A Gracious Lady – The Lockheed Constellation

The high nose wheel, the rounded belly tapering off at the tail which consists of three vertical stabilisers. There is no mistaking it. This is the Lockheed Constellation. A more beautiful aircraft is hard to find, and more than a few people think so. A few unmistakable characteristics make it recognizable to just about anyone who knows something about aircraft. Here she is—the “Conny”.

Lockheed constellation L-749zonder jaar

Her development began in 1939. However, when the Second World War broke out, the work was put on hold. In the last years of the war, the US Air Force had access to the first models to roll off the line. After the war’s end, in 1945, the airline industry was also able to take possession of this beautiful aircraft.

25 Lockheed Constellations

In 1946, the first Conny joined the KLM fleet. In September 1946, four Constellation L-049s followed in rapid tempo. The first was the PH-TAV, dubbed the Venlo. In 1947 and in the years that followed, more Constellation L-749s were added. It had heavier engines and could fly at greater speeds. KLM finally acquired a total of 25 Lockheed Constellations.

PH-LKB, L-1049G Positon

The Constellation was particularly well-suited to long-haul flights and, thanks to its pressurized cabin, it could fly at greater altitudes. The Constellations took over the Amsterdam-New York route as well as the line to the Dutch East Indies.

Super Constellation

The Constellation was extremely popular and the demand for ever-larger aircraft arose. Lockheed responded by designing the L-1049 Super Constellation. The aircraft was 5.6 metres longer than its older sisters and, in June of 1953, KLM took possession of its first model, the Electron. Later on, KLM ordered a new version capable of flying even greater distances thanks to the extra fuel tanks built into the wingtips —a rather different idea than winglets. KLM would ultimately acquire 22 Super Constellations which it would use on routes throughout North America and the Far East.

An Ignominious End

Finally, the aircraft saw all the possible developments that it could take and it could not possibly compete with the brand-new jet engine. With the advent of the DC-8, the Conny became “old-fashioned” and, slowly but surely, it disappeared from the KLM fleet, as it did from airlines around the world. An ignominious end for a once-noble object. The aircraft proved difficult to sell on. For a while, a few occupied a corner of Schiphol languishing under green tarpaulins. Everything else was sold for scrap or spare parts.

KLM10388

As a result, very few are left. Only a handful can be found in aircraft museums in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Looking through modern-day eyes, this is hard to imagine. If the world has seen a single gracious aircraft that spoke to the imagination of so many people, it would have to be the Conny.

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Alwin Niemeijer

Well, it’s not so difficult to find one. Go to Lelystad airport (just North of Amsterdam) and visit Aviodrome Dutch National Aviation Museum.

Ronald van Es

Goodmorning,

My father used to work for KLM AEROCARTO in the years 46/47. After that he was sent to indonesia as a soldier.
He died in 1978.
I found a lot of photo’s on paper and glass made by him in that period.
Question, who would be interested in these pictures.?

R.van Es

mj gerards

hi mr van Es ,
Ik zou het leuk vinden de fotos e evt dias te krijgen van uw vader. Ben luchtvaartenthousiast
groet Mart

Miles

I would love to see his photos! I’m especially looking for pictures of the galleries and passenger cabin of the L749. Any engine photos too!

Daniel Ruhier

Nice shot of PH-TAW in Amsterdam ! In 1949, Lockheed offered the three KLM’s L.049 Connies for lease to Swissair (PH-TAU, PH-TAV & PH-TAW, with registrations HB-IBI, HB-IBJ & HB-IBY reserved in the Swiss register). At least one of the three had been painted by KLM in Swissair’s colours at AMS in August 1949. Are there any docs or photos regarding the above preserved in KLM’s archives ?
Thank you in advance for your response.
Daniel Ruhier

Frido Ogier

Dear Daniel, this is what I’ve found: the three Constellations you’ve mentioned have been sold. The first one was the PH-TAW in October 1949. The other two in the summer of 1950. I’ve looked in the photo archives and haven’t found a picture of one of these three in a Swiss Air livery. About the maintenance activity in that era we don’t have any material available as far as I know.

Best regards,

Frido

Daniel Ruhier

Thanks for your quick and pertinent answer, Frido.
I have a picture (JPG) of a L.049 model with Swissair colours made in 1949.
Best regards, Daniel

Adrian van Erp

Hi Frido,
I have been trying to find out which Superconnie flew to New York from Schiphol on Oct 19, 1955. Is there anyone that would know the answer?

Frido Ogier

dear Adrian,

I’m afraid that we can’t give you the answer. The flight administration of this period is not available anymore.

Kind regards,

Frido

Adrian v. Erp

Thank you Frido for your quick response!

Adrian v. Erp

Roel de Jong

Hallo,

In that time my father flew at the Connie as a flight engineer for KLM. I have saved some of his air logs. Maybe those logs can give the answer. Small change but anyway. I’ll let you know when I have found them.
Kind regards, Roel

Toby Louwen

I’d love to see all regs and their liveries of all 049, 749 and 1049’s.

Stan Mason

Hi Toby from UK
I am retired 45 year airline veteran and research old interesting aircraft. I have traced KLM Connie PH-TET later PH-LDT from Lockheed Burbank to where she is now in UK Science Museum storage hangar at Wroughton (closed to public). After KL, aircraft flew for Wien Alaska and a number of cargo carriers before being abandoned in Dublin and taken down to sections, trucked to UK for reassembly and painted in TWA colours! I have some KL photos plus others but can’t get them on to Frido’s website. Happy to email some if interested.
Kind regards
Stan.

Miles

I’d love to see your photos!!!

P v Groenewoud

, op deze machine heb ik wel zo ongeveer 2,5 tot 3 duizend uur gevlogen .
Far East en noord Amerika ! Een schitterende vliegmachine ! De moeite en het geld waard om te bewaren !

Rick de Zoete

Our family celebrated ‘Easter In the Air’ when we emigrated to Canada from the Netherlands April 19/20, 1957 on a KLM Super Constellation. I was 6 years old but vividly recall the flames from the engine exhaust in the middle of the night. We stopped in Iceland and Gander on to our destination, Montreal – 16 hours in total (from where we took the train to awaiting relatives in Toronto).

I still have the 1 remaining (out of 4) commemorative Easter ‘eggs’ which KLM gave to our family.

I have been in love with the Connie since that day. Prachtig vliegtuig !

Marco De Vette

Hi m. Ogier,

I live in Canada and my parent emigrated from holland 1949 and 1954.
I’d live to have you verify a picture of what I believe is a KLM Lockheed Constellation L-749, PH-TDO, “Maastricht”.

Could I send you the picture?

Thank you,

Marco

Frido Ogier

Sure Marco. I’ll send you a personal message.

regards,

Frido

Peter Tveskov

I flew from Shiphol via Prestwick, Gander and New York to Curacao on PH-PDE “Eundhoven” October 14-16 1948. Does anyone know what became of this plane or – better yet – have pictures?
Peter

Frido Ogier

Dear peter,

This Constellation L-749 ‘Eindhoven’ was sold in 1953. If you would like to have some pictures please contact the Maria Austria Institute in Amsterdam which manages the historical photo collection of KLM.

Kind regards,

Frido

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading