It was exactly four years ago, when we wrote about the sole airworthy ´Connie´ in Europe – and, at that time, one of only two such aeroplanes in the world that were still able to fly – Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation, c/n 4175, HB-RSC ´Star of Switzerland´.
The first article, issued in April of 2019, brought some sad facts related to that aircraft. Just at that moment, the then owner of the aircraft, the Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA), announced that the legendary airliner would not be restored to airworthy condition, due to lack of necessary funds.
It all started in 2017, when – just a few days before the planned participation of the aircraft in Aviation Fair air show in Pardubice, the Czech Republic – the ´Star of Switzerland´ turned out to have serious issue with brakes and landing gear. The aeroplane was grounded and all its events and air show displays already scheduled for the rest of the season were cancelled.
At the beginning, it seemed that all that needed to be replaced were only wheels, tyres and brakes. Regrettably, further examination resulted with adding more items, such as the landing gear and its hydraulic and electric motors to that list. Then, after a few months, another issue was discovered – this time, there were wing flap rods that also needed replacement. However, there were no spare parts available anymore, so they had to be produced and then certified for use. That made the repair to be a long and complicated process.
However, the SCFA still expected the aeroplane would be ready to fly again during the 2019 air show season.
Regretfully, the final blow came in November of 2018. At that time chipping was discovered on the leading-edge wing spar meaning even more serious issue than those described above. Removing and restructuring of both wings was inevitable and was essential condition to make the ´Star of Switzerland´ fly again.
The estimated cost of restoring the ´Connie´ was as much as 20 million CHF and, despite all the amazing job the SCFA made then, it was impossible to raise the required amount of money. The Association has sent dozens of inquiries all around the world, including Lockheed Martin and even John Travolta, trying to get them interested in saving the aeroplane but without any success. In addition, the Breitling company – the main sponsor of the ´Connie´ – had also decided to withdraw from any aviation related activities.
Then, in June of 2019, a new solution emerged. An investing group from Bremgarten, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, decided to buy the ´Connie´ and cover the necessary repairs.
On the 1st July 2019, the aeroplane was officially taken over by the new owner. A few days later, the ´Connie´ was disassembled and transported by truck from Zurich to Bremgarten. At that time, the new owner – DIAG Aviation GmbH, as it was later disclosed – expected that process of fundraising and restoring the ´Star of Switzerland´ to airworthy condition would take up to three years.
Then, there came the covid outbreak and a lot has changed. And there was no new information about the ´Connie´ restoration process for almost four years.
Only at the beginning of April 2023, an announcement appeared on AvBuyer web page, offering the C-121C Super Constellation HB-RSC for sale. And, from information included in the offer, it could be concluded that little work was done on the restoration.
Without any doubts, the fact that DIAG Aviation finally withdrawn from the restoration of the ´Star of Switzerland´ is a sad news for any aviation enthusiast. It seems that the goal of making the ´Connie´ airworthy again is becoming increasingly unattainable.
However, the abovementioned announcement was active on the AvBuyer page for a very short time of just a few weeks. At the moment, there is an information that the aircraft ´is no longer available´ – does it mean there is another light in the darkness? Only time will tell.
Certainly, we will inform you if only there would be any new developments related to the ´Star of Switzerland´.