Air Travel in Australia: Lockheed Super Constellation
The Lockheed Constellation, affectionately known as Connie, was a four-engine propeller-driven airliner built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, USA, facility. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in four models, all distinguished by a distinctive triple-tail design and graceful, dolphin-shaped fuselage.
In 1948, Qantas took delivery of a number of Lockheed L049 Constellations. In 1952, Qantas expanded across the Indian Ocean to Johannesburg via Perth, Cocos Islands and Mauritius, calling this the Wallaby Route. The network was expanded across the Pacific to Vancouver via Auckland, Nadi, Honolulu and San Francisco in early 1954 when it took over the operations of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (BCPA). This became known as the Southern Cross Route.
The Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, Queensland, is home to a Lockheed Super Constellation. The Qantas Founders Museum purchased the aircraft, which had been grounded for 25 years, at an auction of old aircraft organised by the Manila International Airport Authority in September 2014.
The Super Constellation was previously operated by World Fish and Agriculture Inc to transport fish cargo and the United States Air Force. It was similar to those flown by Qantas in the 1940s and 1950s. Since being purchased, the aircraft, N4247X, has been raised out of the mud, had its engines/propellers, tails, wings and landing gear removed and made safe for moving.
The aircraft at Manilla Airport, 2017
It was transported to Australia in 2017, first on a ship from Manilla and then by road from Townsville to the home of the museum in Longreach.
The aircraft is painted in what the museum described as “Qantas Super Constellation” livery featuring the name Southern Spray on the nose, a red cheatline along the passenger windows and the word Qantas on the fuselage. The Australian flag, a Flying Kangaroo and registration VH-EAM are on the tailplane. “The livery details were provided from original Qantas 1950’s drawings, sourced and reproduced by Qantas’ Curator and Engineering technical staff,” the Qantas Founders Museum said in a statement.
“The Super Constellation Project has been a long and at times trying project but the end result with a beautiful aircraft externally restored, is well worth it,” Qantas Founders Museum chief executive Tony Martin said at the opening of the Museum's Super Constellation to the public. “The new aircraft is an important addition to our aircraft collection and enables us to tell a significant part in the history of Qantas while featuring one of the most iconic aircraft in commercial aviation history.”
VH-EAG ‘Southern Preservation’
Connie: VH-EAG ‘Southern Preservation’
Connie (VH-EAG ‘Southern Preservation’) is in fact the militarised version of the Super Constellation or ‘Connie’ as it is affectionately known. It was originally built as a C-121C for the United States Air Force, serial number 54-0157, c/n 4176, and was delivered on 6 October 1955 when it was allocated to the 1608th Military Air Transport Wing based at Charleston, South Carolina. On 25 July 1962 it was transferred to the Mississippi Air National Guard and on 14 February 1967 it moved on to West Virginia Air National Guard, where it served for the next five years. Connie’s last active duty was with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard from mid 1972 until its relegation to storage at Davis Monthan Air Base at Tucson, Arizona in June 1977.
Connie is one of only two flying L-1049 Super Constellations in the world. The other is the Breitling Super Constellation in Switzerland. Amazingly both aircraft were built next to each other in the factory. Connie is #4176 and Breitling Constellation is #4177. An L-1649A Super Star (the last model of the Constellation line) is currently in the USA being restored to flight by the Lufthansa Museum.
Connie is one display at the Museum of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Inc (HARS), a not-for-profit organisation and was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian aviation history. The museum is located at Illawarra Regional Airport, Corner of Boomerang and Airport Roads, Albion Park Rail NSW 2527.