Super Connie Field Trip

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CF-TGE as it sat in EAC’s former B-52 hangar at Griffiss, NY on July 23, 2009. (Larry Milberry)

On July 23, 2009 a small group met at the Empire Aero Center on the former Griffiss AFB in Rome, New York. The first couple of hours were a bit like a tail gate party, as we waited in the EAC parking lot for folks to trickle in from distance points. So what was going on?

Bob Bogash and Kevin Lacey -- kingpins of the TCA Super Connie project. (Ken Swartz)

Bob Bogash and Kevin Lacey — kingpins of the TCA Super Connie project. (Ken Swartz)

In the postwar years Trans-Canada Air Lines was planning for a busy future. At the time, TCA’s North Star’s were suitable for its domestic and USA/Caribbean services, but were outmoded on the North Atlantic. Something bigger and speedier was needed for services to London, Paris, etc. The best airliner on the market was the Lockheed Super Constellation, a stretched version of the well-proven wartime Constellation. First flown in October 1950, the “Super Connie” was ordered by TCA, which accepted its first example in February 1954. In time the company operated 14 of these beauties, the last of which served into 1961.

Some of the tailgating gang in EAC's parking lot: Ron Rhodes, Jay Fancott, Homer Campbell, Kevin Lacey, Bob Bogash, Clint Ward, Dave Robertson and Ken Swartz. Note Ron's original TCA carry-on bag and the original TCA Super Connie model that Bob is holding. Dave holds a Super Connie technical manual -- he donated both model and manual to the CF-TGE cause. (Larry Milberry)

Some of the tailgating gang in EAC’s parking lot: Ron Rhodes, Jay Fancott, Homer Campbell, Kevin Lacey, Bob Bogash, Clint Ward, Dave Robinson and Ken Swartz. Note Ron’s original TCA carry-on bag and the original TCA Super Connie model that Bob is holding. Dave holds a Super Connie technical manual — he donated both model and manual to the CF-TGE cause. (Larry Milberry)

One of the 14 was CF-TGE, delivered in October 1954. Put out the pasture at Dorval, it languished for a couple of years. Then in June 1964 it began a new career with Don McVicar’s World-Wide Airways. It plied the North Atlantic on tourist charters until World-Wide folded.

CF-TGE now spent decades in the shadows — used for spares by Nordair, then dismantled and hauled away to decay in rural Quebec. Happily, it was resurrected by propliner enthusiast Phil Yull. Phil arranged to get ‘TGE to Ontario, refurbished and on display as a centre piece at the Constellation Hotel on Toronto’s airport strip. This era was short-lived, however, as new hotel management ordered ol’ CF-TGE removed. Next stop was a small lot along Derry Rd. on the airport’s northern edge. There sat the old workhorse, struggling along as a bar and restaurant for several years. But the writing was on the wall and that era also had to end.

Eventually, the Seattle-based Museum of Flight acquired CF-TGE and arrangements were made for it to be restored for museum display. At long last, its bones were gathered in 2007 from a dusty Mississauga storage yard and trucked to EAC. Under the watchful eye of the Museum of Flight’s Bob Bogash and EAC’s Kevin Lacey, ‘TGE emerged in the spring of 2009 wearing its fabulous Trans-Canada Air Lines colours.

 Ron Rhodes grabs Don Cameron to autograph his copy of The Wilf White Propliner Collection, which features CF-TGE on the cover. (Larry Milberry)

Ron Rhodes grabs Don Cameron to autograph his copy of The Wilf White Propliner Collection, which features CF-TGE on the cover. (Larry Milberry)

So three guesses what people were doing in the EAC parking lot on July 23. First to pull into his parking spot was Bob Bogash, a long-time Boeing tech rep who had spent several years helping Nordair introduce Canada’s first 737s (see Bob’s write-up of the reunion here). While Bob was checking out Nordair pilots and tech staff, the shiny new 737s were working side-by-side Nordair’s fleet of Super Connies. Bob was a natural airplane fanatic and always had loved the great propliners, so who would be surprised that years later he was involved with ‘TGE. Next to arrive were aviation researcher and journalist Ken Swartz and I. We had hit the road at 0500 that day and, after the odd bit of panic about getting there, were only 5 minutes off our 1100 ETA.

