What some believe is the most beautiful airplane ever built will be returning to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2006, as the Airline History Museum’s “Star of America” Lockheed Super Constellation makes its first appearance at the event since 2004.
EAA AirVenture 2006, the 54th annual fly-in convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association, will take place July 24-30 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.
The Super Constellation will be at the event throughout the week, parked on the AeroShell Square showcase ramp. The return of this airplane also marks its first appearance at EAA AirVenture since an engine fire grounded the aircraft last September. Interior tours of the airplane will be available during AirVenture, hosted by its crew from the Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Mo. Proceeds from that tour help finance the continued maintenance and operation of the aircraft.
“The graceful lines of the Lockheed Constellation have made it one of the most popular aircraft to participate at EAA AirVenture over the past decade,” said Tom Poberezny, EAA president and AirVenture chairman. “This airplane’s restoration also shows the same spirit demonstrated by many EAA members, as volunteers spent thousands of hours bringing the ‘Connie’ back to airworthy condition and into the showpiece that it remains today.”
The restoration of the “Star of America” began in 1986, when a group of Kansas City-area aviation enthusiasts began searching for a Super Constellation to obtain and refurbish. The group discovered one of the last Constellations that came off Lockheed’s assembly line in 1958, but it had been parked in an Arizona “boneyard” for nine years. After a nine-week effort to make the airplane flyable, the group was able to ferry the airplane to Kansas City to begin a full restoration.
The resurrection of “Star of America” was aided greatly by a corps of retired employees from TWA, the airline that flew Super Constellations extensively. With talented specialists from every aspect of this aircraft’s operations working tirelessly, the group needed only 18 months to complete the original restoration and begin nationwide stops on the air show circuit. In the late 1990s, employees from TWA’s Kansas City maintenance base donated a new paint job in the original TWA colors.
Along with its appearances on the air show circuit, the “Star of America” has made numerous movie and television appearances over the past 15 years, including the 2005 blockbuster film “The Aviator.” It is one of the few Constellations or Super Constellations still flying anywhere in the world, and the only one flying that did not begin its life as a military aircraft.
“Only at EAA AirVenture can someone walk around, beneath and through a legendary airplane such as the Lockheed Super Constellation, plus meet the crew and share the experience with other aviation enthusiasts, right next to hundreds of other amazing aircraft of every size, shape and vintage,” Poberezny said. “It’s why AirVenture is known as aviation’s family reunion and another reason that to truly experience it, you’ve got to be here.”