Working under pressure
Besides removing the aircraft's flaps, rudders and tail unit, the Lufthansa Technik staff in Auburn have already dismantled the radome, the fairings between fuselage and wings, and the Curtiss-Wright engines, each rated at 3,400 PS. The first of the thirteen purchased engines is currently being overhauled in the workshop of a North American company that specializes in maintaining these historic aircraft engines. When this photo was taken the Lockheed Super Star was still parked on the grass at the edge of the Auburn airport. It was then towed from the grass onto a concrete apron before the onset of autumn's bad weather. The purpose of the preparatory work carried out in Auburn was to enable the actual structural work on the Super Star's airframe and wings to begin as soon as possible after completion of the hangar.
Work on the Super Star is progressing well
The local Lufthansa Technik team of specialists got started on a number of work packages that had been on their daily work schedules during the preceding weeks, including washing the aircraft, continuing an inspection for corrosion and dismantling the landing gear.
"Washing the aircraft– sounds banal at first, but for a propliner that has stood outdoors for a quarter of a century, this job takes on an entirely different dimension. Over this length of time, a persistent layer of dirt forms on the skin of the aircraft and throughout the interior. The challenge is to find ways of removing this dirt that are not so aggressive that they damage the aircraft's delicate structure.
The most conspicuous activity during the last few weeks was undoubtedly the removal of the L-1649A's landing gear, which is already en route to the Lufthansa Technik workshop in Hamburg where it will be reconditioned. The aircraft is now supported in the hangar by a number of aircraft jacks so that other repairs can go on.
Thus we say goodbye to 2008 – a strenuous year for the members of the Lufthansa Technik team in Auburn – and ring in 2009, which promises all of us a number of equally-challenging tasks in and around Lufthansa Berlin Foundation's Super Star.
Visit of an old lady
The weather in Auburn may have been inhospitable, but the welcome afforded to the Douglas DC-3 Dakota with tail sign HB-IRJ by the local Lufthansa Technik team when it landed on 5 May was all the warmer. The Lufthansa Technik technicians bade the Swiss crew and their passengers, who were en route on a ferry flight from Miami to the Alpine Republic, welcome as they stepped out of the aircraft with a huge banner.
At the controls of the 69-year-old veteran aircraft sat its owner, Francisco Agullo. The full-time Boeing 757 captain was the driving force behind the foundation of the Super Constellation Flyers Association (SCFA) in Basel, which operates one of only two Lockheed L-1049's in the world that are still airworthy. The future Super Star cockpit crew of the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS) are currently being trained on this "Super Connie–. Thanks to this collaboration, they will have the necessary type ratings by the time the restoration work currently under way in Auburn is complete. This is possible because a single type rating applies to all the Constellation series, including the L-1649A.
Agullo, who is himself training the DLBS pilots on the L-1049, showed great interest as he was updated by Lufthansa Technik representative Michael Austermeier on the progress of work on the L-1649A in Auburn.
Supplied with a lot of information and rejuvenated by a buffet which followed, the Dakota team resumed its two-week journey from Florida to Sion in Switzerland via Newfoundland, Greenland, Scotland and Alsace after an intermediate stopover lasting barely three hours. The DC-3 will in future be used for SCFA member flights in parallel to the L-1049.
Lufthansa Technik's Super Star restoration project is much appreciated not just in the international aerospace industry and among aviation enthusiasts. Thus, the city of Auburn recently conferred on Lufthansa Technik the "Economic Development Achievers Award 2009–. This special honor was awarded to Lufthansa Technik for its exceptional economic and social importance to the city of Auburn. The award was formally handed to Lufthansa Technik representative Michael Austermeier on 14 May by VIP representatives of the state of Maine and the U.S. government.
Two mock-ups for the Super Star
While restoration of the Super Star advances in the USA, preparations for the cabin installation are in full swing at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg. Within the expert team for Phase II, which is led by Joerg Paisen, Peter Eppendorfer holds the threads of the design of the cabin of the Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung's future historic aircraft in his hands.
Although the actual design is being developed virtually, using the latest 3-D software, on the computer of the design team around Michael Reichenecker in VIP & Executive Jet Solutions, Eppendorfer is also relying on manual labor and in the next few weeks will complete the second, full-size Super Star cabin mock-up. The entire rear section, which has a total length of about ten meters, is currently following the central section of the fuselage that was developed in 2009, with two rows of seats. "I can't bang my knee on an incorrectly positioned piece of furniture on the computer screen, I have to do it in the real world. A virtual representation cannot convey the full feeling of space. Hence, for me, if we want the product to be really good, the construction of a cabin mock-up is not an end in itself, but an important tool. Ultimately the result will also benefit from the sensational collaboration with an engineer as experienced as Peter. With him, my design ideas are in good hands."
