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The Lockheed L-049 Constellation was one of the most graceful airliners placed in service between the end of World War II in 1945 and the advent of the commercial jet age in the mid-1950s. With its long, sinuous fuselage and gently tapered, upswept wings, the sleek Constellation suggested a seagull in flight.
Another distinctive feature of the Constellation was its triple rudder assembly. This feature was in marked contrast to the more conventionally designed, single-fin Douglas DC-4s and DC-6s with which it competed on both domestic and international air routes.
Nicknamed the "Connie," the Lockheed L-049 was designed in 1939 to meet TWA's specifications for a long-range commercial transport. The Prototype Constellation completed its maiden flight in January 1943, and although both TWA and Pan American had placed orders for the aircraft, the small number then produced was quickly pressed into military as the C-69.
With the end of hostilities, the Constellation entered service with TWA in 1946 and was used on both transcontinental and transatlantic flights. The aircraft proved to be extremely popular and was soon bought by a number of other airlines, notably Pan American World Airways, Air France and Lufthansa.
The original Constellations were powered by four 2,200-2,500 horsepower Wright Cyclone engines, giving it a top speed of just under 300 miles per hour. Its wingspan was 123 feet and its length 95 feet. Accommodations were provided for up to 44 passengers in its pressurized cabin.
Over the years Lockheed continued to improve and enlarge the Constellation. In 1951 the L-1049's fuselage was extended to 113 feet and its passenger capacity increased to 66. With auxiliary wing-tip fuel tanks, the new super Constellation, as the enlarged L-1049 was known, could fly nonstop between New York and Los Angeles.
Finally, in 1957, the L-1649A Starliner version of the Super Constellation was introduced. Featuring a one-piece 150-foot wing, the Starliner was powered by four 3,400 horsepower Curtiss-Wright turbo-compound engines and remained in service until the introduction of jetpowered passenger planes.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
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Updated: March 12, 2004