Lockheed Super Constellation

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Lockheed Super Constellation
L-1049A of the Super Constellation Flyers Association SCFA (Basel), during the pilot training in Epinal-Mirecourt (2005)
Type: Long-haul airliner
Design country:

United StatesUnited States United States



First flight:

October 13, 1950


17th December 1951

Production time:

1951 to 1958

Number of pieces:


The Lockheed Super Constellation ( English colloquially Super Connie ) was, like its predecessor, the Constellation , a four-engine airliner from the American manufacturer Lockheed , which was also used for military purposes in various versions. The Super Constellation was the most successful version of the Constellation series , which produced the Constellation in 1943, the Super Constellation in 1950 and the Starliner in 1956 . Together with the rival models Douglas DC-6 and Douglas DC-7, it formed the technical pinnacle of long-haul aircraft with piston engine propulsion .



The development of the Super Constellation as the successor to the Lockheed Constellation began in response to changing demand. Growing passenger numbers meant that in 1950 Lockheed extended the already long fuselage of the Constellation by a further 5.59 m by installing additional fuselage segments in front of and behind the wings.

Since Lockheed no longer had a test aircraft, the company bought back the Constellation prototype XC-69 from the US Air Force (USAF) and converted it into the L-1049 Super Constellation . In addition to the aforementioned lengthening of the fuselage , the most important changes that led to the Super Constellation also included the reinforcement of the entire airframe , installation of square cabin windows, modified canopy glazing, increased tank volume and the installation of more powerful Wright R-3350 -CB1 engines.

The first flight of the Super Constellation took place on October 13, 1950. The new aircraft type showed excellent economy; however, the engine performance only barely met the requirements of the airlines, so that only 24 L-1049s were manufactured for Eastern Air Lines and TWA .

Curtiss Wright R-3350 TC-18

Use of the various Super Constellation versions

Lockheed L-1049 at Munich Airport

The first scheduled service of an L-1049 took place in December 1951 with Eastern Air Lines, after it was delivered on November 26, 1951. The first military version was the L-1049A , which was supplied to the US Navy as WV-2 and WV-3 and to the US Air Force as RC-121D. The next version, which was again built for both the US Navy and the US Air Force during the Korean War , was given the factory designation L-1049B . Their official military designations were R7V or RC-121C and VC-121E. With this version and the civil L-1049C developed from it, which took off for the first time on February 17, 1953, the lack of engine power of the L-1049 was overcome by the use of the turbo-compound version of the R-3350 engine with a take-off power of 2389 kW (3250 PS) can be improved. The increase in output was achieved by adding three exhaust gas turbines to the engine , which transferred an additional output of a total of 331 kW (450 hp) to the propeller shaft.

All other versions of the Super Constellation received further developments of this engine. In practice, these proved to be quite maintenance-intensive and prone to failure and earned the Superconnies of the C to H series the derisive nickname “best three-engine in the world” because one of the engines frequently failed on long-haul flights. In its statistics, Lufthansa recorded a cancellation on almost every third flight. The DC-7 series, equipped with the same motors, also had to contend with this shortcoming.

Of the L-1049C , 56 aircraft were built. By installing large cargo doors and a heavy -duty floor , the L-1049C became the L-1049D cargo version , which flew for the first time in September 1954. Only four machines of this version were built. Further detail improvements led to the L-1049E with a maximum takeoff weight of 61,400 kg, but only 25 of the 56 originally ordered machines were delivered. At the request of the client, the remaining aircraft were built as L-1049G .

The L-1049F served as the basic version of the military C-121 for the US Air Force . Between 1948 and 1955 the USAF bought 150 C-121C as a transporter and another 150 EC-121 as early warning stations.

The most successful version was the L-1049G (Super G) with 99 copies sold, including 38 L-1049E conversions. The first L-1049G made its maiden flight on December 7, 1954 and was put into service with Northwest Airlines in January 1955 . The Lufthansa opened on June 8, 1955, an L-1049G the transatlantic traffic on the route Düsseldorf Shannon (Ireland) -New York. The D-ALAK was the first four-engine aircraft in post-war Germany to receive type certification on April 1, 1955 , but this machine had an accident in January 1959 while approaching Rio de Janeiro . To increase the range, the L-1049G could be equipped with wing end tanks (tip tanks), each with a fuel capacity of 2270 liters.

