Memorabilia overload awesomeness in the main room of the TWA Museum
Kansas City is indisputably a TWA town. Most don’t know that the airline can trace its roots back to KC. Additionally, one of its two former KC-based headquarters is, in fact, now home to the one and only TWA Museum. It’s here at 10 Richards Road in Kansas City that Howard Hughes once officed, and where the airline witnessed explosive growth as passenger aviation quite literally took off.
Before we get too far, I must concede, TWA had nearly vanished from the skies by the time I was really getting excited about commercial aviation. And for that reason, unlike many of my local aviation pals, I don’t have the same fondness and sparkle in my eye when I talk about the airline. Still, I fancy myself a bit of an AvGeek historian and as such do my best to understand the excitement of others for this once-great airline.
The TWA Museum had been established a handful of years ago, but for some reason I never made the time to visit. I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Thankfully the TWA Museum carried through with the airline’s 1970s slogan: “You’re going to like us.”Last August, AirlineReporter brought exclusive coverage of TWA Wings of Pride’s arrival to Kansas City. Today we bring you another first. A time-lapse of N948TW being transformed from the standard American Airlines bare metal scheme back to its more popular and beloved livery: the inverted TWA double stripe.
Why inverted? Because when TWA received the plane – as a gift from its employees – they wanted a livery that said to the employees and public alike: TWA was reinventing itself from the inside out.
Wings of pride arrives home at the downtown KC Airport
This morning, I had the honor of welcoming an iconic piece of aviation history back home to Kansas City, MO. I watched the event unfold while standing on the roof of what was once an early Trans World Airlines (TWA) stronghold.
Looking into the sky, I could see a tiny red speck on the horizon that slowly grew into a beautiful red/white MD-83 (reg: N948TW). It was something unique, and certainly not common at the Charles B. Wheeler downtown airport (MKC).
Wings of Pride N948TW
Soon one of the most iconic (albeit nearly forgotten) planes to grace the Trans World fleet landed and taxied to within a few yards of TWA’s first headquarters in Kansas City, and former office of Howard Hughes himself.
The TWA Wings of Pride, after 27 years of service across the world, had finally reclaimed its greatest livery and arrived back to the birthplace of its former airline, courtesy of TriStar History and Preservation and their patrons.
The Star of America, seen at the Kansas City Downtown Airport preparing for engine runs – Photo: JL Johnson
This is the story of a Connie that no one wanted, a plane that was abandoned and mothballed numerous times throughout its history. While it has had a generally-tragic existence, with just a few bright spots sprinkled in, this is an adventure that continues to unfold. In fact, in 2014, this plane will begin a new chapter as it again returns to the skies.
In 1958, this Lockheed Constellation rolled off the assembly line in Burbank, California – destined straight for storage. It was the beginning of the jet age and suddenly airlines had little interest in these sleek, evolutionary, once record-setting birds. Indeed, even those like this 1049H model, which were built with the intent of easy conversion between freighter and passenger configurations, were a hard sell. The variant was canceled after just over 50 were built, this example being third from last. Prior to completion, the order for this plane was canceled, just the beginning of a tough existence for this elegant flying machine.
In September of 1959 after over a year in storage, it was converted to freighter, sold to Slick Airways, and assigned registration number N6937C (which it has carried ever since). For eleven years the plane ran freight with various carriers before being stored and later abandoned in Miami, FL. In June of 1971, it was seized by the airport for non-payment of fees. After being auctioned off it spent the next four years doing odd jobs, hauling military parts and even horses. Its last commercial use was as a sprayer in Mesa, Arizona, where it was equipped with chemical tanks and large spray booms.