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N749NL Lockheed L.749-79 Constellation c/n 2604 - K.L.M. "Flevoland" - Lelystad airport in Holland - 4 September 2004 Lelystad Airport (LEY)

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 was not 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. The Constellation was baptised "Flevoland" on 6 July 2004. Today, the airliner is parked inside the large exhibition hall of Aviodrome at Lelystad.

page last updated: 17-08-2013
Copyright © Jack Wolbrink, Emmen, the Netherlands

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