Museum Plans Constellation Flight Re-enactment
The countdown has begun for the ambitious re-enactment of a record-setting flight that helped usher in the modern age of air travel. The National Airline History Museum hopes to re-create the inaugural coast-to-coast flight of a Lockheed Constellation flown by Howard Hughes and Jack Frye in its own Connie. Right after the first Constellation was rolled out on April 17, 1944, Hughes and Frye jumped in the cockpit and flew across the country in less than seven hours. Orville Wright was onboard and it was his last flight. The museum hopes to have its Connie fully restored and ready for the flight on the 70th anniversary in 2014. "There are so many great stories and great people associated with this effort," said John Roper, VP of Operations for the museum. There is a huge fundraising task ahead of the volunteer-run effort, however.
They need about $3.2 million to stage the re-enactment, half of which will be spent getting the aircraft airworthy again. It hasn't flown since 2005 when one of its engines failed. The museum's Connie was one of the last built in 1958 and it was originally a cargo hauler. Its last job was as an aerial sprayer in Canada and it was retired to the desert in 1986, and a volunteer group from Kansas City got it airworthy enough to ferry it there. After restoration and reconfiguration to a passenger aircraft, it spent more than 15 years on the airshow circuit as one of the last flying Constellations. All four engines now run and a major inspection is planned for later this year to set the stage for restoration to flying condition.