Monday, October 25, 2010

Remember Air Travel in the 50's?

This gem of a museum is located at the old downtown Kansas City Wheeler Airport. Back in 1985, the co-founders were sitting around and one commented on the Lockheed Constellation and what a beautiful aircraft it was. So, they founded a non-profit renamed the Airline History Museum. We both really liked this museum!

This DC-3, in a 8-window/24 passenger configuration, was built in 1941 and delivered to TWA. That airline had this plane in service from 1941 until 1952. In 1939, 90% of all airline passengers world-wide were carried on DC-3s! Over 13,000 of these planes were built...

This plane is fully restored inside and out. Originally it had been recovered from an airplane 'graveyard' in Roswell, New Mexico. During our visit, the engines had been removed so they could be rebuilt. This plane is still flying to airshows and taking passengers up for a real old time flight experience. We'll be watching for our opportunity! Laurie has never flown in a DC-3 and the last time that I flew in one was back in 1958...from Detroit MI to Erie PA to Buffalo NY. It was a real kick...lots of leg room too!

Only 103 Martin 404's were ever built, with 60 of them being delivered to Eastern Airlines and 40 to TWA. Martin built this as a replacement for the DC-3...but it never really caught on. This plane was delivered to Eastern in 1952 and in 1965, Southern Airlines bought it. AHM acquired the plane in 1990 and flew it until 2000, when they put it on static display. It has a fully refurbished interior, complete with a lavatory that has a skylight! There are only 5 surviving Martin 404s in North America. This plane was configured for 40 passengers.

This is one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built. A total of 856 Lockheed Constellation L-1049s, (civilian version), and the C-121s (military version) were built. This 'Connie' was one of the last three built in 1957. Due to an order cancellation, it sat in a hangar for 2 years. finally being acquired by Slick Airlines in 1959.

This Connie served as a Cargo for the military, race horses, bug sprayer, etc., until she was retired in 1975. The 'Save-A-Connie' organization rescued her from an airline graveyard in Mesa Arizona in 1986. It was bought at auction for the starting and the only bid of $4,000! It's new name is the "Star of America".

The co-founders and over a dozen members of the group spent 9 weeks in Arizona, making it flyable... Then it was shuttled to Kansas City where the real work began. It took over 2 years to finish the initial restoration.

The Constellation has a maximum range of 4,815 miles. This is the only airworthy civilian Constellation in existence. All others are ex-military aircraft.

The interior of the aircraft was completely renovated during the winter of 2002 - 2003. The cabin configuration is a mix of Connie order to show the various possibilities to AHM visitors.

Note: The aircraft boarded from the back... First class was located in the back because the ride was smoother and quieter behind the propellers. These planes also had a lounge area... Just a little different than flying on the 'cattle cars' we're stuck with today!

At the time of our visit, the staff was working toward a renewal of flight certification. This aircraft will be back in the air for appearances at various airshows!

As we finished our tour, (Laurie & I plus a guide), we came across this gentleman with his daughter and granddaughter. They were touring the facility as well. His TWA captains attracted our attention so we introduced ourselves. In 1946, after serving with the Army Air Force during WWII, Bill Graff joined TWA as a pilot. At first he flew DC-3s, then the Connie...but he also delivered the first Lockheed L-1011 for TWA. He ended his career in 1980 flying B-747's.

Bill had just turned 90 years old. Despite the wheelchair, he was as sharp as a tack... He even had his TWA logbook with him. He told us that his daughter had been a Stewardess and had flown on the Connie's a few times.

The Airline History Museum is much more than these 3 planes. There are 3 or 4 large rooms packed with airline memorabilia, parts, uniforms, etc. In January of this year, the AHM also took delivery of a huge Lockheed L-1011. The plan is to refurbish that aircraft as a static display. It's parked on the Tarmac right by the museum. The guides are volunteers and our guide was excellent!

The museum is located in Hangar 9 at the Downtown Wheeler Airport, at 201 Northwest Lou Holland Drive in Kansas City, Missouri. Phone: 816-421-341. For more information and a video of the Connie in flight, go to

1 comment:

  1. looks like a great museum - I like old planes and trains. I remember my first commercial flight out of Morgantown, WV to Baltimore on a DC-6