Why Was This Plane Riding Down the Highway?

The restored aircraft traveled 300 miles from Maine to J.F.K. airport for New York's new TWA Hotel.

By Michele Laufik November 8, 2018, 7:16 AM EST

Photo: Aaron Flacke

Typically planes get stuck on the tarmac—not on Interstate 495.

But that’s what happened when the convoy carrying this 116-foot-long Lockheed Constellation airplane got a flat tire. The rare 1958 airliner was on its way to J.F.K. airport in Queens, New York, in anticipation of the opening of the TWA Hotel next year.

The restored aircraft is set to be turned into a bar and restaurant for the new hotel property, which will have 512 guest rooms, as well as a 50,000-square-foot event and conference center that can host up to 1,600 people.

But the airplane will surely be the centerpiece. And the 300-mile journey from Maine to J.F.K. is just part of its illustrious past. Commissioned in 1939 by TWA owner Howard Hughes, the Lockheed Constellation (nicknamed “Connie") was part of a new group of mainstream airliners that boasted pressurized cabins, allowing pilots to fly higher for a smoother, safer ride.

This “Connie” was able to break the transcontinental speed record on a flight from Burbank, California, to New York in 1946. It also served as Air Force One for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s. Its final passenger flight took place in December 1960.

After changing hands several times and serving various purposes, including airdropping marijuana, Connie was purchased in early 2018 by MCR and MORSE Development (the companies behind the new TWA Hotel) who partnered with Atlantic Models and Gogo Aviation to restore the plane to its original condition.

The restoration, which included tracking down authentic parts, installing flooring and windows, and outfitting the cockpit with controls was completed at Maine’s Auburn-Lewiston Airport. It was then disassembled and loaded onto trucks by Worldwide Aircraft for its epic voyage.

Watch the final leg of Connie’s travels below:

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