In 1957 the last version of the L-1049 appeared, the L-1049H for mixed passenger and freight traffic. The type had two large cargo doors on the port side of the hull. In addition, a reinforced heavy-duty floor ("roller floor") was built in, which made it possible to use floor conveyors for transport pallets .

The payload in mixed (combi) traffic was limited to 11,020 kg. The L-1049H was mainly used as a pure freighter, with a payload of up to 17,200 kg. The maximum take-off weight has been increased to 63,500 kg for this variant. In the early 1960s, Lockheed converted around 50 passenger planes ( L-1049C and L-1049G ) into L-1049H cargo aircraft.

End and Succession

L-1049G Super Constellation

By the end of production in 1958 and the successor by the Lockheed Starliner , a total of 285 civilian and 325 military Super Constellations of all versions had been produced. It thus became the most successful variant of the Constellation series . The last Super Constellation went to Slick Airways on September 7, 1959 .

The largest Super Connie fleets had TWA ( Trans World Airlines ) and Eastern Air Lines; it was also widespread in other parts of the world. In Europe, the Super Connie could be seen in the colors of Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Iberia and Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) for many years . Rental basis flew Sabena two copies.


The Super Constellation was built in numerous versions for both military and civil purposes. A total of 259 civilian and 320 military copies of the Super Constellation were made. While the civilian versions went to numerous airlines around the world, the military versions remained in the United States in the possession of the United States Air Force and the United States Navy .


The L-1049 was extended by 5.59 m and could be equipped with a maximum of 109 seats. A total of 579 civil and military examples were built. Eastern Airlines received the first L-1049 on November 26, 1951; the last Super Constellation went to Slick Airways on September 7, 1959 .

24 pieces built. Version with 2,500 PS (1,865 kW) R-3350-749C18BD engines, introduction of angular windows.

L-1049A: military variant
L-1049B: military variant

48 pieces built. 3,250 hp (2,425 kW) R-3350-87ТС18DA-1 engines.
4 pieces built. Freight version of the L-1049C.
28 pieces built. Improved L-1049C.

L-1049F: military variant

102 pieces built. 3,295 PS (2,424 kW) R-3350-972ТС18DA-3 engines, wing tip tanks and weather radar were available as options.
53 newly built L-1049Gs that could be used as cargo or passenger aircraft.

L-1249A: military variant .

Military transporters and scouts

C-121 Super Constellation

US President Eisenhower's VC-121E
NC-121J for the transmission of radio and television programs

Until 1962, the United States Air Force and the United States Navy had different designation systems for aircraft, which were then standardized. The EC-121D was developed from the WV-2 in 1954, but it became the EC-121K in 1962. Aircraft that were no longer in service, such as the WV-1, were no longer renamed.

Transport aircraft for the United States Air Force based on the L-1049 with 3,400 hp (2,536 kW) R-3350-34 engines, 33 were built.
Conversion of two C-121C and one TC-121C as test aircraft for avionics.
four C-121C converted into VIP transporters.
VIP transporter for the US President ( Air Force One ), a machine built.
Conversion of two C-121C and two C-121J and equipment with four Pratt & Whitney T34-P-6 turboprops, each with 6,000 WPS (4,476 kW) (original US Navy name was R7V-2).
Designation for 32 C-121Js handed over to the USAF by the US Navy.
C-121C for the United States Navy , 50 were built (originally R7V-1). One machine was modified for use in the Antarctic (originally R7V-1P, from 1962 also C-121J).
Three converted C-121J for the transmission of radio and television programs in Vietnam.

