A star was born in 1955, though nearly had her life cut short. After a life in the US military, “Connie” – a Super Constellation aircraft – was left on the scrap-heap in the middle of the Tuscon desert.
Former QANTAS engineer Jim Thurstan was part of the original restoration and rescue efforts after meeting a “crazy person” with a dream in 1990. His name was Bob De La Hunty, and is now the president of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at the Illawarra Regional Airport in Albion Park Rail.
Mr Thurstan didn’t think it was possible to bring Connie to Australia as they were “the last of the sophisticated piston engine aeroplanes” and very demanding.
Inside the cockpit I could see why. So many nobs, buttons and levers – unusually a chief flight engineer was also on board as part of piloting the voyage.
Co-pilot Ross Kelly is a recent QANTAS retiree and tells me the difference between an A380 and Connie is how manually operated everything is.
“No computers and good fun – a big boys toy. Lots of smoke and flames and oil, all the good stuff,” he said.
HARS is celebrating Connie’s 60th birthday milestone this Saturday and Sunday, opening the doors to their museum to the public. The beautiful bird will also be on display on the ground and in the skies, a spectacular display for all.
It coincides with Stanwell Park’s annual Festival of Flight, which will commemorate Lawrence Hargrave’s centenary and the evolution of flight at Bald Hill, Sunday.
EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: illawarramercury.com.au