Lockheed Constellation

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Lockheed Constellation
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About the Lockheed Constellation

The Lockheed Constellation was conceived in the late 1930s on a request by millionaire Howard Hughes, the major stockholder of Trans World Airlines (TWA). The airline needed a 40-seat pressurized four-engined airliner for short- and medium range routes. The proposed aircraft was designated L-049, but made its maiden flight on 9 January 1943 as a military transport aircraft, C-69.
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The most distinctive feature of the Connie is the triple tail. The reason for such a tail was that it kept the height of the aircraft low enough to fit in existing hangars. For aerodynamic reasons Lockheed considered a single tail on later models, but the public was so well aware of the three tails that they were kept for marketing reasons. The wing of the Constellation was an enlarged version of that of the P-38 Lightning.
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The USAAF ordered 202 C-69s, but only 22 were delivered at the end of the war. The military didn't need the remaining aircraft of the order. Lockheed decided to finish the aircraft already in production as civilian airliners, designated L-049. Pan American and TWA started flying the Constellation in 1946.
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Constellations soon suffered two accident which resulted in a temporary suspension of its airworthiness certificate. On 18 June 1946 a Pan American aircraft caught fire. Luckily the crew succeeded in making an emergency landing and there was no loss of life. On 11 July there was a fire in a TWA aircraft and five people of the six on board died. After retrofit the Constellation could fly again. The Constellation's piston engines, however, were not very reliable. This resulted in the nickname for the Connie as 'the world's finest three-engined airliner'.
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The first version built as airliner from the beginning was the L-649, which flew for the first time on 19 October 1946. It offered a standard accommodation of 48 to 64 seats and 81 in a high-density layout. This model was followed by the L-749, a long-range version with extra fuel capacity. The first flight of a L-749 took place on 18 April 1947.
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Because of increasing demand for air travel Lockheed started to develop a stretched version, the L-1049 Super Contellation, which started flying on 13 October, 1950. This version had a 18ft 4in (5.59m) longer fuselage and seated up to 109 passengers. The new model was introduced by Eastern Airlines in December 1951 between New York and Miami.
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The L-1049B was a military variant and the next civil version with more powerful engines and fuel capacity - and thus more range - was the L-1049C, introduced by KLM in Autumn 1953. The L-1049D was the freighter version of the L-1049C. The L-1049G had more powerful engines and tip-tanks, The final Super Constellation was the L-1049H, which was a convertible variant of the L-1049G.
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The final Constellation became the L-1649 Starliner, which flew for the first time on 11 October 1956. This version had a new wing with greater span and more fuel capacity. It was suitable for very long flights. The aircraft set several records. A L-1649A Starliner flew from Los Angeles to London on 29 September, 1957 in 18 hours and 32 minutes and a few days later on 1-2 October a L-1649A flew 23 hours and 19 minutes from London to San Francisco, still the longest-duration non-stop passenger flight ever. In spite of these records, only 44 Starliners have been built.
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Late in the 1950s and early 1960s the faster jet airliners took over the work of the Constellation. The Connie became obsolete. The jets first appeared on long-distance routes. Constellations remained in service on domestic and short international services for a while, until airliners like the Boeing 727, Hawker Siddeley Trident and Douglas DC-9 appeared. Many Constellations continued to fly as freighter for some time.
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A total of 856 Constellations has been built, for commercial and military customers.
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Lockheed Constellation

President Dwight Eisenhower flew in two Constellations, named Columbine II and
Columbine III. One of these aircraft is now in the Pima Air Museum.


Lockheed Constellation

Also part of the collection of the Pima Air Museum is this EC-121T 'Warning Star' radar and early warning aircraft.


Lockheed Constellation MATS

This Lockheed C-121A is still flying in the USA in the colours of MATS (Military Air Transport Services.


Lockheed Constellation

Several Constellions found a new life as a cocktail lounge near Toronto Airport in Canada. The aircraft flew with Trans Canada Airlines (now Air Canada) and was registered CF-TGE. In 2002 it was for sale.


Constellation

The fire brigade of Miami Airport used this Constellation, which is not in a very good condition. Note the broken off port side tail.


Constellation

This Constellation was the first one I ever saw. It was displayed at Düsseldorf Airport
at that time, in the late 1970s.


Military Versions

Apart from the civil versions Lockheed developed a large number of specialized military variants. The C-121 was the military transport version of the L-749. Two VC-121Es, 'Columbine II' and 'Columbine III' were used as VIP-aircraft bij US-president Dwight Eisenhower.
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The C-121C and many other versions were based on the L-1049. One of the most remarkable variant was the WV-2, later designated as EC-121K Warning Star, with large radar domes on the back and under the belly. The Warning Star was used by the US Air Force as well as by the US Navy. Other aircraft were equipped for electronic warfare and weather reconnaissance. Of all Constellations built, Lockheed delivered 331 to the military.
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Warning Star
This Lockheed EC-121D Warning Star is part of the collection of the National Museum
of the USAF in Dayton, Ohio.




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