MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Trans World Airlines (TWA) introduced the Lockheed L-1049 ‘Super Constellation’, or ‘Connie’ for short, into its fleet in 1952.
The original Constellation had been commissioned in 1939, by TWA’s eccentric owner Howard Hughes. Hughes wanted a long-range airliner that offered unrivaled comfort, range, and economics. He believed that this would be his ‘secret weapon’ against his competitors.
The TWA boss demanded the project was kept top secret. He also specified that Lockheed could not sell the aircraft to any other airline until TWA had received 35 examples. While Hughes was instrumental in the Connie’s performance specifications, it was Lockheed that created the iconic, sleek and elegant ‘art deco’ look.
Enter the Super Connie
With the success of the initial variant, Lockheed quickly set about building a bigger and better version. Over 550 design changes were implemented into the new aircraft, known as the L-1049 ‘Super Constellation.’
To speed up the entry-in-to-service, the original Constellation was purchased from Hughes for $100,000. It was then modified to become the Super Connie prototype.
This variant first flew on July 14, 1951. TWA had ordered ten in 1950. But it was rival Eastern Airlines (EA) that would put the type in to revenue service first on December 17, 1951.
Sadly the arrival of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 signaled the end for the Connie with TWA in 1967. A total of 570 Super Connie’s were built between 1951 and 1958.
Featured image: Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation N6905C arriving at San Francisco in 1952. (Photo: Bill Larkins, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)