C-121C Super Constellation

Serial Number: 4557

In 1996, Amoco Corporation purchased a lot in Penndel, Pennsylvania, which contained a restaurant topped by a Lockheed C-121 Constellation aircraft. Realizing the historical significance of the plane, Amoco offered the plane to the Air Mobility Command Museum. It was transported to the museum in December of 1997 and is now completely restored.

The Constellation was the first commercial transport plane to travel at 300 mph and was the last of the great American propeller-driven airliners.

Although President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to fly while in office in 1945 on the C-54 “Sacred Cow,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to fly on an aircraft using the Air Force One call sign. This aircraft was the VC-121A “Columbine II.”

The military adapted the plane for its further use in the 1950s and 60s by modifying it for radar and using it as an aerial extension of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, and in aiding in the rescue of downed aircraft in Southeast Asia. In addition, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) used a fleet of 70 C-121s from 1948 to 1967.

There are 40-50 Constellations worldwide today.

Mission

Howard Hughes was one of the driving forces behind the design of the Lockheed Constellation commercial transport. During WWII, the USAAF purchased 22 early model Constellations which were designated C-69s. At the end of the war, the USAAF decided to standardize the Douglas C-54 as its four-engine transport of choice, and promptly declared most of the C-69s as surplus. Production of the basic design was turned over to the civilian markets which lead to the famous Constellation series of airliners.

The C-121A was the military variation of the commercial Model 749 Constellation. Between 1948 and 1955 the USAF ordered 150 C-121As for use as cargo/passenger carriers, executive transports, and airborne early warning aircraft. As a troop carrier, they could carry a maximum of 44 passengers.

Fifty-five percent of the Super Constellations built by Lockheed were delivered to the U.S. Navy and Air Force. A majority of the aircraft were used for electronic reconnaissance and airborne early warning. In the mid-1960s, the Air Force sent the first EC-121 “Warning Star” to Southeast Asia to maintain radar surveillance over North Vietnam and then later to warn of MIG attacks and alert American pilots who were straying over Chinese territory.

Most C-121As were later converted into the VC-121A VIP transport configuration for use by top ranking officials such as Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower. The lone VC-121E Constellation (#53-7885) was named “Columbine III” and was used throughout the Eisenhower Administration as Air Force One.

Gallery

  • Manufacturer: Lockheed
  • First Flight: 14 March 1947
  • Retired: 1967
Specifications
  • Crew: Five
  • Payload: 40,000 lbs; or 106 troops
  • Length: 116 ft 2 in
  • Wingspan: 123 ft 5 in
  • Height: 24 ft 9 in
  • Empty Weight: 61,325 lbs
  • Loaded Weight: 107,000 lbs
  • Powerplant: 4x Wright R-3350-75 radials
  • Maximum Speed: 334 mph
  • Cruise Speed: 324 mph
  • Range: 3,500 mi
  • Service Ceiling: 24,442 ft
Assignment History

The assignment history for the Air Mobility Command Museum's C-121C Super Constellation, serial number 4557:

