|A USAF C-69, the military version of the Constellation|
|First flight||January 9, 1943|
|Introduction||1943 with USAAF
1945 with TWA
|Retired||1990s, airline service
|Primary users||Trans World Airlines
Eastern Air Lines
Pan American World Airways
|Developed from||L-044 Excalibur|
L-1049 Super Constellation
EC-121 Warning Star
|Developed into||Lockheed XB-30 (Unbuilt)|
The Lockheed Constellation ("Connie") was a propeller-driven airliner powered by four 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 engines. It was built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, facility. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in numerous models, all distinguished by a triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage. The Constellation was used as a civilian airliner and as a U.S. military air transport, seeing service in the Berlin Airlift. It was the presidential aircraft for U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Design and development
Initial design studies
Since 1937 Lockheed had been working on the L-044 Excalibur, a four-engine pressurized airliner. In 1939 Trans World Airlines, at the instigation of major stockholder Howard Hughes, requested a 40-passenger transcontinental airliner with 3,500 mi (5,630 km) range—well beyond the capabilities of the Excalibur design. TWA's requirements led to the L-049 Constellation, designed by Lockheed engineers including Kelly Johnson and Hall Hibbard. Willis Hawkins, another Lockheed engineer, maintains that the Excalibur program was purely a cover for the Constellation.
Development of the Constellation
The Constellation's wing design was close to that of the P-38 Lightning, differing mostly in scale. The distinctive triple tail kept the aircraft's overall height low enough to fit in existing hangars, while new features included hydraulically boosted controls and a thermal de-icing system used on wing and tail leading edges. The aircraft had a top speed of over 340 mph (550 km/h), faster than that of a Japanese Zero fighter, a cruise speed of 300 mph (480 km/h), and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft (7,300 m).
According to Anthony Sampson in Empires of the Sky, the intricate design may have been undertaken by Lockheed, but the concept, shape, capabilities, appearance and ethos of the Constellation were driven by Hughes' intercession during the design process.
World War II
With the onset of World War II, the TWA aircraft entering production were converted to an order for C-69 Constellation military transport aircraft, with 202 aircraft intended for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). The first prototype (civil registration NX25600) flew on January 9, 1943, a short ferry hop from Burbank to Muroc Field for testing. Edmund T. "Eddie" Allen, on loan from Boeing, flew left seat, with Lockheed's own Milo Burcham as copilot. Rudy Thoren and Kelly Johnson were also on board.
Lockheed proposed the model L-249 as a long-range bomber. It received the military designation XB-30 but the aircraft was not developed. A plan for a very long-range troop transport, the C-69B (L-349, ordered by Pan Am in 1940 as the L-149), was canceled. A single C-69C (L-549), a 43-seat VIP transport, was built in 1945 at the Lockheed-Burbank plant.
The C-69 was mostly used as a high-speed, long-distance troop transport during the war. A total of 22 C-69s were completed before the end of hostilities, but not all of these entered military service. The USAAF cancelled the remainder of the order in 1945.
After World War II the Constellation came into its own as a popular, fast, civilian airliner. Aircraft already in production for the USAAF as C-69 transports were finished as civilian airliners, with TWA receiving the first on 1 October 1945. TWA's first transatlantic proving flight departed Washington, DC, on December 3, 1945, arriving in Paris on December 4 via Gander and Shannon.
Trans World Airlines transatlantic service started on February 6, 1946 with a New York-Paris flight in a Constellation. On June 17, 1947 Pan American World Airways opened the first ever regularly scheduled round-the-world service with their L-749 Clipper America. The famous flight "Pan Am 1" operated until 1982.
As the first pressurized airliner in widespread use, the Constellation helped to usher in affordable and comfortable air travel. Operators of Constellations included TWA, Eastern Air Lines, Pan American World Airways, Air France, BOAC, KLM, Qantas, Lufthansa, Iberia Airlines, Panair do Brasil, TAP Portugal, Trans-Canada Air Lines (later renamed Air Canada), Aer Lingus, VARIG, Cubana de Aviación and Línea Aeropostal Venezolana.
The Constellation had three accidents in the first 10 months of service, temporarily curtailing its career as a passenger airliner:
- On June 18, 1946, an engine of a Pan American Constellation caught fire and fell off. The flight crew made an emergency landing with no loss of life. The same aircraft made a return flight across America in 11½ hours for repairs using only three engines.
