Lockheed Constellation

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A USAF C-69, the military version of the Constellation
Role Airliner and transport
Manufacturer Lockheed
First flight January 9, 1943
Introduction 1943 with USAAF
1945 with TWA
Retired 1990s, airline service
1978, military
Status In very limited service
Primary users Trans World Airlines
Eastern Air Lines
Pan American World Airways
Air France
Produced 1943–1958
Number built 856
Developed from L-044 Excalibur
Variants L-049 Constellation
C-69 Constellation
L-649 Constellation
L-749 Constellation
L-1049 Super Constellation
C-121/R7V Constellation
R7V-2/YC-121F Constellation
EC-121 Warning Star
L-1649A Starliner
Developed into Lockheed XB-30 (Unbuilt)

The Lockheed Constellation ("Connie") was a propeller-driven, four-engined airliner built by Lockheed Corporation between 1943 and 1958 at Burbank, California.

Lockheed built 856 in numerous models—all with the same triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage. Most were powered by four 18-cylinder Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclones. The Constellation was used as a civil airliner and as a military and civilian air transport, seeing service in the Berlin and the Biafran airlifts. Three of them served as the presidential aircraft for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Design and development[edit]

Initial studies[edit]

Lockheed had been working on the L-044 Excalibur, a four-engine, pressurized airliner, since 1937. In 1939, Trans World Airlines, at the instigation of major stockholder Howard Hughes, requested a 40-passenger transcontinental airliner with a range of 3,500 mi (5,630 km)[1]—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.[2] Willis Hawkins, another Lockheed engineer, maintains that the Excalibur program was purely a cover for the Constellation.[3]

A preserved C-121C Super Constellation, registration N73544, in flight in 2004

Development of the Constellation[edit]

The Constellation's wing design was close to that of the P-38 Lightning, differing mostly in size.[4] The triple tail kept the aircraft's height low enough to fit in existing hangars,[3] while features included hydraulically boosted controls and a de-icing system used on wing and tail leading edges.[1] The aircraft had a maximum speed of over 375 mph (600 km/h), faster than that of a Japanese Zero fighter, a cruise speed of 340 mph (550 km/h), and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft (7,300 m).[5]

According to Anthony Sampson in Empires of the Sky, Lockheed may have undertaken the intricate design, but Hughes' intercession in the design process drove the concept, shape, capabilities, appearance, and ethos.[6] These rumors were discredited by Johnson. Howard Hughes and Jack Frye confirmed that the rumors were not true in a letter in November 1941.[7]

The famous 1953-54 Studebaker coupe, considered by some one of the most beautiful American automobile designs, was inspired in part by the design of the Constellation, according to its principal designer, Robert Bourke.[citation needed]

Operational history[edit]

World War II[edit]

The first Lockheed Constellation on January 9, 1943

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.[1] 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),[8] 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.[9] 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. However, some aircraft remained in USAF service into the 1960s, serving as passenger ferries for the airline that relocated military personnel, and carrying the livery of the Military Air Transport System. At least one of these airplanes had passenger seats installed backward, with occupants facing toward the rear of the direction of travel during flight.

Postwar use[edit]

TWA L-749A Constellation at Heathrow in 1954 with an under fuselage "Speedpack" freight container
Super Constellation (C-121C) during pilot training in Epinal - Mirecourt, France

After World War II, the Constellation came into its own as a 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.[1]

TWA transatlantic service started on February 6, 1946 with a New York-Paris flight in a Constellation. On June 17, 1947, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) opened the first-ever 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 Am, 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.


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, DC, in 6 hours and 57 minutes (about 2,300 miles (3,700 km) at an average 331 miles per hour (533 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.[2]

On September 29, 1957, a TWA L-1649A flew from Los Angeles to London in 18 hours and 32 minutes (about 5,420 miles (8,720 km) at 292 miles per hour (470 km/h)). The L-1649A holds the record for the longest-duration, non-stop passenger flight aboard a piston-powered airliner. On TWA's first London-to-San Francisco flight on October 1–2, 1957, the aircraft stayed aloft for 23 hours and 19 minutes (about 5,350 miles (8,610 km) at 229 miles per hour (369 km/h)).


L-1049H freighter of Nordair Canada at Manchester Airport in 1966

The advent of jet airliners such as the de Havilland Comet, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8, Convair 880, and Sud Aviation Caravelle 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 lower 48 states was made by a TWA L749 on May 11, 1967, from Philadelphia to Kansas City, Missouri.[10] Constellations carried freight in later years, and were used on backup sections of Eastern Airlines' shuttle service between New York, Washington, and Boston until 1968. Many old propeller airliners were used on overnight freight runs, even into the 1990s, as their low speed was not an impediment. An Eastern Constellation to date still holds the record for a New York to Washington flight from liftoff to touchdown in just over 30 minutes. The record was set prior to speed restrictions by the FAA below 10,000 ft.[11]

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 was very expensive and was replaced by mostly tube-shaped 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 did not build a large civilian 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.[12]


