highflier92660
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Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Fri Apr 29, 2016 5:54 pm

Captain Robert N. Buck was to TWA as Dick Merrill was to Eastern Airlines. In 1958 at the conclusion of the prop era, Captain Buck wrote an article for Air Facts magazine chronicling a flight from Los Angeles on the west coast of the United States to London England, the longest city pair to date for TWA aboard its ultimate airliner, the 156,000 lb. Lockheed 1649A Constellation. If you are an ATP airline pilot or just a casual airline enthusiast this glimpse back nearly sixty years in time is eye opening the very least.

In a era before before SID routings, Buck writes about the difficulties negotiating the departure climbing restrictions out of LAX in his heavily loaded Constellation. With the A/C at METO power out of LAX, straining for every foot of altitude through the stratus to sunshine on-top while flying an obsolete NDB red airway, Captain Buck requests a VFR climb to 11,000 feet. Note: the airlines were still requesting visual flight rules in the wake of the Grand Canyon crash just two years earlier.

Apparently high-gross 1649As equipped with the notoriously fickle Wright 3350s were no altitude machines either, even with their 150 foot high-aspect ratio wings. Safely passed the San Gabriel mountains the Connie remains down at 11,000 feet while Captain Buck barters with ATC as the Super Constellation burns off 115/145 octane avgas. An inability to meet enroute low-altitude Victor airway MEAs is something a contemporary airline pilot sitting up in the flight levels would never give a second thought. And someone at TWA should have told the marketing folks that calling a 1649A Constellation a Jetstream Starliner was a bit of a hyperbole.

While airline travel circa 1958 may have been low and slow I did ferret this interesting and illuminating bit of information from the article. With his aircraft now safely step-climbed to 19,000 feet, Captain Buck goes back to the passenger cabin for his meet-and-greet walk through. Everywhere he looks contented TWA pax are lounging in their enormous and comfy seats, dining on in-flight steak dinners with premium wine that would rival a Morton's or Capital Grille. In some ways airline travel has regressed.

http://www.airfactsjournal.com/2014/...es-bob-buck-flies-connie-la-london
 
tsnamm
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Fri Apr 29, 2016 6:36 pm

Great Article! Thanks for posting
 
Viscount724
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sat Apr 30, 2016 1:59 am

Quoting highflier92660 (Thread starter):
And someone at TWA should have told the marketing folks that calling a 1649A Constellation a Jetstream Starliner was a bit of a hyperbole.

Apart from some early ads where TWA used Lockheed's "Starliner" name, they mainly used their own "Jetstream" branding. Starliner was never used in TWA timetables as far as I can tell.

The only L-1649A customer that actually used Lockheed's Starliner name officially was AF, although they called it "Super Starliner". LH used "Super Star" but not Starliner.

Quoting highflier92660 (Thread starter):
While airline travel circa 1958 may have been low and slow

And loud and turbulent and very expensive.

Quoting highflier92660 (Thread starter):
In some ways airline travel has regressed.

Only the wealthy could afford longhaul international travel in 1958. The cheapest round trip economy class fare LAX-LHR then was the equvalent of close to $6,000 today.
 
highflier92660
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sat Apr 30, 2016 3:39 pm

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 2):
Apart from some early ads where TWA used Lockheed's "Strainer" name,they mainly used their own "Jetstream" branding. Strainer was never used in TWA timetables as far as I can tell.

Viscount724, as one of the knowledgeable historians of that post-war piston airliner era you are probably correct. The reference I was using when posting was a passage from R.E.G. Davies book "TWA: An Airline And Its Aircraft" published in 2000 by Paladwr Press.

Today in the U.S. there is only one 1649A Constellation left that I'm aware of and that aircraft sits on static display at the now closed Fantasy of Flight aviation museum in Polk County, Florida. Recently when we visited Florida, we stopped off I-4 between Tampa and Orlando to see it behind the closed gates. Undoubtably it will take considerable resources by Kermit Weeks for it to become flyable again.

