A Super Constellation visits Salzburg
Berni Müller, 02/09/2006

As it was announced and confirmed that the L1049F (C-121) Super Constellation (N73544) of Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA) will visit my home base Salzburg on the 02nd and 03rd September, I was very excited. But of course this was not only the case with me, but also all other spotters and aviation enthusiasts were happy hearing the news.  
A flying Super Constellation is very rare. I think there are only 3 Connies in an airworthy condition left. These are N73544 of Super Constellation Flyers Association (“Star of Switzerland”), about which this Air(Re)port is about, the VH-EAG of Historical Aircraft Restoration Society in Australia and N6937C (“Star of America”) flying in TWA colours operated by the Airline History Museum in Kansas, project name “Save a Connie”.

I personally think the Super Constellation (nick name “Connie“), constructed by the Lockheed company, is one of the most beautiful aircrafts ever built. It was the pride of many airlines in the fifties and sixties and thanks to the Connie long haul flights were possible for the first time. But already at the beginning of the sixties the time for the Connie was over (as it was for the DC-6, DC-7 and many more prop liners), because the much more modern and faster jets like the Boeing B707 and DC-8 entered the market.


Arrival at sunset

Approach on runway 34 with the
"Tennengebirge" in background

signs of oil....

But now back to the Super Constellation of Super Constellation Flyers Association. In 2004 it was delivered from the USA to Switzerland and is now based at Basle. Members of the SCFA can only join flights, because the aircraft only got a registration as a “club-aircraft”. It’ll be too much to report about all details of the aircraft, therefore I recommend to visit the SCFA website, which is very detailed:

The cabin

Cockpit of the Super Constellation

Starting- up

Now more about the visit to Salzburg: Saturday, 02nd September, was the day of arrival. First there were big clouds around, but as later it became, the clouds became less and the sun sent its warm and bright evening rays. We got the news that Connie left Zurich on time at 18:00 and the arrival was scheduled for 19:15. And then she arrived really on time. As you could see her already coming from the west, again new clouds came up and settled in front of the sun. Oh no, what a shame! The dream of great photographs in the warm evening light was over. The Connie passed the airport parallel to runway 16 in a distance of about one kilometre.  Everyone took nice shots of the silhouette in front of an orange coloured sky. The fly by was continued by a “left-hand” circling approach on runway 34, flowed by a low approach over the runway in low altitude. For the first time you heard the great sound of the four Curtis WR R-3350 engines. Simply great! After the low approach it turned right by 180° to fly over the city and approach the runway 34 with a right hand circling approach. During the turn on the short finals of runway 34 it was possible to photograph the Connie with alpine mountains tinted in red evening light in the background.
It did a perfect landing. Unfortunately no light was left, but you could hear all cameras “click, click, click” as its owners pushed the triggers. Of course, you photograph this aircraft in all light situations! As it taxied off the taxiway on the ramp to its parking stand W8, you always could hear a sound like the horn of a car. Everyone speculated what it was. But it was Connie’s breaks. It was a funny sound! As the engines were shut down and the gangway was moved to the aircraft, you could have a closer look at the Super Connie with both eyes (not just through the small window in your camera).
Yes, great! The Connie is here in Salzburg! What a great feeling! Because it became dark, I went home.
For the next day (Sunday) a 30-minute pleasure flight was scheduled for 14:30 and the flight back to Basle for 18.00. The weather was very grey. Thick clouds excluded the sun. Nevertheless it didn’t matter – there was a Connie at Salzburg, so let’s go at each weather! I went round 13:00, to have enough spare time. I went to position at the edge of the ramp (position 2) where you are very close to the parked N73544. You have to be as close as possible to the Connie when it starts its engines. There were already many spotters, there weren’t as much since the last winter charter weekends. They came from Munich, Vienna and Linz to experience this jewel!

smoking during starting- up...

fire and flames for the next flight...

Rotate on runway 16
Around 14:15 the clouds became a bit thinner and it was a bit brighter. Then the show started: On time at 14:30 the engines were started from the right to the left. This was stunning. Together with misfires, flames out of the exhausts and massive smoke clouds, one engine after the other winded up. A smell of gas and burnt oil was in the air. (The Connie is a massive oil consumer, which leaves big traces on the engines and wings). Despite the sound of the engines you could hear again a massive “click, click, click” coming from the spotters. Such a Super Constellation engine start can’t be photographed every day. The Connie taxied to the taxiway and turned left for runway 16. Great… runway 16 departure! So me and all other spotters were all on the right place to photograph it during rotate. You have to go only about 100meters to the spotter hill! A short public walking began.

The Connie taxied slowly on the taxiway to holding point “Bravo”. So the was now rush and all spotters could settle on the spotter hill. Now the Connie lined up and accelerated along the runway. And just in this moment the sun broke through and Connie was in sunshine. This was more than luck! The Connie just rotated where I wanted here to do so and my camera had to do a hard job. A took a big amount of photographs during its d departure, but not only me, also all other spotters did the same. So many “clicks” I haven’t heard for a long time.

Connie is in the air

Das Fahrwerk wird eingefahren

Holding-Point Fox

In its typical flat angle the Connie passed by and climbed out. You could see the flashes coming out the exhausts. What a stunning sight! Then the sun hided itself behind the clouds again. But the Connie was already perfectly banned on chip. After half an hour it came back and landed smoothly on runway 16. It taxied back with its already described funny break sound to its parking stand W8. Together with my two spotter friends Evi and Andreas, we decided to change the position and went to the holding point “Fox” at runway 34 (position 4). Also many other spotters did this, because it was announced that it would depart on this runway. So you could do some shots of the by taxiing aircraft on the taxiway and on the runway as well.
Thick clouds made it very dark again. Round 18:15 you could see again big smoke clouds coming from the airport. So the procedure started again. The Connie came down the taxiway in direction runway 34, as expected. As the aircraft passed by the sun sent her rays for a very short time and again nearly perfect shots were possible. Cameras went off like machine guns! You couldn’t have more luck! Arrived at holding point “Fox”, the aircraft tested its engines by powering the engines with parking breaks employed. Everyone waved out of the aircraft and we did the same in the other direction. Then it lined up and accelerated. The sound of a Connie at take off can’t be described -  you have to hear it yourself! Again you could see the stunning flashes coming out of the exhausts. Then it departed in a flat angle and produced some smoke. Especially the far right engine produced a lot!


Start on runway 34 back to Basel
bye, bye Connie!

I had to think, what a great feeling it was in the fifties and sixties, as this aircraft was the standard aircraft and you could experience it frequently. Delighted because of all this nice photographs and moments, which Connie made possible, but also a bit sad that Connie left Salzburg, I looked after her for a long time.
It remains to be hoped that the SCFA will visit Salzburg again with its Connie and the aircraft will remain in an airworthy condition for a long time. You can’t think what a huge amount of work and money is needed to keep it flying.

A big thank you to the team of SCFA, which made all this great and unforgettable moments possible.

Also many thanks to my spotter friend and colleague of
www.planes-international.com Stephan Weidenhiller, who provided me his photographs of the cockpit, cabin and the shots taken on the ramp as addition to my photographs for this Air(re)port.