For cost reasons both cabin mock-ups are constructed from plywood and were built in Eppendorfer's private workshop in Ahrensburg. "So far, since the construction work began on 31 July 2012, around 250 hours of labor have gone into the construction and production of the mock-up of the rear cabin. The basic structure was prefabricated in Ahrensburg with the assistance of a friend of mine and then transported to Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg in individual parts," Peter Eppendorfer reports. He reckons that about another 250 hours will need to be invested in this sub-project before its planned finish in the middle of December – including windows, lighting, seats, floors, trim panels and mock-ups of individual objects in the color scheme defined by the design team.
The cabin mock-up matches the dimensions of the original aircraft in Auburn to within a few millimeters. Even the fact that the original aircraft still has the cargo floor, which in the future will be replaced by a lower-strength passenger floor, installed in it has been taken into account. The mockup also faithfully reproduces the rear entry door on the left-hand side and the rear emergency exit on the right-hand side. In this way not only the cabin design, but also the space requirements, positioning and installation of the planned emergency chutes will shortly be critically scrutinized. Original, scrapped L-1649A aircraft windows, including frames, will also be installed over the coming weeks to give as authentic as possible an impression of the aircraft fuselage.
Just what the rear section of the Super Star cabin will one day look like is still a strictly guarded secret. All what is known is that it will be a special place, into whose design Peter Eppendorfer and his colleagues in the Super Star cabin team are currently throwing all their energies and abilities.
Training – spanning the generations
"The Super Star project is probably one of the most unusual projects I have ever encountered in my 36-year career at Lufthansa," says Thomas Bund, Project Manager New Aircraft Types & Technologies at Lufthansa Technical Training (LTT).
Developing the training program for a historic aircraft built in 1957 means reactivating "forgotten" expertise from the 1950s that is no longer required in the normal everyday working life of the 21st century. The computer technology and composite materials of modern times were as yet unknown when the Super Star was being developed. As a result, rather than carbon fiber composites and fly-by-wire flight controls, it is aluminum alloys and mechanical systems that predominate in the Lockheed L-1649A.
The L-1649A instructors will play a key role in training the Super Star maintenance personnel. "We looked for mechanics and electricians with a lot of technical experience who had themselves worked on the Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation and L-1649A Super Star aircraft types at Lufthansa in the 1950s and 1960s," explains Bund. The search took quite some time, and the LTT team is fortunate to have found some former colleagues for this important work who were in retirement. But before they themselves can train anyone else, the trainers have to first go back to school and obtain some further qualifications. Thus, to freshen up their experience on the Super Star currently being restored in Auburn, Maine, three of the future Super Star instructors only recently attended a practical training course on site on the aircraft in question with LTT Product Manager Oliver Jost. There are also plans for a visit to the Anderson Aeromotive company in Idaho, USA, which overhauls Curtiss-Wright R-3350-988TC-18EA-2 Turbo Compound radial engines. Then through the foundation Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung, which owns the L-1649A, there are contacts with the Super Constellation Flyers Association in Switzerland, which operates an L-1049, a type that has a lot of technical features in common with the L-1649A.
In parallel to this LTT is working through what has survived from the training documentation of 1957 and 1958 and is filling in the gaps where documents that will be needed for future training are missing. Examination questions also have to be developed, validated and entered into LTT´s own test database. In consultation with the German Federal Aviation Office (LBA) the training is being developed as a line & base maintenance course compliant with ATA 104. The LBA will then review the course content, training documentation, examination questions and the qualifications and experience of the trainers. If all of those are deemed to be up to standard, the course will be approved for this specific application. In order for the trainees to obtain their licenses, it is essential that the course itself is licensed.
At the same time the starting qualifications of future Super Star maintenance personnel are critical in determining what further courses they need to complete. At issue here are the basic training courses of module M16 (piston engines) and module M17 (propellers) plus practical experience on piston-engined aircraft over 7.5 tons´ maximum takeoff weight, which has to be demonstrated on an individual basis.
Once the restoration work in Auburn is complete, modifications are planned to the cabin and cockpit as a prelude to commercial use of the aircraft. A further course is therefore being developed to address the differences between the original equipment and the modifications. The transfer of know-how from the first generation of trainers to their younger colleagues remains a challenge. After all, the aircraft will remain in service for many years and additional courses are likely to be necessary.
Despite his professionalism, Thomas Bund can barely disguise his enthusiasm for the Super Star: "We are looking forward to being able to work on the project and we are crossing our fingers that the team in Auburn will be able to get the L-1649A airborne on its second maiden flight as planned in the summer of 2013."
