06/16/2002. Remarks by Eric Olson: "This aircraft flew into Opa locka Airport (OPF) in 1963, supposedly on a ferry flight to Africa... (I may be wrong about Africa being the ultimate destination... for some reason Portugal comes to mind after nearly 40 years, but it was going trans-Atlantic anyway)... where it was to be turned into a restaurant similar to the other Constitution which was located in Nevada. (Lockheed only built two of them.)
The night before it was to take-off on the continuation of the ferry flight, while it was chock full of fuel, it caught fire on the Hangar One FBO ramp. The interior was gutted by flame, yet the exterior was relatively untouched... (your photo is a post-fire photo.)
There was a lot of intrique surrounding this airplane, including rumors that the copilot was eventually murdered and that the fire was set for insurance purposes, but I can't locate old newspaper articles at this stage. The county eventually took over the aircraft due to non-payment of tie-down fees and it was moved to a couple of different places on OPF before finally being moved over to the Sun Line Flying FBO property.
I was a young lineboy at Sun Line in the 1966-67 period (making minimum wage of $1.25 per hour,) I was the only one on duty working the airside ramp when the county literally showed up unannounced towing the Constitution to our ramp. I made a phone call to the "boss" to confirm that we were supposed to get the beast, then I was told put it where "I" thought it would create the fewest problems.
When the county backed it onto the grassy portion of our property, it's fate was sealed because the weight of the plane caused the main gear tires to sink into the soft Florida sand. In fact, the county had a hell of a time pushing it back onto the grass far enough to have the aircraft's nose clear the concrete taxiway. The Constitution sat in the same spot for years without being moved.
I used to climb up into the fuselage and cockit which smelled of musty burned out fabric and electrical wire, just to explore its innards. You gained access by climbing up on the nose gear tires and opening a full-sized door in the rear bulkhead of the nose gear wheel well. This was one huge aircraft! It was a double decker and the fire had caused the upper floor to collapse about midway between the cockpit and the wing. There was also a small door in the fuselage interior near the wing root section that you could open and crawl out in the wing to the engine firewalls to undertake maintenance in flight if you were the unlucky mechanic chosen to do so.
I never took anything out of the aircraft except some smoke damaged literature that was apparently to be handed out to passengers. I vaguely remember that it was from Lockheed, not the US Navy, but I could be wrong on that one.
By the time the Constitution was towed to Sun Line, someone had already taken a hacksaw and cut off the control yokes and removed most of the cockpit instrumentation. Eventually, the aircraft was taken apart, moved to a spot on NW 135th Street near the airport and reassembled on that site. (That was probably in the mid-to-late 70's.) Finally, the aircraft was scrapped (I don't remember the year). It was beyond any repair or reconstruction, even for a commercial venture like a restaurant."
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