A video from circa 2001 with the Lockheed Starliner by Kermit Weeks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRwSKmFoFa8
 
ThirtyEcho
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:03 pm

Quoting highflier92660 (Thread starter):
obsolete NDB red airway

Well, since the Red airways were defined by four course ranges, you must not know much about them. It would be impossible to have a non-directional beacon form part of a Red airway except as a fix. One of the last Red airways in the nation, Red 10, was still operational in my early years. Just for grins, I filed and flew Red 10 from Shreveport to New Orleans once in VMC. It was an educational experience.
 
barney captain
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:48 pm

Great read - thank you!
Southeast Of Disorder
 
Viscount724
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sat Apr 30, 2016 9:41 pm

Quoting highflier92660 (Reply 3):
Today in the U.S. there is only one 1649A Constellation left that I'm aware of and that aircraft sits on static display at the now closed Fantasy of Flight aviation museum in Polk County, Florida.

You're overlooking the one that LH is restoring to flying condition in Maine. Updates on that project:
http://www.lufthansa-technik.com/super-star-news
http://www.lufthansa-technik.com/super-star
http://www.dlbs.de/en/Projects/Lockheed-Superstar/News.php
 
highflier92660
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sun May 01, 2016 4:34 pm

Quoting ThirtyEcho (Reply 4):
Well, since the Red airways were defined by four course ranges, you must not know much about them.

Easy on the young 'un. I was under the impression that the red 65 altitude crossing restriction in the article- "cross Long Beach, cross red 65 not under 9,000 ft." -was an airway from a now decommissioned Los Angeles area fan marker back in the1950s. If one looks at all the round dials in a Constellation cockpit they can see an RMI.

Here is a synopsis of a four-course radio range: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_frequency_radio_range

In today's world of GPS and Flat Panel Displays with synthetic vision and Head Up Displays, navigating via this archaic method seems unfathomable. Add to this fact, crusty and curmudgeon airline chiefs of the day were personalities like Eddie Rickenbacker who refused to install 3-axis autopilots in Eastern Airlines' piston aircraft: "I pay 'em to fly."

Most of the ancient airline stories I read about where they execute actual IFR approaches using this low-freq method, the airliners are always flying into airports during severe squall lines with lots o' static discharges all around. In that event, post-flight it must have elevated the Captains in the "stewardesses" eyes to heroic levels.

[Edited 2016-05-01 10:04:04 by Highflier92660]
 
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DocLightning
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sun May 01, 2016 5:59 pm

Quoting highflier92660 (Thread starter):
Everywhere he looks contented TWA pax are lounging in their enormous and comfy seats, dining on in-flight steak dinners with premium wine that would rival a Morton's or Capital Grille. In some ways airline travel has regressed.

Well, yes. The alternative at the time was to take a train across the country to New York (4 days) and then board an ocean liner (another 4-6 days) to Southampton and then take a train to London (most of a day). The price of the airline ticket was astronomical, well above the normal middle-class budget, but for those with the money but not the time, 17 hours was a lot better than 10-14 days.

So for that kind of money, they could give you a seat that today would barely qualify as premium-Y and some good food.

Now, a far superior experience is available today. So air travel has not regressed. I give you QR's "The Residence." What has changed is that the vast majority of people aren't willing to spend a few months' typical income to enjoy it. They'd rather sit in steerage for a few hours and get the flight over with for cheap.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 2):

Only the wealthy could afford longhaul international travel in 1958. The cheapest round trip economy class fare LAX-LHR then was the equvalent of close to $6,000 today.

That cheap? I figured it would be even higher.
-Doc Lightning-

"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
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beechnut
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sun May 01, 2016 6:14 pm

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 6):
You're overlooking the one that LH is restoring to flying condition in Maine. Updates on that project:

Wow a glass cockpit Connie! I'm impressed, I can hardly wait to see this thing in the skies.

Beech
 
timz
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Sun May 01, 2016 9:12 pm

If you have a 1950s chart you'll see Red 65 following the south leg of the Los Angeles range. Wonder if ATC really thought TWA could hope to cross it above 9000 ft.
 
