In 1939, Howard Hughes secured a controlling interest in TransWorld Airlines. His ambitions for an airliner that would successfully compete with Pan American led him to the Lockheed design team of Hal Hibbard and Kelly Johnson. By the summer of 1939 they had submitted a proposal for the Model 049 Constellation.
The design of the plane was distinctive and elegant featuring a porpoise-shaped fuselage and triple tail fins. After modifying the cockpit and cabin design based on Hughes' suggestions, the first plane was ready on January 9, 1943. The planes held 54 passengers and could travel at 310 mph for up to 3,000 miles.
On April 16, 1944, TWA received their first plane and Hughes and Jack Frye immediately flew it 2,400 miles from California to Washington D.C. The flight broke all speed records making it to the East Coast in 6 hours and 57 minutes. In Washington, the plane was immediately turned over to the military for use in WWII, but Hughes had boldly painted the plane in TWA colors and his statement did not go unnoticed. America had glimpsed the post-war future of commercial aviation.
Fifteen planes, designated C-69 by the US Army, were delivered for military use before V-Day. After the war, Lockheed wasted no time in converting their factories back to the assembly of civilian planes including the Constellation. The Lockheed Constellation marked an important moment in modern air travel. For the first time in history, people chose air travel over boat and train transportation largely due to the Constellation's ability to make non-stop coast-to-coast flights faster and safer.
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