- On July 11, a Transcontinental and Western Air aircraft fell victim to an in-flight fire, crashing in a field and taking the lives of five of the six on board.
The accidents prompted the suspension of the Constellation's airworthiness certificate until Lockheed could modify the design. This was dramatized in the motion picture The Aviator (2004) during the scene where Howard Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) surveys numerous grounded TWA Constellations.
The Constellation proved prone to engine failures, earning the nickname "World's Finest Trimotor" in some circles.
Sleek and powerful, Constellations set a number of records. On April 17, 1944, the second production C-69, piloted by Howard Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye, flew from Burbank, California, to Washington, D.C., in 6 hours and 57 minutes (c. 2,300 mi/3,701 km at an average 330.9 mph/532.5 km/h). On the return trip, the aircraft stopped at Wright Field to give Orville Wright his last flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight. He commented that the Constellation's wingspan was longer than the distance of his first flight.
On September 29, 1957, an L-1649A Starliner flew from Los Angeles to London in 18 hours and 32 minutes (about 5,420 mi/8,723 km at 292.4 mph/470.6 km/h). The L-1649A holds the record for the longest-duration, non-stop passenger flight. During TWA's inaugural London-to-San Francisco flight on October 1–2, 1957, the aircraft stayed aloft for 23 hours and 19 minutes (about 5,350 mi/8,610 km at 229.4 mph/369.2 km/h).
The advent of jet airliners, with the de Havilland Comet, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8 and Convair 880, rendered the piston-engined Constellation obsolete. The first routes lost to jets were the long overseas routes, but Constellations continued to fly domestic routes. The last scheduled passenger flight in the 48 states was made by a TWA L749 on May 11, 1967, from Philadelphia to Kansas City, Missouri. However, Constellations remained in freight service for years to come, and were used on backup sections of Eastern Airlines' shuttle service between New York, Washington, and Boston until 1968. Many old prop airliners were used on overnight freight runs, even into the 1990s, as their low speed was not an impediment for this case. An Eastern Constellation to date still holds the record for a New York to Washington flight from lift off to touch-down in just over 30 minutes. The record was set prior to speed restriction by the FAA below 10,000 ft.
One of the reasons for the elegant appearance of the aircraft was the fuselage shape—a continuously variable profile with no two bulkheads the same shape. Unfortunately, this construction is very expensive and was replaced by the mostly tube shape of modern airliners. The tube is more resistant to pressurization changes and cheaper to build.
With the shutdown of Constellation production, Lockheed elected not to develop a first-generation jetliner, instead sticking to its lucrative military business and production of the modest turboprop-powered Lockheed L-188 Electra airliner. Lockheed would not build a large civil passenger aircraft again until its L-1011 Tristar debuted in 1972. While a technological marvel, the L-1011 was a commercial failure, and Lockheed left the commercial airliner business permanently in 1983.
The initial military versions carried the Lockheed designation of L-049; as World War II came to a close, some were completed as civil L-049 Constellations followed by the L-149 (L-049 modified to carry more fuel tanks). The first purpose-built passenger Constellation was the more powerful L-649 and L-749 (which had more fuel in the outer wings),[page needed] L-849 (an unbuilt model to use the R-3350 TurboCompound engines adopted for the L-1049 ), L-949 (an unbuilt, high-density seating-cum-freighter type, what would come to be called a "combi"), followed by the L-1049 Super Constellation (with longer fuselage), L-1149 (proposal to use Allison turbine engines) and L-1249 (similar to L-1149, built as R7V-2/YC-121F), L-1449 (unbuilt proposal for L1049G, stretched 55 in (140 cm), with new wing and turbines) and L-1549 (unbuilt project to stretch L-1449 95 in (240 cm)), and L-1649 Starliner (all new wing and L1049G fuselage). Military versions included the C-69 and C-121 for the Army Air Forces/Air Force and the R7O R7V-1 (L-1049B) EC-121 WV-1 (L-749A) WV-2 (L-1049B) (widely known as the Willie Victor) and many variant EC-121 designations for the Navy 
After TWA's initial order was filled following World War II, customers rapidly accumulated, with over 800 aircraft built. In military service, the U.S. Navy and Air Force operated the EC-121 Warning Star variant until 1978, nearly 40 years after work on the L-049 began. Cubana de Aviación was the first airline in Latin America to operate Super Constellations. Pakistan International Airlines was the first airline from an Asian country to fly the Super Constellation.