EC-121 Warning Star

EC-121K (WV-2) Warning Star of the US Navy 1957
USAF EC-121D Warning Star
One EC-121L (WV-2E)
An EC-121R over Thailand
AWACS version of the United States Navy based on the L-749, 2 prototypes were built.
AWACS of the USAF from the WV-2 production for the USN based on the L-1049, 10 were built.
Conversion of nine RC-121C to training aircraft (originally TC-121C).
USAF AWACS (similar to US Navy's WV-2), 73 were built (originally RC-121D).
Designation for 42 modernized EC-121D.
Designation for 2 modernized EC-121D.
US Navy AWACS based on L-1049, 142 were built (originally WV-2).
EC-121K Rivet Top
improved EC-121D, a machine rebuilt.
Conversion of an EC-121K as a test aircraft for avionics.
US Navy EC-121K.
Conversion of a WV-2 and equipment with a radome over the fuselage (originally WV-2E).
In 1958/59 the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore converted an initial batch of eight WV-2s to WV-2Q, a COMINT / ELINT / SIGINT version. These machines were to replace the Martin P4M -1Q Mercator, which were in service with the Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons One (VQ-1) and Two (VQ-2). A ninth aircraft followed before the designation was changed from WV-2Q to EC-121M in September 1962. A tenth and eleventh example were converted by the US Navy on the basis of an EC-121K and EC-121P airframe . The WV-2Q / EC-121M retained the AN / APS-20 search radar and AN / APS-45 altitude radar from the WV-2, as did most of the Combat Information Center (CIC) facilities. In addition, they were given jobs for the operators of the special equipment, which included the AN / ALD-1 directional radar, an AN / ALR-3 radar warning receiver, the pulse analyzer AN / APA-74 and the AN / APR-9 and AN / APR -13 ELINT recipients belonged to. Improvements to the output configurations were introduced through the programs "Gray Shoe", "Brigand" and "Rivet Gym". At “Rivet Gym”, four additional stations were provided for language specialists from the NSA , who recorded the opponent's voice communication.
Conversion of eight EC-121K to weather reconnaissance
U-hunt variant, conversion from EC-121K
three USAF EC-121P
Name for four modernized EC-121D
EC-121R BatCat
30 converted EC-121K for recording sensor data in the Vietnam War
Name for 15 EC-121D and seven EC-121H, which were equipped with new radars

Sales figures / orders and deliveries

Civil versions

A total of 259 civilian Super Constellations were made of the following versions:

24 units built, which were delivered to Eastern Air Lines (14) and TWA (10).

L-1049A: military variant
L-1049B: military variant

48 built. The customers of this version were Air France (10), Air India (2), Eastern Air Lines (16), KLM (9), Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) (3), QANTAS (3), Trans-Canada Air Lines ( TCA) (5).
4 pieces built, for Seaboard & Western Airlines (4).
28 and delivered to the following airlines: Air India (3), Avianca (3), Cubana (1), Iberia (3), KLM (4), Linea Aeropostal Venezolana (LAV) (2), QANTAS (9), TCA (3).

L-1049F: military variant

102 built. Delivered to: Air France (14), Air India (5), Avianca (1), Cubana (3), Eastern Airlines (10), Iberia (2), KLM (6), LAV (2), Lufthansa (8) , Northwest Airlines (4), QANTAS (2), Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) (3), Thai Airways Co. (3), TCA (4), TWA (28), VARIG (6) and Hughes Tool Company ( 1).
53 built. First used by the following airlines: California Eastern Aviation (5, 2 of which are immediately leased to Transcontinental SA (Argentina)), Flying Tiger Line (15), KLM (3), National Airlines (4), PIA (2), QANTAS (2 ), REAL (Brazil) (4), Resort Airlines (2), Seaboard & Western AL (5), Slick Airways (3), TCA (2), Transocean Air Lines (2), TWA (4).

L-1249A: military variant .

Military versions

Lockheed EC-121K
Lockheed L-1249A (R7V-2) with turbo prop drive

A total of 320 military copies of the Super Constellation were delivered to the US Air Force and US Navy:

222 pieces built:
US Air Force: RC-121D (72 pieces),
US Navy: WV-2 (142 pieces), WV-3 (8 pieces).
61 pieces built:
US Air Force: RC-121C (10 pieces), VC-121E (1 piece),
US Navy: R7V-1 (50 pieces).
33 pieces built:
US Air Force: C-121C.
4 pieces built:
US Air Force: YC-121F (2 pieces),
US Navy: R7V-2 (2 pieces).