Super Star nose-to-tail
The recent final journey of the L-1649A-98-16 with tail sign N8083H from the grounds of the prior owner across the airfield of Auburn Lewiston Airport lasted exactly 23 minutes. Like its sister aircraft with tail sign N7316C, which has been undergoing restoration to an airworthy condition in the project hangar since November 2008, N8083H did not present any problems to the local team of Lufthansa Technik tasked with ferrying it to its new home. Since the move, the on-site dismantling of project-relevant components from the second Super Star/Starliner has been a lot easier.
N8083H was originally one of four Starliners ordered by the Italian airline Linee Aeree Italiane (LAI), but when the order was cancelled, TWA took over the delivery slots and put the four L-1649A's to use from 1958, supplementing the twenty-five L-1649A-98-20 Jetstream Starliners that it already had on firm order. Externally these ex-LAI aircraft in TWA livery have a distinctive white painted radar nose, yet there is no weather radar inside. By contrast, the other TWA Jetstream aircraft had a black radar nose and were fitted with a weather radar. Moreover, the four elegant Italian members of the American airline's fleet were never given names.
Having been in service as a passenger aircraft and then converted to a cargo plane, Starliner N8083H was sold to Alaska Airlines in December 1962. Like its sister aircraft, N7316C, it was initially used for cargo flights before serving as a gas tanker within Alaska. Later N8083H flew in Latin America up to its acquisition by the prior owner, who ferried it from San Pedro Sula to Auburn Lewiston Airport after a stopover in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 1 May 1986.
Many names for the queen of the North Atlantic
No fewer than three airlines – Air France, TWA and Lufthansa – ordered a total of 44 L-1649A's brand-new from the Lockheed aircraft factory in Burbank, California, which marketed this last type in the Constellation series with the symbol of a five-pointed star under the name Starliner. However, each of the three airlines promoted their L-1649A fleets under a different name. Thus TWA called its L-1649A's Jetstream or Radar Jetstream. Air France gave its aircraft the designation of Super Starliner, while Lufthansa used the name of Super Star.
An engineering legend for the Super Star
Tom Blakely, VP Engineering of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics for many years, takes up the reins at Lockheed Super Star Engineering in Auburn, Maine, on April 1.
With Dr. Rainer Sebus now devoting himself to new challenges within the Lufthansa Technik Group, the project team succeeded in winning not only a prominent successor in Tom Blakely to head up Super Star Engineering in Auburn but also someone who is more than familiar with the traditional Lockheed engineering methods and processes.
Until stepping down for age-related reasons in 2012, Blakely had been employed by Lockheed for more than 33 years in various roles. Having started out as a young engineer at Lockheed California, his career progressed through all operative locations of the company, from Burbank (CA) to Marietta (GA) and Fort Worth (TX), where he held management roles in a number of different projects. One of many highlights in his career was the engineering management of various multi-engine Lockheed transport aircraft types, including the P-3 "Orion".
Appointed Vice President Engineering at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth in 2003, he managed the Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program from 2004 to 2006 as Technical Director.
Lockheed Super Star Project Manager Andreas Pakszies: "In Tom Blakely we have succeeded in attracting someone to the project who is extremely competent technically and a profound insider in the sector and at the same time someone who will accompany us enthusiastically during the final stage of the maintenance of this Lockheed Martin historic aircraft."
Final structural work
In just a few days time, the team in Auburn will be assembled the final structural component of the L-1649A, thus achieving another very important milestone on the path toward the Super Star becoming airborne.
"The structure will be concluded by the end of March," says Project Manager Andreas Pakszies as he outlines one of the current goals of his team in Auburn and goes on to say: "Some 60 employees are currently working on the Super Star project with great energy and enthusiasm. We are making excellent progress thanks to this experienced team."
There is a changing of the guard in terms of the management of Super Star Engineering. Dr. Rainer Sebus has been replaced by Tom Blakely – former Vice President Engineering at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Pakszies: "It was a stroke of luck that we were able to win such a high-profile successor as Tom Blakely for Rainer Sebus, who is now devoting himself to new challenges within the Lufthansa Technik Group. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rainer Sebus sincerely for his work on the Super Star project from 2011 to date."
The progress is immediately obvious at a glance inside the hangar at Auburn-Lewiston Airport. The nose landing gear on the Super Star is mounted, installation of the mainframes is complete and the most striking change compared with the previous appearance, the tailplane is back in its original position in the tail section of the Lockheed. The structural assembly of the tail units took place at floor level in the hangar for the sake of accessibility. Once the last fuselage panel has also been finally mounted in a few weeks time, the team can reflect proudly on a great moment in the Super Star project.
Other components, such as the main landing gear, are likewise ready for installation, though assembling them would make future work on connecting the nacelles more difficult; the nacelles also act as the landing gear shafts on the L-1649A. Pakszies: "It makes no sense to duplicate work here simply to document project progress to the outside world." The final upgrading and fitting of the nacelles, which are currently in Florida for overhaul, is planned from May.
