In 1939, the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation responded on the request of Transcontinental
& Western Air, Inc. for a 40-passenger airliner. The Lockheed Model 49 Constellation was
convinced as a 40-seat, 4-engined, non-stop transcontinental transport. Design work began in
June 1939 under the direction of Hal Hibbard of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in consultation
with Howard Hughes, the principal stockholder of T.W.A. Construction started in 1940 with initial
orders for 9 from T.W.A. (later 40) and 40 for Pan American Airways. Due to the entry of the U.S.
in World War II the Constellation's use as a military transport assumed primary importance. The US
Army Air Corps commandeered the aircraft off the assembly line, designated them C-69. The prototype
Lockheed L.049 Constellation (s/n 1961) first flew on 9 January 1943 as NX25600 and was transferred
to the U.S.A.F. as the C69 43-10309 on 28 July 1943. A large C-69 order by the US Government was
later cut to seventy-three and by the end of the war fifteen of these had been delivered to the Air
Transport Command of the U.S.A.A.F. With the end of the war the Connie's were no longer needed as
military transport aircraft. The already delivered C69s and the seven C69s at the assembly line
were made available for commercial use. The L.049 was a basically a 43/48-seat airliner, in high-density layout,
up to 60 passengers could be carried. Both Pan American Airways and T.W.A. took delivery of the earliest examples,
later followed by B.O.A.C. in Great Britain and K.L.M. in the Netherlands. The first true civil model was the L.649
Constellation II with improved accommodation, which flew on 19 October 1946, followed by the L.749 with
increased fuel tanks in 1947. Next to a number of airliners, the USAF and US Navy ordered the new,
longer-range version L.749, starting with the C-121A for the U.S.A.F. in 1948. In the years that followed, no fewer than 20
variants were developed for military use, including the VC-121B (Presidential/VIP transport). The Constellation concept
was developed further and remained in production until 1959 with models like the L.1049G Super Constellation and the L.1649
Starliner. When production ended 856 of all versions of the Constellation were built, including the military versions.
K.L.M.-Royal Dutch Airlines in the
Netherlands was a long term Constellation operator and ordered the Lockheed L.049 already in 1943.
In 1947, K.L.M. were among the first customers for the L.749 of which they operated eleven.
Over the years K.L.M. "The Flying Dutchman" operated 26 Constellations: six L.049,
eleven L.749 (eight modified to L.749A) and nine L.749A. Next to the Constellations KLM operated 22
Super Constellations: nine L.1049C (modified to L.1049E), four L.1049E (modified to L.1049G), six L.1049G
and three L.1049H. K.L.M. operations with the Constellation started in 1946 with the L.049 Constellation
and a L.1049G Super Constellation did the final flight in 1962. Due to the importance of the Constellation
in development of the KLM in the post war period on 16 March 1988 the Stichting Constellation Club Nederland -
"Dutch Association of Constellation Enthusiasts" was founded to bring back the Constellation
in the Netherlands. In 1989, the SCCN was able to acquire an option on the Lockheed C-121A Constellation
with s/n 2604 that was stored at Mont Joli in Canada. This Constellation "2604" was
delivered as '48-612' to the USAF MATS Atlantic division on 18 January 1949 as a C-121A-LO model,
similar to a 749-79-38 version. She served with the USAF and USAFE until her retirement. In this period
she was re-serialled 0-80612 and modified to VC-121B. On 26 October 1967, the airliner was ferried to Davis-Monthan
AFB, Arizona for storage at the MASDC desert site.
On 5 May 1970, the Connie was sold to Christler Flying Service Inc, Thermopolis, Wyoming, USA and
towed to the Desert Air Parts Yard adjacent to Davis-Monthan AFB. On 10 July 1970, the Connie was registered
as N9465 and after the aircraft was made ready by the CFS mechanics for the ferry flight, the Connie was
flown to the CFS base in Thermopolis. After modification and installing hoppers at the CFS base the Connie was
used for agricultural spraying. Christler Flying Service operated the N9465 until 1979. On 18 April 1979,
the airframe was sold to Les Arrosages Castor/Beaver Air Spray Inc based at St.Mathias, Quebec, Canada
and registered as C-GXKR in July 1979. In January 1980, the C-GXKR was transferred to Conifair Aviation and
was operated by them until 1984. After Conifair ran out of spare parts for their Connie's the C-GXKR was
withdrawn from use and stored at Mont Joli, Canada. When it was offered for sale in 1988 the SCCN was one of
the parties interested in this Constellation. After the SCCN was able to acquire an option on the Connie
the sale fell through by shortage of money and in August 1993 the Connie was sold to Vern Raburn,
as a source of spares for the “MATS Connie”, C121A N494TW. The C-GXKR was registered N749VR and ferried to Avra
Valley, Arizona in September 1994. After Vern Raburn sold the Connie to the Dutch Constellation
Association as a restoration project she would remain stored for another 8 years on the Constellation Group’s ramp
at Avra Valley. Nothing much happened with the restoration until the Dutch Aviodome Museum became involved in early
2001. The Connie was donated to the museum, with only one demand: a complete restoration and transport to
Holland. This group joined forces with the Constellation Group’s mechanics and on 3rd October 2001 she received an
Experimental certificate with new registration N749NL. Finally, in September 2002, the airplane successfully ferried
to its new home base Lelystad Airport in the Netherlands. It is one of the top pieces of the aviation museum Aviodrome.
Since arrival in Holland, the Constellation was painted in an early 1950’s K.L.M. "De vliegende
Hollander" colour scheme, with the marks FLE painted on the wing and tail. However, the registration PH-FLE
available as it was in use with a Cessna F172N. Instead of the wished registration PH-FLE,
Luchtvaartthemapark Aviodrome, Lelystad, reserved registration PH-LDF
on 25 February 2004. The reservation for registration PH-LDF was
cancelled by the IVW on 20 March 2007. mOn 6 July 2004, the Constellation was baptised "Flevoland"
on 6 July 2004. Today the Constelation is parked inside the large
exhibition hall of Aviodrome at Lelystad.