Willy Victor Era

Photos In This Section Were Collected From Various Contributors Over Many Years

1957  A $40 million construction program begins as Midway becomes a home for the Pacific Airborne Early Warning portion of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW), known as the Pacific Barrier or DEW Line.  Navy construction units (Seabees) complete an 8,000-foot runway for the heavy aircraft landing on Midway and build an aircraft hangar large enough to hold six aircraft. During this construction, the Hawaiian Dredging Company completes new housing, reconditions the station theater, and builds a new chapel in a modern “A” frame design.  Construction work employed over a thousand men. The channel between Eastern and Sand Islands was deepened to allow the largest US tankers to enter.

July 1958  The first flight from Midway, of the Airborne Early Warning Carrier, was made this month. Midway became the refueling and jumping off point for squadrons of 3,000-mile-long round-the-clock patrols of Super Constellation Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star airplanes. Their objective was to extend early warning coverage from land-based antenna arrays and radar picket ships to detect surprise Soviet bomber and missile attacks. The flights continued through 1965. Warning Stars were nicknamed “Willie Victors” by naval aircrews, based on a slang version of the phonetic alphabet and the naval version of the aircraft’s pre-1962 designation of WV-1, WV-2 or WV-3.

January 22, 1961 – A WV-2 (Willy Victor) aircraft was returning to Midway Island, after completing a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Mission.  In the final stage of touching down at Midway, the aircraft came into contact with a small pile of coral on the approach end of the runway.  After a hard landing, the aircraft veered to one side of the runway.  It then hit a crash truck that was routinely parked to the side of the runway in the event of an emergency and broke apart.  A fire then started, killing six crewmen aboard the aircraft and three Navy men on the crash truck.

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Willy Victor Videos –

Photo of Last Barrier Flight Crew, in 1965

L1049 Super Constellation

A total of 579 Super Constellations were built between 1951 and 1958 with 259 going to commercial operators and 320 to the US military. The US Navy was the largest operator of Super Constellations with a total of 204 transport and early warning radar aircraft. As early as 1949, Lockheed considered stretching the Constellation eighteen feet by inserting constant diameter fuselage plugs forward and aft of the wing. In order to expedite development, the first Constellation, c/n 1961, was purchased from Howard Hughes in May 1950 for $100,000 and modified as the Super Constellation prototype. Still powered by the Pratt and Whitney R2800 engines installed in 1945, the prototype made its first flight on October 13, 1950. After twenty-two hours of flight testing, R3350 engines were installed and the vertical stabilizers were enlarged by eighteen inches to increase directional stability.

The Super Constellation incorporated over 550 design changes and the first production aircraft flew on July 14, 1951. The type certificate was awarded on November 29, 1951 and the third production aircraft, N6203C, entered service with Eastern Airlines on December 17, 1951. Prior to 1953 all turbo-compound R3350 were earmarked for military use and the L1049 had to settle for 2,700 hp CA1 engines, which made it underpowered.

The Navy’s R7V-1 transport, first flown in November 1952, was the first Super Constellation to utilize the turbo-compound R3350 engine. Turbo-compound engines became available for commercial use in early 1953 and 3,250 hp DA1 engines were first installed on L1049C Super Constellation PH-TFP, which was delivered to KLM on June 10, 1953. Later developments included twin 600-gallon wing tip tanks on civilian L1049G/H’s and military early warning radar Super Constellations resulting in an extended range for these aircraft. The 3,400 hp EA3 and EA6 versions of the R3350 engine were installed on the L1049H cargo versions of the Super Constellation.

The USAF flew the Super Constellation into the late 1970’s with the US Navy retiring its last aircraft, BuN 141292, in June 1982. For all intents and purposes, commercial operation of the Super Constellation ceased in 1993 when the FAA forbid Dominican operators from operating their aircraft in the United States.

