Columbine II – Update

Work continues on Columbine II in Marana, Arizona. (photo by Gregg T. Williams via Dynamic Aviation)
Work continues on Columbine II in Marana, Arizona. (photo by Gregg T. Williams via Dynamic Aviation)
Work continues on Columbine II in Marana, Arizona. (photo by Gregg T. Williams via Dynamic Aviation)

WarbirdsNews has another brief update on progress with Dynamic Aviation‘s evaluation of VC-121A Constellation Columbine II in Marana, Arizona. In a recent email to Columbine II’s owners, Dynamic Aviation’s Karl Stoltzfus stated, “We have found the airframe to be in quite good condition with very little corrosion but with the normally expected things that you would find with an airplane that was parked outside and subjected to extreme heat. However the engines needed a lot more work than we expected before we feel comfortable to even run them. We determined very early that we were not going to run them until we had carefully inspected them and made necessary repairs, to give us the best potential to have successful engine runs and ferry.”

WarbirdsNews asked Karl’s twin brother, Ken to clarify this a little, and he remains very positive that they are on track to meet their objectives in getting the aircraft flightworthy again. Basically the work continues with the engines, replacing hoses, cleaning fuel injector nozzles and the like. They are also pulling up the floors near the crew lavatory stations to inspect for corrosion and making sure the aircraft complies with all current Airworthiness Directives (airframe safety updates mandated by the FAA). When asked what happens if an engine simply needs replacing, Ken mentioned that there is a single spare unit available.  That is some comfort at least, but hopefully the spare won’t be required. Dynamic Aviation will of course need to make sure the engines run smoothly before formally confirming their purchase of Columbine II. Stoltzfus has the engine tests scheduled tentatively for the week of April 5th.

Work continues on Columbine II's engines in Marana, Arizona. (photo by Gregg T. Williams via Dynamic Aviation)
Work continues on Columbine II’s engines in Marana, Arizona. (photo by Gregg T. Williams via Dynamic Aviation)

In a recent posting on their website, one of Dynamic Aviation’s workers in Marana, Dan Gleason, made some telling comments about what it was like working on Columbine II. He stated very simply, “The morale was decidedly low when the team first arrived at the plane a week ago Sunday. The immensity of the task and the unfamiliarity with the plane conspired against us. But as we began to break the project down into bite-sized pieces, and as others came to lend their aid, prospects brightened and so did everyone’s spirit. That in turn boosted productivity, and after a week on the ground it began to feel as though we had a reasonable objective in front of us. I trust the progress will remain at a Vx climb, clearing all obstacles.” This just goes to show you what great teamwork they have on the project, and how well they are working together with Scott Glover’s crew from the Mid America Flight Museum who are also playing a big role in the project preparations.

A beautiful image of Columbine II in the  Arizona desert. (photo by Gregg T. Williams via Dynamic Aviation)
A beautiful image of Columbine II in the Arizona desert. (photo by Gregg T. Williams via Dynamic Aviation)

This sentiment reminded Ken Stoltzfus of when he and his brother Karl took on a massive project back in their youth. He recently posted, “As Karl and I were talking about Columbine recently he asked if I remembered how depressed he was back in 1966 when he and I were driven in a USN Jeep to the five C-47’s we and our father had bought at Litchfield Naval Air Facility near Phoenix, AZ. We knew they needed a lot of work but didn’t realize how derelict they actually were. Nothing firewall forward on three of them, landing gear and other hydraulics incomplete, oil tanks gone, tail gears incomplete – – and that was only the start. Fortunately for me, Karl is a real mechanic and I’m not, so I was more a helper and ‘go-fer but got to fly each one home to PA as they were ready. When I inspected Columbine in November last year I compared it to our ’66 project but added, “But most of the pieces are here.” There is true grit in this family and in this company. If anyone can get this aircraft going again, Dynamic Aviation clearly has the capabilities and the fortitude to do so. WarbirdsNews look forwards to hearing more as the project progresses, and of course we will relate it to you as soon as we have the details.

5 Comments

  1. That is awesome to see a wonderful piece of aviation history coming back to life, honestly hope all goes well.

    Another place for parts could possibly be in Australia as there are a couple in flying condition here, personally i know of one that operates out of Albion Park NSW, Australia at the museum.

    hope that helps

  2. Wish I was closer !!! Would love to work on the reciprocating engines again !!! Air Force vet for ten years.

  3. Sir, I’m a retired licensed mechanic, DAL. I’m interested in your project. I maintained the Wright 3350 turbo compound on the DC-7. Is this a 1049?

    • It is good to hear from you William. The aircraft is a VC-121A, which I believe derived from the Lockheed 749 series. That being said, the aircraft probably received many modifications during its service life, and later in its civilian flying career. Please do contact Dynamic Aviation directly if you’d like to talk to them about helping on the project. They have a separate website dedicated to this particular project with the relevant contact information at the following link… http://www.john2031.com/columbine/info/main.html

  4. I am an airline history ‘buff’ and anything aviation related. so it was good to see the efforts going on for this historic aircraft. Hope I get to see it up close some day.

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