Super Constellation at Charles Prince Airport, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1975, used as a flying club headquarters
A United States Navy R7V-2 (L-1249) in flight: The L-1249 used Pratt & Whitney T34 turboprop engines in place of the Wright R-3350 radials.[13]

The initial military versions carried the Lockheed designation of L-049; as World War II came to a close, some were completed as civilian 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),[8][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"),[8] followed by the L-1049 Super Constellation (with longer fuselage), L-1149 (proposal to use Allison turbine engines)[8] and L-1249 (similar to L-1149, built as R7V-2/YC-121F),[8] L-1449 (unbuilt proposal for L1049G, stretched 55 in (140 cm), with new wing and turbines)[8] and L-1549 (unbuilt project to stretch L-1449 95 in (240 cm)),[8] and L-1649 Starliner (all new wing and L1049G fuselage).[8] 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 [14][15]


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.

Surviving aircraft[edit]

The Breitling Super Constellation from the Swiss Super Constellation Flyers Association: It is the last Super Constellation in flying condition in Europe.
An abandoned Constellation display in Florida (1970s)
HARS Super Connie at Wollongong, 2004
Lockheed L-1049 G Super Constellation on display close to Munich International Airport


  • 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.[16]
  • The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society 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.[17]
  • 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.[18] 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 scheme 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.[19] After being grounded for the past few years, Star of America is currently being returned to airworthiness.
  • An L-1049G Super Constellation in Lufthansa livery and with historic D-ALEM call letters is on display close to Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany, representing Lufthansa's first long-haul aircraft of 1955.[20]
  • One Super Constellation named City of Miami 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.[21]
  • ZS-DVJ c/n 1042 (L-1649A) of Trek Airways is 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.[22]
L-749A restored at Aviodrome
  • The Dutch National Aviation Museum Aviodrome acquired a VC-121A Constellation. It was restored to airworthy condition and ferried from Tucson, Arizona, 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, which donated two airworthy engines, this aircraft was scheduled to be flying again, but the flights were cancelled. As of 2016, the aircraft is on display in the Aviodrome museum. Renamed Flevoland, this is the only flying example of the "short" version of the Constellation.
  • HL4003 of the former Korean National Airlines is displayed at Jeongseok Airport on 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.[23]
  • 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.[24] It is the only UK Constellation and is viewable on certain open days.[25]
  • 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 into 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.[26]
  • 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 be used to overhaul N7316C to airworthy condition. The target date for completion of the overhaul was October 10, 2010.
  • L-049 c/o 1970, N90831, one of the first TWA aircraft and a former C-69 transport, s/n 42-94549, is displayed in outdoor exhibit on airliner row at Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.[27]
  • L-049 c/o 2071, ex-KLM, ex-Capital Airlines, is on display at the TAM Museum, 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.[28]
  • 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. It has been parked in a museum storage area since 1975, and is in good condition with minimal corrosion. Ex-Pan Am « 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.[29]
  • 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 the 1960s). After TCA service, it was sold to World Wide Airways and later retired in Montreal by 1965; it was renovated as a restaurant and bar in and around the Montreal area, and sold and moved again to Toronto and used as convention facility by the Regal Constellation Hotel. It was sold again and stored at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Finally, it was sold and restored in Rome, New York, and shipped to the Museum of Flight.[30][31]
  • L-1049G c/n 4519 F-BGNJ, formerly a C version, was delivered to Air France on November 2, 1953, and 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 it as F-BRAD, and operated it 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.[32]
  • 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 Konrad Adenauer flew in to Moscow in 1955, when he negotiated 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.[33]
  • L-749 Constellation, N2520B, in Aerosur livery, is on static display on the first ring road in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. It is known as El Avión Pirata. [34]
  • N4247K c/n 4144 was impounded at Manila Airport, the Philippines, by June 1988, and stored in deteriorating condition at the Manila Airport,[35] but in September 2014, was secured for removal and static preservation to the Qantas Founders Outback Museum, Longreach.[36]


Dwight D. Eisenhower flew in three Constellations, named Columbine, Columbine II, and Columbine III.
N4257U on display at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka
  • 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. As of April 6, 2014, it is undergoing restoration on its radome.[47]
  • 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.[48]

Specifications (L-1049G Super Constellation)[edit]

Lockheed Super Constellation of Lufthansa.
Lockheed C-121C (L-1049) Super Constellation.

Data from Great Aircraft of the World[49] and Quest for Performance[50]

General characteristics


Accidents and incidents[edit]

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. ^ a b c d Taylor 1993, pp. 606–607.
  2. ^ a b Yenne 1987, pp. 44–46.
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  21. ^ Pettersen, Ralph M. "HI-542CT c/n 4825." Constellation Survivors, 2011. Retrieved: February 22, 2011.
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  24. ^ The Stones Connie
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  37. ^ [1] Salina Connie. Retrieved February 16, 2013.
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  49. ^ Cacutt 1989, pp. 314–322.
  50. ^ Loftin, L. K. Jr. Quest for Performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft. NASA SP-468. Retrieved: April 22, 2006.


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External links[edit]