70 Years Ago Today: NASM’s Connie First Flew


Lockheed’s seminal Constellation first flew in 1943 and became, as the L-1049 Super Constellation that first flew in 1950, arguably the most iconic piston airliner of the period. According to the National Air and Space Museum, “The Super Constellation and its derivatives represent, along with the Douglas DC-7, the ultimate step in the development of longer range, more capacity and more powerful piston-engined aircraft to meet the needs of both commercial and military aviation.” Through the Super Constellation’s production run, some 579 were produced, the last of which were hanging on in U.S. domestic service through 1980. The Connie celebrating this milestone, an F model, first flew on Oct. 13, 1950.

According to the NASM, this Constellation, a “C-121C (1049F-55-96), with former Air Force serial number 54-177, and now registered N1104W, is one of the 33 C-l2lCs delivered to the USAF and the Atlantic Division of the Military Air Transport Service at Charleston AFB, South Carolina. This airplane arrived there in March 1956 and was assigned to the 1608th Air Transport Wing. Its original configuration was that of an over-water cargo/passenger transport, having eight crew members and accommodations for up to 80 passengers.” 

It was retired from military service near the end of 1977 and stored until 1981. It was to be part of a small fleet of passenger Connies flying between Los Angeles and Reno, Nevada, under the Classic Air brand. But Classic Air was unable to get FAA approval and, according to NASM, ”the airplanes remained dormant. At this time the National Air and Space Museum was seeking a Super Constellation. Mr. Darryl Greenameyer soon became a party to this transaction as he had acquired two of the Constellations from Air Classics. He negotiated a trade with NASM a C-121C, NllO4W in exchange for two Grumman HU-16 Albatrosses …” You can see this Constellation at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center adjacent to the Dulles airport—this museum has reopened with COVID-19 protocols.

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. “ Mr. Darryl Greenameyer soon became a party to this transaction ….”

    You mean, THE Mr. “record-setting” Darryl Greenameyer? Now that’s a factoid I never knew!

    And yes, the “Connie” was a ship with a “shape crafted by angels!” Hands-down, the most beautiful aircraft to take to the skies!

  2. If I remember correctly, he planned on racing this airplane in the Mojave 1000 air race. There had been a DC6 running in that race. Needless to say, the little friends were not pleased to have a DC6 and a Connie running laps with them. The fighters would be running similar speeds with tanks just to make range without a pit stop, so it made sense to run the big boys.

  3. My first vivid recollection of an airplane was in 1954 at the age of five as I disembarked off what I had been told was a “Super G Constellation” from New York to Los Angeles. I vividly remember descending down the air stair, turning back to look at the airplane, seeing three verticals, and getting goose bumps. I remember nothing else of that flight. Those goose bumps still come back, most notably now every time I see a lone Connie sitting near the north end at SLN seemingly ready and willing to fly.