Military production

Acceptance of the Super Constellation by the USAF / US Navy
↓ Version year → 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957/58 Total / version
VC-121E 1 1
C-121C 18th 15th 33
YC-121F 2 2
RC-121C 2 8th 10
RC-121D 15th 25th 32 72
R7V-1 4th 33 12 1 50
R7V-2 2 2
WV-2 2 22nd 8th 45 65 142
WV-3 8th 8th
Total / year 4th 37 60 62 92 65 320

Modifications of the C-121 after fiscal years:

version 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 TOTAL out
C-121C     1                             1 RC-121C
C-121D 1               1                 2 RC-121D
EC-121D               1 39 3 1             44 RC-121D
EC-121H             1 11 13 4th               29 RC-121D, EC-121K
EC-121Q                 4th                 4th RC-121D
EC-121S                           4th       4th C-121C
EC-121T                             12 8th   20th EC-121D
VC-121C                           1 1   1 3 C-121C
TC-121C       5 1         1               7th RC-121C
TOTAL 1 0 1 5 1 0 1 12 57 8th 1 0 0 5 13 8th 1 114

(FY 1956 = Fiscal Year 1956. The fiscal year 1956 runs from July 1st, 1955 to June 30th, 1956)


From the first flight in 1950 to February 2019, the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation caused 111 total aircraft losses. In 58 of them 1094 people were killed.

Technical specifications

Lockheed Super Constellation
Parameter Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation data
crew 4-10
Passengers 76-99
length 34.6 m
span 37.5 m
height 7.55 m
Empty mass 31,298 kg
Max. Takeoff mass 62,370 kg
drive 4 air-cooled turbo-compound 18-cylinder double radial engines ,
type Curtiss-Wright R3350-972TC-18DA , each approx. 55 liters displacement and 3250 PS (2389 kW)
propeller three-leaved
Cruising speed 482 km / h
Range 6486 km
Service ceiling 7050 m


Star of Switzerland (formerly Breitling Super Constellation) at the Mollis military airfield in Switzerland (2011)

The last operator of an L-1049 was the Caribbean-based Aerochago, which had used the type on freight services between Central America and Florida (Miami) until the early 1990s.

Last Super Constellation in Europe

The only Super Constellation active in Europe between 2004 and 2016, a former USAF C-121C, previously belonged to the Californian Constellation Historical Society in Camarillo . It owed its survival to a barter in 1972, in which the National Air and Space Museum secured a Boeing 307 Stratoliner in exchange for this Super Constellation, which had already been parked in Davis-Monthan . In 2003, a Swiss association, the Super Constellation Flyers Association , signed a lease / purchase agreement for the aircraft. Between April 26 and May 8, 2004 the machine was transferred to Basel, then flew on with the US registration number N73544 and was entered in the Swiss aircraft register as HB-RSC in May 2007. The aircraft was maintained by volunteers and professionals and financed through membership fees, sponsors and airfare contributions.

Corrosion damage was discovered during an inspection in December 2009. After extensive repair work, the aircraft was able to take off again on April 10, 2011. It was transferred to Zurich, where it was given a new coat of paint that is reminiscent of the look of the Luxair machines from the 1960s. The Super Connie flew members of the Super Constellation Flyers Association (Basel) to airshows and historic flights across almost all of Europe. Due to repeated problems with an engine, it remained on the ground in 2012 and flew again from May 2013 until the end of the flying season in September 2016. In May 2017, the machine suffered brake damage during braking attempts on the runway, which required a revision of the right landing gear made. Corrosion damage to the rudder rods had to be repaired with new products. In 2018, the previous main sponsor, Breitling SA, withdrew, so that the machine, which had long been known as the “Breitling Super Constellation”, was henceforth called the “Star of Switzerland”.

After the two-year flight break, demonstrations were again planned for 2019. Evidence required by the FOCA prevented this. The complex investigations required a renovation of the wings within around another four years of standstill and costs of up to CHF 20 million, whereby the amount had to be guaranteed quickly in spring 2019, which was decided by the association, to try. The collection of the guaranteed 20 million Swiss francs for a complete overhaul of the aircraft could not be completed within the deadline, which resulted in the decision to dissolve the Flyers Association. The aircraft should be made available to the public. On the airfield Bremgarten it is restored since of 2019. With this machine, after its parts had been transferred to Germany, there was hope that it could be airworthy again from around 2023.

Last machines in the world

Of the total of 856 Constellations and Super Constellations built by Lockheed, five were ready to fly in 2011 worldwide. In 2019 only one plane flew in Australia, which was not allowed to take passengers.


