Lockheed L-1649 Starliner

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L-1649 Starliner
A Trans World Airlines L-1649A Starliner in flight.
A Trans World Airlines L-1649A Starliner in flight. This aircraft (N7301C) was written off after it crashed in Bogotá, on December 18, 1966, while in service with Aerocondor Colombia.
Role Airliner
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed
Designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson
First flight October 10, 1956
Introduction June 1, 1957
Retired Early 1980s
Status Retired
Primary users Trans World Airlines,
Lufthansa, Air France
Produced 1956–1958
Number built 44 (Including prototype)
Developed from L-1049 Super Constellation

The Lockheed L-1649 Starliner was the last model of the Lockheed Constellation line of airliners. Powered by four Wright R-3350 TurboCompound engines, it was built at Lockheed's Burbank, California plant from 1956 to 1958.

Design and development[edit]

Development of the Starliner began when Lockheed designed the L-1449 in response to the Douglas DC-7C Seven Seas.[1] Powered by four 5500 hp Pratt & Whitney PT2G-3 turboprop engines, the L-1449 would have cruised faster than the DC-7C with comparable range with 10,200 US gal (8,493 imp gal; 38,611 L) of fuel in a new 150 ft (46 m) wing. Pratt & Whitney dropped the PT2 project in March 1955 due to expected unreliability, high specific fuel consumption and high operating costs,[citation needed] though the T34 military version of the engine powered the Douglas C-133 freighter, which was also plagued with unreliability.

The L-1449 would have been about 55 in (140 cm) longer than the L-1049 series with a maximum gross takeoff weight (MGTOW) of 175,000 lb (79,000 kg).[2] The L-1549 replaced the 1449 in early 1955, with an additional 40 in (100 cm) stretch and MGTOW of 187,500 lb (85,000 kg), presumably still with the PT2 turboprops.[3]

Lockheed told Trans World Airlines (TWA) on 30 September 1954 the L-1449 would use the same fuselage as the 1049 series;[4] Hughes Tool Company ordered 25 in December, though TWA estimated the L-1449 would lose money, even with every seat occupied. When P&W dropped their engine, Lockheed proposed an L-1549 with Allison turboprops, but TWA and Lockheed agreed on the piston-engine L-1649 instead, and so amended the L-1449 contract. In April 1955 Lockheed told TWA that they wanted to drop the 1649, but Hughes refused to agree.

Though the L-1449 and L-1549 were never built, all Constellations from 1954 onwards were strengthened to take the thrust generated by the T34/PT-2 turboprops, which were fitted to several R7V-2 Constellations for the United States Navy (USN).

With the abandonment of the L-1549, Lockheed designed a less ambitious upgrade of the Constellation series as the L-1649A Starliner. The new design used the L-1049G fuselage, the new 150 ft (46 m) wing and four Wright R-3350 988 TC18-EA-2 turbocompound radial engines, allowing the Starliner to fly nonstop from California to Europe. Lockheed said the new L-1649A would deliver 58 passengers over a range of 6,500 mi (10,500 km) at 350 mph (560 km/h), or from Paris to New York City three hours faster than the DC-7C.[5] In January 1958 Pan American scheduled the DC-7C from Orly to Idlewild in 14 hr 15 min; TWA scheduled the 1649 in 14 hr 50 min.[citation needed]

Operational history[edit]

The L-1649A prototype first flew on October 11, 1956. (The prototype [N1649] was the property of Lockheed until the early 1970s when it was sold in Japan.) Airline service began on June 1, 1957 on a Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight from New York to London and Frankfurt. In September 1957, a Starliner made the first nonstop flight from Los Angeles to London; this was captained by TWA’s chief pilot, Bob Buck, who wrote an extensive magazine article describing the experience.[6]

TWA called their L-1649s "Jetstreams" and flew them on longer domestic routes and on flights from New York to Europe and beyond. In July 1958 TWA scheduled 60 flights a week from Europe to New York; 30 were L-1649s, including seven nonstops a week from Paris, five from London, four from Frankfurt, two each from Madrid, Lisbon and Geneva, one from Zurich and one from Rome. Three 1649s a week flew the polar route Europe to California, sometimes nonstop.[7]

Boeing 707s replaced the last TWA transatlantic passenger L-1649 in October 1961; 707s and Convair 880s displaced them from domestic scheduled flights in December 1962. In the early 1960s Lockheed converted twelve TWA L1649s to freighters that carried cargo across the Atlantic until 1964 and domestically until 1967.

Air France bought ten Starliners; they were the only airline to market the aircraft by its name (being called the "Super Starliner").[8] Transatlantic flights lasted from August 1957 until September 1960 when the Boeing 707 took over. Starting in April 1958 Air France L-1649s flew from Paris to Anchorage to Tokyo, but they were not allowed to fly to the west coast of the United States. In summer 1959 they scheduled 22 nonstop L-1649s a week from Orly to Idlewild, four of which continued to Mexico City; two weekly L-1649s flew from Orly to Montreal to Chicago Midway and back. The twice-weekly ORY-ANC-TYO flight was scheduled for 30 hr 45 min, compared to 42 hr 20 min for the fastest 1049G via India (and 32 hr 00 min for BOAC's Comet from London to Tokyo via India).