- The Breitling Super Constellation: Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling sponsored a restoration of a C-121C Super Constellation, registration N73544, that is based in Basel and has since been featured in its advertisements. This plane is now registered in the Swiss Aircraft registry as HB-RSC.
- The Camarillo, California, Super Constellation: in flyable condition since 1994, has been flown a limited airshow schedule to very receptive crowds. With ongoing refurbishing, they hope to increase the number of airshows they can attend every year.
- The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) secured and restored a former USAF C-121C Super Constellation (54-0157). The aircraft was subsequently painted in pseudo-Qantas livery (with the usual Qantas lettering along the fuselage replaced with the word "CONNIE") and registered in Australia as VH-EAG. The aircraft is currently based in Wollongong. This Constellation is one of two flying in the world.
- An L-1049H Constellation that was built originally in 1957, stored for several years, and then delivered to cargo carrier Slick Airways was restored in 1986 by the Save-a-Connie, Inc. organization in Kansas City, Missouri, now known as the Airline History Museum. Originally painted in red and white with Save-a-Connie it was later repainted in the 1950s livery of TWA to resemble its original "Star of America" Constellation. The aircraft appeared at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at the original TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the airline with the paint job donated by TWA in Kansas City for the occasion. The "Star of America" has appeared at many airshows and was even used in The Aviator, the 2004 film depicting the life of TWA's one-time owner Howard Hughes, the man often credited with helping design and develop the original Constellation series. After being grounded for the past few years, Star of America is currently being returned to airworthiness and is expected to appear at 2009 air shows.
- A L-1049G Super-Constellation in Lufthansa livery and with historic D-ALEM call letters is on display on the Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany, representing Lufthansa's first long-haul aircraft of 1955.
- One Super Constellation is parked on an unused runway in the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. It was struck by a runaway DC-4 at Aguadilla-Borinquen Airport, on February 3, 1992, resulting in damage to the right wing and main spar.
- ZS-DVJ c/n 1042 (L-1649A) of Trek Airways on display at OR Tambo International Airport, South Africa at the South African Airways Technical area. The aircraft is owned by the South African Airways Museum Society.
- The Dutch National Aviation museum Aviodrome acquired a VC-121A Constellation. It was restored to airworthy condition and ferried from Tucson, AZ to the Netherlands, where restoration continued. It is now painted in the KLM livery of the 1950s, depicting a KLM Lockheed L-749A. Thanks to a donation by Korean Air, who donated two airworthy engines, this aircraft is scheduled to be flying again in the summer of 2009. Renamed Flevoland, this is the only flying example of the "short" version of the Constellation.
- HL4003 of former Korean National Airlines is displayed in Jeongseok Airport in Jeju island, South Korea. The current owner, Korean Air, keeps this aircraft in an airworthy state, and the aircraft flew under its own power from Seoul to its current location.
- N7777G is displayed in TWA colors (although this aircraft never flew for TWA) at the Large Item Storage facility for the UK Science Museum at Wroughton, near Swindon. This aircraft was used by the Rolling Stones to transport equipment during their 1973 Australian tour. It is the only UK Constellation and is viewable on certain open days.
- L-049 c/n 2072, federal registration N9412H (delivered as Air France's first Constellation in June 1946 as L-049 F-BAZA) is parked adjacent to a flight school and cafe at Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey. It was sold to Frank Lembo Enterprises in May 1976 for $45,000 for use as a restaurant and lounge, and flown in to the airport in July 1977. It was sold to the State of New Jersey along with the airport in 2000, and the interior was refurbished and used as a flight school office in 2005.
- Two L-1649A Super Stars N7316C c/n 1018 and N8083H c/n 1038 (both ex-Alaska Airlines) are parked on private land next to the Lewiston-Auburn Municipal Airport in Auburn, Maine. The two aircraft were purchased at auction by the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Foundation. Lufthansa Technik North America has built a hangar at the airport, which will used to overhaul N7316C to airworthy condition. The target date for completion of the overhaul is October 10, 2010.