The Bogash-Lacey tour group with CF-TGE: Larry Milberry, Shirley & Don Cameron, Kevin Lacey, Jim & Lorna Dawes, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell, Paddy Szrajer, Bob Bogash, Jack & Lila Deonaraine, Clint Ward, Jay Fancott, Dave Robertson and Ron Rhodes. (Ken Swartz)

The Bogash-Lacey tour group with CF-TGE: Larry Milberry, Shirley & Don Cameron, Kevin Lacey, Jim & Lorna Dawes, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell, Paddy Szrajer, Bob Bogash, Jack & Lila Deonaraine, Clint Ward, Jay Fancott, Dave Robinson and Ron Rhodes. (Ken Swartz)

This visit would be doubly interesting for me since, back in 1986, I had spent a week at Griffiss working on a story about SAC’s 416th Bomb Wing. This was no ordinary field trip, since it had ended on a dream high note — getting to ride along on a 7-hour mission in B-52G 59-2584. So … a glance around today’s Griffiss quickly brought back some memories. There were also memories of having photographed CF-TGE at Malton airport in the late 1950s, watched it sift beautifully in to land on Runway 23, enjoyed the roar as it did engine run-ups, and watched as it taxied around with its moaning brakes.

Milling around the fabulous

Milling around the fabulous “Super G”. (Larry Milberry)

Gradually others began arriving at EAC. Third on scene was Clint Ward, who had started in the RCAF in the early 1950s, moved on to TCA and got to fly Super Connies. Homer Campbell pulled in from Brighton, Ontario; Jim Dawes from Montreal — two fellows who had been technical wizards on Super Connies in Nordair days. TCA Super Connie pilot Dave Robinson showed up with sidekick Jay Fancott, both of Montreal’s West Island. Don Cameron drove in from Ottawa — Don had flown Super Connies for World-Wide. Another who made the long-distance drive was Paddy Szrajer, a long-time MCA and Nordair pilot, who had flown Super Connies anywhere from the Arctic to Biafra. Ron Rhodes arrived from Waterloo. Having flown the Atlantic in a TCA Super Connie when he was a boy, Ron just had to have a look at what had been done to ‘TGE. Air Canada sent senior tech man Jack Deonaraine along as its historical rep. So we were an eclectic little bunch, and made to look a bit better by the presence of several sharp-looking and quick-witted wives/handlers.

Day's end included a visit to B-52G 58-0225, a reminder at Griffiss of Cold War days gone by: Bob, Jay, Dave and Jim. (Larry Milberry)

Day’s end included a visit to B-52G 58-0225, a reminder at Griffiss of Cold War days gone by: Bob, Jay, Dave and Jim. (Larry Milberry)

It took a good two hours of “tail-gating” in the parking lot before everyone had drifted in. Time flew by as the stories poured out, autographs were collected and photos taken. Finally, Bob and Kevin got everyone briefed and into the EAC hangar. There — a sight to water the eyes — was a glorious-looking CF-TGE. Now it was time to kick a few tires, let the memories really get pouring out, and get up the stairs for a final visit to the cockpit.

None of the old-timers missed the chance to squeeze one last time into that coveted left seat. Even in their not-so-trim form, the fellows shoe-horned themselves into that magnificent captain’s throne. Each man eyed the instrument panel and fingered a few of the bells and whistles that used to be the cat’s meow.

Bob Bogash at the captain's helm of the Super Connie that he saved from the the junk yard. Notice all the 1950s

Capt Don Cameron flew this very Super Connie when it was plying the North Atlantic with Don McVicar’s World-Wide Airways. (Larry Milberry)

Our tour over, the gang started to split up. Some had to hit the road for points afar. Others set up at The Beeches, a fine old Rome establishment. There the Sam Adams flowed very smoothly in the bar and the “war stories” began anew. A leisurely meal in the dining room topped it off, then the gang drifted off. Next morning Ken and I got away early, eager to see what we might find on the drive home. Two highlights were agreed upon. First came the George Eastman House in Rochester. Good choice, for this is a magnificent establishment that all should visit. We also enjoyed our drive around lovely downtown Rochester, a city where the “city fathers” seem to have forgotten to tear down their stunning 19th Century architectural gems. Stop No.2? Niagara Falls International Airport, where Ken wanted to show me the old Bell and Curtiss factories. Now pretty well overgrown with weeds, this is where P-39s, P-40s, P-59s, Bell 47 helicopters and Bell X-planes had been built. Then it was on to the QEW and home, the whole 600-mile Lake Ontario circuit being done in 38 hours.

