Lockheed Constellation: A History


Graham M Simons


Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson’s design for the Lockheed Constellation, known affectionately as the ‘Connie’, produced one of the world’s most iconic airliners.

Lockheed had been working on the L-044 Excalibur, a four-engine, pressurized airliner, since 1937. In 1939, Trans World Airlines, at the instigation of major stockholder Howard Hughes, requested a 40-passenger transcontinental aircraft with a range of 3,500 miles, well beyond the capabilities of the Excalibur design. TWA’s requirements led to the L-049 Constellation, designed by Lockheed engineers including Kelly Johnson and Hall Hibbard.

Between 1943 and 1958, Lockheed built 856 Constellations in numerous models at its Burbank, California, factory – all with the same distinctive and immediately recognizable triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage.

The Constellation was used as a civil airliner and as a military and civilian air transport, seeing service in the Berlin and the Biafran airlifts. Three of them served as the presidential aircraft for Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the Second World War, TWA’s transatlantic service began on 6 February 1946 with a New York-Paris flight in a Constellation. Then, on 17 June 1947, Pan Am opened the first-ever scheduled round-the-world service with their L-749 Clipper America.

In this revealing insight into the Lockheed Constellation, the renowned aviation historian Graham M. Simons examines its design, development and service, both military and civil. In doing so, he reveals the story of a design which, as the first pressurized airliner in widespread use, helped to usher in affordable and comfortable air travel around the world.