Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation

Connie 1

Four engine military/commercial passenger/cargo aircraft

History of Type

The Constellation was designed in 1939 by Lockheed Aircraft Company as a high speed, transcontinental passenger aircraft for Howard Hughes’ TWA (Trans World Airlines).  The first aircraft flew in 1943, but WW11 meant all aircraft production was used by the US Army Air Force for transport purposes.  There were a number of variants and a total of 856 were built.

One variant was the Super Constellation which first flew in 1951.  A total of 579 were built of which QANTAS took 16.

TWA did not receive its first passenger Constellation aircraft until 1945.  The aircraft was a world beater.  It was very fast with a maximum speed of ~600km/h.  A pressurised cabin meant it could fly above the weather (~7,500m or ~25,000ft) making it a comfortable aircraft to fly in.  First class passengers were at the back of the aircraft (away from the engines) and they could carry ~65 to ~90 passengers.  The Connie was very popular with many airlines after WW11 including QANTAS on the famous Kangaroo Route to London.

History of Connie (#4176)

Our aircraft was built in 1955 as a Super Constellation (affectionately called Connie) and delivered to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) section of the US Air Force.  It was transferred to the Air National Guard (basically the US Air Force Reserve) in 1962 and was used continuously until 1977 when it was put into deep storage (mothballed) at Davis Montham Air Base (famously called “The Bone Yard”) in Tucson Arizona.

Screen-shot-2010-02-19-at-10.27.33-PM 743x380At some point in time during an annual inspection a pilot window was left open and the aircraft became a large pigeon coop with its interior covered in nests and guano (bird poo).  It was being stripped for spare parts.  Scrap metal merchants did not want her because of the guano contamination.  HARS members saw her in 1990 and after negotiation HARS acquired her from the US Air Force in late 1991.

Restoration was conducted by HARS Volunteers, onsite at the Pima Air & Space Museum next to Davis Montham.  QANTAS was very helpful with cheap plane tickets for the many journeys back and forth.  In September 1994 Connie was test flown for the first time in nearly 18yrs.  There was a period of final testing and a fresh coat of paint (donated by Lockheed).  For the journey back to Australia she was flown over the Pacific.  She arrived in Sydney on 3rd February 1996.  (Refer to DVD “Bringing Connie Home” in HARS Shop)

Connie is one of only two flying L-1049 Super Constellations in the world.  The other is the Breitling Super Constellation in Switzerland.  Amazingly both aircraft were built next to each other in the factory.  Connie is #4176 and Breitling Constellation is #4177.  An L-1649A Super Star (the last model of the Constellation line) is currently in the USA being restored to flight by the Lufthansa Museum.

An L-749 Constellation was flown from Arizona to Virginia in early 2016 to be fully restored by Dynamic Aviation.  This VC-121A-LO was the original Air Force One used by President Dwight D Eisenhower.  She was known as Columbine II.

For a history of the HARS Connie and a collection of great images, go to here.

Technical Specifications

Engines: 4 x Wright R3350-93A (3,350 cu in or ~55 L), 18-cylinder radial, internal supercharger, 3 x external power recovery turbines, ~3,000 bhp

Maximum takeoff weight: 54,500-62,400 kg depending on fuel used

Length: 35.4 m

Wing span: 37.6 m (with wingtip tanks)

Height: 7.5 m

Cruising speed: ~400-480 km/h depending on fuel used

Ceiling: ~25,000 ft

Range: ~5,600 km

Crew: 2 pilots, flight engineer, radio operator, navigator, cabin staff