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The Story of the Ace Freighters Lockheed Constellation That Tipped

On July 2, 1966 this Lockheed Constellation (G-ALAL) had some weight issues. Photo by Ken Fielding.

On July 2, 1966 this Lockheed Constellation (G-ALAL) had some weight issues. Click for larger. Photo by Ken Fielding.

Aviation enthusist Ken Fielding shared his photos with me about a Contellation in 1966 that had some weight issues and he was lucky enough to take some photos. Below are descriptions from Ken’s Flicker Account

Oops!!! The ramp at the old Liverpool (LPL) terminal sloped away from the terminal quite sharply. This aircraft arrived from Belfast (BFS) with around 8,000kgs of cigarettes (although it was actually over 11,000kgs… but that’s another story!).

It was 3 tonnes overweight and also out of trim. I met it on arrival and as it stopped and they cut the engines, the nosewheel lifted about 6″ off the ground before slowly settling back on the ramp. I collected the loadsheet and as I walked back to the office I was wondering what would happen when the 4 crew got off the flight deck and our 6 hulking loaders jumped on the back to start the offload. At that moment there was a sickening crunch and thud and I turned round to see it on its tail.

Ropes are an interesting idea, but probably not going to work. Click for larger. Photo by Ken Fielding.

Ropes are an interesting idea, but probably not going to work. Click for larger. Photo by Ken Fielding.

The idea here was to sling a rope over the tail with 6 loaders hanging on to it and use a rope on the nosewheel leg tied to a tractor to put it back upright… Until the flight engineer suggested that if it tipped too quickly the nosewheel leg could be pushed up through the flight deck floor!!! So on to ‘Plan B’.

The fire department comes to the rescue. Click for larger. Photo by Ken Fielding.

The fire department comes to the rescue. Click for larger. Photo by Ken Fielding.

Enter the Airport Fire Service with some inflatable bags which were used after some of the cargo had been offloaded. Very gradually the aircraft came back on it’s nosewheel.

The aircraft was back in service later the same afternoon after Ace Freighters ferried up two tail fin bottoms to replace the crushed ones, and a replacement radio aerial cable which had snapped.

When we check weighed the cigarette cartons, we found they weighed almost 15kgs each instead of the 10kgs it said on the manifest.

Some additional information that Ken shared via email about the incident: 

Just as an addition to this, there was a national dock strike in the UK at the time and the aircraft had been flying backward and forward between Liverpool (LPL) and Belfast (BFS) twice a day for about 10 days bringing in the same load.  Personally, I think the crews were well aware the aircraft was overweight, however, on such a short trip it wasn’t over the maximum structural take off weight although it was well over the maximum zero fuel weight.
Another point about aircraft trim.  Constellations, like DC-4′s, were very nose heavy when they were empty and very tail heavy when fully loaded.  I recall that this aircraft always carried 5 x 50 gallon oil drums lashed down at the back of the aircraft.  These were always filled with water before an empty ferry flight and (supposedly) emptied again before the return trip.

Thanks Ken for sharing your story and photos!

11 comments to The Story of the Ace Freighters Lockheed Constellation That Tipped

  • Mark C. (OKC)

    Wow. What a reality show this would have made. Thanks for sharing.

  • Gerard McCarthy

    Great story. As a kid growing up in Gander (CYQX) post WW2 I fondly remember all the Connies that came thru on a technical stop!

  • Drew V

    I always wondered how those Connie’s kept from falling over even when its flat! I bet if they had to remove an engine for maintenance it would flop back just like shown.

    Most cargo aircraft have a temporary support that is put on them just to make sure this doesn’t happen.

  • Great post!

    Unfortunately that Connie wasn’t the last freighter to tip on its tail. :-)

    Cheers

    Owen

  • The Connie sure was a beautiful plane…

  • MissyKramer

    ITS not IT’S.

  • James

    In my early childhood in the 1950s I still recall flying from Johannesburg to Cairo in a DC4 (2 DAYS! with sleepover in Khartoum). On the return trip we flew in a Constellation. I recall sitting at the airport before we boarded the Constellation and being enthralled with this rod-shaped wedge, ie a “pole” from the ground that either wedged against the underside of the fuselage under the middle fin or screwed into a hole that was there precisely for this thing. When we started to board, this pole was removed/unscrewed. On a subsequent trip a few years later, we flew from Johannesburg to the Middle East and back in a Comet – the last safe flight. But that’s another story..

  • colin jones

    There is no mention of them bast at baggington airport as i worked on them till closed in 1966

  • I remember the last Ace Connies at Coventry, some prat set fire to one. One of the most beautiful aircraft ever built

  • jay

    One solution I heard for this happening: Get the entire shift crew. One at a time, each person walks from the back to the the front. Little by little, the CG changes slowly until the plane settles gently onto the nosewheel.

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