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10th of October 1956

The Lockheed L-1649 Starliner made its first flight on this day. the 10th of October, in 1956. The last version of the Lockheed Constellation line of aircraft.

10 October 1956, the Lockheed L-1649 prototype lifts off from the runway

After a short, 2o second, engine run-up, at 16.15 local time, the prototype of the newest Lockheed aircraft gets airborne for what would be a 50-minute test flight.

The Lockheed L-1649 Starliner had some major improvements compared to its ancestor, the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation;

  • A new low drag wing which was 16% thinner than the wing of the L-1049

  • Wingspan increased to 150 feet (123 feet on the L-1049)

  • Wingtip modifications

  • Landing gear retracting into (inner) engine nacelle

  • Increased fuel capacity (9600 gallons / 36340 liters) Enough fuel for a 5670 nm (10.500 km) non-stop flight

Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1649 Starliner (registration N7301C) during a test flight. (Note the flight test pitot boom attached to the right wingtip.)

Initially Lockheed and launch customer TWA had planned don using turboprops but (amongst others) reliability was an issue, and the decision was made to keep on using Wright Duplex-Cyclone radial engines, The specific engine chosen was the Wright Aeronautical Division Turbo Compound 988TC18EA2 18-cylinder radial engines. A massive radial engine with a 3347 Cubic Inch (54.9 litres) displacement, rated at 2800 hp at 2600 rpm and 3400 hp at 2900 rpm as a take-off setting. Each engine drove a three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller with a 16'10" (5.13 meters) diameter and weighed 3745 lbs (1699 kg)

A total of 44 L-1649A Starliners would be build over a two year period (1957-1958). One airframe deserves a special mention here, the original L-049 (the very first Constellation) also became an L-1649A, a small overview of NC25600 development;

  1. Initially constructed as an L-049 Constellation

  2. Modified to L-749 Constellation

  3. Modified to L-1049 Constellation

  4. Modified to PO-1W Warning Star

  5. Modified to L-1649A

Specifications for the Lockheed L-1649A Starliner;

  • Crew: five

  • Capacity: 99 Passengers

  • Length: 116 ft 2 in (35.41 m)

  • Wingspan: 150 ft (46 m)

  • Height: 24 ft 9 in (7.54 m)

  • Empty weight: 91,645 lb (41,569 kg)

  • Max takeoff weight: 156,104 lb (70,808 kg)

  • Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350 988 TC18-EA-2 Duplex-Cyclone 18 cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 3,400 hp (2,500 kW) each

  • Propellers: 3-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 43H60, 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m) diameter constant-speed fully-feathering Duralumin propellers


  • Maximum speed: 377 mph (607 km/h, 328 kn) at 18,600 ft (5,669 m)

  • Cruise speed: 290 mph (470 km/h, 250 kn)

  • Range: 4,940 mi (7,950 km, 4,290 nmi) with 19,500 lb (8,845 kg) payload 6,180 mi (5,370 nmi; 9,946 km) with 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) payload

  • Service ceiling: 23,700 ft (7,200 m)

  • Rate of climb: 1,080 ft/min (5.5 m/s)

  • Wing loading: 86.5 lb/sq ft (422 kg/m2)

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