Restoring a Constellation.Mikey's Camarillo Diary
I have always been interested in the Lockheed Constellation since childhood. My enthusiasm was fuelled in my teens by Lanzair's operations out of the UK and by Stephen Piercey reports of their and Quisqueyana's operations in Flight International magazine. Having enjoyed a flight on the MATS Connie out of Geneva in 1998 I was very excited to hear about the formation of the SCFA (Super Constellation Flyers Association) in 2000 and signed up as a member immediately.
Just days before Christmas 2003 I received an email from Francisco Agullo of the SCFA, asking for volunteers - skilled and unskilled - to work on their Super Constellation N73544 to get the aircraft in tip top condition in readiness for its ferry flight to Switzerland on April 26th 2004. I had already turned down an opportunity to fly in the SCFA Connie on all of the stages of the ferry flight from Camarillo to Basle due to time constraints. Currently the flight plan it to depart Camarillo on 26th April routing: Omaha (NE), Manchester (NH), Stephenville (Newfoundland), Keflavik, Prestwick and Le Bourget before arriving at Basle-Mulhouse on 8th May 2004.
I gave Francisco's request carefully consideration which took all of ten seconds and made my decision - I was going to Camarillo to help (in my limited non -technical way) get the last airworthy Super Connie to Europe. I replied to the email saying that although I had no aeronautical skills whatsoever, I did have tons of enthusiasm and a very understanding wife!
5th January 2004
Saturday 21st February 2004
Sunday 22nd February 2004
Monday 23rd February 2004
Tuesday 24th February 2004
Soon I was joined b Jim Paules who had served for over 30 years at AA at their engine overhaul centre in Tulsa and later LAx so he knew a thing or two about the Wright. For a man of 80+ he was incredibly dextrous and full of strength and energy. After much cursing No 1's panel was removed for Jim to peer in and see what was occurring. No major issues. I assumed I had done a ok job as he set me off on the same exercise on No.2 only this had two panels, a weather panel and then the actual cowling. By now I knew what I was doing...sort of! and managed to remove the panels with the minimum of fuss.
After lunch we were joined by Daniel Cuvier who had to retire early from the USAF and is now working for the local Civil Air Patrol as well as at the CAF Museum. What looked on the face of it to be a five minute job took all afternoon as I bundled together a group of cables which involved me contorting myself into the smallest space deep in the guts of the No.1. Job completed we loosely put the panels back and exhaust parts in anticipation of three inches of rain forecast for the next day.
I rounded off the day with a look inside the Connie, which was still carrying a small CHS display as well as nine airline seats up front. Dan discussed the installation of 40 reconditioned seats in the plane for its epic journey to Switzerland and I satisfied one of those things you just have to do - I sat in the left hand seat. If I had died then I would have died a happy man. I went back to my hotel room aching all over and wondered how to get the grime out from under my fingernails.
Went to Civil Air Patrol with Dan and then went on the look at the air traffic control tower at Camarillo.
Wednesday 25th February
Down to Yanks to see some planes, their workshop was great with a bent Lockheed Electra Junior all polish and chrome. Again my accent won and I was allowed out on their ramp to photograph an old Rich International C46 and a B25 in Aussie markings. Some nice ex MASDC junk there too. Ontario CA looked nice on the way down so I decided to stop off first for petrol which was a drama so I acted all silly old Brit and people helped me out. I got far too much gas $20 got me a full tank ($2.07 per gallon =£1+!) Nice architecture in Ontario but I realised I was the only non-Hispanic in town so departed back the way I came. I tried to get off the freeway in search of malls a few times but no luck. Back to the hotel by 4pm with a lot of time to kill. It's pissing down and has been all day. Thank God I went to Chino!
Thursday 26 February 2004
Friday 27th February 2004
Couldn't sleep again. Up
breakfasted and then over to Starbucks for a good coffee. Went over to
the airport and sat around the Connie for a while. No
Departure! Las Pasas to Mign the PCH Route 1 all the way to LAX, a beautiful drive. Far better than 101/405. One hold up where they were doing some filming but got to Alamo by 4.30pm. Loads of time to kill at LAX which went quickly. I hour late leaving. World Traveller Plus was fine apart from the Daily Mail. Slept ok on the plane. Met by my lovely wife and baby at LHR (Mary typed this for me as you can see). Cold in the UK.
1. Le Mans Diary 2000 Five Go Mad at La Sarthe
2. Gentlemen and Cads The Terrible Turbo versus the Sublime Supercharger.
3. Hidden Brooklands. Poking around in the undergrowth.
4. The Mysteries of the Lucas Wiring System Explained. Well, you've got to have a system....
5. The Petrol head's Pilgrimage. USA Road Trip summer 2001
6. Brazilian Car Stereo. Choose your weapons.- Bob Marley at 50 Paces.
7. Restoring a Constellation. Never mind cars, Mike rebuilds airliners. - (admittedly not single-handed.)
8. Allan Winn - Breathing Life into Brooklands. Eoin Young interviews a fellow Kiwi
9. Son Of Mindless. The legends are true! A 4WD monster lurking in the Fens
10. Brooklands Double Twelve 2008. Event of the year.- Or how to compete against your own car..
11. Farewell to the QE2. Last voyage of a great liner