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Kansas City museum plans to fly 'Connie'

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 5:51 p.m.

KANSAS CITY — The National Airline History Museum is trying to raise $3.2 million to restore its Lockheed Constellation propeller-driven aircraft and retrace multimillionaire aviator Howard Hughes' record-setting cross-country flight in the airplane that transformed commercial air travel.

The Kansas City museum's Constellation, or “Connie,” is one of only a handful of the 856 that were built and is still airworthy — with a little work.

The museum is planning to fly it on April 17, 2014 — the 70th anniversary of the 1944 inaugural flight piloted by Hughes and TWA president and co-founder Jack Frye. The nonstop flight took 6 hours and 58 minutes, cutting the time of previous coast-to-coast flights in half.

“It was a major leap forward, which is why we want to do the flight because it was so significant in the development of the airline industry,” said John Roper, the museum's vice president of operations. “It was more than national travel; it ushered in global travel.”

The advent of jet airliners made the plane obsolete, and it stopped transporting passengers in the late 1960s.

The museum will make Hughes' journey with the aid of a copy of the original flight log, beginning in Burbank, Calif., and ending in Washington. Along the way, it will pass over the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and the Virginias.

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