Date Location
Unknown Registered as N1005C
Unknown Ordered by Braathens SAFE, but was cancelled
Nov 1954 Delivered to Cubana Airlines as L1049E CU-P573
Mar 1956 to International Aviation who sold it to Seaboard & Western Airlines as N1005C "Geneva Airtrader"
1 Apr 1956 - 30 Apr 1956 Leased to BOAC
Jan 1957 - Jun 1957 Leased to Eastern Airlines
May 1958 - 22 Dec 1960 Leased to Aerlinte Eireann (Irish Airlines) as "St Brigid/Brighid"
1962 to Canadair as trade-in for CL-44s and immediately leased back
Jun 1962 Sub-leased to Intercontinental US Inc
30 Dec 1962 Reported damaged in the Congo
Oct 1963 Painted in Trans State color scheme at Idlewild Airport, NY for instrastate scheduled service. Permission for service denied and aircraft stored at Idlewild until further notice
Jan 1964 Returned to Seaboard & Western Airlines
1 Jun 1965 Leased to Capitol Airways
1 Mar 1966 Sold to Capitol Airways
Mid-1967 Retired by Capitol Airways and stored at Wilmington, DE
20 Aug 1967 to Jim Flannery for use as a cocktail lounge at his restaurant in Penndel, PA
Aug 1968 Positioned atop "Jim Flannery’s Restaurant" in Capitol color scheme
1976 "Spirit of 76" insignia added
Nov 1981 – 1986 Became "Amelia’s Restaurant" and then closed
1992 Reopened as "The Airplane Family Restaurant and Diner"
1996 Amoco Oil bought the restaurant and diner location
9 Jul 1997 Aircraft was removed from atop the restaurant for storage
25 Oct 1997 Amoco Oil donated the aircraft to the Air Mobility Command Museum, Dover AFB, and moved by road for restoration
Jul 2003 Aircraft fully reassembled
Aug 2003 Aircraft moved to Air Mobility Command Museum display ramp where restoration would finish to resemble as a C-121C

8 Comments

  • Flew Connies as Flight Engineer at Flying Tigers 1965-67. Remember feeding popcorn to a baby elephant on his way to a new home. Listening to a full grown Bengal Tiger howling behind that canvas fire curtain. The elephant took one look at the Newark ramp and threw up. Such was life in the air cargo biz.

  • In 1958 as a child I rode in this Constellation with my parents from New York city to Ireland. I have a slide of N1005C before we boarded it. Those were the days. During the flight we were invited to the cockpit for a tour.

  • Domenic J Mannello

    It was also Christina’s Restaurant from 1986.-1989 My father owned it at that time.

  • I had the privilege of working in this Connie in the late 70’s after she was grounded sitting atop her three pedestals as Jim Flannery’s Constellation Lounge and Restaurant. I’m fairly certain Jim was an air force pilot himself and this served as part of his inspiration for the restaurant.

    There was a bar in the rear of the plane as you entered the fuselage door from the main staircase with a small parquet dance floor in front of it. Some of the seats were reversed with tables placed between them to seat four together. The windows had aerial views of famous landmarks that were backlit with fluorescent lighting for night viewing. Dinners were typically brought up from the kitchen in the main restaurant below but there was a small steam table in the front of the plane from which we could serve prepared foods like Prime Rib and vegetables.

    The cockpit was covered with a sheet of plexiglass and the controls were painted fluorescent so they glowed in the dark under black lights installed among the instruments. The front fuselage doorway served as an emergency exit with a spiral staircase leading to the ground. And yes the commode in the rear was also functional. I have a matchbook cover photo of how she was painted at the time and will send it to be included with the others. She looked much better as Flannery’s in her Red, White and Blue stripes. Can’t wait to visit her at AMC and see how much she’s changed.

  • In Nov 1958 I flew to the PI aboard a MATS C-121. The seats faced the tail. Are these pix of the plane I flew in?

    (I was a young mother of a toddler son, so the AF assigned a young airman to help me. It was my first “grand adventure” and my son adored his cheerful new friend. An officer gave me a lei in Hawaii & the pilot allowed me to visit the cockpit after dark. A crew member let me wedge in between the garbage collector & window with my movie camera to film our landing on Kwajalein Island!)

  • Is there any thought of restoring the interior of the Connie?

    • The interior of our Connie has been completely restored. We’ll upload some more images of the inside once they’ve been retaken.

  • SSGT CHARLES A. KIRBY

    I GREW UP IN LOWER BUCKS CO. & SOUTH JERSEY. I REMEMBER PASSING THROUGH PENDELL AND SEEING THIS C-121 SITTING ATOP OF FLANNERYS REST. SO I THINK IS FITTING TO SEE THAT IT IS NOW AT DOVER..

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