A Lockheed Super Star Constellation, one of only 44 ever built, is expected to roll out of a hangar in Auburn, Maine, sometime this year, after a seven-year restoration effort, the Boston Globe reported this week. The airplane, built in 1957, was bought at auction in December 2007 by a nonprofit arm of the Lufthansa airline, and reportedly up to $60 million so far has been spent on the project. The airline intends to fly the finished airplane to Europe, where it will be used for “very special flight experiences for passengers, comparable to those in the golden days of aviation,” a spokesman told the Globe. “They are going all out on this,” said Ray Anderson, owner of Anderson Airmotive in Idaho, which is overhauling the engines. “There’s never been anything like it and probably never will be anything like it.”
The airplane, known as “The Star of Tigris,” was built for TWA, according to conniesurvivors.com. It was later converted to a freighter and flew for Alaska Airlines, then changed hands several times before it was abandoned at Stewart Airport in New York in 1976. Maine Coast Airways bought the airplane and flew it to Auburn-Lewiston Airport in 1983. Restoration efforts continued at a slow pace until the airplane, along with two others used for parts, was sold to Lufthansa for $745,000. The new owners built a 50,000-square-foot hangar at Auburn for the restoration, at a cost of $3 million. About 95 percent of the fuselage skin has been replaced, according to the Globe, and 120 workers are dedicated to the project, working seven days a week. The owners disputed the Globe’s estimate of $60 million spent, but declined to provide an accurate figure.
More than 800 Constellations in total were built before the airlines made the switch to jets. The Super Star Constellation, also known as the “Starliner,” which entered service in 1951, was “a plane ahead of its time,” according to Lockheed Martin. It featured air conditioning and reclining seats and was twice as fuel efficient as the early passenger jets. At least two others are still flying, one in Switzerland and one in Australia, and several other restoration projects are under way. The last Constellation was built in 1959.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story referred to the airplane as a “Super Constellation,” that has been corrected to “Super Star.”