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Columbine II Air Force One; photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Photo.
Lockheed Constellation "Connie" Columbine II

Meet Connie

TWA Hotel's Lockheed Constellation airplane has a glamorous — and checkered — past.

 TWA owner Howard Hughes and NY mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1939.
TWA owner Howard Hughes in NYC in 1939; photo by Alamy.

SPEED DEMON

Commissioned in 1939 by TWA's eccentric owner, Howard Hughes (second from right with New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia, far left, in 1939), the Lockheed Constellation "Connie" broke the era's transcontinental speed record on a flight from Burbank, California, to New York in 1946. The plane also served as Air Force One (top) for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Connie's Style and Grace

TWA's fleet was the pride of the airline, as evidenced by this primer on the 1951 Super-G Connie. Click to flip through!

 

Trans World Airlines (TWA) Records (K0453); The State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City
TWA Connie Has Style Book Cover
TWA Connie Has Style Book, Page 2
TWA Connie Has Style Book, Page 3
TWA Connie Has Style Book, Page 4
TWA Connie Has Style Book, Page 5
TWA Connie Has Style Book, Page 6
TWA Connie Has Style Book Back Cover
 TWA Connie - A Star is Born
TWA's L-1649A Starliner.

A STAR IS BORN

The Super-G's ancestor, the Starliner L-1649A, was introduced in 1956. One particular stunner with the tail number N8083H came off Lockheed's line in 1958.

Connie's Stats

Length
116 feet, 2 inches
Height
23 feet, 4.8 inches
Wingspan
150 feet
Cabin Area
744 square feet
Payload Capacity
15,800 pounds
Cruise Speed
300 MPH
Capacity
74 international; 64 domestic
Engines
4 Wright turbo-compound 988TC18EA2
Props
Three-blade, anti-icing, full feathering, reversible pitch
Range
7,200 miles (no reserve); 6,300 miles (with reserves)
Fuel Capacity
9,600 U.S. gallons
 TWA Skyliner The Jetstream is Here
TWA's magazine, The Skyliner, touted Connie's arrival.

PLACE IN THE SUN

In April, Connie N8083H was picked to join the Jetstream fleet of the hottest airline, TWA. She traveled by ferry to the Kansas City, Missouri, headquarters at Mid Continent Airport (MCI, now Kansas City International Airport) and underwent a month-long TWA makeover that included a custom mural. In May 1958, the spiffed-up Connie N8083H flew her first TWA passengers.

Connie's Masterpieces

Inside the Connies' Starlight Lounge (a pre-dinner spot for cocktails and canapes with gold leather banquettes!), artist Maric Zamparelli painted 8-by-4-foot murals, depicting 25 destinations from Bangkok to Boston. He researched traditional garb, chose models with a "quality of dignity" and used special vinyl paint. Click to see a few!

 

TWA Hotel's Connie had a Maric Zamparelli mural inside her cabin.
TWA Connie Zamparelli
TWA Connie Postcard France, Zamparelli

 

Mural of France
TWA Connie Postcard Hollywood, Zamparelli
 
Mural of Hollywood
TWA Connie Postcard Sri Lanka, Zamparelli
 
Mural of Sri Lanka
TWA Connie Postcard Italy, Zamparelli

 

Mural of Italy
 TWA - Younger Model
Baseball great Willie Mays and his wife, Margherite, traveled by Jetstream from NYC in 1958.

REPLACED BY A YOUNGER MODEL

While Connie N8083H was basking in her fame, a rival was hot on her heels: the Boeing 707, which could carry 132 more passengers and go 300 MPH faster. She managed to hang on for two years, but the 707 forced the propliner into commercial retirement with a final flight on December 20, 1960.

 Connie in Prestwick, Scotland, in May 1962; photo by Iain C. MacKay.
TWA Hotel's Connie in Prestwick, Scotland in May 1962; photo by Iain C. MacKay.

A SERIES OF SUITORS

Connie N8083H carried TWA cargo until April 1962, when she became an Alaskan bush plane shuttling supplies to Prudhoe Bay. After five years, she was dumped from that job, too. Back at her ex employer, TWA retired all Connie propliners in 1967, leaving a booklet titled Props Are For Boats on every passenger seat.

 TWA Connie Rock Bottom
TWA Hotel's Connie at Tucson International Airport in September 1981; photo by Bob Groenendijk.

ROCK BOTTOM

Going, going, gone: Connie N8083H sold to the highest bidder — Gerald McNamara, for a mere $150 — at a May 24, 1979 auction, according to ConnieSurvivors.com. A year later, Airborne Enterprises restored and flew her to Anchorage, Seattle, and finally to Chandler, Arizona in 1981. There, Connie ventured into the weeds.

 Connie in Honduras in November 1985
TWA Hotel's Connie in Honduras in November 1985; photo by LBJ Dekker.

GREENER GRASS

Connie’s career went up in smoke by early 1983, when she was modified to airdrop marijuana, then got stuck in the mud with a damaged propeller at a remote landing field in Colombia. Outfitted with a new prop, she flew to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where she was abandoned.

 TWA Connie Prayer
TWA Hotel's Connie at Auburn-Lewiston Airport in January 1998; photo by Ralph M. Pettersen.

A CORRODED WING & A PRAYER

In June 1986, Connie and her corroded wings were rescued by the owner of Maine Coast Airways, Maurice Roundy, who ferried her from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine. Hoping to fly her again, he parked her in front of the airport, adjacent to his house.

 TWA Connie Parts
TWA Hotel's Connie in Maine in September 2013; photo by Ralph M. Pettersen.

HELPING A SISTER OUT

Aiming to fly an L-1649A cross-country, the charity Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung launched the Super Star Project, buying Connie N8083H and two other Starliners at a 2007 auction. Our Connie parted with her flaps, engine and rudder in hopes of helping her comrade fly again. But she hadn't hung up her propeller just yet. . .

Connie Becomes a Cocktail Lounge

A meticulous renovation restores Connie to her glory days.

See the Photos

Connie's Epic Road Trip

See photos and video of the plane’s journey to JFK.

Watch Her Go

Book an Event for 2019 and Beyond

TWA Hotel’s 50,000 square feet of event space holds up to 1,600 people.

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