SURVIVORS

N105CF c/n 4137—>Disassembled Avra Valley, AZ and transported to Bridgewater, VA March 2016
N4247K c/n 4144—>Stored at Qantas Founders Museum awaiting restoration
53-7885 c/n 4151—>On display National Museum of the USAF, Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton OH as “Columbine III”
54-155 c/n 4174—>On display USAF History and Traditions Museum, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX
HB-RSC c/n 4175—>SCFA unable to secure CHF 20 million to make FOCA mandated repairs and organization disbanded April 2019. As of April 2019, fate of aircraft undecided
VH-EAG c/n 4176—>Airworthy with Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS), Sydney, Australia
54-160 c/n 4179—>Nose section stored in owner Antti Hyvärinen’s backyard in Nukari, Finland
N1104W c/n 4196—>On display Udvar-Hazy Center, Dulles International Airport
54-180 c/n 4199—>On display Transport Aircraft Museum, Charleston AFB, Charleston, SC
HI-548CT c/n 4202—>Nose section salvaged to fabricate flight simulator. Located at “Runway 34 Restaurant and Bar” near Zurich Airport
N4257L c/n 4335—>On display at Castle Air Museum
N4257U c/n 4336—>On display Combat Air Museum, Topeka, KS
52-3425 c/n 4343—>On display Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, CO
BuN 137890 c/n 4347—>On display at “Connie Park” near the 552 ACW Wing Complex, Tinker AFB, OK
N51006 c/n 4350—>Forward fuselage section acquired by Dynamic Aviation in April 2017 and stored in Bridgewater, VA
N548GF c/n 4363—>On display at the Yanks Air Museum, Chino, CA
53-554 c/n 4369—>On display Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, AZ
53-555 c/n 4370—>On display National Museum of the USAF, Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton OH
BuN 141292 c/n 4416—>Forward fuselage section stored at private residence in Stanley, NC
BuN 141297 c/n 4421—>On display Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB, GA
BuN 141309 c/n 4433—>On display Aerospace Museum of California, Sacramento, CA
BuN 141311 c/n 4435—>Awaiting restoration at Yankee Air Museum
BuN 143221 c/n 4495—>On display National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, FL
F-BRAD c/n 4519—>On display Nantes, France
CF-TGE c/n 4544—>On display Museum of Flight Boeing Field, Seattle, WA
N1005C c/n 4557—>On display AMC Museum, Dover AFB, DE
D-ALIN c/n 4604—>On display Hermeskeil Museum Mosel, Germany
IN315 c/n 4614—>On display Indian Naval Aviation Museum, Hansa Naval Station, Goa, India
F-BHBG c/n 4626—>Derelict Quimper, France
5T-TAK c/n 4640—>Nose section and nose gear on display TAP Museum, Lisbon, Portugal
F-BHML c/n 4671—>On display FJ Strauss International Airport, Munich as D-ALEM
BG583 c/n 4686—>Stored Agra Air Base, India reportedly earmarked for restoration by the Indian Air Force Museum
N6931C c/n 4813—>Cockpit section in private collection in France
HI-542CT c/n 4825—>Stored Aguadilla-Borinquen Airport, Puerto Rico in deteriorating condition
N6937C c/n 4830—>On display at the National Airline History Museum in Kansas City, MO
CF-NAL c/n 4831—>Stored Sao Tome International Airport, Sao Tome
CF-NAM c/n 4832—>Stored Sao Tome International Airport, Sao Tome
N468C c/n 4846—>Fuselage section stored Blue Creek, Belize

CREDITS AND SOURCES
The Lockheed Constellation Series, Peter J. Marson, Air-Britain Publication, 1982, 2007
Piston Engine Airiner Production List, A.B. Eastwood and J. Roach, TAHS, October 2002
Lockheed Constellation, Stewart Wilson, Notebook Publications, 2001
Propliner Aviation Magazine

Your comments regarding this website would be very much appreciated. Please contact me about any errors you see and information you might have about a “Survivor”. Photos of “Survivors” would also be very much appreciated.

Ralph M. Pettersen

Posted with permission of Tom Dokulil

3 thoughts on “Willy Victor Era

  1. I flew the barrier as part of VW-12 / AEWBARRONPAC from 1957-1961 as a ACW2 with the first part as a CIC crewmember and later as a 2nd Navigator aboard almost all of the “Checkpools”. I was a witness to the 16 Checkpool crash and had flown that same aircraft a couple of barriers earlier. The barriers were 2,840NM and took 13-16 hours depending upon the winds. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

  2. I was stationed on Midway Island for a year, 1960-1961 and was a journalist third class (JO3). I was attached to AFRTS radio station KMTH as a disc jockey/station programer. I was on the when I was handed an announcement that a Willie Victor had just crashed. I lost some beer drinking buddies that day, a day that lives etched in my mind

  3. Thanks to everyone who has participated in publishing information and photos of Midway Island while being deployed. As a young 3rd Class PO/Sea Bee I was sent to Midway back in 1961 for a 2 year deployment with the Public Works Department where I was assigned duties of Purchasing for the SB Battalions, & then took over the Base Carpenter & Auto Paint Shop’s until sometime in 1962 when I was sent to San Fransisco Navel Base for my discharge to attend Collage. But while on Midway my Sea Bee Rating & experience with P/Works proved to be my apprenticeship for my future to become a 50 year Certified Class A General Contractor, with my own Company. I hope some time I might hear for some of the Midway Crew I worked with, to reminisce a bit. Marc

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