TWA - Constellation
The Lockheed Constellation, nicknamed the
"Connie", was financed by Howard Hughes for service in his airline, TWA.
Although Hughes is not credited with the design of the aircraft, his "Need
for Speed" fingerprints are found throughout the entire design of the
The arch shaped tapered fuselage and
increased horsepower necessitated the boon tail configuration for
stability at higher speeds and altitudes. This distinguished the airliner
from any other of it's time. The Connie became the standard fleet
aircraft for airline transportation companies around the world. The
constellation was President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Air Force One" and was
the darling of the military.
Howard Hughes was the only airline
president to personally take delivery and pilot the “Connie” airship off
the production line from Lockheed. Hughes was noted for climbing aboard
any unfamiliar four engine airplane, study the flight manuals, review the
cockpit and emergency procedures for hours, then take off and fly it
himself without incident. He was an extraordinary pilot who logged over
30,000 takeoffs and landings in his lifetime.
Hughes, who had controlling interest in
TWA, ushered the jet age into airline travel by purchasing the first fleet
of Boeing jetliners for service in the company. This large debt
precipitated proxy fights, internal turmoil and legal battles within TWA
that eventually forced Hughes to sell his interest.
Hughes received $546 million for his
shares of stock in TWA in 1966. With these proceeds, the beleaguered
Hughes moved his headquarters of operation to Las Vegas, Nevada where he
invested heavily in hotels, casinos and massive real estate holdings.
These investments proved to be of greater value in time than the value received
from the sale of his TWA stock.
By Bob McCaffery
In His Own Words
Hughes: In other words, up to the time of the Hudson bomber Lockheed
really had not achieved any success of consequence. It is interesting to
note that the three airplanes which accounted for Lockheed's success up
until the end of World War II were the Hudson Bomber, which might never
have become a reality without Hughes flight around the world; the P-38,
which in some manner had its origin from the Hughes conceived 2-engine
interceptor that Hughes-submitted to the Air Force; and thirdly, the
Constellation, which Hughes requested Lockheed to build. I'm sure the
story on the Constellation is covered elsewhere but, in short, Hughes took
the preliminary design to Consolidated and Rube Fleet refused it, and then
Hughes took it into Lockheed, and Lockheed finally agreed to build it with
Hughes taking all the financial risks.
Now this part of the story, however, and everything to do with Lockheed
should be handled with some consideration not to peak (sic) the pride of
Lockheed too much. In other words, naturally, if you give the Hughes
version of this thing they are not going to be very happy about it and,
naturally, their story would be somewhat different but I think the facts
sustain what I have just said. Of course I probably haven't given myself
any of the worst of it.
Jack Frye, President of TWA when it was acquired by
Hughes, did in fact have a somewhat different story which he provided in a
letter to the editor of
"As a reader of Look, I have noted with personal interest the
references made to me and TWA in your current series of articles - The
Howard Hughes Story.
A number of my friends in the aviation field have called my attention to,
and I have recognized as much myself, several gross errors appearing in
the article which refers to Mr. Hughes's introduction to TWA and that part
concerning me . . . .
The references concerning that part Mr. Hughes performed in connection
with the Boeing Stratoliner and Constellation are grossly exaggerated . .
. TWA had already secured bids from one manufacturer on the airplane in
question that ultimately evolved into the Constellation - before Mr.
Hughes ever showed interest in TWA or became its principal stockholder.
In conclusion, I would like to say that Mr. Hughes deserves credit for
having the courage to financially support the purchase of the Stratoliner
and Constellation after he purchased a stock interest in TWA