It was supposed to be the “Comeback of a Legend.” Lufthansa, Lufthansa Technik and many partners planned to bring the Lockheed L1649A Super Constellation back to the skies. Alas, the program eventually came up short. Except the part where it eventually helped enable a piece of history to return home to JFK Airport and the TWA Hotel outside T5.
Until recently N8083H sat outside on the ramp at the Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine. It was acquired by the restoration program to be harvested for spare parts as N7316C was being worked inside. It was a critical part of the project; only after the Connie rebuild efforts ended did the plane transition to the TWA Hotel and make the trek down to New York City to serve as a bar at the new hotel.
But back in 2012, when I got to visit the restoration project in Auburn, Maine, converting it to a bar was not on anyone’s mind. Nor was the possibility that the restoration project would come up short.
A team of Lufthansa Technik’s engineers was assigned to the remote facility in Maine to work on the project. And it truly was a special posting. Yes, there were blueprints to be followed, but they were far from the digital documents seen so often today. Moreover, while the core of the aircraft was generally in one piece, the team would essentially be rebuilding it 100%, inside and out.
The work involved disassembling the plane they had, ensuring that the parts and dimensions matched the specifications, and putting it all back together. Needless to say, that was a painstakingly manual process, though it did result in some incredible images of the program underway.
And the team pretty much pulled it off. Or was at least very, very close. But after 10 years of work Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr announced in March 2018 that the program was dead. It is hard to know for sure what killed the project. Lufthansa also ended its Ju-52 nostalgia flights around the same time. Whether costs or liability or other risks were the defining factors is unclear.
Still, it was great to see the reconstruction work underway and to see the “spare” that is now serving as the TWA bar, well before it gained that assignment.
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