Lockheed Constellation

Last updated
Constellation
C-69.jpg
A USAF C-69, the military version of the Constellation
RoleAirliner and transport
Manufacturer Lockheed
First flightJanuary 9, 1943
Introduction1943 with USAAF
1945 with TWA
Retired1990s, airline service
1978, military
StatusIn very limited service
Produced1943–1958
Number built856
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") is a propeller-driven, four-engine 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. The Constellation series was the first pressurized-cabin civil airliner series to go into widespread use. Its pressurized cabin enabled large numbers of commercial passengers to fly well above most bad weather for the first time, thus significantly improving the general safety and ease of air travel. [1] Three of them served as the presidential aircraft for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Contents

Design and development

Initial studies

Lockheed had been working on the L-044 Excalibur, a four-engine, pressurized airliner, since 1937. In 1939, Trans World Airlines (TWA), at the instigation of major stockholder Howard Hughes, requested a 40-passenger transcontinental airliner with a range of 3,500 mi (5,600 km) [2] —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. [3] Willis Hawkins, another Lockheed engineer, maintains that the Excalibur program was purely a cover for the Constellation. [4]

A preserved C-121C Super Constellation, registration N73544, in flight in 2004 Superconstellation2594.jpg
A preserved C-121C Super Constellation, registration N73544, in flight in 2004

Development of the Constellation

The Constellation's wing design was close to that of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, differing mostly in size. [5] The triple tail kept the aircraft's height low enough to fit in existing hangars, [4] while features included hydraulically boosted controls and a de-icing system used on wing and tail leading edges. [2] 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). [6]

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. [7] These rumors were discredited by Johnson. Howard Hughes and Jack Frye confirmed that the rumors were not true in a letter in November 1941. [8]

Operational history

World War II

The first Lockheed Constellation on January 9, 1943 Lockheed Constellation 1943 NAN15Feb43.jpg
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. [2] 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), [9] 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. [10] 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, wearing the livery of the Military Air Transport Service. At least one of these airplanes had rear-facing passenger seats.

Postwar use

TWA L-749A Constellation at Heathrow in 1954 with an under fuselage "Speedpack" freight container Lockheed L749A N6022C TWA Connie final.jpg
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 SCFA-Connie.JPG
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, D.C., on December 3, 1945, arriving in Paris on December 4 via Gander and Shannon. [2]

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.[ citation needed ]

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, also Avianca the national airline of Colombia.

Records

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 (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 in Ohio to give Orville Wright his last flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He commented that the Constellation's wingspan was longer than the distance of his first flight. [3]

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).[ citation needed ]

Obsolescence

L-1049H freighter of Nordair Canada at Manchester Airport in 1966 Lockheed L1049H CF-NAM Nordair MAN 02.07.66 edited-2.jpg
L-1049H freighter of Nordair Canada at Manchester Airport in 1966
A Lockheed Constellation L-049 preserved at TAM Museum Constellation L-049.jpg
A Lockheed Constellation L-049 preserved at TAM Museum

Jet airliners such as the de Havilland Comet, Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8, Convair 880, and Sud Aviation Caravelle rendered the 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 of a Constellation in the lower 48 states was made by a TWA L749 on May 11, 1967, from Philadelphia to Kansas City, Missouri; [11] the last passenger flight in Alaska was by Western's N86525, Anchorage to Yakutat to Juneau on 26 November 1968.

Constellations carried freight in later years, and were used on backup sections of Eastern Airlines' shuttle service between New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston until 1968. Prop airliners were used on overnight freight runs into the 1990s, as their low speed was not an impediment. An Eastern Air Lines Connie holds the record for a New York to Washington, D.C. flight from take off to touchdown in just over 30 minutes. The record was set prior to speed restrictions by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) below 10,000 feet (3,000 m). [12]

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. This construction was expensive and was replaced by mostly tube-shaped modern airliners. The tube is more resistant to pressurization changes and cheaper to build.

After ending Constellation production Lockheed chose not to develop a first-generation jetliner, sticking to its military business and production of the turboprop Lockheed L-188 Electra. Lockheed did not build a large 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. [13]

Variants

Super Constellation at Charles Prince Airport, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1975, used as a flying club headquarters Super Constellation at Salisbury Airport Rhodesia.JPG
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. Lockheed R7V-2 turboprop Connie in flight c1953.jpeg
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.

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 Constellations were the more powerful L-649 and L-749 (which had more fuel in the outer wings), [9] [ page needed ]L-849 (an unbuilt model to use the R-3350 turbo-compound engines adopted for the L-1049 ), L-949 (an unbuilt, high-density seating-cum-freighter type, what would come to be called a "combi aircraft"). [9]

These were followed by the L-1049 Super Constellation (with longer fuselage), L-1149 (proposal to use Allison turbine engines) [9] and L-1249 (similar to L-1149, built as R7V-2/YC-121F), [9] L-1449 (unbuilt proposal for L1049G, stretched 55 in (140 cm), with new wing and turbines) [9] and L-1549 (unbuilt project to stretch L-1449 95 in (240 cm)). [9]

