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October 19, 2009

Review: Flying the L1049 Lockheed Constellation

Review: Flying the L1049 Lockheed Constellation

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Background

Historian Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) operates a variety of restored historical aircraft such as the Lockheed 1049G “Connie” Super Constellation , Dakota C-47, Neptune and Catalina. The above mentioned aircraft are invited to Canberra for the Airport open day display event in late March 2010which involving flight from HARS base at Albion Park, NSW (Wollongong) to Canberra, a 104 mile journey across the countryside.

An airport executive friend of mine have secured a few seats as sponsors so the “unthinkable” of a ride on the Connie is happening! I was excited to count down but also keep an open mind if at the end it doesn’t happen. Nothing in Aviation term is certain until it happened!

Prior to the day, I was disappointed as I have been allocated to fly the DC-3 and Catalina, but not the Constellation. Luckily on the day, HARS were able to accomoadate my wishful request. The final itenary is to fly the Dakota DC-3 one way to Canberra from HARS base at Albion Park, and returning the next day on the Connie!

The flight on Dakota C-47 VH-EAF Built 1945

http://www.hars.org.au/2009/05/douglas-c-47-dakota-a65-94-vh-eaf/

I used to hate props and devoted my entire interest on wide-body aircraft, in both flying and photography terms. Because of having this prejudice, I have never flown a DC-3 (or Dakota C-47) until now even there were plenty of opportunity as several DC-3 operators in Australia were still active in late 90s and early 2000.

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Both C47 and Constellation been towed outside of the hangar and ready to board!

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There were only 5 passengers onboard this flight to Canberra. The interior of the plane is similar to military plane, with a long bench across the aisle facing each other. Of course, no IFE , no inflight service but a lot of history. The pilot later told me VH-EAF was the longest serving plane in the Royal Australian Air Force for almost 50 years before retirement and now operate by HARS.

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The ride was very smooth onboard the DC-3. It was a sunny afternoon to fly across the country. I have taken some window shots from the small square window. We reached crusing level of 6000 feet with air speed 145 knots and after 30 minutes, top of descent to Canberra. You can stand behind the pilots during flight cruise.

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Photos through the tiny square window of C-47

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Landing was particularly interesting as the Dac keep its nose high and gently touch down on Canberra Rwy35. You do get a slight feel of rolling down from the front to the rear of the aircraft due to the design of the gears.

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Yours truly posing in the cockpit!

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Meanwhile, some of our group is arriving on the Catalina right after us. Although the Catalina took off before us,it took 20 more minutes to reach Canberra due to the slower speed. We overtook them!

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The flight on Lockheed Super Constellation “Connie” VH-EAG Built 1955

Information about the Constellation:

http://www.hars.org.au/2009/05/the-connie/

Connie is the absolute pride and flagship of HARS. I am not sure how many airworthy L1049G is still around in the world. At the end of the airport open day around 2pm, we line up to board the Connie via the rear stairs. Opportunity were given to take photos inside the aircraft and a free seating policy is adopted.
Total 19 pax today , mostly are HARS engineers and volunteers but include 5 lucky aviation enthusiasts.

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Ready to board around 2pm

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Boarding via rear stairway

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Walking up to the front

Frontal view of the L1049G Constelltion

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The Rear Toilet. Pretty sure it is non-pressurized!

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The Cockpit , 4 man operating

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Immediate behind the cockpit, there is bunk bed, suppose this is original configuration for trans-ocean flights on L1049G.

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Settle down with “Exit Row” seat. Note the window frame is open and door removed for some fresh air!

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Another view from my seat. Free Seating today with a total of 19 pax only!

At 14:20pm, all doors closed to depart

An interesting feature is the engineer have to climb up via stairs to the cabin, after closing its cargo doors before departure.

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The 4 engines start one by another, it was rather smokey start which this video link best illustrate the scene

Please see this video for the engine start scene:

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With all doors now closed , the Connie taxi slowly to the end of the runway 35 for departure, with hundreds of spectators awaits its takeoff.

Take off Roll

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I have recorded the takeoff roll on the video line below:

Take off Roll Video Link

Watch very carefully!

You can see there are flames coming out of the exhaust of the engines. As i am used to fly on jets, I wasn’t expecting seeing any flames so I was alarmed and worried for a moment. Later on I realise this may be due to the combustion of oxygen. The flames were gone when the plane reach higher cruising altitude. The takeoff and climb was rather slow and gentle.

Once reaching cruising altitude, soft drinks and lollies were served and everyone is free to roam around the cabin. You can visit the cockpit by standing behind but it is quite small, narrow and dark. Only the pilots seats slighter higher gets a good view of the window.

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Inflight video

The Constellation cruise at 5700 feet, with 200 air speed, in a very short time, the top of descend begins coincide with some stormy activity near the coast.

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You can see the flames out of engine again as the plane descends to lower altitude!

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At 3:15pm local time, the Connie arrived home base at Albion Park/ Wollongong regional airport.

See the video of landing

After a very smooth landing, the Connie gets towed next to the hangar and passenger deplane and our joyflight came to an end.

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You can see the cargo door is under the belly.

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To conclude, I am extemely satisfied with both the C-47 and L1049G Connie Constellation flights. 2 flight memories that I treasured and became fonder and fonder each day it goes by. The 2 type entries are also well regarded on my logbook! I have never wanted to fly these props so much as jets, but looking back I have to tell myself that I am very lucky to have the chances given. I was told normally these flights only taking HARS volunteers and members but no general public. I am very proud of being flown in a Constellation in 2010.

HARS is a wonderful non profitable organization. Thanks again to all the organizing parties for this to happen!