Around the table at The Beeches with their amber-coloured friends Sam Adams, etc: Bob Bogash, Ken Swartz, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell. (Larry Milberry)

Around the table at The Beeches with their amber-coloured friends Sam Adams, etc: Bob Bogash, Ken Swartz, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell. (Larry Milberry)

As to CF-TGE, now comes its final tear-down and the trans-continental delivery to its new home in Seattle. It’s been a haul, but thanks to a few stalwarts, a great airplane that has travelled a most unlikely 55-year route, has been saved. Soon you’ll be able to see it in its glory in the Museum of Flight.

The world famous TCA Super Connie CF-TGE, soon to be on display at the Museum of Flight, is featured on the cover of The Wilf White Propliner Collection. Order info: see

The world famous TCA Super Connie CF-TGE, soon to be on display at the Museum of Flight, is featured on the cover of The Wilf White Propliner Collection. Order info: see “Promotions” on our blog or go to http://www.canavbooks.com.

To get the latest “gen” on CF-TGE you really need a copy of this month’s (August 2009) Air Classics. You’d also better log on to conniesurvivors.com and rbogash.com.

Happy landings as usual … Larry Milberry

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14 responses to “Super Connie Field Trip

  1. Larry,

    What a great road trip to see CF-TGE restored to its original 1950s era Trans-Canada Airline colours.

    My first recollection of this aircraft was when Richard Beaudet’s aerial photo of the aircraft reassembled at a small museum in Quebec appeared in Canadian Aviation magazine in about 1985.

    Vancouver propliner fan Sean Keating wrote the owner for more details, and he wrote back in French. At the time Sean, Bob Surman and I were assisting EXPO’86 with their 50th anniversary DC-3 rally, and I can recall my brother Jeff’s translating the letter one evening at my apartment in the West End during one of our many our DC-3 team meetings. Those on hand probably included Bob, Sean, Gary Vincent and others.

    Jeff’s written translation of the letter became the basis for the first article on this aircraft in the UK publication Propliner in 1986.

    In early August 1986, EXPO’86 organized the Flight into History, a fly past of the Expo site by 35 transport aircraft. Sean did a search and there were no airworthy Super Constellation in North America.

    Much has changed with three or four aircraft currently being made flight worthy

    Ken Swartz

  2. Larry,
    What a fantastic day it was in Rome! It was great meeting all of you…writers, photographers, pilots, flight attendants.

    Yes, I was just a “passenger” at age 11 in August 1960 from Prestwick to Montreal on one of those Super Connies, but I remember that flight and the following one from Montreal to Toronto on a TCA North Star!! I must say, I am thankful to my parents who made that flight with my grandmother possible. And I still have the original ticket!

    Your blog is well done. Excellent photos and stories.

    Thanks.

    Ron

  3. Ron,
    Larry and I are seeking contact numbers for you.
    Ken

  4. It’s just great to see how this reunion took place, had i had known about it, i would have made all the efforts to attend it and meet Bob and Kevin in person. Like many of you i have been involved with CF-TGE since when it was moved to north end of the Pearson Airport in Toronto. I met Phil on one of my regular visits to this aircraft as restaurant and then at one point he hired me as his BBQ chef. I worked for him for 9 months before joining Consolidated Aviation Services. I still remember working in the cabin’s kitchen and lower kitchen. It wasen’t long after that when things took tumble for Phil and his dream ended up in derelict condition for 6 more years.

    Bob you are right, i was one of the main players in keeping this marvelous aircraft here in Canada and when i saw you guys were actually restoring this very airframe, it was huge relief to me and many others on this side and i for one saw TGE in very very good hands. Now we all can see how her true lost glory has been returned to her and now it looks as if she just rolled out of the Lockheed’s paint shop!.

    I know another ex-TCA pilot who flew TGE many times in his carrier, if anyone needs his contact information i can provide it. His first name is Leo if that rings a bell to anyone.