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MarcoPoloWorld
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Mon May 02, 2016 4:03 am

Plowing the clouds in a propeller for 16+ hours for $6,000? ... No thanks!
 
maxpower1954
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Mon May 02, 2016 12:53 pm

Quoting MarcoPoloWorld (Reply 11):
Plowing the clouds in a propeller for 16+ hours for $6,000? ... No thanks!

You didn't have much choice in 1958. Considering the first flight was only 55 years earlier, it was a miracle of human accomplishment.
 
aviatorcraig
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Mon May 02, 2016 9:22 pm

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 8):
So for that kind of money, they could give you a seat that today would barely qualify as premium-Y and some good food.

Now, a far superior experience is available today. So air travel has not regressed. I give you QR's "The Residence." What has changed is that the vast majority of people aren't willing to spend a few months' typical income to enjoy it. They'd rather sit in steerage for a few hours and get the flight over with for cheap.

... and you are much less likely to die in a plane crash which is always a bonus!
707 727 Caravelle Comet Concorde Dash-7 DC-9 DC-10 One-Eleven Trident Tristar Tu-134 VC-10 Viscount plus boring stuff!
 
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DocLightning
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Mon May 02, 2016 11:16 pm

Quoting MarcoPoloWorld (Reply 11):

Plowing the clouds in a propeller for 16+ hours for $6,000? ... No thanks!

Your alternative from LAX was a 3-4 day rail journey to NYC, where you might stay for a day and then a 3-5 day ocean liner journey to Southampton and then another day's rail journey to London. So figure minimum 8 days one way.
-Doc Lightning-

"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
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Viscount724
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Mon May 02, 2016 11:43 pm

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 14):
and then another day's rail journey to London.

You've mentioned a couple of times that Southampton - London is a day's rail journey. It's about 80 miles. Even in the middle of the last century the trip was more like 90 minutes, possibly even faster.
 
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DocLightning
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Mon May 02, 2016 11:49 pm

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 15):

You've mentioned a couple of times that Southampton - London is a day's rail journey. It's about 80 miles. Even in the middle of the last century the trip was more like 90 minutes, possibly even faster.

Yes, once you're on the train it's about 1.5-2 hours. But you still have to disembark from the ship and retrieve your belongings. It's not as if the ship sails into port, drops a gangway, and you walk off of it and right onto the train. So that adds a few hours. An arrival at Southampton in the morning would, in all practicality, get you to London in the mid-afternoon.
-Doc Lightning-

"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
-Carl Sagan
 
AY104
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 1:41 pm

Excellent article! This is what aviation is really about. Lots to be learned in that article. One of the more interesting threads of late. thank you.
The only thing a customer should expect for his/her loyalty is good service
 
victrola
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 5:50 pm

Does anyone know what the departure time was from LAX? How long did the plane remain at Heathrow in those days? Did they do the basic 2 hours on the ground and then return to LAX? How long would the crew lay over in London? I imagine things were different back then.
 
desertjets
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 6:08 pm

Quoting victrola (Reply 18):
Does anyone know what the departure time was from LAX? How long did the plane remain at Heathrow in those days? Did they do the basic 2 hours on the ground and then return to LAX? How long would the crew lay over in London? I imagine things were different back then.

I am sure somebody with the relevant timetables will eventually chime in but I do not believe that this was a daily, let alone more than once or twice a week flight.

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 8):
Well, yes. The alternative at the time was to take a train across the country to New York (4 days) and then board an ocean liner (another 4-6 days) to Southampton and then take a train to London (most of a day). The price of the airline ticket was astronomical, well above the normal middle-class budget, but for those with the money but not the time, 17 hours was a lot better than 10-14 days.

As cool as the write up was, I think it is even more interesting to think that a year or two later (albeit non-stop jet service from LAX wouldn't follow for a few more years) you could do the same trip on a jet. Even with stopping at say IDL you may well come out ahead timewise, but certainly much better comfort wise.
Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
 
DDR
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 6:41 pm

Wow, this is a great thread, thanks for posting. I've got a bunch of timetables I've been meaning to sell and a couple are from TWA in the 1950s. I'm going to have to dig them out and take a look for the dep and arr times. TWA's old timetables were a little difficult to read but really interesting.
 
