Propliner enthusiast Rainer Spoddig reports on his 1998 flight onboard the MATS Connie.......
As a child I read a book about a youngster who experienced his first flight on a Connie. From that time, I dreamt of having that same adventure. Being born in 1965, my chances of realizing that dream seemed slim but in 1998 the MATS Connie made its European Tour and suddenly the opportunity to fulfil this dream presented itself. As luck would have it, the German aviation enthusiast tour company Airevents had organized a flight on the MATS Connie and I would have the privilege to being a passenger on the positioning flight from Antwerp, Belgium to Hahn, Germany on August 3, 1998. The Connie had attended the Texel Airshow in the Netherlands and Sanicole Airshow in Belgium the previous weekend and was booked for the Hahn in Motion Airshow. I arrived early at Antwerp Airport and took my first photo of the Connie in backlit conditions. You can see the foldable ladder at the rear exit. Fortunately we were allowed to enter the apron early to stroll around and take proper pictures in the nice morning sun.
The crew consisted of Captain Al Malecha in command and famed MATS Connie Captain Frank Lang in the right seat performing first officer duties. As we boarded, the crew were busy performing pre-flight checks. The cabin hosted a small onboard exhibit with an impressive cutaway Wright Cyclone R-3350 engine. Various versions of the R-3350 engine were installed on the all 856 Constellation and Super Constellation aircraft produced by Lockheed. The seats were comfortable, although not as stylish as those found on today's jet airliners.
Finally the engines were fired up with the usual cloud of smoke. After the engines settled down, we began our taxi to the active runway. The MATS Connie always attracted a crowd and our departure was witnessed by the usual group of interested spectators and well wishers. On the way to the runway, we passed some KLM and Belgian operator VLM Fokker 50’s.
We joined RAF Bulldog T.1 XX661 at the end of the runway, where it was waiting takeoff clearance for its flight home after attending the Sanicole and Texel Airshows. Soon the Bulldog was gone and, after completing engine checks, we turned onto the runway for takeoff. A few minutes later we were over the city of Antwerp and on our way to Hahn where we arrived about 50 minutes later to mostly cloudy skies.
The former US Airbase in Hahn was converted to civilian operations in 1993 and was not a busy airport during the Connie’s visit in 1998. Nowadays the no-frills airline Ryanair, the biggest of its kind in Europe, has a large base there and offers flights all over Europe. In addition Hahn, which is officially called Frankfurt-Hahn even though more than 100 kilometres from Frankfurt, is also an important cargo airport, because of its 3,800 meter long runway.
After landing, we taxied to the small airport building with the #1 and #4 engines shut down. Shortly after we arrived the aircraft departed on the media flight and we were allowed to witness the departure and the aircraft over flying the airport.
After the Connnie had returned from the media flight and had been parked for the night, the sun returned and provided the best light of the day for photography!
In addition to the MATS Connie flight in 1998, I had the privilege of flying in the SCFA Super Constellation twice a few years later. The experiences were absolutely fantastic! Below are links to reports on those flights.