First testflight by N749NL in full KLM livery


Photos © R.Leeuw

July 2nd (2004): the long awaited moment had arrived: N749NL was ready for its testflight !
Since Sep.2002 had the aircraft not been flown but had been meticulously restored by the employees of the Aviodrome (the Dutch Aviation Theme Park and Museum in Lelystad), in Hall 13 of the former Fokker Aircraft Industries hangar, at Amsterdam IAP-Schiphol.
While driving to the airport I saw 2 rainbows: that had to account for something ! Pluvius sent his blessings a number of times and ATC at Amsterdam made us wait a little longer as they were coping with a busy spell. But at last the moment had arrived and at approximately 11:35 (09:35 utc) the engines were started in a smoky celebration: what a wonderful sight !!


Arno van der Holst, Aviodrome's enthusiastic "boss-man" finds shelter under the nose of the "Dutch Connie" from the rain and savors the moment while the 4 rumbling radial engines are warming up.

N749NL with Captain's Roger Mills and Clint Fraser on the controls, depart their parking position at hangar 10, having had clearance to taxi to runway 22. Also on board were J.R Kerns and Pete Philips, minding the technical part of the Queen of the Sky.
Lots of attention has been focused on details like decals and paintwork, a splendid job.

AND THERE SHE GOES....!

People from the KLM hangars had gathered, in spite of the weather, to witness this historic moment and the "ooohhs" and "aaahhs" were heard among the small crowd when she took off. Esspecially for those who had spent so much time and energy in restoring the "Dutch Connie" to its former KLM splendour, they were more than pleased to see her take to the sky and congratulatory shaking hands and slapping shoulders was done all around.
The exciting part was not so much that she went airborne (two years ago N749NL crossed most of the United States and the Atlantic, so there was little question about her airworthiness today), but it more or less concluded a monumental job which was performed in great detail and no doubt can be considered an example for future projects such as this one.


The rain had stopped briefly, in respect of this Vintage Airliner taking off from runway 22 !
Click here for a Larger image (125 kB) .

From the start the crew intended to make one circuit and land. There was no reason to retract the gear at this stage as that could (and had been) tested in the hangar. It was just a run for the crew to get a feel of the plane, before further testing would be done a little further away from the busy airways at Amsterdam IAP.

N749NL is seen here in its usual steep approach, again for runway 22.


Click here for larger image (169 kB)

And there she is again, the crew performed an excellent landing and N749NL taxied to her parking spot at Hangar 10 as a matter of routine, no different from any airliner taking off and landing left and right at EHAM.... except for the much nicer sound of the Big Radials !.

 

The men talking planes: (left to right) Roger Mills (flies Single- and Big Props, but until recently flew Concordes as well !), J.R Kerns, Clint Fraser and Pete Phillips. William Groot (of the Aviodrome team) is watchful over his "baby", only half-heartedly releasing his Conny to these foreigners !

Having witnessed this event, the first flight after almost 2 years in the hangar, I drove off in a celebratory mood, my radio a little louder than usual. The weather could not spoil the feeling of what a great day it had been !
I thank the team of the Aviodrome -and Raymond and Arno in particular- for their hospitality and trust, and all those who worked on this project and made it come all true !!

More on the Constellation can be read on this website:
Connie through stages of restoration and its return to Lelystad
Connie's Comeback !", the arrival from the US at Lelystad in Sep.2002.
Historical background on N749NL by Michael Prophet
Big Budworm Sprayers, by Stephen Piercey (a task performed by N749NL in a previous "life").
Historical and technical data of the Lockheed Constellation
Photos of mine of other Lockheed Constellations can be seen at: Surviving Connies

The Aviodrome


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Created: 2-7-02 Updated: 8-7-04