    This reunion have given me energy i needed to re-start building my radio control flying model of CF-TGE at 1/14th scale once again. Bob i will send you more pictures of my project as it will be the only flying replica in miniature scale in Canada representing TCA and CF-TGE fin# 405 once again flying at scale RC events.

  5. great restoration & transformation.
    TGE app. picture shows no tip-tanks and long nose !

    • Urs,

      Yes indeed Kevin and his team at EAC did amazing restoration job on our ex-CF-TGE no doubt about it!. As for your second part of question on the picture, well originally TGE was delivered as L1049 “C” model without radar , strengthen HD landing gears and long range external wing tip tanks. Therefore it’s without these features in the picture above. If my memory serves me correct off the head, it wasen’t until 1957/58 when it was upgraded to “E” and then “Super G” model that incorporated radar, longer nose cone, HD landing gears and long range external wing tip tanks before it’s retirement in 1962 from Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) service due to crack in main spar.

      Hopefully this answers your question/s.

      Sameer

  6. According to Ralph Patterson’s Constellation news site today the 5th of August 2009 disassembly started of TGE to me moved by road trip to MOF in Seattle, WA.

    Here are details from Ralph’s site:

    [URL=http://img29.imageshack.us/i/cftge5aug09disassemblys.jpg/][IMG]http://img29.imageshack.us/img29/2182/cftge5aug09disassemblys.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

    “I received this report today from Bob Bogash, the Museum of Flight’s (MOF) project manager, on the latest status of the museum’s Super Connie restoration project. “The disassembly of CF-TGE started today. It will transported by ground and arrive in Seattle around the end of the month…plus or minus a week. It will be partially reassembled (no outboard wing panels or tip tanks) and then stored in a hangar at Boeing’s Plant 2 for an indeterminate period of time while the MOF sorts out the final display arrangements. There is a plan to place it “under cover”, but final details have yet to be worked out.” Thanks Bob for the report and thanks Janet for the gorgeous photo.”

  7. I have a 14 year history with CF-TGE. I am the contractor that experienced financial ruin as a direct result of the behaviour of Phil Yull with this aircraft and it was I who contacted the Museum of Flight, went there, and ultimately determined that this Museum was the only place for this plane.
    I watched Mr. Haqqi out on Derry Road with a picket sign and I have watched as he as well as others, caused turmoil beyond belief for myself and everyone involved in the dismantling, storage etc. while the plane was in Canada while the Canadian Government blundered along to an unsuccessful end. It was I who got this plane over the border just a very few days before the export permit expired and, it is I who have watched this airplane restored to her glory, paid for by the Museum of Flight for this piece of American heritage that was so badly treated here in Canada. I always knew from day one that the Museum of Flight was the only place for this airplane. I would state that it is Robert Bogash who spearheaded this whole project and he is to be given the credit for his dreams and the ultimate glory for this grand old Lady of the skies.

  8. Pingback: More CF-TGE Nostalgia « CANAV Books Blog

  9. Hi,
    So the actual refurbishing was done in Rome, NY.?

    I was a TCA/AC Customer Service Agent in YQX for almost 30 years and was aboard many times.

    ‘Preciate a reply to my question.

    Bob Kieley

  10. Hi Bob … Yes, the work was done down at Rome, home base for a major a/c refurb outfit called “Empire”. They mainly do checks on commercial airliners from all over the world, but also do such US military a/c as the C-130. That’s where the Museum of Flight let the contract for the Super Connie. Rome used to be a SAC B-52 base, also an ADC base with NORAD fighters. I visited in those years and it was a showcase operation, every detail in place. Now it’s all a bot of a wasteland. Cheers … Larry Milberry, CANAV Books

  11. If anyone wants to build super scale rc flying model of Super Constellation please contact me. I can help them out with plans ranging from 1/14th scale to giant 1/6th scale models.

    These are cad designed plans and are only printed as per required. You can build any variant of military C-121 to civilian Super Constellation from these and can detail them as per your liking.

    Regards,
    Sameer Haqqi
    Toronto, Canada

  12. Pingback: Helicopter Association International Honours Ken Swartz « CANAV Books Blog

  13. Pingback: The Great Toronto Airport Authority History Room | CANAV Books Blog

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