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 sleek airliner.
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
TWA and the Constellation 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 Look magazine.
"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