The final civilian variant was the L-1649 Starliner (all new wing and L1049G fuselage). [9]

Military versions included the C-69 and C-121 for the Army Air Forces/Air Force and the R7OR7V-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. [15] [16]

Operators

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

An abandoned Constellation display in Florida (1970s) SUPER CONSTELLATION FUSELAGE DISPLAYED ABOVE BUILDING DEEP IN EVERGLADES - NARA - 544610.jpg
An abandoned Constellation display in Florida (1970s)
Lockheed L-1049 G Super Constellation on display close to Munich International Airport Lockheed L-1049 G Super Constellation (D-ALEM).JPG
Lockheed L-1049 G Super Constellation on display close to Munich International Airport

Commercial

On Display
L-049
L-749
L-1049 Super Constellation
L-1649 Starliner
Under restoration or in storage
L-1049 Super Constellation
L-1649 Starliner

Military

The Breitling Super Constellation Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation, Super Constellation Flyers Association JP6615666.jpg
The Breitling Super Constellation
Airworthy
C-121C
HARS Super Connie at Wollongong, 2004 HARS Super Connie at Woollongong.jpg
HARS Super Connie at Wollongong, 2004
On Display
VC-121A
L-749A restored at Aviodrome Lockheed Constellation N749NL Aviodrome.JPG
L-749A restored at Aviodrome
VC-121E
Dwight D. Eisenhower flew in three Constellations, named Columbine, Columbine II, and Columbine III. Lockheed VC-121E Super Constellation.jpg
Dwight D. Eisenhower flew in three Constellations, named Columbine, Columbine II, and Columbine III.
C-121C
EC-121K
EC-121T
N4257U on display at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka Lockheed Constellation Topeka.jpg
N4257U on display at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka
L-1049G
Under restoration or in storage
WV-1
VC-121A
EC-121T
C-121J

Specifications (L-1049G Super Constellation)

Lockheed Super Constellation of Lufthansa. Constellation Wiki.jpg
Lockheed Super Constellation of Lufthansa.
Lockheed C-121C (L-1049) Super Constellation. Lockheed C-121C (L-1049) Super Constellation drawings.png
Lockheed C-121C (L-1049) Super Constellation.

Data fromGreat Aircraft of the World [55] and Quest for Performance [56]

General characteristics

Performance

Accidents and incidents

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists

Related Research Articles

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1960 New York mid-air collision Mid-air collision

On Friday, 16 December 1960 a United Airlines Douglas DC-8, bound for Idlewild Airport in New York City, collided in midair with a TWA Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation descending into the city's LaGuardia Airport. The Constellation crashed on Miller Field in Staten Island and the DC-8 into Park Slope, Brooklyn, killing all 128 people on the two aircraft and six people on the ground. It was the deadliest aviation disaster in the world at the time. The accident became known as the Park Slope plane crash or the Miller Field crash, after the crash sites of each plane respectively. The accident was also the first hull loss and first fatal accident involving a Douglas DC-8.

1956 Grand Canyon mid-air collision mid-air collision on June 30, 1956 over the Grand Canyon

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Lockheed C-69 Constellation Early military version of the Constellation

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Lockheed C-121 Constellation Military transport version of Constellation

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Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation Stretched version of Constellation

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Lockheed L-049 Constellation First model of the Constellation

The Lockheed L-049 Constellation was the first model of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft line. It entered service as the C-69 military transport aircraft during World War II for the United States Army Air Forces and was the first civilian version after the war. When production ended in 1946 it was replaced by the improved L-649 and L-749 Constellation.

Lockheed L-649 Constellation First postwar version of the Constellation

The Lockheed L-649 Constellation was the first real civilian version of the Lockheed Constellation line, as the Lockheed L-049 Constellation was a simple redesign from the military Lockheed C-69 Constellation. The L-649 was planned to be the new standard version of the Constellation, but the L-749 Constellation, a co-jointly produced improved deritative, was chosen over the L-649 by most airlines. Most of the few L-649 aircraft built were delivered and operated by Eastern Air Lines.

Lockheed L-749 Constellation First version of Constellation with the ability to cross the Atlantic non-stop

The Lockheed L-749 Constellation is the first Lockheed Constellation to regularly cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. Although similar in appearance to the L-649 before it, the L-749 had a larger fuel capacity, strengthened landing gear, and eventually weather radar.

Lockheed L-1249 Super Constellation

The Lockheed L-1249 Super Constellation was a turbine-powered version of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft family. Built in 1954 and 1955, the aircraft were used as prototypes for possible future turboprop military transport aircraft for both the United States Air Force and United States Navy. Both aircraft saw very short lives and the airframes were later used to build L-1049 Super Constellations.

Lufthansa Flight 502 aviation accident

Lufthansa Flight 502 was a scheduled flight from Hamburg, Germany to Buenos Aires, Argentina on 11 January 1959. The flight was being operated by a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation. On the leg between Senegal and Brazil the Super Constellation was on approach to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport when it crashed near Flecheiras Beach just short of the runway. All 29 passengers and seven of the ten crew were killed. It was the first fatal accident involving Lufthansa since it was formed in 1955.

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