Work on the aircraft fuselage is progressing well in parallel with the completion of the structure. The first components, which will subsequently house the flight instruments, are installed in the flight deck. Further components, such as the newly supplied "septum" for shielding the passenger cabin from any fuel vapors in case of an extremely unlikely leakage from the center tank, are likewise ready for installation and will be installed in the aircraft in accordance with the detailed project schedule.
A technological world premiere
Lufthansa Technik and the Hoedtke company recently celebrated a world premiere in connection with the Lockheed Super Star project. Using a resistance spot welding process, they succeeded for the first time ever in joining historic and state-of-the-art aluminum alloys in compliance with the extremely tight aviation regulations.
It is not the biggest component of the Lockheed Super Star, and not destined to play an ancillary role in the everyday future flying operations of the L-1649A. But door "one right" is a very special component, as the world premiere achieved by engineers and aircraft builders from Aircraft Base Maintenance, Lufthansa Technik and welding experts from the Hoedtke company revolved around this component.
Like all the doors on the Lockheed Super Star, door 1R is built as a two-part sandwich structure. Its outer skin is welded with an internal, deep-drawn frame that gives the door, to which the cabin pressure is applied, its stability and holds up the mechanical components. When the outer skin and internal frame were taken apart early on in the door overhaul, the door experts discovered that the internal structure was damaged beyond repair due to corrosion and the formation of cracks. The only remaining alternative was to build a replica of the structure and re-weld it from the outside and inside of the door.
When Lufthansa Technik's Super Star team looked around for a suitable specialist operation that was not only technically qualified but also prepared to take on this demanding task, none of the big players in the industry was interested in the work. It was only when they made enquiries of the medium-sized supplier Hoedtke in Pinneberg, on the outskirts of Hamburg, that they achieved the breakthrough. Joachim H. Hoedtke, head of the family business, quickly agreed to take on the job. Nina Stoever, welding engineer, and Andreas Vlasics, a specialist at spot welding, were entrusted with coordination and implementation of the order on the part of Hoedtke. Norbert Barge, Ralf Rothmann and Frank Fucke managed the project for Lufthansa Technik.
Nina Stoever recalls: "There was no literature or experience that we could draw on. Welding together the aluminum alloy Alclad 24S-T4 that was used in the 1950s with 21st-century aluminum alloys was totally virgin territory." Norbert Barge adds: "We had to perform pioneering work and, to simulate the situation at door 1R, to initially produce 154 standardized test sheets for the necessary tensile tests. From these we then put together one- and two-section test combinations from different materials and sheet thicknesses for test welds."
This process was coordinated in close cooperation between Lufthansa Technik engineers Johannes Wiesner and Michael Hopp, Super Star Engineering in Auburn at Lufthansa Technik North America and the US Federal Aviation Administration. Following evaluation of the tensile tests, a spot-welded combination of the old Alclad 24S-T4 alloy and the modern Alclad 2024-T42/T82 alloys was identified as the best solution.
But when it came to actually welding the two door components, what mattered the most was the many years' experience of Andreas Vlasics, who performed the responsible task to the 100 percent satisfaction of Lufthansa Technik and the FAA. As Barge explains: "It had to be right the first time round, as the rebates on the door edge were dimensioned so tightly that no further loss of material would have been acceptable." Following completion of the door frame, door 1R will soon be installed on the L-1649A as a perfect fit.
Intense preparations for pilots and flight engineers
Newly devised panel for the flight engineer
When the Super Star finally takes off, four pilots and three flight engineers will have the licenses needed to fly the Lockheed L-1649A. A further three pilots and two flight engineers have been licensed as trainers and examiners since 2009 and will pass on their knowledge to the remaining Super Star crews.
Because the pilot licenses are valid for all three basic models in the Constellation range (Constellation, Super Constellation and Super Star), the DLBS crews will be able to use their licenses for the world's two remaining airworthy Super Constellations as well.
However, the activities of DLBS flight operations go far beyond training cockpit crews. For example, the pilots and flight engineers were heavily involved with the new layout of the Super Star flight deck too – not only when designing the new pilot panel but also when coming up with the newly devised panel for the flight engineer (FE). "Over the past few years, we have further developed the FE panel together with Jürgen Rohwer from Lufthansa Technik. We can now say with pride that the new layout will rapidly reduce the likelihood of the operational errors that frequently occurred in the past," said Georg Kohne, Head of Flight Operations and Chief Pilot at the DLBS. "My analysis of all Connie accidents has revealed that the majority of them were due to design errors in the original FE panel. For example, displays were arranged in an illogical manner and the various system components were spread across the panel," adds Kohne.