- L-049 c/o 1970, N90831, ex-TWA, former C-69, s/n 42-94549 is displayed in outdoor exhibit at Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
- L-049 c/o 2071, ex-KLM, ex-Capital Airlines, is in the museum Asas de um Sonho (Wings of a Dream), located in the TAM Airlines airfield, in Sao Carlos, SP, Brazil. Previously, it served as a children's attraction at the entrance of the Asuncion (Paraguay) International Airport.
- L-749 c/o 2503 is in the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace (The Museum of Air and Space) located in Le Bourget Airport, 10 km north of Paris. Parked in museum storage area since 1975 in good condition with minimal corrosion. Ex-Pan American « Clipper America » del. 6 June 1947 reg. N C86520; to Aerovías Guest Mexico (XA-GOQ 01/1948), Air France from 01/1949 to 10/1960 as F-BAZR; CGTM (Compagnie Générale des Turbo-Machines) as F-ZVMV for use as flying engine test until December 1974.
- L-1049G Super Constellation - CF-TGE (c/n 4544) Is on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington with its original Trans-Canada Air Lines markings (the company that operated it from 1954 to 1960s). After TCA service, it was sold to World Wide Airways and later retired in Montreal by 1965. Renovated as a restaurant and bar in and around the Montreal area. Sold and moved again to Toronto and used as convention facility by the Regal Constellation Hotel. Sold again and stored at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Finally sold and restored in Rome, New York and shipped to the Museum of Flight.
- L-1049G c/n 4519 F-BGNJ, formerly a C version, delivered to Air France on November 2, 1953, is undergoing a complete restoration for static display by the Amicale du Super Constellation located in Nantes Airport. It was upgraded to a L-1049 G in 1956 and was operational until August 8, 1967, having totaled 24,284 hours under Air France's colors. After retirement, it was sent to Spain, to be registered EC-BEN, briefly flying humanitarian and medevac missions in Biafra. Aero Fret bought it in 1968, brought it back home to France, registered as F-BRAD and operated on cargo hauls until 1974. When the Constellation landed in Nantes one last time to be scrapped, it was ultimately saved by Mr. Gaborit, who revamped it somewhat by his own modest means to finally park it near the terminal, accessible to visitors for a few years, until the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Nantes-Atlantique Airport bought it, to contract the Amicale du Super Constellation to undergo a complete restoration of the old aircraft.
- A Lufthansa L-1049G Super Constellation serial number 1049G4604, registration D-ALIN, is on display at the Flugausstellung Hermeskeil, near Hermeskeil, Germany. This is the actual aircraft with which Konrad Adenauer flew to Moskow in 1955 to negotiate the release of German POWs.
- L-1649A Starliner, N974R (c/n 1040) is on static display in front of the "Fantasy of Flight" attraction in Lakeland, Florida.
- L-749 Constellation, N2520B, in Aerosur livery is on static display on the 1st ring road in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Known as "El Avión Pirata." 
- N4247K c/n 4144 was impounded at Manila Airport, Philippines, by June 1988 and stored in deteriorating condition at the Manila Airport 
- L-749A c/o 2613. First of two WV-1's delivered to the US Navy in 1949. Essentially a prototype for the Super Constellations that followed. Retired from the Navy in 1957, and served the FAA from 1958 to 1966. Flown to Salina, Kansas, in 1967, where it remains parked. Last flown in 1992.
- Two Constellations, the VC-121E Columbine III (s/n 53-7885), used as Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential aircraft, and an EC-121 Warning Star (s/n 53-555) are fully restored and on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Columbine III was retired to the Museum in 1966, and is displayed in the Museum's Presidential gallery. The interior of the aircraft is open to the public. The EC-121 Warning Star is on display in the Museum's Modern Flight Gallery.
- C-121A serial number 48-0613 (Bataan) is on display at Planes of Fame in Valle, Arizona. This Constellation is in flying condition. According to the Museum's website, this aircraft was used as a personal transport by General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, and later by other Army general officers until 1966, when it was retired and transferred to the U.S. space agency NASA. After its acquisition by Planes of Fame, it was restored to its original configuration with a "VIP interior."
- C-121C is on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center located at Dulles Airport in Virginia and this aircraft flew as an Air Force C-121C and is painted in the colors of the Air National Guard.
