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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Lockheed 049/649/749 Constellation, 1049 Super Constellation and 1649 Starliner

N8083H was saved after Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung was forced to abandon its Starliner project and is now on display as part of the TWA Hotel at New York's John F. Kennedy airport (jag9889; licensed).

Lockheed began working on the Constellation in 1939 to meet a Transcontinental & Western Airlines requirement for a pressurised airliner capable of operating coast-to-coast across the United States. With orders for 84, Lockheed decided to put the aircraft into production, only for the United States’ entry into World War II to result in a freeze on its commercial activities. Army Air Force interest in the Constellation led to orders for a total of 313 C-69s, although only 15 had been delivered prior the end of the War when contrcts were cancelled. Despite this setback, Lockheed found itself well-placed to provide airlines keen to rebuild with a proven high-performance aircraft. Progressive development of the Constellation led through the stretched “Super Connie” to the long range Starliner, designed to compete with Douglas’s DC-7C on the important transatlantic market. However, with faster turbojet aircraft already being offered, sales were disappointing and production ended in 1958. Still one of the most iconic aircraft ever to grace the skies, survivor numbers have remained steady and although only one currently remains active (in Australia), a number are being restored to fly in the United States. Sadly, Lufthansa’s Berlin Stiftung’s plans to bring a flying Starliner to Europe have had to be shelved for economic reasons.

For further reading on surviving Constellations, Ralph Peterson’s website is highly recommended.

First flight: 9 Jan 43 (c/n 1961, NX25600)

Production: 856, at Burbank, CA, comprising 233 Constellations, 579 Super Constellations and 44 Starliners

First delivery: 28 Jul 43, to US Army Air Force (c/n 1961, 43-10309)

Last delivery: 5 Jun 58, to T.W.A. (c/n 1026, N8081H)

Variants: 049 Constellation - initial version powered by 4 Wright 745C-18BA-1 Double Cyclone radials and with seating for up to 81 passengers, (88 built, including 14 for US Army Air Force as C-69 and 1 in VIP configuration as C-69C);

649 Constellation - improved post-war civil transport, powered by Wright 749C-18BD-15s (14 built; first flight 18 Oct 46);

649A Constellation - increased weight version of 649 (6 built);

749 Constellation - 649 with increased fuel capacity, heavier undercarriage and higher gross weight (50 built);

749/C-121A Constellation - cargo/passenger transport version for Military Air Transport Service with reinforced floor and cargo door (9 built);

749/VC-121B - commercial standard 749 optimised as a Presidential transport, with accommodation for up to 24 passengers (1 built);

749A Constellation - increased weight version of 749 (59 built);

749A/PO-1W - 749A optimised for airborne early warning use by US Navy featuring dorsal and ventral radomes and enlarged tail fins (2 built, redesignated WV-1 in 1952);

1049 Super Constellation - re-engineered, stretched commercial version powered by Wright 956C-18CA-1 Double Cyclone radials, with seating for up to 92 passengers and detailed improvements (24 built; first flight 14 Jul 51);

1049A/WV-2 Warning Star - 1049 optimised for airborne early warning use by US Navy, with dorsal and ventral radomes, wingtip fuel tanks and equipment changes from WV-1 (142 built, survivors became EC-121K in Sep 62);

1049A/WV-3 Warning Star - 1049 optimised for weather reconnaissance and hurricane research by US Navy; no wingtip tanks (8 built, became WC-121N in 1962);

1049A/RC-121D Warning Star - US Air Force version of WV-2 (72 built, redesignated EC-121D in 1962);

1049B/R7V-1 Constellation - cargo/passenger version of 1049 for US Navy with reinforced floor and cargo door, powered by R-3350-91 Turbo-Compound Cyclones (50 built, 32 transferred to US Air Force as C-121G, remaining survivors re-designated C-121J in 1962);

1049B/RC-121C Warning Star - airborne early warning version of R7V-1 for US Air Force (10 built, re-designated TC-121C and later EC-121C);

1049B/VC-121E Constellation - R7V-1 diverted to US Air Force for use as a Presidential transport (1 built);

1049C Super Constellation - 1049 powered by Wright 872TC-18DA-1 Turbo-Compounds (48 built);

1049D Super Constellation - commercial version of R7V-1 (4 built for Seaboard & Western);

1049E Super Constellation - 1049C with increased operating weight (28 built);

1049F/C-121C Constellation - US Air Force version of R7V-1, powered by R-3350-34s (33 built);

1049G Super Constellation - longer range version of 1049E with optional wing-tip fuel tanks, powered by Wright 972TC-18DA-3 Turbo Cyclones (102 built, first flight 7 Dec 54);

1049H Super Constellation - cargo/passenger version of 1049G (53 built);

1249/YC-121F Constellation - turbine-engined experimental version, powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney YT34-P-12As (4 built; first flight 1 Sep 54);

1649A Starliner - final production version, redesigned 1049G featuring lengthened fuselage, high aspect ratio wing with substantially bigger span, increased fuel capacity and gross weight, with seating for up to 90 passengers; powered by Wright 988TC-18EA-2 Turbo Cyclones (44 built, first flight 10 Oct 56).

Conversions included the following Warning Star variants:

EC-121H - EC-121D modified to allow direct information feed to/from NORAD ground stations (42 converted);

EC-121P - EC-121K with added submarine detection capability (50 converted);

EC-121Q - EC-121D modified under project name BROWN KNOB with additional, unspecified equipment (6 converted);

EC-121R - EC-121K/P transferred to US Air Force under project IGLOO WHITE for communications relay during the Vietnam war (30 converted);

EC-121S - C-121C modified for electronic countermeasures and the CORONET SOLO pyschological warfare role (4 converted);

EC-121T - EC-121D with mission equipment transferred into fuselage and external radomes deleted (20 converted).

Lockheed Constellation survivors
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