In contrast, the future FE panel which will be installed in Auburn immediately after the certification flights during phase II of the Super Star project is deigned in accordance with today's standards for a modern and safe flight deck layout. Jan Frieben, Head Flight Engineer at the DLBS adds: "Limitations can now be seen just by glancing at the instruments. You see straight away whether or not everything is as it should be."
The DLBS Flight Operations experts scrutinized and revised the position of each switch and inscription. This evolutionary process involving many years at the drawing board and in the mock-up led not only to the new panel but also to the new checklists. Jan Frieben explains: "The expertise of the former Lufthansa Super Start flight engineer Klaus Reinstorp was a big help. The experience he gained from flying several thousand hours with this aircraft model in the 50s and 60s is priceless."
Even if the flight engineer panel will look different in the future, the instruments will essentially be the same. One new feature, however, is the Engine Graphic Monitoring Panel. Each cylinder is now analyzed individually, and the exhaust gas and cylinder head temperatures are monitored. Kohne says: "You can see at a glance whether the figures are similar or there are deviations. In this case, you know that a problem is imminent. With a total of 72 cylinders, this is a very helpful display!"
The new flight engineer panel will be installed at the latest before the aircraft is moved to Europe and the Super Star begins commercial operation for the DLBS. Kohne says: "The changes are not an end in themselves. In design terms, the Super Star is already more demanding than any other aircraft we fly with Lufthansa today. The performance reserves too are much lower than with current aircraft types. Crew resource management is therefore very demanding and we need to create an environment in which working errors are avoided from the outset. This means that human factors are just as important for ensuring that the Super Star flies safely as a technically sound aircraft."
The project is advancing well and entering its next phase
The Lockheed Super Star project of Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS) and Lufthansa Technik is entering its final phase. Large sections of the work scaffolding that had previously obstructed the view of the fuselage are no longer needed in the future for the structural work and have already been dismantled. The rear fuselage barrel, referred to as "Barrel 8", has been returned to its original position following repair. The prerequisite for this was among other things the final installation of the rear pressure bulkhead.
Project Manager Andreas Pakszies is pleased with the visible progress: "We have come to the point where the structural work is so far advanced that we can additionally devote ourselves with full force to the system installation and the topics of components and material preparation."
A further critical milestone was reached in May with the successful replacement of the four large "Wing-to-Body Fittings", which had to be remade in a complex process specially for this project.
Though not yet installed on the aircraft, the nose and main landing gear for the Super Star are ready for installation. These were delivered to Auburn from the landing gear workshops in Hamburg in spring.
The parts of the digital flight deck donated by Honeywell are also already on site. The Super Star team in Auburn also plans to install these shortly as they work steadfastly toward completing the project on time.
Full expertise needed
Replacing the L-1649A's mainframe is a new challenge for the Super Star team
Having completed the replacement and connection of the wing-to-body fittings, the Super Star team in Auburn has now commenced the task of replacing the mainframes located above them. A task that requires all the skill and expertise of the responsible employees in Auburn.
As recently described in the June edition of Technik News, the Lufthansa Technik employees in the Super Star team successfully managed to replace and connect the newly produced fittings for connecting the continuous wing structure with the fuselage (wing fittings and fuselage fittings) in a number of steps in the first half of the year. A challenging task, comparable with open heart surgery. The team responsible for installing and connecting the valuable components was managed by team leader Guido Piette (HAM WM421), an experienced and circumspect colleague who had been posted to Auburn from Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg. More familiar than anyone else with this complex topic, Piette and his team have now also been entrusted by project management with the task of replacing the newly constructed and manufactured mainframe components.
"The mainframes that traverse the top section of the fuselage at two positions, in front of and behind the wing, are the most critical areas of the Super Star airframe from a structural perspective. This is where the flight loads of the Super Star are passed to the fuselage from the wing-to-body fittings below," says Super Star Project Manager Andreas Pakszies.
Detailed initial examinations and recalculations by the project engineers raised hopes that the mainframes could be repaired, but this proved to be too expensive. Corrosion and random drill holes created for securing belts and ropes during the aircraft's former use as a freighter meant that the Super Star team had to commission the engineering department to perform a new calculation of the mainframes, have them built by USA machines and exchanged in the next step. Because of the overall length of 4.80 meters per frame, the mainframes are split into two individual segments, spliced at the top of the fuselage as well as with the fittings.
"This is such a challenging task that the FAA in its role as inspection authority only accepted a repair of the mainframes at the beginning of the project. However we have managed to build trust in recent years by repeatedly proving that the know-how of the Lufthansa Technik employees allows even such in-depth interventions to the full satisfaction of the FAA. In fact the FAA has finally approved the manufacture and full replacement of the mainframes in the full belief that our expert team will once again deliver exceptional results," says Pakszies happily.
