Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE LOCKHEED CONSTELLATION served admirably as the C-69 in World War II. Both Trans World Airlines and Pan American World Airways received demobbed versions in October 1945.

Connie Finds Peacetime Employment. The Connie’s first transatlantic flight was a TWA test run on December 3-4, 1945, from Washington, D.C., to Paris via Gander, Newfoundland, and Shannon, in western Ireland. Regularly scheduled service began February 6, 1946, with the travel in 19 hours 46 minutes.

Gander and Shannon stopovers continued as part of Connie transatlantic service until March 1947, with introduction of the L-749 variant with larger wing tanks.

Lockheed Constellations, L-049 and stretched L-1049. This and a following image from World Aircraft Commercial 1935–1960.

A Stretch, and More Power. In 1950, the L-1049 Super Constellation arrived. An 18-ft. 4-in. stretch of its fuselage and rectangular windows in the cabin were the most evident changes. In some configurations, the Super Connie carried as many as 106 passengers, up from the L-749’s 60–81. Configurations of either with overnight berths might reduce this to 43-48.

Henry Dreyfuss designed this interior. The illo likely exaggerates headroom, however.

Subsequent models were powered by Turbo Compound versions of the Wright R-3350 18-cylinder twin-row air-cooled radial. Output of this 55-liter powerplant increased from the Connie’s 2200 to Super Connie’s 3250 hp. Eventually, output reached 3400 hp and range was enhanced by addition of wingtip fuel tanks.

Super Connie.

Ike Liked Connies. Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Connies for presidential service, 1953-1961. Each was christened Columbine, the name chosen by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower after the state flower of her adopted Colorado.

Columbine III, the third presidential Constellation. Photo by Ted Quackenbush, December 1959.

It was during Eisenhower’s administration that the call sign “Air Force One” was adopted. Toward the end of his administration, in 1958, three Boeing 707 jets were added to the presidential fleet.

A Coming Jet Age. By the early 1960s, Connies in commercial use were being swapped for Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 jets. The last Super Connies flying commercially into the U.S were based in the Dominican Republic. In 1993, the Federal Aviation Administration banned them.

A World of Connie Travel. Back in June 1947, Pan American World Airways had inaugurated its round-the-world service when Constellation Clipper America Flight 001 took off from San Francisco Municipal Airport on its way to Honolulu, Bangkok, Dehli, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt, London, and New York. Pan Am Flight 002 started in New York, flew eastward, and ended in San Francisco.

The westbound flight took about 48 hours. Passengers going either way had the option of unlimited stopovers provided the entire trip was completed within 180 days.

What an adventure! Its economy-class ticket cost $2300 (figure around $26,300 in today’s dollars).

According to, various airline alliances today offer Round The World tickets, the cost $2700–$15,000 depending upon route, class of fare, and number of stops. The website says a simple two- or three-stop itinerary might cost as little as $1500.

Don’t expect Connie’s aesthetics, however. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. Michael Rubin
    February 24, 2019

    My first air travel was on a Constellation, LAX-LaGuardia via Teenie Weenie Airlines (aero biz jargon) in the early 50’s for my grandfather’s funeral. I just recall lots of noise and blocked ears. The small Convair two engine planes were more comfortable a couple of years later (as an experienced 10 year old).

  2. carmacarcounselor
    March 8, 2019

    In the summer of 1969, the Navy Blue Angels visited Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks, Alaska. Their service aircraft was a Super G dressed out in the Blue Angels’ gorgeous blue and yellow livery. What a magnificent aircraft!

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