Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

Connie,” a 1958 Lockheed Constellation L-1649A Starliner airplane, arrived at New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport this fall to undergo a make-over from historic plane to one-of-a-kind cocktail lounge. The plane traveled 300 miles from Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine to its new location at JFK where it will be transformed into a cocktail lounge for the eagerly anticipated TWA Hotel. Emblazoned with a “Queens or Bust,”  Connie’s fuselage and tail hit the road on two flatbed trucks, creating an incongruent site along New England’s highways, rest stops and scenic spots along the way.

Photograph by Aaron Flacke

Connie was escorted by a convoy of state police and civilians through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. The journey took just under a week and, except for a flat tire, went smoothly through five states. The plane was disassembled for the journey by Worldwide Aircraft Recovery, Ltd. and the fuselage and tail of the plane, which measures 116 feet, two inches long and twenty-three feet high, were transported on two of their flatbed trucks while the wings and engines were brought in separately.

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

Photograph by Aaron Flacke

This historic Starliner, tail number N8083H, is one of only four remaining L-1649As in the world. Commissioned in 1939, the Starliner airplanes broke the transcontinental speed record of the time and served as Air Force One for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In an advertisement brochure from 1951, the “sleek, swift airplane” is referred to as the “Queen of the Skyways.” The Starliners were noted for their speed and comfort for passengers. In the 1960s however, the Starliners were outshone by the new Boeing 707 which could hold 132 more passengers and go 300 MPH faster.

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

After her final passenger flight in 1960, Connie was used to shuttle cargo and eventually sold to the highest bidder in 1979. “Our Connie started her illustrious TWA career at Idlewild (now JFK) in 1958. She was replaced by jets in 1960 and survived working as an Alaskan bush plane in the 1970s, only to be abandoned by drug runners in Honduras in the 1980s,” says Tyler Morse, CEO and Managing Partner of MCR and MORSE Development. “We’re excited for her return to JFK as the Queen of Queens.”

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

In early 2018 MCR/MORSE Development bought the dilapidated plane and partnered with Atlantic Models/Gogo Aviation to restore it to its original condition. The companies searched for authentic parts including flooring and windows, and even replaced cockpit controls. The restoration took six months and was completed at Maine’s Auburn-Lewiston Airport. The restored airliner will continue to be worked on as it is turned into a cocktail lounge for the 512-room  TWA Hotel inside the landmark 1962 former TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen. Saarinen was inspired by the Starliner’s design when creating the terminal, though it opened just as the Starliners were being retired. The hotel is set to open in Spring 2019.

Check out more photos form Connie’s journey below!

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

Photograph by Aaron Flacke

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

Photograph by Ryan Dorsett

Photograph by Aaron Flacke

Photograph Courtesy of MCR

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