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End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sat Dec 15, 2018 6:10 am
by Metz727
Following the crash of JU 52 HB-HOT in the Swiss alps on August 4, FOCA (the Federal Office of Civil Aviation) has increased the scrutiny of all vintage aircraft registered in Switzerland.

This week the executive board of SCFA (Super Constellation Flyer Association) sent the following newsletter to the members:

"Our meeting with FOCA representatives was held on November 30. Unfortunately, it will remain uncertain when our Connie will fly again. Current findings lead to the conclusion that the material used on the main spar (aluminum 7075 T6) can cause internal, inter-granular corrosion. In order to further examine the risks, all four wing spars (T beams) will need to be checked and possibly replaced. The leading edge, including the engine nacelles will need to be removed, the rear part of the wing with the flap suspension mechanisms will need to be disassembled, and upper and lower tank structural panels will need to be opened.

According to expert preliminary statements, these repairs will require the removal of both aircraft wings. In order to repair the corrosion on the ribs, the exterior panels of the engine nacelles will have to be removed. Additionally, all sheet metal firewalls in the engine nacelles need to be taken off in order to check the structure of the spar areas for corrosion. The number 4 engine panels were partially removed over the past two days, and sadly some corrosion was discovered.

Unless a different, more cost effective procedure can be found to check the spar, these in depth tasks bear comparison with a complete reconstruction of the entire wing.

The board is hopeful that our project may continue, even though the path to getting our Connie back into the air will be long, steep, and costly"


It is looking bleak for this beautiful bird to fly again :cry:

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sat Dec 15, 2018 7:00 am
by ClipperYankee
That is lousy news. I hope they can figure something and get it all checked out. Too few pistonliners left still flying out there, especially ones with four engines.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 5:13 am
by crownvic
Agreed. This is very disappointing news. Even worse, look at the lack of participation on this site of such a grand aircraft having only one response. I do hope SCFA is able to sort this out.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 5:31 am
by Newark727
It's too bad that beautiful quad-pistons like this take so many resources to get and keep flying. I had so wanted that Lewiston Starliner project to succeed.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 5:33 am
by Max Q
The older I get the better looking
the Constellation becomes


What a beautiful aircraft, I hope this one can keep flying

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:38 am
by B777LRF
If it's not safe, it's not safe, and no amount of nostalgia will ever be a replacement for safety. Safety is not something you take for granted, and if a thorough inspection is what it takes to ensure it's safe, then it is what it is.

I'm as fond of old prop airliners as the next guy, but safety must always come first.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 11:15 am
by ELBOB
B777LRF wrote:
I'm as fond of old prop airliners as the next guy, but safety must always come first.


If that was truly the case then no aircraft would ever take-off. Much safer if they just sat at the terminal.

There is no such thing as assured safety, only the reduction of risk. Sometimes people might want to take a risk in exchange for an incredible experience; why shouldn't they be allowed to make that choice?

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 11:37 am
by B777LRF
ELBOB wrote:
If that was truly the case then no aircraft would ever take-off. Much safer if they just sat at the terminal.

There is no such thing as assured safety, only the reduction of risk. Sometimes people might want to take a risk in exchange for an incredible experience; why shouldn't they be allowed to make that choice?


I fully agree with your first statement. The trick is to manage risks, and if there's a known risk somewhere you investigate until you've come to a conclusion. In the case of this Connie, the cost of the investigation is said to be more than they can afford. Which is sad, but risks still need to be managed.

As for the second part, I don't agree. Sure, if you were only to fly over an unpopulated area where your crash would have no impact on others, be my guest. But that's never the case, is it? You have to take-off and land at an airport, and airports tend to be near to places where people live. In other words, in my opinion you're free to risk your life and health all you want, as long as it doesn't carry a risk that other people might get hurt in the process.

The Virgin Galatic is a good case in point; taking off from the middle of a desert and going more or less straight up, the activity is not at risk to anyone else. Have at it all you like. But operating Virgin Galatic out of commercial airport, near residential and/or industrial areas, will not and should not be allowed.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 11:41 am
by paullam
ELBOB wrote:
B777LRF wrote:
I'm as fond of old prop airliners as the next guy, but safety must always come first.


If that was truly the case then no aircraft would ever take-off. Much safer if they just sat at the terminal.

There is no such thing as assured safety, only the reduction of risk. Sometimes people might want to take a risk in exchange for an incredible experience; why shouldn't they be allowed to make that choice?


