Lockheed L-1049 Constellation and other propeller planes of mid-20th century

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I remember my only flight in a Connie. Thanksgiving Eve 1967, I had taken the bus from Bethlehem PA (where I was a freshman at Lehigh University) to Newark NJ to fly the Eastern Air Shuttle home to Boston. Normally the shuttle used Lockheed Electra turbo props but that day due to the passenger load they pulled out a Connie. I remember before takeoff how they would start up each engine with lots of black smoke then after taxiing run up the engines to full power to check everything out before takeoff. My last flight in a 4 engine recip until my Air Force days when I got acquainted with C-118's and other recip transports still in use into the 1970's.
 
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Great flashback, thanks. The last time I saw a constellation when we stopped at Philadelphia airport for a quick dinner (in the days when that was easy to do (1966) and one of these was sitting at the gate. Of course no security so you could wander around. My father had to travel a lot for business on Eastern and he disliked them more than trying to sleep on an overnight train!
 

Bob Dylan

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I don't think I ever saw a "live" Connie. But this is in front of Seattle's Museum of Flight:

View attachment 30353
I only flew on a "Connie" one time.

It was a TWA Flight, and the Flight Engineer was my Uncle, now deceased, who later became a Captain flying 707s out of JFK!

In those days one could visit in the Cockpit, and I still remember sitting in the Jump Seat during my visit and observing the Crew operate the Complicated Systems that the Plane had.
 
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I worked graveyard shift cleaning planes for United Airlines at LAX back in the day of piston powered aircraft. Most of the time you tell the difference from a Douglas DC 6 or 7 from a TWA Constellation on final. It was too dark to see the plane but you could hear that Cyclone engine barking. (Backfiring) going over the threshold . Another long gone happening, TWA flight engeneers always walked out on the wing and sticked the fuel tanks before a flight.
 

Rambling Robert

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As a kid growing up in Levittown New York (which at one time had three small General Aviation airports) the Connie was just about worshiped between my brother and me. Seen heading to Idlewild (prior to 1964 now JFK) we’d watch them on a hot summer day until they were out of site.

We compared the tri-rudder Connie with the twin tail B-25 Mitchell that our Dad flew in WW2. When my Dad was ten the idea of seeing Lindbergh’s plane takeoff - biking 20 miles, Bayside to Roosevelt Field - was nixed by his Father. For a couple decades Roosevelt Field was the epicenter of aircraft development. 25/30 years after the Spirit of Saint Lewis flight - the Connie become in use along with Boeing 707 - another biggie.!

Airplane sitings were fun and you’d ask “Was it a Connie?” But the ultimate siting was on the only Day ever my brother and I accompanied my Dad to his workplace, yet on a Saturday in the early 60s. As we were walking downtown NYC my Dad stopped us in our tracks. “Listen” “Lookup” he said. The airplane engine noise became more and more pronounced. It then was DIRECTLY overhead - it was a B-25 flying out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard airport.

It would be last time for my Dad to see a B-25 Mitchell in military service. Although this one was converted to be a passenger plane from bomber. So, there the three of us, somewhat stunned, somewhat overjoyed headed to a surprise my Dad was keeping / lunch at the Horne & Hardart Automat.

BUT WAIT there’s more. Minutes after the siting and happily on the way to the Automat - a pigeon swoop over me and bombed the heck out of my head. My Dad and bro couldn’t stop laughing. Fortunately my Dad had a handkerchief in his suit pocket. Then later I clean up at the Automat ... and that’s the rest of the story!
 
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Another interesting aspect of the film was seeing the state of Air Traffic Control / Navaids in 1953. Looks like they were still using the low frequency ADF's with VOR's still in their infancy. No Air Route Traffic Control Center, the plane was more or less on its own until it contacted Approach Control. The use of the Precision Approach Radar (PAR) with course and glide slope monitoring, I think at least in commercial aviation that was phased out early on in favor of better ILS systems. In the USAF we were still doing PAR approaches, I witnessed some of them at our RAPCON when I was in Communications Maintenance at Cannon AFB, Clovis NM. I recall we still had a low frequency beacon as the T-33 trainers had an ADF as a backup to the TACAN system (military version of the VOR) but none of the other aircraft used ADF anymore and it was decommissioned when the T-33's were retired.

Thanks for posting the link to the film BTW.
 

