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."
View also the History Brief .