The "Connie" the Super Constellation Flyers Association
If there is a category of aircraft that seemed to have disappeared from the sky is that of large transport aircraft propelled by engines piston, very interesting but too expensive to maintain in a state of flight and without appeal of warbird; for this reason flying with them is went down gradually. The Swiss Association “Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA )” is one of the few organizations in the world that has managed to put in flying condition a complex machine like the Super Constellation and fly it successfully for several years.
The aircraft now registered as HB-RSC, regularly participates to many aviation events in Switzerland and in Europe, for example it has already been three times at Le Bourget Air Show; participation in these worldwide events makes the right advertising to the sponsor Breitling which heavily invested in the project.
The SCFA allows its members to participate on board of their "Connie" with occasional flights organized every year which becomes possible for anyone paying a membership fee, as described on the website www.superconstellation.org, where you will find all the details to become a member and review the annual program.
Built by Lockheed at Burbank, with the CN (Construction Number) 4175, was delivered in 1956 to the Military Air Transport Services (MATS) USAF (United States Air Force) with the registration 54-0156; then it was excluded from the service by American Aviation Authority in 1962 as for many aircraft of that era; after the C 121C (military designation) is taken over by the 183rd Air Transport Squadron of the Mississippi Air National Guard's (ANG) .
After a career as a transport plane is converted into medical evacuation aircraft and assigned to the 167th Aeromedical Transport Squadron of the West Virginia ANG.
In 1972 he was struck off and set aside at Davis Monthan but he was more fortunate than many others and was purchased by a working plane company, the Aviation Specialities of Mesa, Arizona, who installed a large reservoir and used it for a few years to spread insecticides and herbicides.
Registered N73544 and again with ANG’s color in a short time the wear took over and ended up shelved in Van Nuys California until it was bought by a businessman who wanted use it to carry tourists over Grand Canyon finding however an unfavorable opinion by the institution of Civil Aviation American FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
At this point the aircraft was bought by Benny Younesi who founded the Constellation Historical Society in Camarillo, also in California, during the famous flight transfer where Connie landed with an engine failure and another in flames. Immediately repaired, it was flown from the CHS in various U.S. Air Show, unfortunately the budget available was few so the Super Constellation was put back on the ground.
The SCFA bought it in 2004 after that try to fly another Super Constellation into Switzerland, which had previously flown for an airline into the Dominican Republic, but the costs to keep it efficient became uneconomic early diverting so on N73544.
Back on flight status and certified in Switzerland, with the authorization to transport the only members of the association, the HB-RSC is one of only two Super Constellation still flight in the world, the other is located in Australia.In 2010 HB-RSC has remained on the ground will allow for restoration work against corrosion problems on the left wing which had to be partly rebuilt. It's back to fly in June 2011 after a sumptuous roll-out at Bavarian Lahr airfield where it had been repaired.
The Lockheed L 1049 Super Constellation was a four-engine low-wing line produced by the U.S. Lockheed Corporation in the fifties years, designed and built for specific account by the legendary Howard Hughes; It was the first airliner with a pressurized cabin to collect considerable commercial success in the post-war period, a particularly that marked a new way of flying much more comfortable and faster especially for the transatlantic routes.
The Constellation was born from a need for a long-haul transport business able to make a non-stop flight between New York and Los Angeles; product directly from the office of Clarence L. Kelly Johnson, a Lockheed’s chief designer that it was the same famous designer of aircraft as: Electra, Lodestar, P 38 Lightning, U 2, SR 71 and the legendary F 104 Starfighter.
With the long fuselage and sinuous design it was characterized by a front part that curved downwards while the rear part with the particular triple derives that stood upward, became synonymous with good times to flight on luxury.In total 856 Constellation were built, starting with the first variant C 69 until the Starliner (L1649).
Also known as the Model 44 Excalibur it offered a layout similar to that of their previous products, but with the capacity to accommodate up to 40 passengers. During the discussions of the project the client asked to built a larger aircraft with a pressurized fuselage and this request was answered.The confidence of the two companies concerned: PAA (Pan American Airways) and TWA (Trans World Airliners) in the first version called L 049 Constellation was such that even before the construction of the carrier TWA signed an order for nine aircraft which then increased to 40 while PAA followed it soon after with an initial order for 40 aircraft.
However following the entry of the United States in the II World War all civil contracts were frozen and production lines were taken over by the United States, many of these aircraft were diverted for military use.
After the war the first commercial variant of the Constellation was renamed as L 649 this new model incorporated many updates and especially improvements in the performances, which were to be a feature of the development of the Constellation and Eastern Airlines was the only customer that use this version.
The next variant called L 749 represented the culmination of the original project, with a greater capacity more powerful and a wider range, operating weight higher becoming more attractive for airlines.
In July of 1951 flew for the first time the Super Constellation version with improvements in range and payload. Developments led to the version of the engine turbo-compound, with a power output of 3250 horse power and were added power recovery turbines (PRT), the most noticeable changes were visual and the greater length of 18 feet.
Most domestic airlines including Air France, BOAC, Iberia, KLM and Lufthansa in Europe, North West and TWA in the United States, Air India and Qantas in the Far East flew all with the Super Constellation airplane.
Finally the last version of the "Connie" the L-1649 " Starliner " was created for a specific requirement for the TWA planes on long range flights, and so it can contrast the competition of Douglas Dc 7C.
Engine 4 Wright R - 3350TC 18- cylinder 3,250 hp each.
Hamilton Standard constant speed propellers, aluminum alloy diameter: 15 '2" (4.63 meters)
Crew Pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer
Fuel capacity 6550 lt 24760 or USG
Wingspan 123 ft or 37 m
Length 113 ft or 34 m
Height 24 ft or 7 mt
Empty weight of 70,000 pounds or 31.8 tonsRange 3,500 nm or 6500 km
Fuel consumption USG 480 or 1,800 liters per hour
Oil consumption 3.5 USG or 13 liters/hour per engine
Ceiling: 23,200 ft or 7050 m
Images and text by Omar Rigamonti and Ugo Vicenzi
Produced by Giorgio Ciarini
April - June 2011