Rambling Robert

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In the late 1980s while working on an airborne surveillance system at Hanscom AFB, Mass. a workmate and I used to brag about our Dads’ military experience/ my Dad in the B-25/WW2 and hers with the C-121 super constellation of the Korean War.

During the time we worked with each other, sadly her Dad passed away and a C-121 Connie was ordered for a flyby. In a typical Airforce mix-up the Connie flew over the wrong cemetery!
 

AFriendly

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I am too young, but my mom told me about flying in one of these from NYC to Puerto Rico. She told me that it was loud and those big 4 piston engines vibrated the cabin a lot.
 
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As a kid growing up in Levittown New York (which at one time had three small General Aviation airports) the Connie was just about worshiped between my brother and me. Seen heading to Idlewild (prior to 1964 now JFK) we’d watch them on a hot summer day until they were out of site.

We compared the tri-rudder Connie with the twin tail B-25 Mitchell that our Dad flew in WW2. When my Dad was ten the idea of seeing Lindbergh’s plane takeoff - biking 20 miles, Bayside to Roosevelt Field - was nixed by his Father. For a couple decades Roosevelt Field was the epicenter of aircraft development. 25/30 years after the Spirit of Saint Lewis flight - the Connie become in use along with Boeing 707 - another biggie.!

Airplane sitings were fun and you’d ask “Was it a Connie?” But the ultimate siting was on the only Day ever my brother and I accompanied my Dad to his workplace, yet on a Saturday in the early 60s. As we were walking downtown NYC my Dad stopped us in our tracks. “Listen” “Lookup” he said. The airplane engine noise became more and more pronounced. It then was DIRECTLY overhead - it was a B-25 flying out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard airport.

It would be last time for my Dad to see a B-25 Mitchell in military service. Although this one was converted to be a passenger plane from bomber. So, there the three of us, somewhat stunned, somewhat overjoyed headed to a surprise my Dad was keeping / lunch at the Horne & Hardart Automat.

BUT WAIT there’s more. Minutes after the siting and happily on the way to the Automat - a pigeon swoop over me and bombed the heck out of my head. My Dad and bro couldn’t stop laughing. Fortunately my Dad had a handkerchief in his suit pocket. Then later I clean up at the Automat ... and that’s the rest of the story!
Absolutely, The B25 had a very distinct sound. Very loud. I watched 17 fly out of Orange County Airport where they had been refurbished for the movie Catch 22. and were heading for the shooting location in Guymas Mexico. My brother Mike.
1668193068053.jpeg
 
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Rambling Robert

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Absolutely, The B25 had a very distinct sound. Very loud. I watched 17 fly out of Orange County Airport where they had been refurbished for the movie Catch 22. and were heading for the shooting location in Guymas Mexico. My brother Mike.
View attachment 30389
That would be a great throw down of what’s the loudest - B-25 or a Connie. : I lifted the B-25 engine sounds from Catch22 for a war film my Dad filmed in 8mm which I’n restoring now in 10K.

Here’s Rambling Robert Sr.- stateside WW2

B1E673AC-9DBB-4886-84DB-9549A31E2F27.jpeg
 

west point

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Many questions and I'll supply some answers.

The shutle started spring 1961s with Connies. Back up aircraft for a short time were Martin 404s as they were surplus when EAL sold upper NY State lines to Mohawk airlines. Back ups then went to DC-7Bs. DC-7 were quickly retired because of high maintenance of its recips. DC-6s were kept for a while longer. The Connies were surplus as the 40 Electras took connie and DC-6 routes.

By 1965 Electras became first sections wih connies extra sections. 1966 had some B-727-100s s and DC-9s took over first sections with electra 2nd sections and connies essentially 3rd sections. That due to increasing traffic due to Vietnam. Vietnam also caused a shortage of JT8d-1 & -7s engines canceling some jet flights substitueted by electras. Also the first 17 B-727-100s had a geatly reduced zero fuel weight / gross take off weight limiting range which made them ideal for the shuttle.

Later Airbus leased 4 A300-B2ks for #1..00 each with same weight problems as the early B-727s. They were great 1st sections LGA - BOS and a few to DCA but believe NImbys put a stop ( not sure )

More later about other items for this thread.
 