- EC-121A serial number 48-0614, markings 7167th Special Air Missions Squadron, Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany, 1951 - One of Dwight D. Eisenhower personal transports - displayed in outdoor exhibit at Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
- EC-121D Warning Star is on display at the Aerospace Museum of California at the former McClellan Air Force Base in North Highlands, California. This aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
- EC-121T, serial number 52-3425, is on display at the Peterson Air and Space Museum at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Previously assigned to the 966th AEWCS at McCoy AFB, Florida and then the 79th AEWCS at Homestead AFB, Florida, it was the last operational EC-121 and was deployed by the 79th AEWCS to NAS Keflavik, Iceland. It was delivered to Peterson AFB in October 1978.
- EC-121T serial number 53-0554, with markings from the 79th Airborne Warning and Control Squadron, Homestead AFB, Florida, 1974 is displayed in the outdoor exhibit at Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
- RC-121D serial number 52-3418 (N4257U c/n 4336 federal registration) was delivered to the Air Force in October 1954. Then it was redesignated EC-121D 1962, converted to EC-121T but the upper radome was not removed. Reassigned to USAF Reserves at Homestead AFB, Florida by July 1974, it was retired and flown to Davis Monthan AFB for storage on April 7, 1976. Reassigned to the Combat Air Museum, Topeka, Kansas, on March 1981 as N4257U, the RC-121D was ferried to Topeka, Kansas, on June 1981 with Frank Lang in command.
- IN315, an Indian Navy L1049G (former Air India L1049E VT-DHM 'Rani of Ellora') Super Constellation is on display at the Naval Aviation Museum at Dabolim in Goa, India.
Specifications (L-1049G Super Constellation)
- Crew: 5 flight crew, varying cabin crew
- Capacity: typically 62–95 passengers (109 in high-density configuration)
- Length: 116 ft 2 in (35.42 m)
- Wingspan: 126 ft 2 in (38.47 m)
- Height: 24 ft 9 in (7.54 m)
- Wing area: 1,654 ft2 (153.7 m2)
- Empty weight: 79,700 lb (36,150 kg)
- Useful load: 65,300 lb (29,620 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 137,500 lb (62,370 kg)
- Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350-DA3 Turbo Compound 18-cylinder supercharged radial engines, 3,250 hp (2,424 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 377 mph (327 kn, 607 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 340 mph (295 kn, 547 km/h) at 22,600 ft (6,890 m)
- Stall speed: 100 mph (87 kn, 160 km/h)
- Range: 5,400 mi (4,700 nmi, 8,700 km)
- Service ceiling: 24,000 ft (7,620 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,620 ft/min (8.23 m/s)
- Wing loading: 87.7 lb/ft2 (428 kg/m2)
- Power/mass: 0.094 hp/lb (155 W/kg)
Accidents and incidents
- Related development
- L-049 Constellation
- C-69 Constellation
- L-649 Constellation
- L-749 Constellation
- L-1049 Super Constellation
- C-121/R7V Constellation
- EC-121 Warning Star
- L-1249 Super Constellation (R7V-2/YC-121F)
- L-1649A Starliner
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of Lockheed aircraft
- List of models of the Lockheed Constellation
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- List of military aircraft of the United States (naval)
- Taylor 1993, pp. 606–607.
- Yenne 1987, pp. 44–46.
- Boyne 1998, pp. 135–137.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Lockheed Constellation|
- Lockheed Martin official site
- Popular Science, June 1943, The Flying Shark one of the first detailed articles on the C-69 Constellation
- Connie Survivors
- Goleta Air and Space Museum: Lockheed Constellation Survivors
- Warbird Alley: Connie page
- Gallery of civilian and military Lockheed Constellations worldwide and links to other galleries.
- A photograph and description of VH-EAB and two colored promotional posters for Qantas Empire Airways's Constellation services, Qantas Empire Airways Lockheed L749 Constellation VH-EAB.
- Restoration of Lockheed L-1649A Super Star to airworthy condition by Lufthansa Technik
- One of four similar aerial photographs of VH-EAB by Frank Hurley, with brief annotation
- MATS Connie; aircraft specifications
- Super Constellation Flyers Association
- Many detailed close-up photographs of the Constellation from the Airline History Museum
- Travelling by the Constellation. Air France clips and pictures from the 1950s (in French)
- Maintenance parts catalog Constellation model L-049 reissue:1947
- Super Connies in São Tomé airport, survivors of Biafra Airlift