Lockheed Constellation

Constellation
A Qantas Empire Airways L-749 Constellation.
TypeAirliner
ManufacturerLockheed
Designed byClarence "Kelly" Johnson
Hall Hibbard
Maiden flight9 January 1943
Introduced1943 with USAAF
1945 with TWA
Retired1967, airline service
1978, military
Primary userTrans World Airlines
Produced1943-1958
Number built856
VariantsEC-121 Warning Star


The Lockheed Constellation, affectionately known as the “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. It was used as both a civilian airliner and U.S. military air transport plane, seeing service in the Berlin Airlift and as the presidential aircraft for President Eisenhower.

Design and development

Excalibur: The Constellation's predecessor

Since 1937, Lockheed had been working on the L-044 Excalibur, a four-engine pressurized airliner. In 1939 Trans World Airlines, at the encouragement of major stockholder Howard Hughes, requested a 40-passenger transcontinental airliner with 3,500 mile (5,630 km) range[1] - well beyond the capabilities of the limited Excalibur design. TWA's requirements led to the L-049 Constellation, designed by such Lockheed engineers as Kelly Johnson and Hall Hibbard.[2] Willis Hawkins, another Lockheed engineer, maintains that the Excalibur program was purely a cover for the Constellation.[3]

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The military's C-69 prototype was based on the initial L-049 design.

Development of the Constellation

The Constellation's wing was effectively the same as that of the P-38 Lightning, differing only in scale.[4] The distinctive triple tail kept the aircraft's overall height low enough so that it could fit in existing hangars,[3] while new features included hydraulically-boosted controls and a thermal de-icing system used on wing and tail leading edges.[3]

With the onset of World War II, the TWA aircraft entering production were converted to an order for C-69 military transport aircraft, with 202 aircraft intended for the United States Army Air Forces. The first prototype (civil registration NX25600) flew on 9 January 1943, a simple ferry hop from Burbank to Muroc Field for testing.[1] 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.

With only 22 C-69s delivered before the end of hostilities, the military cancelled the remainder of the order. Aircraft already in production were thus finished as civilian airliners, with TWA receiving the first on 1 October 1945. The first transatlantic proving flight departed Washington, DC on 3 December 1945, arriving in Paris on 4 December via Gander and Shannon.[1]

Rumors persist that Hughes himself was influential in the design of the Constellation, but these are untrue. His only input was suggestions on the required performance and cockpit layout. He left the rest of the design work to Lockheed.[1]

Operational history

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Super Constellation (C-121C) during Pilot training in Epinal - Mirecourt, France
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TWA was one of the best-known Constellation operators. The pictured aircraft is an L-1049 Super Constellation.
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Lockheed Super Constellation at Air 04, Payerne, Switzerland
Trans World Airlines opened post-war commercial intercontinental air service on 6 February, 1946, with a New York - Paris flight in a Constellation. On 17 June, 1947, Pan American World Airways opened the first ever regularly-scheduled around-the-world service with their L-749 Clipper America. The famous flight Pan Am 101 remained in service for 50 years.

As the first pressurized airliner in widespread use, the Constellation helped to usher in affordable and comfortable air travel for the masses. Some of the more famous operators of Constellations were TWA, Pan American World Airways, Air France, BOAC, KLM, Qantas, Lufthansa, Iberia Airlines, Panair do Brasil, TAP Portugal and Trans-Canada Airlines (later renamed Air Canada).

Initial difficulties

The Constellation suffered three accidents in the first ten months of airline service, temporarily curtailing its career as a passenger airliner.[5] On 18 June 1946, the engine of a Pan American aircraft caught fire and fell off. The flight crew was able to make an emergency landing with no loss of life. However, on 11 July of the same year a Transcontinental and Western Air aircraft fell victim to inflight fire, crashing in a field and taking the lives of five of the six on board.[5] The accidents prompted the suspension of the Constellation's airworthiness certificate until Lockheed could modify the design to avoid repeats of the problems.

The Constellation, like other piston-powered airliners of the day, proved prone to engine failures, earning it the nickname of "the world's finest three-engine airliner" in some circles.

Records

Sleek and powerful, Constellations set a number of records. On 17 April 1944, the second production L-049, piloted by Howard Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye flew from Burbank, California to Washington D.C. in 6 hours and 57 minutes. On the return trip, the aircraft stopped at Wright Field to give Orville Wright his last plane flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight. He commented that the wingspan on the Constellation was longer than the distance of his first flight.[2]

On 29 September 1957, an L-1649A Starliner flew from Los Angeles to London in 18 hours and 32 minutes (c. 5,420 miles). The L-1649A still holds the record for the longest-duration non-stop passenger flight — during TWA's inaugural London to San Francisco flight on 1-2 October 1957, the aircraft stayed aloft for a remarkable 23 hours and 19 minutes (c. 5,350 miles)

Obsolescence

The advent of jet airliners, with the de Havilland Comet, Boeing 707, and Convair 880, rendered the piston-engined 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 four-engined piston-engined airliner in the United States was made by a TWA L-749 on 11 May 1967 from Philadelphia to Kansas City, MO. [6] Many Constellations continued to serve as fast freighters for years to come.

