We knew a decades-long process to make a Lockheed Constellation airworthy again was scrapped, but now we know how much it cost…and that amount is staggering.
Lufthansa Aimed To Make Lockheed Constellation Airworthy Again
Lufthansa once aimed for a fully-restored Lockheed Constellation to complement its Junkers Ju 52. The plan was to offer heritage/scenic flights in Germany on these historic aircraft.
Lufthansa acquired two Constellations in 2007 at an auction in the USA. It moved the aircraft to Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport (LEW) in Maine and brought in a team to fix the aircraft.
For over a decade, experts painstakingly worked to restore the aircraft. During some periods, more than 100 people at a time were working on it. These were aircraft engineering experts commanding pricey hourly rates.
But in 2018, Lufthansa suddenly scrapped the project. One of the Constellations was sold to the TWA Hotel at New York JFK, where it nows houses a cocktail bar. The other was packed up in boxes and sent to Germany.
Cost overrun was blamed for the project, but we never actually learned how much Lufthansa spent…until recently.
WGME, a CBS affiliate near LEW notes that Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr admitted that €150 million ($163 million) was spent on the failed restoration effort.
Ralph Pettersen, who manages ConnieSurvivors.com, a website dedicated to the Constellation, explained what might have happened:
“Everything had to be better than new, which meant that the airplane’s structure and skin was just about totally replaced…90% of the sheet metal had been replaced and upwards of 75% of the structure had been replaced. They basically replaced the entire wing structure and skin. Then they got offered a ‘free’ C-130J type glass cockpit that turned out to be a nightmare with integrating it to the rest of the airplane’s analog systems. In addition to the material and touch labor, they probably spent an absolute ton of money on engineering.”
The aircraft now sits in Germany, likely never to fly again. That itself is sad enough, but the fact that Lufthansa spent €150 million and essentially failed in its mission is even sadder.