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tjwgrr
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 7:34 pm

Quoting DDR (Reply 20):
Wow, this is a great thread, thanks for posting. I've got a bunch of timetables I've been meaning to sell and a couple are from TWA in the 1950s. I'm going to have to dig them out and take a look for the dep and arr times. TWA's old timetables were a little difficult to read but really interesting.

I found this January 1959 schedule online. Looks like TW 770 departed LAX at 11:30 local and arrived LHR 14:45 local (next day) and was Saturday only service.

http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/complete/tw59/tw59-09.jpg

If I'm reading the timetable correctly, it looks like TWA also operated SFO-ORY as TWA 870 Wednesdays only.

April 1958 route map:

http://www.timetableimages.com/i-t/tw5804i.jpg

Good stuff for sure!
.
Direct KNOBS, maintain 2700' until established on the localizer, cleared ILS runway 26 left approach.
 
VijayJ
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 7:40 pm

It all sounds very romantic until you factor in the noxious clouds of Pall Mall smoke in the cabin.
 
DDR
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 7:49 pm

Does anyone know what the author means by "danger area?" He mentioned not being able to fly through it a couple of times.
 
thepinkmachine
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Tue May 03, 2016 8:43 pm

Amazing read. What surprised me was that airline flying (and longhaul flying in particular) from pilot's perspective wasn't all that different from nowadays.

They had a plethora of their own problems (like altitude restrictions and generally flying lower than today's airliners) and a bit more freedom in flight planning (like: "I feel like going 120NM of the proposed route")

However, it's refreshing to read that after ~60 odd years the job, the considerations remain pretty much the same...   

I especially love this passage, which still holds true today:

"There’s so much complexity in these times that flying has lost most of its freedom. The check list tells you something needs to be done, the tower says to taxi here or there, and airways say climb only this high or go this way. A cloud comes along and you are caught in a VFR-IFR problem with all the regulatory implications…it’s a life of restrictions, of narrow boundaries you must remain within or you’ll have troubles either legal or mechanical. But that moment the tower says to go ahead―that is your moment of freedom. The runway is yours, only yours; the check list is finished and all the items are done and set properly. You have at last arrived at the moment of flying as you love it―you can go ahead and only your own skill and judgment makes the difference."

[Edited 2016-05-03 13:46:45]

[Edited 2016-05-03 13:47:40]
"Tell my wife I am trawling Atlantis - and I still have my hands on the wheel…"
 
maxpower1954
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RE: Lockheed 1649A Constellation: LAX-LHR In 1958

Wed May 04, 2016 4:37 am

Quoting thepinkmachine (Reply 24):


They had a plethora of their own problems (like altitude restrictions and generally flying lower than today's airliners) and a bit more freedom in flight planning (like: "I feel like going 120NM of the proposed route")

However, it's refreshing to read that after ~60 odd years the job, the considerations remain pretty much the same...   

I especially love this passage, which still holds true today:

"There’s so much complexity in these times that flying has lost most of its freedom. The check list tells you something needs to be done, the tower says to taxi here or there, and airways say climb only this high or go this way. A cloud comes along and you are caught in a VFR-IFR problem with all the regulatory implications…it’s a life of restrictions, of narrow boundaries you must remain within or you’ll have troubles either legal or mechanical. But that moment the tower says to go ahead―that is your moment of freedom. The runway is yours, only yours; the check list is finished and all the items are done and set properly. You have at last arrived at the moment of flying as you love it―you can go ahead and only your own skill and judgment makes the difference."

I visited Poland last month to visit my brother who has lived in Poznan for many years. We had a great time, a lovely place and friendly to visitors.

I've been an airline pilot for 37 years, and that paragraph struck me exactly the same way - no matter if it's a DC-3 or A380 the moment you push the power up it's your show. Bob Buck ranks with Ernest K. Gann in his ability to articulate what it's like to be an airline pilot.

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