Lufthansa buys 3 rare 1950s airliners from Maine collector
N974R, N7316C and N8083H.
AUBURN - At least one of the vintage Lockheed Constellation Starliners - 50-year-old planes parked outside the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport for more than two decades - may fly again.
And it could lift the local airport with it.
The airport has reached a tentative deal with a subsidiary of the airline Lufthansa to build a 50,000-square-foot hangar in Auburn, where the German company would restore at least one of the vintage planes.
The million-dollar deal would take three to five years and likely employ 20 or more people, said Rick Cloutier, director of the local airport. It would also be a boost to the airport, owned by the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.
“It makes us not a little airport in Maine,” Cloutier said.
The Lufthansa subsidiary, a foundation called “Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung,” purchased the planes on Tuesday for $748,000, according to Martin Riecken, a spokesman for Lufthansa in New York.
The purchase included the two Auburn planes and another owned by Auburn resident Maurice Roundy but kept in Florida, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Roundy and his wife are undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, the wire service said.
Meanwhile, the deal to restore the planes here looks optimistic but uncertain, Cloutier said.
“It came together in a matter of hours,” he said. On Tuesday, right after Lufthansa bought the planes, company and airport officials signed a letter of intent. A formal agreement is expected to be signed soon.
“They’d like to begin construction as early as possible this spring,” Cloutier said.
The new hangar would dwarf anything else at the airport, roughly matching the combined space from several existing hangars.
The project would also likely draw international attention, given the rarity of the planes.
Hundreds of Constellations, known affectionately as the “Connie,” were produced by Lockheed starting in World War II. Roundy’s planes were among 44 L-1649A Super Constellation Starliners built in 1957.
The only other one still intact is in a museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, the wire service reported.
Tentative plans call for two of the planes to be used for spare parts to get the best of the three flying, Cloutier said.
It will be far more complicated than rebuilding an old Ford, though.
The renovated plane will likely be stripped to its bare frame and rebuilt, accounting for every nut and bolt. Many parts will have to be custom manufactured, he said.
If a plane is resurrected, the attention for the first flight will be intense, Cloutier said.
“It will be felt around the world,” he said. “It will be great for the airport and great for the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.”