. The first time I flew with him on the MATS Connie from Antwerp to Hahn back in 1998! Connie flying seems to keep us young! The navigator's window was located on top of the fuselage just behind the cockpit for navigation using a sextant. A detail from years before when one couldn't imagine what a GPS would be. I had a nice 1950's view of the #1 engine from my seat. (Note from reader Ken Miller: All C-121C aircraft were delivered with a port for the use of a periscopic sextant. As a MATS line navigator with over 2,000 hours in C-121C aircraft out of Charleston AFB between January 1955 and December 1957 there was no "dome". That flat plate in the roof is just a window. When we flew C-54's out of Charleston AFB we navigated the North Atlantic with the hand held sextant in a dome and a magnetic compass. I can appreciate the GPS in my car much more than the younger set! )
After overflying Hamburg's harbor we headed for downtown Hamburg with the TV tower, the main station (on the wing edge), waterfountain, "Binnenalster“, and the city canal of Hamburg which makes Hamburg so beautiful. Far too soon the airport with the runway 33/15 came into view.
After landing we taxied back to the apron with the Airbus A380 in the background. Ironically the 50+ year old Super Connie performed perfectly the entire weekend without any technical problems whereas the A380 had to disappoint the large crowd when the planned takeoff had to be canceled due to a hydraulic fluid leak. Airshow visitors had this sole vantage point to observe taxiing aircraft because the view was blocked by parked aircraft and other obstacles on the rest of the tarmac. Horrible for a photographer! I had to carry a ladder the whole day to take reasonable shots! Of course the media was very present the whole weekend asking the Connie passengers questions like “Aren't you afraid to fly in such an old aircraft!” Well....
On Sunday afternoon a modern world record took place. 15 vintage aircraft flew in a formation consisting of 8 DC-3/C-47, the Super Connie, one DC-6, one Li-2, one DC-2, one Avro Anson and one North American AT-6. Only the Messerschmitt "Taifun" is missing from the picture. The second photo shows the Super Connie in formation flight with DC-6 G-APSA.
A short time later the Super Connie left Hamburg for the return flight to Basle with a nice takeoff on runway 23. For anyone who would like to experience the Super Connie as a passenger, I can only recommend that you hurry up. Sign up for SCFA membership, which enables you to fly in the Super Connie! No one can predict how long it will be possible to keep the Super Connie in the air due to the foreseeable lack of certified crew, especially the check captains and flight engineers. At the time of writing only the Australian HARS and SCFA Super Connies were in service. Fortunately Lufthansa plans to bring one of the three recently purchased L1649A Starliners back into the air. Good luck Lufthansa!

Rainer Spoddig
February 2008

Photo Credits: Rainer Spoddig

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----Created 8 February 2008---Updated 4 March 2009----