Timeline

Variants

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Super Constellation at Charles Prince Airport, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1975. Used as a flying club headquarters.
The Constellation was produced in both civil and military versions. The initial military versions carried the Lockheed designation of L-049; as World War II came to a close, some were completed as civil L-049 Constellations. The first purpose-built passenger Constellation was the more powerful L-649, followed by the L-1049 Super Constellation and L-1649 Starliner. Military versions included the C-69 and C-121 for the Army Air Forces/Air Force and the R7O R7V-1 WV-1 (L-1049G) WV-2 (L-1049H) (famously Willie Victor) and many variant EC-121 designations for the Navy (Navy ref Swanborough & Bowers, United States Navy Aircraft since 1911, Funk & Wagnalls, NY, 1968, also Fahey The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, 8th Ed, US Naval Institute, Anapolis, 1965).

Operators

Constellations were used by dozens of airlines and air forces around the world. After TWA's initial order was filled following World War II, customers rapidly accumulated, with over 800 aircraft built. In military service, the US Navy and Air Force operated the EC-121 Warning Star variant until 1978, nearly 40 years after work on the L-049 began.Pakistan International Airlines was First airline from an Asian country to fly the Super Constellation.

Surviving examples

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President Dwight Eisenhower flew in two Constellations, named Columbine II and Columbine III.

Specifications (L-1049-G Super Constellation)

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Orthographically projected diagram of the Lockheed L-1049G Constellation.

Data from Great Aircraft of the World[9], and Quest for Performance[10]

General characteristics

* Crew: 5 flight crew, varying cabin crew* Capacity: typically 62-95 passengers, up to 109 could be seated
  • Length: 116 ft 2 in (35.42 m)* Wingspan: 126 ft 2 in (38.47 m)
  • Height: 24 ft 9 in (7.54 m)* Wing area: 1,654 ft² (153.7 m²)* Empty weight: 79,700 lb (36,150 kg)* Useful load: 65,300 lb (29,620 kg)* Max takeoff weight: 137,500 lb (62,370kg)*
  • Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0211
  • Drag area: 34.82 ft² (3.23 m²)
  • Aspect ratio: 9.17

    Performance

    • Maximum speed: 380 mph (330 kt, 610 km/h)* Cruise speed: 354 mph (310 kt, 570 km/h) at 22,600 ft (6,890 m)* Stall speed: 100 mph (87 kt, 160 km/h)* Range: 5,400 mi (4,700 nm, 8,700 km)* Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)* Rate of climb: 1,620 ft/min (8.23 m/s)* Wing loading: 87.7 lb/ft² (428 kg/m²)
  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 16.0

    References

    1. ^ Taylor, Michael J.H., ed. “Lockheed Constellation and Super Constellation.” Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation. New York: Crescent, 1993. p. 606-607. ISBN 0 517 10316 8.
    2. ^ Yenne, Bill, Lockheed. Greenwich, Connecticut: Bison Books,1987, p. 44-46. ISBN 0-51760-471-X.
    3. ^ Boyne, Walter J. Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998, p. 135-137. ISBN 0-31224-438-X.
    4. ^ Johnson, Clarence L. "Kelly" (), Kelly: More Than My Share of it All. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 1985. ISBN 0-87474-491-1.
    5. ^ (22 June 1946) "The Star of Lisbon". TIME.1946"> 
    6. ^ Germain, Scott E., Lockheed Constellation & Super Constellation. North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, 1998. p. 89. ISBN 1-58007-000-0.
    7. ^ [1]
    8. ^ [2]
    9. ^ Cacutt, Len, ed. “Lockheed Constellation.” Great Aircraft of the World. London: Marshall Cavendish, 1989. p. 314-322. ISBN 1-85435-250-4.
    10. ^ Loftin, L.K. Jr. Quest for performance: The evolution of modern aircraft. NASA SP-468. [3] Access date: 22 April 2006.
    • Marson, Peter J. The Lockheed Constellation Series. Tonbridge, UK: Air-Britain (Historians), 1982. ISBN 0-85130-100-2.
    • Smith, M.J. Jr. Passenger Airliners of the United States, 1926-1991. Highland County, Ohio: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1986. ISBN 0-933126-72-7.

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    Type Airborne early warning aircraft
    Manufacturer Lockheed
    Primary users United States Air Force
    United States Navy
    Produced 1953-1958
    Number built 232
    Developed from Lockheed Constellation

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    Manufacturer Lockheed
    Maiden flight 27 January 1939
    Introduction 1941
    Retired 1949
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