UserNameRequired

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I worked graveyard shift cleaning planes for United Airlines at LAX back in the day of piston powered aircraft. Most of the time you tell the difference from a Douglas DC 6 or 7 from a TWA Constellation on final. It was too dark to see the plane but you could hear that Cyclone engine barking. (Backfiring) going over the threshold . Another long gone happening, TWA flight engeneers always walked out on the wing and sticked the fuel tanks before a flight.
Interesting…. Both the Constellation and the DC 7 had R-3350 Duplex Cyclones. The DC 6 had the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp. The R-3350 was such an interesting power plant with its turbo-compound setup of turbines driven by exhaust gas geared to the crankshaft to delivery more efficiency and power.
 

UserNameRequired

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Another interesting aspect of the film was seeing the state of Air Traffic Control / Navaids in 1953. Looks like they were still using the low frequency ADF's with VOR's still in their infancy. No Air Route Traffic Control Center, the plane was more or less on its own until it contacted Approach Control. The use of the Precision Approach Radar (PAR) with course and glide slope monitoring, I think at least in commercial aviation that was phased out early on in favor of better ILS systems. In the USAF we were still doing PAR approaches, I witnessed some of them at our RAPCON when I was in Communications Maintenance at Cannon AFB, Clovis NM. I recall we still had a low frequency beacon as the T-33 trainers had an ADF as a backup to the TACAN system (military version of the VOR) but none of the other aircraft used ADF anymore and it was decommissioned when the T-33's were retired.

Thanks for posting the link to the film BTW.
There are still a few places a civilian can land on a PAR approach. KSTJ St Joseph MO, KCYS Cheyenne WY, KFHU Sierra Vista AZ, KPSM Portsmouth NH, KTOI Troy AL, and KVUJ Albemarle, NC (it may not be a complete list). I have looked at trying the one into St Jo as a training exercise but it is continually NOTAMmed inop. There does seem to be at least one ASR approach in many states (radar course guidance, no glide slope just step down altitudes, higher minimums).

There are still some ADF out there but so many are gone. Even the VOR is being scaled back at this time to what the FAA calls the Minimum Operational Network. GPS uber alles.
 

Charles785

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I'm sure my first commercial airline flight, in 1963, was aboard a Constellation - anyway it was a TWA flight from Wichita to Denver and I don't remember any discomfort from the coach seats. Would anyone know how the dimensions of those seats - and the spacing between rows - would compare to today's so-called economy seats.

Of course in those days flying was still a premiere travel experience. No TSA, obviously. And onboard the service-oriented attractive young stewardesses looked like they had just stepped out of the centerfold of a fashion magazine - dressed to the nines - with, I really think I remember this - hats and white gloves.

And I know we were served a full meal on that domestic flight, and I'm remembering when they brought dessert they also included a complimentary pack of four cigarettes.

But I want to say the seating was much roomier then, and I'm even curious if the seating dimensions in coach back then could be somewhat similar to the dimensions of the seats in first class these days.
 

west point

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All Connie operators had to deal with fuel guages not very reliable. Several factors. Water in fuel and condensation always a problem. Tanks had to have tank sumps drained until no water found usually first trip of day's FE. A barrel type fuel container rolled around for emptying sumps. If fuel added after sumpng wait some time to sump again. FE had to keep track of how much fuel used from each tank duing the day usually preventing more dip stick time.. If operating tank to engine was fairly simple otherwise ---

Do not remember how FE got onto each wing but using dip stick in winter was also. More than one EAL FE lost footing slidding off wing which was fairly high off ground. Usually a maintenance man would follow FE to prevent any broken bones but it did happen. FE had to get stick reading, aircraft roll and pitch angles, and know fuel temp to calculate actual volume. Also ttrying to determine if fuel was a whole 130 / 145 Octane rating.

EAL disabled the turbo chargers whenever a trip did not need them. Shuttle was one. The turbochargers failed in a way that the engine would swallow all the parts. That is why the DC-7s were retired. Delta also retired DC-7s and kept DC-6s as freighters until they got C-130s (forgert civilian designation ) to carrry freight.

After retiring Connies from passenger service EAL kept 2 many years as freighters to carry jet engines and CV-440 recips where needed and back to MIA to engine overhaul facility. Connnies finally retired when EAL received B-727 QC pass / freighters.

Next up Navigation.
 
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Interesting…. Both the Constellation and the DC 7 had R-3350 Duplex Cyclones. The DC 6 had the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp. The R-3350 was such an interesting power plant with its turbo-compound setup of turbines driven by exhaust gas geared to the crankshaft to delivery more efficiency and power.
Yeah, my memories are just from trying to guess whether it was a United landing or one of the other airlines landing. If it was barking just before touching down I thought TWA as they flew Lockheed.
 
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