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Tue, Feb 14, 2006

Canada Wants To Hold Onto Its Last 'Connie'

Aircraft May Be Sold To Museum Of Flight

Canadian aviation and airline enthusiasts have taken up the cause to keep one of the country's last "Connies" in-country, instead of sending it south to a Seattle museum.

The Connie in question -- a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation first used by Trans-Canada Air Lines (which later became Air Canada) in the 1950s -- is the country's last postwar, trans-Atlantic piston airliner.

That's more than reason enough to keep the bird in Canada, said Toronto Aerospace Museum curator Paul Cabot to the London Free Press.

"Super Constellation airliners were an important part of the story of Canada's development as a nation," Cabot said. "We're adding our voice to the many Canadian airline retirees and aviation heritage groups across Canada opposed to plans to export this historically significant aircraft to the USA."

There is speculation, however, the Connie might be sold to Seattle's Museum of Flight. That's hard to confirm, though, as several bankruptcy proceedings mar the aircraft's recent history -- making it hard to tell who, exactly, owns the Constellation. The aircraft currently resides at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, where it is being dismantled to be shipped... somewhere.

Canadian aviation enthusiast Brian Munro told the Free Press the Connie is a symbol of the days when a ticket bought more than just a means of getting from one place to another.

"It was the epitome of luxury travel in those days," said Munro, describing such luxurious amenities as Royal Doutlon china, heavy silverware, and plush linens. "It set Canada apart and really put us on the map."

Many Canadians took their first plane rides on TCA Constellations, Munro added, stating the Connie should be preserved not as just a symbol of Canadian aviation... but as a work of art.

"The Canadian government spends so much money on so-called art. They spend $2 million or $3 million on something, (and) you stand back and try to figure out what it is," he said.

Should the Museum of Flight wish to buy the Connie, there are several hurdles facing it -- not the least of which is who they should make the check (cheque?) out to.

The Department of Canadian Heritage also reports if a foreign buyer wants the Connie, it will first have to meet the conditions of the Canadian Cultural Property Export and Import Act and obtain an export permit -- a process that might throw a wrench into US efforts to buy the plane.

Munro and Cabot, working hard to keep the Connie in Canada, likely wouldn't mind that a bit.



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