Because planes do also fly over inhabited land. Especially in a densely populated country like Switzerland it's fairly likely that a plane crash kills people on the ground. A nostalgic plane flying overhead certainly isn't an "incedible experience" for the majority in Switzerland. At least not one worth dying.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 12:24 pm
by SEPilot
Sometimes reality rears its ugly head. These beautiful planes are over 60 years old. To put it in perspective, they were built less than 60 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight. The planes were never designed to last this long; they did not get the kind of anti-corrosion treatment that would be necessary had it been thought that they would still be flying in 60 years. On top of that the fuel they were designed to use is no longer made, there are few people left with the expertise to keep the engines (which are just about the most complex and temperamental mechanical devices ever built) in proper operational shape, and parts are very scarce. I would liken them to clipper ships, which I would say are the most beautiful transportation devices ever built; how many of those are still sailing? It is time to face reality, and that is that we are approaching the end of the line for all of these magnificent birds. The other part is that these planes were designed and built in an era where flight safety was nowhere near what it is today, and air travel was much riskier than it is now. And that was known and accepted. And a lot of that was due to the fact that the planes themselves were inherently less safe. Today, we have much higher expectations of air safety, but it is a sad fact that 60 year old planes cannot meet those expectations, both because of design inadequacies and the insideous and sometimes undetectable ravages of time. Far better to put these magnificent planes in museums where they can be preserved for future generations than to risk losing them for all time in a crash.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 12:42 pm
by CX Flyboy
If the Swiss won't allow it, it does not mean the plane is finished. They can sell it or re-register it and operate it elsewhere.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 2:43 pm
by Dalmd88
CX Flyboy wrote:
If the Swiss won't allow it, it does not mean the plane is finished. They can sell it or re-register it and operate it elsewhere.

That is true, but now you come into the liability legal game. They said they have found some corrosion on the spar aft of one of the engines. That has to be fixed to be airworthy anywhere. Sadly once you find a little you usually find a lot trying to fix the little area.

I love these old Connies. I wish we could keep some flying. The reality like others have said, they were not built to last 60 years. The costs to keep them in flying condition is getting out of reach of these historic groups.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 4:28 pm
by 787X30
About a year ago, we thought ourselves close to three flying Connies - now we seem to be down to one. How's that one doing?

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 8:46 pm
by beechnut
CX Flyboy wrote:
If the Swiss won't allow it, it does not mean the plane is finished. They can sell it or re-register it and operate it elsewhere.


It's either airworthy, or it isn't. Its country of registration cannot change that.

Wing spar corrosion is not trivial. The consequences of failure are not an acceptable risk. Changing it to another country's register won't make the problem disappear.

Beech

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 12:20 am
by prebennorholm
ELBOB wrote:
There is no such thing as assured safety, only the reduction of risk. Sometimes people might want to take a risk in exchange for an incredible experience; why shouldn't they be allowed to make that choice?

It's all a purely economic issue. That Conny could have been kept all those years and many more in airline service. With a D-check every so many years, and exchange of timed out parts (such a wing spar) on regulated schedule. Nobody knows what sort of millions that would have cost.

That sort of economy cannot be present when talking museum planes. We shall only be happy when it sometimes for a period can be substituted by voluntary "baby-care" and extremely low utilization. But that works only for some time on things as complicated as the Conny.

In this case it seems like there are insufficient resources to even properly invetigate the extent of the corrosion. Then of course much less for a rebuild. Then it is time for ground display only.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 3:13 am
by FlyingElvii
Max Q wrote:
The older I get the better looking
the Constellation becomes


What a beautiful aircraft, I hope this one can keep flying

The best three-engine airplane ever built.
And this is a fine example of why they were maintenance monsters.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 10:03 am
by CX Flyboy
beechnut wrote:
CX Flyboy wrote:
If the Swiss won't allow it, it does not mean the plane is finished. They can sell it or re-register it and operate it elsewhere.


It's either airworthy, or it isn't. Its country of registration cannot change that.

Wing spar corrosion is not trivial. The consequences of failure are not an acceptable risk. Changing it to another country's register won't make the problem disappear.

Beech


In an ideal world yes you are correct but this just isn't how the world, and some countries work.

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 10:25 am
by scbriml
It's not surprising that scrutiny is being increased after the Ju-52 crash. The same thing happened in the UK after the Shoreham Air Show disaster - now vintage planes can only do fly-pasts and gentle manoeveurs, no aerobatics.

Like others, for me the Connie is simply the most beautiful thing to ever take to the sky. I never saw them in service, but I have seen a few flying.

I was lucky enough to see HB-RSC at RIAT in 2013. I hope it can fly again, but I'm not hopeful.


Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 7:28 pm
by beechnut
CX Flyboy wrote:
In an ideal world yes you are correct but this just isn't how the world, and some countries work.


Except that it's based in Switzerland, and they say "grounded". To get it out of Switzerland, would require a ferry permit as the plane is not airworthy. Probably with things like speed restrictions, etc. Not likely to be granted.

There's no easy working around this to get it out of Swiss jurisdiction.

Beech

Re: End of the road for Swiss Super Constellation HB-RSC?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 7:32 pm
by beechnut
scbriml wrote:
I never saw them in service, but I have seen a few flying.



When I was a kid in the '60s, I lived under the approach path of RWY 28 at YUL. Back then, early '60s, CP was still flying DC-6s, and Connies were still in service, with Nordair (along with DC3/C47s and Curtiss C46s). So I saw, and equally importantly heard, some great old propliners passing over my house at less than 1000 ft. What a treat, and I lived near a CPR rail line as well (I'm a planes, trains and automobiles kind of guy). I still get nostalgic for my childhood whenever I hear, rarely these days, a radial piston engine.

My first ever plane ride was in 1969, in an Air Canada Viscount.

Beech