Lockheed C-69 Constellation (Model L-049) - United States, 1945
Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed C-69 Constellation (Model L-049) Long-Range Transport / Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA).
Entry last updated on 4/19/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Lockheed C-69 Constellation would earn more fame as a passenger transport than in its militarized counterpart.
The Lockheed Constellation series of aircraft was a successful design that initially began as a militarized transport, appearing in limited numbers towards the end of World War two, that gained more fame in the civilian transport airliner role soon after. The system was based on the military concept of long-range transport and refined design, incorporating various elements into the fold that would produce one of Lockheed's most memorable models.
The Constellation in any form was powered by four Wright radial engines. Crew accommodations amounted to four personnel and passenger seating varied - depending on model - from 60 to 80. The design of the aircraft sprouted to fulfill a need in the burgeoning airliner market, particularly with Pan American Airways along with Transcontinental and Western Air, for a long range passenger transport system that could truly be used for lengthy journeys throughout the United States. Initial models were flown as early as 1943 though the end of the war saw just 22 examples delivered for military use. By then, production lines had already begun focusing on the domestic transport market with the arrival of the 60-passenger L-049 model. From then on, the series would see an increase to the passenger count, numerous powerplant refinements and the lengthening of the fuselage to produce the "Super Constellation".
The base L749 passenger model allowed for a crew of four personnel and an additional 81 passengers. Powered by four Wright 749C-18BD-1 Double Cyclone air-cooled radial engines, the aircraft could achieve top speeds of over 340 miles per hour and reach a service ceiling of up to 24,000 feet. The fuselage design was taken into account to provide for a super-refined and streamlined look with the most identifiable feature becoming the three fin tail assembly. One revolutionary design element became the use of a tricycle landing gear system that offered up passenger comfort when taxiing and landing and returned better on-ground performance as a whole.
Beyond the passenger models, the Constellation lived on in militarized electronic warfare and reconnaissance variants. The long-range capabilities and internal carrying capacity opened the series up to some specialized roles that became the PO-1 and VW-2 "Warning Star" systems that went on to become a grouping of EC-121 electronic warfare systems (Constellation systems were later redesignated to C-121). Global coverage assigned to these systems included patrols over the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in a Cold War defense role. In the end, Lockheed produced yet another winner thanks to its experience in wartime design. This time, however, the firm made its mark with a passenger transport that became a revolutionary design thanks to its long-range capability.