Putting together the pieces of the puzzle
A number of important milestones were reached in 2014
While maintenance work on the Super Star progressed well again in 2014, the project team as focusing in parallel on preparations for future flight operations as well as the design of the Lockheed L-1649A cabin and the flight deck. Directly adjacent to the maintenance hangar at Auburn-Lewiston Airport, the sister aircraft of the Super Star, which will soon join the DLBS (Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung) airworthy fleet, is now the location for two cabin mock-up sections.
The cabin experts from the Super Star team in Hamburg placed great emphasis on the use of original components, which will be removed following the mock-up phase and installed permanently in the airborne sister aircraft. The Super Star cabin team spent the last few months designing passenger seats with a retro look styled specially for the Super Star.
When the Super Star finally takes off, four pilots and three flight engineers will have the licenses needed to fly the Lockheed L-1649A. A further three pilots and two flight engineers have been licensed as trainers and examiners since 2009. Soft landings are guaranteed in the future not only thanks to the know-how of the cockpit crew, but also the fully reconditioned Super Star landing gear. This major overhaul is now complete and the landing gear restored to a "better than new" state.
Comfy chair with a history
With great expertise and attention to detail tailored seats
Parallel with the retro design of the future aircraft cabin, in the past few months the Super Star cabin team designed specially styled passenger seats with a retro look for the Super Star. In appearance, the new seat design is based on the "Comforette" first class seats that Lufthansa installed on board its Lockheed L-1049G "Super Constellation" and L-1649A "Super Star" long-haul aircraft in the late 1950s. However, except for this visual reminder of the "golden age of aviation," the new seats, which in the future will seat passengers of the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS), have nothing in common with their historic models.
Since time and money were short, the Super Star team for Phase II, under the leadership of Burkhard Linke, resorted to scrapped Lufthansa business class seats from the late 90s. After their replacement by more modern models, Lufthansa put these mechanically adjustable double seats in storage so they were available to the Super Star team in sufficient numbers.
It's a small miracle, and a demonstration of the Super Star team's great engineering and craftsmanship, that it was possible to create the comparatively delicate-looking seats for the Super Star from the relatively solid-looking original seats. Burkhard Linke says, "The seats, which were originally designed for the wide cabin of an Airbus A300-600R long-haul aircraft, had to be adapted in many small steps to the relatively narrow fuselage and the separation of the seat rails on board the L-1649A."
The visual appearance is no illusion; the facts show to what extent the seats, originally built by Weber Aircraft (now Zodiac Seats), "slimmed down." After all modifications, the double seat upholstered with very fine, dark red leather lost a total of 23 kilos and now weighs only 67 kilos. The Super Star team in Hamburg, in cooperation with the design team led by Michael Reichenecker in VIP & Executive Jet Solutions, is responsible for the design work while the production and approval of the new seats have been assigned to the California-based US company Flight Line Products, which specializes in such modifications for aircraft seating.
And that's how DLBS was able to commission a high-quality seat styled in a late-50s retro design, which will more than satisfy the highest standards in quality and comfort for future Super Star passengers. DLBS Chairman Bernhard Conrad took delivery personally and was visibly satisfied with the product created by Lufthansa Technik.
Number three is running!
Following successful testing of the third Super Star engine and with the test run of engine number four planned for September, the expected completion of a full set of engines for the L-1649A in October is approaching fast.
With the successful test run of the third Curtiss Wright 988 TC18 EA-2 engine, the work of overhauling a total of six Super Star engines is moving into the home run. The Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS) has outsourced this extensive work package to the firm of Anderson Aeromotive, which specializes in the overhaul of historic piston engines and is based in Grangeville, Idaho, USA. In addition to the four engines to be installed in the aircraft a further two spare engines are also to be refurbished for the Super Star.
Reporting on the progress of the work, Andreas Linke-Diesinger, who is the Lufthansa Technik's Super Star team member responsible for the engine overhauls, said: "The first full engine run of the third engine will be followed in September by number four, so that the complete set can be expected to be delivered to the aircraft in Auburn in October." Work is also under way on the Quick Engine Change (QEC) equipment. This comprises engine mounting parts such as cable harnesses, equipment, the engine mounting, vibration dampers and cowling. Anderson Aeromotive has subcontracted this work package to partner companies that are licensed to repair and certify these components in compliance with FAA regulations.
Andreas Linke-Diesinger is pleased with the engine test runs completed to date. Apart from some minor cooling problems in the high performance area on engine number two that were due to the first test set-up rather than to the engine itself, the future Super Star engines are running without a hitch.
