Iconic airplanes headed for scrapyard: Philippines Business Mirror

Posted: April 21, 2012 in Asia, Aviation & Airports (General News)
Tags: , , , , , ,

FOR a country that prides itself in having mounted the first commercial flight in Asia in 1941, and also the first Asian airline to cross the Pacific Ocean in 1946—transporting World War II troops from Manila to Oakland, California—it seems strange that the Philippines does not have an aircraft museum.

The Philippines does not have an aircraft museum.

The Philippines does not have an aircraft museum.

We need a place to display these aircraft to remind the world, or at least the younger generation of Filipinos, of our small but crucial contributions to the growth of aviation in our neck of the woods.
This little oversight could be redeemed if someone out there with a small capital could finance the acquisition of a score of “iconic” airplanes, now in various stages of deterioration at an airplane “graveyard” of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) compound.

Or maybe, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., with its deep pocket and social commitment, can buy these airplanes and make them part of its sprawling Entertainment City, now taking shape at the reclaimed portion of Roxas Boulevard.

Languishing in oblivion are scores of airplanes

Languishing in oblivion are scores of airplanes

Languishing in oblivion are scores of airplanes that Naia General Manager Jose Angel Honrado wanted to dispose of, seeing them as “eyesores and safety hazards.” He has given the owners 30 days before the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) imposes a charge of P32/square meter/month. He announced plans to eventually auction the airplanes.

Headed for the scrap yards—or the auction block—are five DC-9s, whose last owner is known only as “Orion”; four DC-3s; one Russian-made Antonov An-268; another Russian-made Yak-40; a Cessna 150 trainer-plane; and the most iconic of all, a Super Constellation, the plane that preceded the commercial jetliners of our age.

The “Connie,” as it was fondly called, is an American-registered plane, N427K, impounded by airport authorities in June 1988, allegedly for smuggling activities. It has been sitting at the compound since then. Its last owner was William “Winky” Crawford, who was reported to have died many years ago.

Weighed down by quarter-ton blocks of concrete to prevent it from being carried away by annual typhoons, this airplane has been ravaged by the elements. But part of its colorful history is that this is the airplane that was designed by legendary billionaire/genius/madman/Hollywood actor/lover boy Howard Hughes.

“It sure would be a shame if this aircraft gets cut up when there are folks out there who would like to give her a new home!” said one blogger.

The Miaa was recently granted legal ownership of the Super Connie N427K, after the failure of the owner to claim it. Another blogger said the plane was “one of the few remaining restorable Constellations and, in the past, there had been a number of organizations interested in acquiring the aircraft.”

“Hopefully, one of them is still willing and able to step up to the plate and provide a new home for this long-neglected veteran. Otherwise, the sad alternative is a date with the scrapman,” the blogger lamented.

The Super Constellation is the first pressurized airliner in widespread use. It helped usher in affordable and comfortable air travel.

Sleek and powerful, Constellations set a number of records. On April 17, 1944, the second production plane, piloted by Howard Hughes himself, and Transworld Airlines (TWA) President Jack Frye, flew from Burbank, California, to Washington, D.C., in six hours and 57 minutes at an average 330.9 mph (532.5 km/h).

On its return trip, the aircraft stopped at Wright Field to give Orville Wright his last flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight.

“The Constellation’s wingspan is longer than the distance of my first flight,” Wright was quoted as having said.

The airplane’s elegant appearance is a result of its shapely fuselage, designed like a dolphin; unfortunately, this proved very expensive and was eventually replaced by the tube shape of today’s airliners, which is more resistant to pressurization changes. And cheaper to build, at that.

The same type of airplane had been Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s personal aircraft during the Korean War and named Bataan. Registered as N422NA it was flown to museum headquarters in Chino, California, in late 1994 and then to the museum’s annex in Valle, Arizona, in early 1995, where the aircraft remains on display as Bataan.

The Connie was a propeller-driven airliner powered by four 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 engines and built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in numerous models, all distinguished by a triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage.

Many are now refurbished in mint condition and displayed in various museums from Australia to Switzerland.

Four of the Douglas DC-3 at the Naia, under four owners, are now under the mercy of the elements.  DC-3 is propeller-driven; its speed and range revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting impact on the airline industry and WW II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made.

The military version was designated the C-47. Many DC-3/C-47s are still used in all parts of the world. a total of 16,079 DC-3s were manufactured and as of 2011, 400 remained in commercial service. Initially, Philippine Airlines (PAL) acquired six DC-3s from US military surplus in 1945, until eventually it had a fleet of 48 DC-3s, which sewed up the far-flung islands of the archipelago to usher in widespread commercial aviation. PAL retired this indestructible aircraft in 1978, after 32 years of service, according to Jonathan Gesmundo, the airline’s editorial consultant.

The four DC-3s at the Miaa are now in a deteriorated condition, although they could still be restored, since cannibalized parts are available in the black market, according to airport sources. One locally owned DC-3 was bought by an African country in 2011. It was on its way to be delivered, but unfortunately crashed shortly after takeoff at the Naia…..

Read the full story at The Business Mirror……


SATURDAY, 21 APRIL 2012 19:02
RECTO MERCENE / REPORTER


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