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Lockheed 1649A Starliner Constellation

13 Fabulous Photos of the Lockheed 1649A Starliner Constellation



Without doubt, Lockheed's 1649A Starliner was the Cadillac of reciprocating airliners. It was the development of the Wright Turbo Compound engine the opened the doorway for development of the ultimate piston propliners, the Starliner and the competing DC-7C from Douglas.

The Lockheed 1649A Starliner was possible by advancement of the piston engine. By 1958, over 11,000 Turbo Compound engines were in service of which 8,000 were powering military aircraft. The engine was not without its quirks and the R3350 Turbo Compound commanded respect from pilots and engineers alike. Running her by the numbers was mandatory for the smooth operations airliners needed.

She would choke up when mistreated and cry when in need of an overhaul. The R3350 Turbo Compund was the only variant of the engine produced, and it only powered the Lockheed 1649A Starliner and the DC-7C. Although fickle, her unique combination of power (derived from the unique power recovery turbines) and fuel efficiency allowed aircraft designers to exploit the piston engined airliner market to the pinnacle of its limit.

The dimension aspect of the aircraft was driven by lenthening the L-1049 Connie fuselage and matching it to a newly designed wing, which was of thinner cross section but much long span (150 feet versus the 123 foot span of a 1049 Connie). The increased wing size brought increased fuel capacity to 8,000 gallons, which pushed the range up to 6,320 miles.

This came late in the decade and the new jets that were soon to enter service, meant that the Lockheed 1649A Starliner would enjoy a very short operational lifespan as prime front line airliners. TWA Starliners went into service from New York to London and Paris in June, 1957. But, the first jetliner deliveries were on the horizon, and the world's airlines directed their interest and orders to the new jet technology.

Only 42 Starliners were built, with factory deliveries going to Lufthansa, Air France, and TWA as prime customers. By 1962, the majors had retired their Lockheed 1649A Starliners in favour of jets, after only 5 years service. However, many continued to carry passengers for charter airlines and travel clubs through the late 1960s, with such airlines as Luxair, World Samplers, Alaska Airlines, Trek in South Africa being the most well known of the bunch. By the mid-1970s, there were very few Lockheed 1649A Starliners in operational service.

Some 40 years would pass before a spark of light would shine again on the Lockheed 1649A Starliner story. Lufthansa Technik is rebuilding a formerly derelict L-1649 Starliner to fly capable condition. Lufthansa hopes to operate Starliner passenger flights when the aircraft completes its overhaul and rebuild process. The Lufthansa Starliner website tracks the ongoing progress of the project.

Presented below are 13 fabulous photos of the classic Lockheed 1649A Starliner Constellation from our extensive aircraft image database. Which, by the way, are for sale in both digital and print format. If you are looking for 35mm kodachrome slides of the Lockheed Constellation click here for huge selection.

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