Wheels up: Vintage plane takes flight from Wagga

Wheels up: Wagga City Aero Club president Geoff Breust with fellow members John Smith and Malcolm Robertson at the tale-off of one of two flying Constellations.
Wheels up: Wagga City Aero Club president Geoff Breust with fellow members John Smith and Malcolm Robertson at the tale-off of one of two flying Constellations.

A plane, only three in Australia can pilot, took flight from Wagga’s airport on Saturday afternoon. 

The Lockheed Super Constellation, “Connie” made its way home to Wollongong, after spending five months in the Riverina for a paint job. 

Wagga City Aero Club president Geoff Breust said it was “fantastic” to have the only flying Constellation in the southern hemisphere call Wagga home for a little while. 

He said there was one other flyable vessel in the world.  

“It used to be a four-day journey to London in that in the 1950s,” Mr Breust said. 

“Hopefully it will be flying for many more years to come.”

American success Howard Hughes created the Constellation to be in competition with Pan Am TWA. 

Reg Darwell, one of the few men who can pilot the plane, said it was Quantas’ front-line international aircraft until the 707s took over.

The Historic Aircraft Restoration Society owned plane returned home to Albion Park with its crew, followed closely by the men who keep it flying.

For Wollongong-based engineers Tony Eyre, Jim Marshall and Eric Farrell, Connie is more than just a restored plane. 

“For us it’s the flagship,” Mr Marshall said. 

“It’s not a walk down memory lane, we live in memory lane.”

The two eldest of the three engineers said they had been apprentices, working on the same planes until the last one left Qantas in 1963. 

The four-engine passenger aircraft was found in a “boneyard” overseas in 1991, riddled with birds nests, defecation and dust. 

In 1996 it returned to Australia, where it has remained.