By Bill Dixon
There is good reason to visit the "Save A Connie"
exhibit, now known as the Airline History Museum, based at the old Kansas City,
Missouri, Downtown Airport,. They have masterfully restored a piston four-engine 1049G
Constellation, a Martin twin-engine 404, and are finishing up exceptionally fine work on a
classic DC-3 all in TWA logos and markings.
I have been fortunate in my time to have flown thousands of hours on a number of different air transports, from the Army Air Corps Douglas C-47 and Curtis C-46, to the giant Boeing 747 jet on TWA. Of them all, I most enjoyed piloting the Lockheed Constellation, known as the "Connie", above even the jets.
The long-range 1049G version of the Connie boasted streamlined fuel tanks attached to each wing tip, which added to its majestic look and were reinstalled by the Museum. This restored Super G is frequently flown at air shows all across the United States.
The Constellation came on the commercial scene with TWA and Eastern Airlines immediately after the end of WWII. It was developed prior to the war to the specifications of TWA president Jack Frye
and TWA's majority stockholder, Howard Hughes. The few early models that had been manufactured, called C-69s, were drafted by the Army Air Corps and turned back to TWA at war's end when production resumed.
Already nicknamed the Connie, the first commercial TWA model was a sleek, triple-tailed beauty with 51 seats, tastily furnished inside and out. That was the original model 049, pressurized but not air-conditioned. It climbed and descended fast to use the cold upper air for cooling. All later models were air-conditioned. The 1649A, the biggest and longest range of the Connies, had a wingspan of 150 feet and a maximum gross take-off weight of 160,000 pounds. Models 749A and 1049G probably were the most numerous produced and carried 64 to 92 passengers, depending on seating arrangements. The seats all were comfortably spaced.
The history of the Constellation is being carried on by "Save A Connie, Inc." Founded in 1986, it has christened its Connie the "Star of America". It originally was purchased by the late Jim Wheeler, a retired TWA captain, who used it for a short period to carry cattle. It stood unused for approximately eleven years in Mesa, Arizona, and then was virtually given to the "Save A Connie" group.
In two months it was put in shape to ferry to Kansas City where a full airworthy restoration immediately began under the skilled hands of active and retired TWA employees. The Airline History Museum at Kansas City was established in 2000, with the "Save A Connie" group as a key part of the new museum organization. It has a fascinating display of historic memorabilia. Donations are welcome.
This Connie's vital statistics are:
Fuselage length, 116', 2"
Wing span with tip tanks, 123', 6 "
Weight (empty), 76,670 lbs
Usable fuel capacity, 7,020 gallons
Cruise speed, up to 328 mph
Flight range, 5,400 miles
Bill Dixon (1936-1978 ) started as a Ticket Agent and served in the News Bureau and Flight Operations.