When it comes to the engines, once again the original condition of the aircraft as per an FAA type certificate data sheet dating from the year 1957 will be left unchanged wherever possible. Changes will only be implemented where these are required by recent construction specifications or safety aspects. All other amendments that are desirable from a flight operations point of view will be deferred until after the first phase of the restoration and the aircraft is airworthy again. "But especially on the electrics side of the QEC equipment some immediate changes have been unavoidable," says Linke-Diesinger, "For today new regulations govern the materials permitted, which means that many cables and sockets have to be replaced by modern items."
The synchrophasing system that TWA installed brand-new on this Lockheed L-1649A in 1957 will also be reinstalled following its repair. As well as controlling the engine speed, this monitors the position of the propellers as, if the angle of rotation intervals of the props are kept constant, this reduces the vibration that occurs in the fuselage. This not only protects the aircraft structure but will also offer a more pleasant travel experience for future passengers of DLBS.
Super Star dismantled
As you can easily see from this recent aerial photograph, the work of disassembling the aircraft, which will be used by the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS Foundation) for nostalgia flights, is already well advanced. Over the past few months the Lufthansa Technik team in Auburn has already removed numerous parts, including the radome on the nose, the landing flaps, engines, inside furnishings, ailerons and the Super Star's complete tail unit. The tail unit is already being reconditioned at BizJet, Lufthansa Technik's North American subsidiary. Right next to the aircraft you can see a variety of containers, filled to the brim with the L-1649A spare parts that the DLBS also acquired at the auction. Over the last few months their previously jumbled contents have been inspected and cataloged, and this laborious work is still continuing as of this date – November 2008.
"What a project!" No three words could better express the fascination that the unique restoration project of the DLBS/Lufthansa Technik exercises on James Burd, Structure DER of the Lockheed Super Star Project.
As the Designated Engineering Representative (DER) acting on behalf of Lufthansa Technik, James Burd is responsible for ensuring that all structural work on the aircraft complies with the requirements of the American Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). "I've been working in the aerospace industry for about a quarter of a century, but a project like the Lockheed Super Star is unique and the high point of my career to date. The aircraft that will be taking off in a few years' time will be of a technical quality comparable to that of a brand-new Airbus or Boeing," Burd says, eyes shining. Burd had already been involved on many projects through his company, Avenger, and had also closely observed the "old timer scene". But the Structure DER is not aware of any other project whose purpose is to restore a four-engined propeller aircraft over 50 years old to an airworthy condition that satisfies the exacting certification standards of the Federal Aviation Authority.
It is this ambitious goal that accounts for the special challenge for the entire Super Star engineering team of Lufthansa Technik, which has been headed up in Auburn by Dr. Rainer Sebus since March 2011 and of which Burd and the engineers from his company Avenger are members.
As Designated Engineering Representative, James Burd has had the job of assessing and approving engineering instructions for the L-1649A project for Lufthansa Technik since September 2009. In 2011 the team of engineers moved into an office complex not far from the Super Star hangar at Auburn Lewiston airport in order to draw up the numerous repair instructions under optimal conditions. Some of the approximately 20-person Avenger team is based at the company's office in Greenville, South Carolina, while other Lufthansa Technik engineers are working on the project from Hamburg.
In the course of their work the Super Star engineers refer to historic design documents from Lockheed which the manufacturer of the L-1649A has made available to the project. As Burd explains: "Our job was and is initially to understand how the Lockheed engineers designed the Super Star in the mid-1950s. This entails studying thousands of pages of stress reports and analyses. Every aircraft manufacturer makes minor departures from the standard procedure, and Lockheed is no exception. We use these specifications to build up and design new computational models that are compatible with the historic documents, especially where we are joining the existing structure to new, modern and equally good or better materials, compared with the originals."
The DER is the connecting link in the engineering team between the FAA and the repair work in the hangar. He does not work for the FAA, but is a member of the Super Star engineering team, yet by virtue of his license as an extended arm of the FAA, he has the authority to make decisions and approve engineering work. "My signature at the bottom of a document carries the same weight as an official FAA stamp," he says. In this connection DERs are subject to stringent checks on the part of the FAA, they have to submit their signed documents to the assigned FAA specialist supervision office for examination and every year they have to demonstrate their competence in an FAA check. "But we can also approach our FAA contacts on critical issues and obtain advice," he explains. "In the American engineering world, there are just two industries that are controlled and regulated to this extent – aviation and the nuclear industry – and for good reason!"
Restoration work makes progress
About a year has elapsed since the beginning of the work on the Super Star. The structural checks have made considerable progress and many components are in the workshops. Today the aircraft is completely jacked up and is bereft of its landing gear, which is being overhauled in Lufthansa Technik's landing gear shop in Hamburg. As you can see from the latest photograph, part of the fuselage outer skin has been removed to facilitate structural checks currently under way.
