Queen of the Skies

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Restoring the Lockheed Super Constellation

SHE was one of the most graceful aircraft to have flown … a real queen of the skies.

The sleek dolphin-shaped fuselage, the distinctive triple tail and features such as the pressurised cabin, overall speed and comfort made her an enduring symbol, the epitome of style in propeller-driven aircraft.

The Lockheed Super Constellation is an iconic aircraft in the history of Qantas and Australian aviation.

The Constellation – or Connie as she became known – was the first aircraft that enabled Qantas to establish and sustain long-range overseas air service in its own right.

The Constellation operated the Qantas Kangaroo Route air services between Sydney and London from 1947, the longest air service in the world using the same aircraft all the way.

A Super Constellation operated the first Qantas trans-Pacific air service in 1954 – the first pressurised aircraft operated by the airline and it significantly increased comfort and operational reliability to long distance routes.

And she was the first Qantas aircraft to feature flight hostesses.

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In 1958 the Constellations operated the first regular round-the-world air service via both hemispheres.

Now one of the four-engined aircraft is to grace the grounds of the Qantas Founders Museum at Longreach.

It is in the process of being restored to its former glory to sit alongside other iconic aircraft such as the Douglas DC3, Catalina sea plane, and the Boeing 707 and 747 jets in an expanded air park, on the eastern gateway to the Outback Queensland town.

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Nicole Kuttner, Qantas Museum executive assistant to CEO Tony Martin, said the project was creating great interest.

“So many people have written to say how relieved they are that it has been rescued,” she said.

“It changed aviation. It is incredibly iconic for its shape.

“Not just from an aviation perspective but how it looked.”

The Constellations were used by airlines around the world, including TWA and Pan-American.

“Lufthansa were using them and they are restoring one,” Nicole said.

“South Africa Airlines were using them too and a group over there is inquiring on how to go about restoring one.

“It’s good to be able to assist.”

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Restoration of the Qantas Constellation to its late 1950s condition will be completed externally by July 2018.

Stage two will be the interior of the plane that will include a display of the history of the aircraft as well as in the history of Qantas.

It has been quite a journey for Lockheed Super Constellation N4247K, one that started three years ago when the Qantas Museum was the successful bidder for the plane at an auction at Manila International Airport in the Philippines.

The aircraft had been grounded in Manila for 25 years, having been used by World Fish and Agriculture Inc to transport fish cargo and before that she was operated by the United States Navy.

Project manager for the Qantas museum Rodney Seccombe said the plane had a fascinating personal story.

It was made for the US Navy, who had it during the war, then it was bought by a fellow called Winky Crawford, who used it to carry fish from the Philippines to China and Japan.

Constellation in Manila 2014

Eventually the maintenance on the plane lapsed and it was seized by the Manilla Airport and eventually put up for auction.

After 10 days of travel by ship from the Manila International Container Port, the Super Constellation was unloaded at the Port of Townsville in May this year and transported by road to Longreach.

The restorations will see contractors used for certain tasks but the museum will also rely on volunteers.

And they are responding in good numbers. Many are former Qantas employees but also members of the Founders Museum and people just wanting to assist.

“We have these amazing machines,” Nicole said. “There’s the newer jets, yet people are keen to be involved in this project.

“We are very much aware of our significant following, not just throughout Australia but across the world.”

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A further $11.3million has been allocated towards Qantas Founders Museum’s Airpark Roof Project.

Luminescent Longreach is a light and sound show that will utilise the floor, walls and aircraft in the new structure to tell how the past has created the future.

Qantas Founders Museum chief executive officer Tony Martin said the expansion was exciting for both the museum and the region.

“The Airpark Roof Project will be one of the most significant and important projects our museum has ever undertaken and will ensure the ongoing sustainability of our museum with a new lighting show experience and the preservation of our iconic aircraft including our Lockheed Super Constellation which is under restoration and will be ready for display in mid-2018.”

Qantas Founders Museum tells the story of Australia’s national airline, Qantas Airways, from its early beginnings in Western Queensland in 1920 to the present day.

The museum, which welcomes over 40,000 visitors a year, has a variety of exhibits, interactive displays, artefacts and aircraft including a Boeing 747, Boeing 707, Consolidated Catalina and DC-3.

Anyone who is interested can contact the museum by phone on: 07 4658 3737 or email: info@qfom.com.au.

Qantas Luminescent Longreach (1)
% The proposed Luminescent Longreach design as part of the Qantas Founders Museum’s Airpark Roof Project.

LUFTHANSA TECHNIK DONATES TO SUPER CONSTELLATION PROJECT

Lufthansa Technik AG has donated $5500 towards the Qantas Founders Museum’s Super Constellation Project in Longreach.

Lufthansa Technik AG, a subsidiary within the Lufthansa Group and one of the world’s leading providers of maintenance, repair and overhaul services (MRO), is also running a project to rebuild a Super Constellation with the goal to make it fly again.

The company considers Qantas, like Lufthansa, operates the latest technologies in aircraft and develops innovative ideas for future aviation and MRO.

Both companies have a long tradition in aviation and take responsibilities in keeping that history alive.

That is why Lufthansa is very proud to support Qantas Founders Museum’s Super Constellation project.

Museum CEO Tony Martin is very appreciative of Lufthansa Technik’s assistance towards the project.

“As a not-for-profit organisation, Qantas Founders Museum is thankful for all financial and in-kind support to assist us to complete the Super Constellation Project as well as other museum projects.”

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