Connie and Those Magnificent Men… Merimbula Airport, NSW, Australia

Six red and white PC-9/A ( two-seat single-engine turboprop aircraft) flying in triangle formation.

They Go Up, Tiddly, Up, Up.

Six red and white PC-9/A ( two-seat single-engine turboprop aircraft) flying downward in triangle formation.

They Go Down, Tiddly, Down, Down.

Six red and white PC-9/A ( two-seat single-engine turboprop aircraft) flying downward in triangle formation; vapour trails behind.

Up! Down! Flying Around. Looping The Loop And Defying The Ground.

What a treat!

We had headed out to Merimbula Airport, a small, single-runway regional airport in coastal south-eastern NSW, to see ‘Connie’, the Lockheed Super Constellation VH-EAG (Southern Preservation).

The development of these large, four-engined propeller-driven planes was financed and influenced by Howard Hughes, who wanted them for his airline TWA. Lockheed built 856 aircraft in the Constellation range between 1943 and 1958. As well as being sold to TWA and a number of other commercial airlines (including QANTAS), they were U.S. military air transport and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Air Force One.

Constellations were the world’s first pressurised commercial airliner. With their roominess and range, the 40-passenger transcontinental Connies revolutionised air travel in the 1940s and 1950s. Qantas used them on their famous Kangaroo Route between Australia and Great Britain from 1947. By 1954, Qantas had moved up to Super Constellations: “On 14 January 1958, two Super Constellations took off from Melbourne to inaugurate a pioneering round the world service. One travelled via India along the Kangaroo Route, while the other flew eastward on the Southern Cross Route via the United States.

When we arrived at the airfield, the restored Connie – the last Constellation still air-worthy – was sitting on on the tarmac preparing for visitors. The Roulettes, the Royal Australia Air Force aerobatics team, on the other hand, were in the air.

As the Ron Goodwin song (with inspiration from Lorraine Williams) puts it: “Those magnificent men in their flying machines… enchant all the ladies and steal all the scenes!” As it happens, the Roulettes’ flyers were all men, and they and their Pilatus PC-9/A two-seat single-engine turboprops certainly commanded the attention of the crowd.

The Connie was pretty much ignored until the Roulettes were parked and de-planed.

One red and white PC-9/A ( two-seat single-engine turboprop aircraft) flying upward, with a vapour trail..


A red and white PC-9/A ( two-seat single-engine turboprop aircraft) flying over green hills.


Four red and white PC-9/A ( two-seat single-engine turboprop aircraft) taxiing on a tarmac.

Flying Around.

They Enchant All The Ladies...

And Steal All The Scenes! (Roulettes Squadron Leader Stephen Baker)

The Roulettes at rest...

Two small aircraft on grass, with a Rex SAAB 340 on a runway behind.

... clearing the way for the scheduled Rex SAAB 340 to taxi out.

Red and white RAAF rescue helicopter on a tarmac.

The RAAF rescue helicopter is on hand, just in case.

Lockheed Super Constellation VH-EAG on a tarmac in the sunshine: people on the boarding ladder.

Queue for the Connie

Portrait: Man in cap and sunglasses behind squared bars.

A member of the HARS acts as gatekeeper.

The Connie is lovingly flown and shown by members of HARS, the Historical Aircraft Society, who found the derelict ex-US Airforce plane in 1990. They spent a lot of money and volunteer-people-hours restoring it before flying it to Australia, in bunny-hops, in 1996.

"CONNIE" in red letters on a white airplane.

"CONNIE" in her QANTAS colours.

Portrait: smiling man in glasses and blue cap

Another HARS volunteer greets people on the stairway.

Propellor on a Wright R-3350 engine

One of the four oil-hungry 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 engines.

Close-up of a Lockheed Super Constellation navigation panel.

The navigator on the Lockheed Super Constellation has a whole room of knobs and dials...

Cockpit of a Lockheed Super Constellation

... as do the pilot and co-pilots.

People examining the interior of a Lockheed Super Constellation

The interior of the Lockheed Super Constellation was configured with more spaciousness than today's passenger planes.

A smiling man with a length of rope, in a Lockheed Super Constellation.

The Connie's emergency exit was fitted with a length of rope instead of a slide raft.

The triple-tails of a Lockheed Super Constellation

Connie, shake your tail feathers! The Constellations were distinguishable by their triple-tail design.

View of a white Jabiru J120 sport aircraft in front of a hangar.

From inside the Connie, an Australian-made Jabiru J120 looks even smaller!

Parts of rusted recreational aircraft in a hangar.

Not all aircraft get restored.

People queue to get aboard a restored Connie aircraft. Merimbula Airport.

... and still they queue ...

Dear old Connie!

Representative of a rich and varied history, and still fuelling the dreams of those magnificent men and women who maintain and fly her.

Happy landings!

  • dietmutdiet - April 5, 2012 - 9:32 am

    prachtige Show und interessante Fotos. Ik wünsche Dir schöne Ostertage. Grüsse aus Holland, DietmutReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 5, 2012 - 10:19 am

      Thanks, Dietmut. All the best for Easter to you too.ReplyCancel

  • Bron - April 5, 2012 - 10:16 am

    Great photos Ursula! We are from Melbourne but are holidaying in Merimbula for the school holidays. We were fortunate enough to go along and see Connie on Sunday. Such a great experience!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 5, 2012 - 10:22 am

      Hi Bron,
      Thanks for the visit. She sure is a classic! Enjoy Merimbula. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - April 10, 2012 - 2:45 am

    how cool…the roulettes are brilliant on their own, then to board Connie…NICE!ReplyCancel

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