If you happened to be driving along US interstate I-495 just outside Boston on Wednesday, October 10, you might have came across this convoy, carrying the wingless and rudderless fuselage of an old Lockheed Constellation L-1649A Starliner.
The convoy was forced to pull over to the side of the highway in order to fix a flat tire, giving drivers the chance to have a good look at a plane that might only be found in a museum.
In fact, the this particular one, painted with TWA colors (Trans World Air Lines), was on its way to JFK Airport in New York, where it’s being converted into a bespoke bar and restaurant for the upcoming TWA Hotel, as reported by CNN.
Before its journey to New York could take place, the 116-foot-long fuselage had to undergo restoration, a process that took several months.
Back in the 1950s, Lockheed’s Constellation range of four engine, propeller-driven planes were regarded as the pinnacle of luxury as far as cross-continental air travel was concerned. These were also the first airliners in widespread use to feature pressurized cabins, in turn allowing pilots to fly at greater altitudes, thus avoiding bad weather.
“That plane has been sitting at the airport for 30-something years,” stated Simon Graham, who owns the custom upholstery business tasked with restoring the plane’s interior.
“All of a sudden here was somebody telling me it was going to be a fancy bar at JFK. They said, ‘Can you make it look like 1958?’ And I said, ‘Hell yeah.'”
Graham went on to install a new subfloor and added imitation leather to the walls of the cabin. He also used Italian leather for the seats and on the flight deck.
According to CBS Boston, the plane isn’t capable of flying anymore, and it’s not due to the absence of its wings and rudder, as they were transported separately from the fuselage and will be put together in New York.
In fact, the aircraft has a very colorful history. It is one of only 44 Starliners ever built, making the rounds for TWA for three years before flying around the Alaskan wilderness as a bush pilot plane, says Tyler Morse, CEO of the company that’s building the TWA Hotel.
Then, by the 1970s, it was already breaking bad as a drug-running plane in South America, as it was fitted with giant cargo doors to “fly pallets of marijuana around,” stated Morse, who also says that this Starliner is one of just four of its kind left in the world.