Constellation mishap
Initial and ongoing difficulties

The Constellation suffered two accidents in 1946 which delayed its career as a passenger airliner. On 18 June, the engine of a Pan American aircraft caught fire and fell off the wing. The flight crew was able to make an emergency landing with no loss of life. However, on 11 July, a TWA Connie fell victim to in flight fire, taking the lives of five of the six people on board. The accidents prompted the suspension of the Constellation's airworthiness certificate until Lockheed could retrofit the design to avoid repeats of the problems.

The Constellation, like other piston engine-powered airliners  of the day, e.g. DC-7, proved prone to frequent  engine failures, earning it the nickname of the "world's finest three-motor airliner" in some circles.

c/n 4801 VH-EAM L-1049H of Qantas receiving attention at Bangkok in November 1961

c/n 4825 HI-542CT L-1049H of AMSA during a number three  engine change at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in  January 1991 

c/n 4543 CF-TGD L-1049C of Trans Canada Airlines during an unplanned stop
at London Heathrow to replace number four engine (in the foreground) in 1959.


The following graph shows how many Connies of the total 856 aircraft (civil and military) built were lost in accidents between 1943 and 2009:

 Model Aircraft built
 Number of accidents
 Fatalities  Survival rate in %
 88 31  530 16
 145 41
 529 13
 579 113  1063 24
 1649 44
 9 163
 Total  856 194  2285  22  
                                                                                                                                                                               Source: Aviation Safety Network

This means that every 5th  Connie was written off due to accidents and 2285 people lost their life.

Photos of Connie mishap

c/n 2549 G-ALAL 749A of Ace Freighters in an unusual position for unloading its heavy freight.

Photo taken at Liverpool in 1965, Bob O'Brien.

 c/n 4002 N6202C 1049 of Happy Hours  Air Travel Club. This flight  ended not in the way the name might suggest. The Connie  was on a flight from Freeport, Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida via St Petersburg, Florida and on approach to FLL the aircraft suffered a power loss on all four engines due to fuel starvation, and a forced landing on open country was made. Damaged beyond  repair at Tamarac, FL at 19.25hrs (local time) on 5 August 1973, photo Werner Fischdick.
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c/n 4145 131644 R7V-1 1049B U.S. Navy flew with 80 people on board from Christchurch, New Zealand, on its first flight of the 1970 - 71 season "Operations Deep Freeze". After making six low passes over the field of McMurdo (William Field),  the C-121J attempted  to  land in zero visibility, in a snowstorm with winds up to 40 mph and in 90 degrees. crosswinds. The starboard wing  was torn off completely and the tail unit broken. There were only slight injuries to five on board. 8 October 1970, Zoggavia Collection.


c/n 4145 131644 R7V-1 1049B U.S. Navy

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c/n 4418 WV-2 1049A U.S. Navy while making an instrument approach to Argentia, Newfoundland, the aircraft crashed into the sea in Argentia Bay, short of the runway, killing 11 of the 29 crew, on 18 October 1958 (TT: 1'592 hrs.) , Zoggavia Collection.


c/n 4441 1049A EC-121R 67-21476 U.S. Air Force used by AFSC-ADTC was involved in a landing accident  at Otis Air Force Base, MA on 24 January 1969, Zoggavia Collection.


 c/n 4602 1049G D-ALAK Lufthansa. The Super Constellation operated on a flight from Hamburg to Rio de Janeiro. The crew were cleared to descend from 4200m to 3000m when 20min out from Rio de Janeiro. They were to maintain 3000m to the KX NDB. Over KX they were cleared to descend to 900m. Galeao Approach was contacted and normal position reports were made. The plane descended over Guanabara Bay under rainy conditions and struck the water with the nose wheel. The crew then presumably tried to continue the approach, but the Constellation crashed near Flecheiras Beach, short of the Galeao runway.
c/n 4648 1049G N7121C TWA. This Connie was damaged beyond repair during a pressurization leak test in a hangar at Idlewild airport, New York at 11.45 hrs (local time) on 25 June 1959. Severe damage to front fuselage before wing. TT: 10'833 hrs., Zoggavia Collection.


c/n 4851 1049H N9740Z of Slick Airways (painted in full  Quicktrans colors) was on a cargo flight from Albuquerque, NM to San Francisco when it struck the approach lights 350m short of the runway threshold, climbed to approx. 60m, then struck the runway with the port wing tip, veered of the runway and crashed about 600m beyond the threshold at 12.07 hrs (PST) on 3 February 1963, killing four of the eight occupants. Photo, Clinton H. Groves Collection.

c/n 1026 1649A N8081H of Willair International was on a training flight and during the final approach, the starboard undercarriage struck the 18cm (7 inch) lip of a blast pad approx. 30m (102 feet) short of the runway of Stockton, CA airport on 28 September 1968 at 16.13 hrs. (local). The Starliner undershoot the runway and was substantially damaged when the starboard undercarriage collapsed on touchdown and a fire broke out in the engine bay, both starboard propellers bent. Aircraft repairable, but in fact was scrapped instead late 1968.


Video links of Connie accidents

Constellation belly landings. The video shows a TWA L-1049 and an Avianca L-749A landing with retracted landing gear.

FAA crash test with L-1649A. An ex Transatlantica Argentina Starliner LV-GLI was used for a simulated crash test at Phoenix Deer Valley airport, Arizona on 3 September 1964.