Recently, there was quite the buzz on the internet about the possible return to flight of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential transport, the Lockheed C-121A Constellation known to the world as Columbine II. News reports stated that Dynamic Aviation, a global aeronautics solutions company based in Bridgewater, Virginia is evaluating Columbine II with the hopes that they can return her to flying condition, and potentially tour the magnificent machine on the air show circuit. We at WarbirdsNews felt our readers would be very interested in learning more, so we contacted Dynamic Aviation to gather further details.
As it happens, Dynamic Aviation has already come to our attention several times over the past year or so. We have mentioned the company prominently in previous articles due to their donation of a former US Army RU-21A Ute to the 138th Aviation Company Memorial in Orlando, Florida. Please click HERE to see these articles. Dynamic Aviation, with more than 650 employees and 140 aircraft operating around the globe, has a significant presence in the aviation world, but their founder, Karl Stoltzfus, has a keen sense for aviation history too. As a demonstration of this commitment to the preservation of our aviation heritage, one only has to look at the Douglas C-47 known as Miss Virginia, which they restored and maintain in pristine flying condition at their base in Bridgewater, Virginia.
The following conversation between WarbirdsNews (WN) and Ken Stoltzfus of Dynamic Aviation (DA) covers some of the information regarding the project as it currently stands…
WN: Who will be doing the airframe assessment on Columbine II.
DA: Karl (Karl D. Stoltzfus Sr.) is planning toward going out in a few weeks and spending several days there.
WN: If you can get the Connie ferriable, who will be doing the restoration… Dynamic Aviation?
WN: What prompted you to want to own/fly a Connie?
DA: Karl is motivated by the desire to preserve the airplane as a symbol of America’s values of Columbine II’s and President Eisenhower’s time in our history, as a basis for passing those values on to future generations.
WN: If you can get her into fully airworthy configuration, would you consider barnstorming the aircraft selling rides like the Collings Foundation does with their B-17 and B-24? People would surely be very keen on flying in a former Presidential aircraft.
DA: Well, it would probably need to remain in Experimental/Exhibition Category, which means it couldn’t carry passengers. Crew only. Karl would have it open at air shows and etc. for people to go inside it.
WN: Would you base the aircraft out of Bridgewater?
DA: Yes. They have a recent “overrun” which makes their runway safe for the Connie.
WN: What happens if you can fly the aircraft to Bridgewater, but determine a fully airworthy restoration is unviable?
DA: It will be on display in a hangar with Karl’s Travel Air 4000, Stearman, T-6G, Beech E-18 and C-47.
WN: What is your time frame for flying the Connie to Bridgewater if the team determines it’s possible?
DA: There are many variables such as whether they ferry it with the present engines and props. If they do, it could maybe happen within a year, and if not, certainly longer.
While visually in sound condition, and having flown last in 2003, Columbine II is missing a few components necessary to get her ferriable again. Dynamic Aviation is seeking out these items, as well as a number of other key parts for maintaining Columbine II in airworthy condition in the years to come. Matt Lam is Dynamic Aviation’s lead in this process. Dynamic Aviation has come up with a list of items they would like to obtain (see their wording below) and if you can help source some of them, Matt Lam would like to hear from you by e-mail at email@example.com
The success of this effort hinges on many persons helping in the way they can, and one need is for certain parts. Some must be obtained before a final decision is made to proceed with the purchase and preservation of Columbine II.
LOWER COWLING – One lower cowling is missing and the others are heavily dented on the front. Finding one (or recovering the missing one) is crucial to preserving Columbine II. Note that there were several styles of cowling used on Connies and it needs to be this type.
MAIN WHEELS/BRAKES – 17:00-20 Main wheels and brakes. These are a six-puck Goodyear single disk brake and were probably only used on Connies. See details here: Goodyear Brake (scroll down) – Goodyear Wheel Drawing – Goodyear Wheel PN
NOSE WHEELS – Nose wheels
EXHAUST – Three engines now have the short stacks and one the original type with one outlet on each side. The original type is desired but at the very minimum they all need to be the same.
ENGINES – While the engines have been run recently, they are high time. We’ll need several Wright R-3350-749C18BD, or military R-3350-75 engines for overhaul and spare parts. Airworthy engines with some time remaining would be ideal.
We need leads on Connie-related parts anywhere in the world, i.e. airframe, engines, propellers and more – – plus contact info for people who have skills that will be helpful in getting Columbine II back in the air.