Search This Blog


Columbine II - Mid-April Update & - Progress Report

Thx Louis
Forwarded message -  From: Louis Nève

From: Jean schoefs

Subject: Columbine II - Mid-April Update & - Progress Report

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."

Karl's twin brother, Ken was asked 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 had the engine tested on April 5th.

In August 2013, the internet lit up and abuzz over the "discovery" of one of President Eisenhower's Lockheed Constellations, reputed to have dodged the scrapper and presently languishing at the Marana Airport near Tucson, Arizona. Features on the plane have been popping up everywhere from NPR to Fox News, Local Arizona papers to the New York Daily News, all presenting the same "lost plane" narrative.

Far from being a "lost," this 'Connie' last flew about ten years ago and has been for sale for quite a while.
Fateful designation number of 8610 led to all presidential aircraft being assigned the " Air Force One" call sign.
The provenance of the plane is without question, it was indeed Eisenhower's Lockheed, a VC-121A named Colombine II in honor of the state flower of 'Mamie Eisenhower's' adopted home state of Colorado. It was also the plane that the president was in when the incident ocuured that caused all presidential flights to carry the -One flight call sign, Air Force One, Marine One, once even Navy One. The 1953 incident occurred when an Eastern Airlines commercial flight 8610 had the same call sign as this plane's (Air Force 8610). As a result, of the confusion caused to aircraft controllers by two planes with the same call sign, there was nearly a mid-air collision.
There seems to be some controversy as to whether this particular plane ever actually carried the call sign Air Force One as it was used as a back up plane from 1954 and the Air Force One call sign wasn't instituted until 1959. No matter, this is a historic plane worthy of preservation, in fact it's sister ship, Lockheed VC-121E "Columbine III" is restored and on exhibit at the Presidential Gallery of the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton Ohio.
This particular plane was delivered to the US Air Force as a Constellation C-121A in November 1948 and spent a year flying between MacArthur Field on Long Island, New York and Keflavik, Iceland. The plane was returned to Lockheed in Burbank, California for conversion to VC-121A specs in November 1949. In 1950 it was assigned to the capitol's Washington National Airport where is served as a VIP aircraft before being assigned to presidential duties in November 1952. The plane was demoted to secondary status in 1954 upon the arrival of Columbine III and served as the presidential backup plane until 1955.
The U.S. Air Force Lockheed VC-121E Super Constellation (53-7885, c/n 4151) at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The aircraft had been ordered by the U.S. Navy as the R7V-1 BuNo 131650 and was diverted during construction to conversion as a presidential aircraft. It was operated throughout the Eisenhower administration as "Colombine III" and replaced in October 1962 by a Boeing VC-137C. The aircraft is today on display at National Museum of the USAF.
Dynamic Aviation's efforts to resuscitate the former presidential VC-121A Constellation known as 'Columbine II' in Marana, Arizona. The team of engineers have been hard at work on the aircraft for the past month, and while they have achieved much, there is still some way to go before the company decides whether it can get the aircraft flying again for a ferry hop to Bridgewater, Virginia.
One big piece of news is that they have successfully run three of the four engines, though only at low power settings for the moment. The #4 engine is still dormant due to a recalcitrant fuel injection system. Dynamic Aviation's head, Karl Stoltzfus,"is in the process of sending many engine components out for overhaul including leaking or otherwise malfunctioning fuel master controls, fuel injector pumps, engine driven fuel pumps, fuel flow transmitters and more." This will help get the engines running smoothly again, and at full power.
Engine starts on "Columbine II".  - Three of the four R-3350s have run on the Constellation, though only at low power at present.

The aircraft's Curtiss Electric propellers are also proving to be troublesome, but not impossibly so. Before flying again, the aircraft also needs to be fully in compliance with all Airworthiness Directives for the type as well. Karl Stoltzfus and his crew are working hard to get the aircraft through all of these hurdles. According to Ken Stoltzfus, Karl's twin brother, "They have made progress with the aircraft hydraulic system and have run the flaps, but there are a lot of hydraulics on the Connie and they need to go through the whole system. They need a hydraulic mule for the project.
There is still a need for sources for R-3350-75 or 749C18BD-1 engines or parts, and engine cowling, especially the lower cowl/oil cooler scoop, and exhaust systems, either short stacks or with the collector – - anywhere in the world.
I'm sure you are looking for "the final word" on the purchase, but that is still to come. It should be clear to all that there is a lot of commitment on Karl/Dynamic's part, and that others such as Scott Glover and his guys have contributed immensely. And Dynamic's Brian Miklos has been an incredible leader and pace-setter for others. It really is quite a team effort! Nevertheless, it's a huge and complex project and there are still some significant challenges – - so we'll all have to wait a while longer!"
Presidential Transport Lockheed Constellation Columbine II (Image Credit: Town of Marana)

Eisenhower's "Columbine II" reflecting the rising sun in the Arizona desert. (Ken Stoltzfus photo)
Close on the heals of our mid-April update regarding the engineering work that Dynamic Aviation is performing on president Eisenhower's VC-121 Constellation Columbine II, we have news that the team has paused their work for a while as they await the return from overhaul of the numerous components they have sent off for rework. The team is still very much in the game, but it will probably be a little while before serious work resumes. That being said, Ken Stoltzfus has sent us some nice images showing the team at work on the aircraft, and we thought you would enjoy seeing them…
The key players behind resurrecting Columbine II – (from left to right) – David Oliver, former Dynamic Aviation pilot, currently Commemorative Air Force Squadron Operations Officer and Fifi captain; Scott Glover, Mid America Flight Museum; Karl Stoltzfus Sr., Dynamic Aviation founder and much more; and Neils Agather, CAF Board Chairman. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
A close up view of the flaps… (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
Another view of the technical and aesthetic marvels of the main flaps, with a pair of dormant Douglas transports to the rear. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
On of the engines undergoing maintenance. Note how much cleaner the engine bay appears after the hard work the team has been putting in! (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
A closeup of the complex hydraulic and mechanical jungle hidden beneath the Constellation's tail cone fairing. This maintenance nightmare is where the control inputs to the tail control surfaces channel through. The team has been hard at work ensuring that it all works as advertised, but it's clear what a significant task must be. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
A broader view of the tail area to add context to the previous image. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
The team is going through the brakes. The Connie originally had expander tube brakes but Columbine II now has the Goodyears. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)

Running one of the engines at low power settings. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
A fascinating view from atop the left wing. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
All four engines with the cowlings up… They act as very effective weather shields when working on the engines. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
Loading up the Dynamic Aviation maintenance trailer at close of day. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)
Columbine II sitting in the sun, awaiting the return of key components from the overhaul shops. Alone for the moment, but not for long. (photo via Dynamic Aviation)

Fateful designation number of 8610 led to all presidential aircraft being assigned the  " Air Force One" call sign.

Restored Lockheed Constellation "Columbine III" at the Presidential Gallery of the Museum of the US Air Force. (Image Credit: Museum of USAF)

Scott Glover and the team from his Mid America Flight Museum arrived in style aboard the museum's pristinely restored Lockheed Lodestar. (photo from Mid America Flight Museum)