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Based On This Video, This Super Constellation Could Have Been Named The Spitfire

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You’ll get fired up watching this Super Constellation’s exhaust flames as it takes off at twilight.

Flames on an airplane are usually the signal of impending doom. The combustion needs to remain internal and contained to the engines.

But Lockheed’s Super Constellation, the L-1049, was a four-engine aircraft that became a major component in commercial aviation fleets in the 1950s. Before jet-powered aircraft like the Boeing 707 took over, the Super Constellation was a go-to aircraft. In particular, it became a signature plane for Trans World Airlines.

The “Super Connie” is considered of the most elegant aircraft ever built. From it’s sloping dolphin-like nose to its distinctive triple tail, the plane looked sleek and unique.

The accompanying video was taken at the perfect time. The dusk takeoff of this Super Connie shows the four flames being emitted from the four engines.

So, what’s the deal with that?

The L-1049 went through numerous changes and adjustments but for the most part the aircraft’s four 18-cylinder radial engines remained the same – versions of the Wright R series.

Most of the Super Connies were powered by R-3350-972-TC18DA-1 turbo-compound engines that featured Recovery Turbines that had each engine’s exhaust gas flow through three turbines. That boosted horsepower by 550. The drawback was the visible flame from the exhaust pipes.

To prevent the flames from causing catastrophes, two-inch armor plating was placed under the stack. Problem solved. But the flames remained and that added to the spectacle of seeing a Super Constellation in flight.

** BTW, we’re joking about calling it the Spitfire.  We know that only one aircraft actually deserves that title.

Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.

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