Lufthansa Starliner taking off from Manchester Airport in 1961 when operating a freight schedule to New York's Idlewild Airport

Lufthansa was the last airline to purchase the Starliner new; their four Starliners were marketed as "Super Stars" and flew transatlantic routes. Lufthansa's Starliners were delivered nonstop to Hamburg from the Lockheed factory at Burbank. In summer 1959 Lufthansa scheduled nonstops to New York from Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Orly. Lockheed converted two of Lufthansa's Starliners to freighters after the Boeing 707 had replaced them on the transatlantic passenger flights in 1960.

Linee Aeree Italiane (LAI) ordered four Starliners, but did not take them up following the merger with Alitalia in October 1957. Alitalia had accepted the DC-7C and had no interest in the Starliners; they were delivered to TWA in 1958. Varig ordered two Starliners, but the order was switched to two L-1049Gs.

The DC-7C ended up selling more airframes than the Starliner, which had greater range than its rival but was expensive ($3,000,000 USD) and entered service a year later. In the end, only 44 Starliners were built (including the prototype) compared to 121 DC-7Cs.

Alaska Airlines used two Starliners for MATS operations in the 1960s. Other operators used Starliners for charter flights. A small number of Starliners were used as cargo aircraft in Alaska during the 1970s. By the early 1980s, all Starliners ceased commercial operations.

Four Starliners still exist; after ten years of work Lufthansa abandoned restoring one to flying condition.[9][10][11] Another was sent in 2018 for the TWA Hotel.[12]


Initial production version powered by four Wright R-3350 988 TC18-EA-2 engines. 44 Built.[13]
Proposed turboprop version. None built.[14]

Accidents and Incidents[edit]

  • June 26, 1959 - TWA Flight 891, crashed due to a lightning strike after taking off from Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy, with the loss of all 68 passengers and crew.[15]
  • May 10, 1961 - Air France Flight 406, named "De Grasse" broke up in flight after empennage failure over the Sahara Desert, thought to have been caused by an explosive device, killing all 78 passengers and crew.[16]

Surviving aircraft[edit]

N974R in semi-Lufthansa colors on display at the Fantasy of Flight aviation museum.
The fuselage of N8083H being transported through Times Square, en-route to John F. Kennedy International Airport
N8083H at the TWA Hotel after reassembly

Four Starliners still exist:[17]

  • N7316C (c/n 1018) at Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine was planned to be restored to flying condition by Lufthansa; first flight of the restored aircraft was planned for sometime in 2017 to 2018, with the extensive restoration having been continuous since 2007. After putting 150 Million Euros into the project,[18] Lufthansa announced in March 2018 that it was moving restoration to Germany. Decisions about further restoration where said to be made after it arrived in Germany, but they were no longer planning to provide commercial flights.[19][20] In February 2021 the plane was relocated from its storage in Bremen harbour to Paderborn-Lippstadt airport due to shelter availability there.[21] By July 2022 the aircraft was on Lufthansa Berlin Foundation's website.[22]
  • N8083H (c/n 1038), also at Auburn-Lewiston Airport, was being salvaged for parts for N7316C's restoration. The aircraft was restored and painted in 1950s TWA livery, for use as a cocktail lounge at the new TWA Hotel that opened on May 15, 2019 at the former TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport.[23][24]
  • N974R (c/n 1040) is on display, outside the Fantasy of Flight museum in Polk City, Florida.[25]
  • ZS-DVJ (c/n 1042), currently in Trek Airways colours, is at Rand Airport as part of the static display of the South African Airways Museum Society .[26]

Specifications (L-1649A)[edit]

Data from Lockheed aircraft since 1913,[27] SAA Museum Society - Lockheed L1649 Starliner,[28] Lockheed Constellation:From Excalibur to Starliner[29]

General characteristics

  • Crew: five
  • Capacity: 99 passengers
  • Length: 116 ft 2 in (35.41 m)
  • Wingspan: 150 ft (46 m)
  • Height: 24 ft 9 in (7.54 m)
  • Wing area: 1,850 sq ft (172 m2)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 0015; tip: NACA 0011[30]
  • Empty weight: 91,645 lb (41,569 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 156,104 lb (70,808 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350 988 TC18-EA-2 Duplex-Cyclone 18 cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 3,400 hp (2,500 kW) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 43H60, 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m) diameter constant-speed fully-feathering Duralumin propellers


