Lockheed Constellation

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Primary Function:
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Weight Empty:
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Wright Radials
4 x 3,350 hp ea.
116 ft. 2 in.
126 ft. 2 in.
79,700 lbs.
138,000 lbs.
340 mph
380 mph
1,650 fpm
24,000 feet
5,400 miles


The Lockheed Constellation began a new era in fast speed, non-stop, coast to coast and trans-oceanic flight. On June 1, 1946 a Pan Am Constellation made the first scheduled flight from the U.S. to England.

The Lockheed Constellation has a wing design based on the company's fighter aircraft, the P-38. The three tails were incorporated into its design instead of a single tall tail in order to make the aircraft easier to fit into lower hangars.

Flying the Lockheed Constellation is a combination of old and new. The Constellation is a large aircraft, even by today's standards. However it is not a difficult aircraft to taxi.

About the most difficult issue with ground handling of the Lockheed Constellation is getting the aircraft in position on its under carriage for flight, known as "on step". The landing gear of the Lockheed Constellation is designed to make ground handling smoother. During engine run-up, without careful throttle and braking management, the aircraft could jerk forward or backward.

When the aircraft is ready for take off and positioned at the end of the runway, flaps are set to take off position and engines are run to 2,700 rpm at 40 in. pressure. After the brakes are released, rotation speed is reached surprisingly fast for a large propeller driven aircraft.

Once off the runway, the flaps and landing gear of the Lockheed Constellation can be retracted. At a safe speed of around 175 mph, one can get a feel for the handling of the large aircraft. It is very much like flying other aircraft of its era. That is to say it takes a firm hand to get it to respond to control inputs.

Once a safe altitude is reached, one can experiment with stalls. With a light load aboard, the Lockheed Constellation can be slowed to less than 100 mph before a straight ahead stall takes place. The aircraft will even fly with two engines out on the same wing. For all its mass and heavy controls, it is an easy aircraft to fly.

Landings are also easily accomplished. The Lockheed Constellation will descend at a fairly fast rate at around 160 mph without gaining a great deal of speed once its flaps are set for landing. Full flaps are used to greatly slow the large aircraft once over the end of the runway. This should be done at around 110 mph to maintain maximum control.

In 1959 a Lockheed Constellation used to transport U.S. President Eisenhower became the first aircraft to be designated "Air Force One".

A total of 856 Lockheed Constellation aircraft of all types were produced.

Lockheed Constellation

Lockheed Constellation

The U.S.A.F. awarded a contract to build the Lockheed Constellation, designated EC-121 Warning Star, pictured above in 1951. In 1953 the aircraft were first deployed with the Air Defense Command. They patrolled the coastal areas of the United States in conjunction with the DEW (Distance Early Warning) Line.

The Lockheed Super Constellation EC-121 Warning Star is basically a Lockheed Super Constellation airliner modified for early warning duties. The domes above and beneath the fuselage house a total of 12,000 lbs. of electronics.

During the Vietnam War, the Lockheed Constellation guided aircraft to downed pilots, directed aircraft to refueling planes, and guided U.S. interceptor aircraft.

On Oct. 24, 1967, while patrolling above the Tonkin Gulf, a Lockheed Constellation serial number 53-555, "Triple Nickel" directed an American F-4 Phantom by radar to intercept a MiG-21. This was a first victory ever of one aircraft over another made possible with the guidance of a flying, radar equipped airplane. The "Triple Nickel" Lockheed Constellation was retired to the USAF Museum, Dayton, Ohio in 1971.

Lockheed Constellation

Lockheed Constellation

The spectacular Lockheed Constellation built by Carl Bachhuber has a 15 foot wingspan and a length of over 11 feet. Carl uses four Fuji BT-32 engines for power.

Carl tells us that take off distance is in around 150 feet. It flies straight and true. The engines have good power for fast flying. Even in strong cross winds, it takes off and lands with little trouble

The Lockheed Constellation from Don Smith Plans has a 134 in. wingspan and 103 1/2 in. length. Construction is from balsa and plywood. It is powered by four .91 engines.