In the stifling, mid-day heat of Saturday, March 19th the hard-earned dreams of a year-long effort saw the first post-restoration flight of the Lockheed VC-121A Constellation known as Columbine II. As the graceful, silver bird rumbled into the sky, a huge cheer rose up from the small crowd gathered to watch at the Marana Air Park in Marana, Arizona. The Connie was in the air for roughly an hour on that first flight as the crew evaluated her performance. A Beech King Air from Dynamic Aviation (Columbine II’s owner) flew in chase nearby.
Most of our readers will be well aware of this project’s significance. Columbine II is the only civilian-owned aircraft from the presidential fleet, having served in the early 1950s as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal transport during his first term in the White House. She was the first aircraft ever to fly with the call sign Air Force One.
Until early last year, she had been slowly fading away into the Arizona desert, but Karl Stoltzfus, founder of Dynamic Aviation, decided she had a better future, back in the air. So he and a dedicated team of his engineers, local volunteers and a similar contingent led by Scott Glover from the Mid America Flight Museum in Mount Pleasant, Texas have set about the task of resurrecting this majestic aircraft over the past year. There have been many obstacles, along the way, but at every step, the team has met the challenge.
The test flight’s have gone so successfully that Columbine II is now scheduled to depart Marana, Arizona on the first leg of her journey to Bridgewater, Virginia. In fact, the engines were turning prior to departure as these words were written (11:30amEST on March 21st, 2016). The Connie, with Dynamic Aviation’s King Air in chase, will be accompanied by the Mid America Flight Museum’s B-25J 44-30823 acting as photo-ship for the flight to the museum’s base in Mount Pleasant, Texas. She will stop overnight in Mount Pleasant, and if all goes according to plan, will depart for Bridgewater, Virginia the following day for the rest of her refurbishment. All of us at warbirdsnews.dev wish the team at Dynamic Aviation a safe and successful journey! We will of course be keeping you informed as events unfurl.
With enormous thanks to BoneyardSafari.com and Zdenek Kaspar for the use of their beautiful images in this article.