  • Maximum speed: 377 mph (607 km/h, 328 kn) at 18,600 ft (5,669 m)
  • Cruise speed: 290 mph (470 km/h, 250 kn)
  • Range: 4,940 mi (7,950 km, 4,290 nmi) with 19,500 lb (8,845 kg) payload
6,180 mi (5,370 nmi; 9,946 km) with 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) payload
  • Service ceiling: 23,700 ft (7,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,080 ft/min (5.5 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 86.5 lb/sq ft (422 kg/m2)
  • Power/mass: 0.0847 hp/lb (0.1392 kW/kg)

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ Breffort, Dominique. Lockheed Constellation: from Excalibur to Starliner Civilian and Military Variants. Histoire and Collecions, 2006. p.112 to 117
  2. ^ Peter J Marson, Peter J. The Lockheed Constellation Series (Air-Britain, 1982); American Aviation 6 Dec 1954, p.29, says the 1449 would be 118.2 ft long while the 1049G was to be 113.6 ft; the 20 Dec issue says the 1449 cabin would be 55 inches longer.
  3. ^ Aviation Week 4 April 1955 says P&W dropped the civil PT-2 after Lockheed lengthened the 1449 fuselage by 108 inches; "This longer version became the 1559."
  4. ^ Rummel, Robert W. Howard Hughes and TWA, 1991
  5. ^ Flight International 10 June 1955 p.785
  6. '^ Buck, Bob (10 September 2014). "From The Archives: Bob Buck Flies A Connie From LA To London". Air Facts. Cincinnati, Ohio: Original publisher: Leighton Collins; relaunch: Sporty’s Pilot Shop. Retrieved 31 March 2021. Editor's Note: Bob Buck was one of Air Facts most popular writers in the 1950s and 60s, beloved for his first-hand accounts of the changing airline world… In our latest trip through the Air Facts archives, we fly from Los Angeles to London via the polar route, as told from the left seat of a Connie.
  7. ^ Breffort, Dominique. Lockheed Constellation: from Excalibur to Starliner Civilian and Military Variants. Histoire and Collecions, 2006. p.117 to p.119
  8. ^ Aviation Week 26 August 1957 p45 reports that Air France planned to fly a 1649 from Abbeville to Nice along the coast at 1000 ft altitude, having advertised the times it would appear at each point. The 2500-mile flight was to take just over nine hours.
  9. ^ "Connie kann nicht mehr" (in German). 2018-10-05. Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  10. ^ Lockheed Constellation Survivors - L1649A Starliner; Petersen, Ralph M. - Retrieved 2010-11-05
  11. ^ "After decade of restoration in Auburn, iconic '50s airliner returning to Germany". Press Herald. 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  12. ^ "Rare Lockheed plane in Auburn getting a new life – as a cocktail lounge". Press Herald. 2018-10-08. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  13. ^ Breffort, Dominique. Lockheed Constellation: from Excalibur to Starliner Civilian and Military Variants. Histoire and Collecions, 2006. p.169.
  14. ^ [US Warplanes - C-69/C-121 http://www.uswarplanes.net/c69c121.html Archived 2015-10-26 at the Wayback Machine] Retrieved 2/24/11
  15. ^ ASN Aircraft accident Lockheed L-1649A Starliner N7313C Milano - Retrieved 2010-11-05
  16. ^ ASN Aircraft accident Lockheed L-1649A Starliner F-BHBM Edjele - Retrieved 11/6/10
  17. ^ Lockheed Constellation Survivors - Constellation News; Various Authors - Retrieved 11/3/10
  18. ^ "Lufthansa Super Star: 150 Millionen Euro - und doch nicht fertig". 7 May 2020.
  19. ^ Skelton, Kathryn (27 March 2018). "Lufthansa sticks to plans to move Constellation to Germany - Lewiston Sun Journal". Lewiston Sun Journal. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Lufthansa Super Star Milestones". Lufthansa Super Star.
  21. ^ "Lockheed-Klassiker der Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung geht nach Paderborn - WESER-KURIER". 28 February 2021.
  22. ^ "Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung".
  23. ^ "Lockheed Constellation Survivors - N8083H c/n 1038". Ralph M. Petersen's Constellation Survivors Website. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  24. ^ "Vintage airplane to become cocktail lounge at new JFK hotel". ABC7 New York. 2018-10-10. Retrieved 2018-10-13.
  25. ^ "Lockheed Constellation Survivors - N974R c/n 1040". Ralph M. Petersen's Constellation Survivors Website. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Lockheed Constellation Survivors - ZS-DVJ c/n 1042". Ralph M. Petersen's Constellation Survivors Website. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  27. ^ Francillon, René J. (1988). Lockheed aircraft since 1913 (2nd reprint ed.). Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. pp. 390–393. ISBN 0870218972.
  28. ^ SAA Museum Society - Lockheed L1649 Starliner - Retrieved 11/3/10
  29. ^ Breffort, Dominique. Lockheed Constellation: from Excalibur to Starliner Civilian and Military Variants. Histoire and Collecions, 2006. p.175.
  30. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.

External links[edit]