In November 2008, L-1649A with tail sign N7316C was still able to roll across the runway of Auburn Lewiston Airport to its maintenance hangar on its own landing gears. Before that, it had been standing outdoors for many years, on the private area of the former owner. Soon after the move into the hangar, maintenance work on the future only airworthy Lockheed L-1649A Super Star worldwide started under optimal conditions.
Restoration is taking off
Rolling the Lockheed L-1649A "Super Star" into a new maintenance hangar at the Auburn-Lewiston airport in Maine, USA, takes the renovation of this historic long-haul aircraft, which belongs to the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung, into a new phase. The preliminary work that has been carried out in the open air will now be followed by the actual repairs, which Lufthansa Technik's team of experts will carry out indoor in the new hangar built by the airport.
"It's been almost a year now since the Lufthansa Berlin foundation awarded us the contract for the renovation of the Super Star. For the project team, the formal opening of this hangar is an important milestone on the way to a "Super Star" restored to airworthiness. I'm delighted that this building now is available for this ambitious project," stated August Wilhelm Henningsen, Chairman of Lufthansa Technik AG on November 20, 2008 at the formal opening of the hangar in Auburn/Maine, USA. "To make a last Lockheed L-1649A airworthy again is a special honour for Lufthansa Technik as a company and its employees."
Prior to the N7316C undergoing as first step a kind of D-check in the new hangar, the Lufthansa Technik team had already removed many components which are not part of the primary aircraft structure. These included the radome, landing flaps, the rudders, fairings and engines. The complete tail unit was also removed and shipped to Lufthansa Technik's North American subsidiary, BizJet, in Tulsa/Oklahoma, for renovation. Meanwhile, an American engine specialist is already working on repairing the historic Curtiss-Wright engines.
In the hangar, the team is now beginning its comprehensive checks of the primary aircraft structure, looking for signs of corrosion and material fatigue. The various systems will be thoroughly overhauled and all the wires, cables and leads will be renewed. The cockpit will also be brought up to the very latest technological standard but will keep its historical appearance. The cabin will be restored to its former historic splendor. According to current technical knowledge, in 2011 the legendary Super Star is scheduled to take to the air again.
Together with the core team of Lufthansa Technik twelve qualified mechanics are working on the aircraft at the site in Auburn/Maine. The components, equipment and the engines will primarily be overhauled by specialists in the USA and at Lufthansa Technik AG in the USA and Germany. A team of engineers will be coordinating the restoration of the "Super Star" at the site. In addition Lufthansa Technik will send a number of its trainees on short-term to Auburn.
The Lockheed L-1649A, of which 44 were built between 1956 and 1958, is the ultimate model of the legendary Lockheed Constellation series. Today only four of these L-1649A are preserved, and currently not one of them is airworthy. At an auction in the U.S. in December 2007, the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung purchased three of these four Super Stars from the American airplane enthusiast Maurice Roundy. In addition to the three aircraft, the purchased lot included 13 engines plus spare parts and technical documentation for this type of aircraft.
Preparations for flying operations
First maintenance technicians complete classroom training
After passing their examinations, participants of the first Lockheed Super Star EASA Part 66 B1 & B2 theoretical course given by Lufthansa Technical Training (LTT) formally received their certificates on 8 July. As technicians employed by the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung (DLBS), it is they who will carry out all the maintenance work on the Lockheed Super Star in the future.
Following intensive preparations, LTT finally received the individual approvals for three EASA CAT B1 & CAT B2 Lockheed L-1649A and Curtiss Wright R3350 theoretical courses from the German Federal Aviation Office (LBA), making it possible for the first course to start in the spring. All four of the DLBS's hand-picked participants passed the examinations.
The course was held between 18 March and 30 April 2013 in Hamburg. Highly experienced instructors, some of whom had themselves worked on Lufthansa's Super Stars in the 1950s, covered the areas of electrics, avionics, airframe and powerplant. On 8 July Silke Kaden, Secretary of DLBS, and Dr. Matthias Panten, Technical Operations Manager of the DLBS, invited the course graduates to a formal certificate presentation ceremony in Hamburg. Andreas Kaden, Managing Director of Lufthansa Technical Training (LTT), and LTT project manager Thomas Bund handed out the documents.
A second Super Star course is to be held between 11 December of this year and 31 January 2014 in Hamburg. The lessons learned from the first course are already flowing into the design of the next one.
The holding of the course and hence the qualification of the future technicians of the DLBS are important milestones in the Super Star project. The next step is for the course graduates to build on their theoretical knowledge by gaining some practical experience on the Super Star in Auburn. This practical training is stipulated by the EASA as necessary for the Super Star's license record.