The cockpit of the former HI-548CT Aerochago machine has been preserved in the form of a simulator. This was built up over several years by a member of the Swiss Association and can be viewed and "flown" in a restaurant near Zurich Airport.


See also


  • Peter Alles-Fernandez: Aircraft from A to Z, Volume 3. Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Koblenz 1989, ISBN 3-7637-5906-9 , pp. 47-48.
  • Leonard Bridgman (Ed.): Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1952-53. Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London 1952, pp. 219-221.
  • Leonard Bridgman: Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1959-60. Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London 1959, pp. 331-333.
  • René J. Francillon: Lockheed Aircraft since 1913. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London 1987, ISBN 0-85177-805-4 .
  • Ernst Frei, Urs Mattle, Katsuhiko Tokunaga: Super Constellation - Backstage. AS Verlag , Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-909111-91-6
  • K. Grieder: Super-Star-Constellation "Jetstream". In: Expansion. Issue 10/1957, pp. 632/633, Paul-Christiani-Verlag, Konstanz 1957
  • Karlheinz Kens: types of aircraft. 4th edition. Carl Lange Verlag, Duisburg 1963.
  • Peter J. Marson: The Lockheed Constellation. (2 volumes). Air-Britain (Historians), Tonbridge 2007, ISBN 0-85130-366-8 .
  • Kurt W. Streit: From the drawing board to the runway. Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 1955.
  • Curtis K. Stringfellow, Peter M. Bowers : Lockheed Constellation. Motorbooks International, Osceola 992, ISBN 0-87938-379-8 .
  • Gordon Swanborough, Peter M. Bowers: United States Military Aircraft since 1909. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London 1989, ISBN 0-85177-816-X .
  • Gordon Swanborough, Peter M. Bowers: United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London 1990, ISBN 0-85177-838-0 .

Web links

Commons : Lockheed Constellation  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Peter J. Marson: The Lockheed Constellation. (2 volumes) Air-Britain (Historians), Tonbridge 2007, ISBN 0-85130-366-8 , p. 464.
  2. a b c d e Peter J. Marson: The Lockheed Constellation. (2 volumes) Air-Britain (Historians), Tonbridge 2007, ISBN 0-85130-366-8 , Volume 2, Section 12: Production List .
  3. ^ Stringfellow, Bowers: Lockheed Constellation. P. 67.
  4. a b c Alles-Fernandez: Airplanes from A to Z. P. 48.
  5. ^ A b c Stringfellow, Bowers: Lockheed Constellation. Pp. 73-82.
  6. a b c Marson: The Lockheed Constellation , pp. 96-99.
  7. ^ Lockheed Constellation Database. In Airplane Monthly July 2003, p. 68
  8. Connies in uniform, Lockheed Constellation / Super Constellation Military Variants. In Wings of Fame, Vol. 20, 2000, Aerospace Publishing, p. 128.
  9. Statistical Digest of the USAF 1946, p. 94 ff., 1948, p. 16; 1949, p. 164 f .; 1951, p. 158; 1952, p. 158; 1953, p. 185 f .; 1954, pp. 70 f .; 1955, p. 80 f .; 1956, p. 91 f .; 1957, p. 97 f.
  10. Statistical Digest of the USAF 1959-1972, table "Losses and Gains"
  11. Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation accident statistics , Aviation Safety Network (English), accessed on January 22, 2020.
  12. N73544 - History of Our Constellation ( Memento from June 22, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  13. ^ Connie to rejoin show circuit , in Airplane Monthly, July 2011, p. 8
  14. Jürgen Schelling: Oldtimer pursued by bad luck: «Super Connie» stays on the ground. In: nzz.ch. August 15, 2012, accessed December 28, 2016 .
  15. The “Super Connie” is flying again , NZZ, May 2, 2013
  16. ^ "Connie" and crew are fully fledged again , NZZ, May 13, 2016
  17. Super Constellation in Financial Turbulence , NZZ, February 13, 2019
  18. Super Connie before heart surgery
  19. The Super Constellation has left Zurich , NZZ, November 28, 2019
  20. HI-548CT c / n 4202. conniesurvivors.com, accessed February 18, 2017 .