The Airport from back in it's early days before the current runway was built
Greenwood Lake's "Champagne Lady"
or ‘The New Jersey
The History of N9412H
Generally speaking, Lockheed's design for the Constellation was finished in 1939. Howard Hughes immediately ordered
the first 40 "Connies" for TWA, expecting a two-year-plus exclusive before another carrier could get their own.
But World War Two caused initial production to be commandeered by the military, so TWA, and others, would have to wait until
the war's end in 1945. At that time, TWA quickly bought the military's Connies, ‘C-69' models that Lockheed converted
to L-049 specs, in addition to taking delivery of many of the first new planes Lockheed was building. In 1946, Air France received their order for four new L-049s, and placed them in trans-Atlantic service between New
York and Paris. These four Connies were built as L-049-46 variants, with construction numbers 2072 through 2075, and were
registered F-BAZA, F-BAZB, F-BAZC and F-BAZD. F-BAZA was completed in June, 1946 and delivered to Air France in time for her
inaugural Trans-Atlantic flight on July 9, 1946. Her three sister ships arrived days apart sometime later.
still featured the military's C-69-type ‘eyebrow' windows and a dorsal ‘astrodome'.
[Original Photo, Unknown] Here is the
flight crew for F-BAZA's first Atlantic Ocean crossing.
Some sources state this plane was delivered in September, 1946,
but this photo is signed by the Captain of the flight, clearly dating it in early July.
The plane's instrument panel shows
it was constructed in June 1946. So the September suggestion is wrong.
[Original Photo, Lockheed] The altered photo above is actually of c/n 2073 F-BAZB... not a bad bit of editing, eh?
Now, it was an assumption of mine that F-BAZA was identical
to F-BAZB when I altered the above photo.
Thankfully, I was proved correct by the next photo.
[Original Photo, FRANCEPRESSE 42.147 F EUR] This photo, taken
in July 1, 1947 at LaGuardia Airport in
New York City after her starboard main landing gear collapsed. The plane was
less than a year old!
F-BAZA had a significant
mishap in 1947 at LaGuardia Airport in New York City after the starboard main landing gear collapsed.
Note that, in
the photo above, all three prop blades on each starboard engine have their tips bent, and the plane is mostly off the pavement,
in the grass and the forward gear has dug a trench. I would guess it was taxing under power when perhaps a hydraulic failure
caused the gear to unlock and retract under the plane's weight. The pilot got this far off the taxiway before the wing contacted
the ground. The engines were likely stopped very quickly as the wing was dropping as damage to the props is rather minimal.
The outer starboard #4 engine is covered in foam but appears minimally damaged. Perhaps it was coughing up a lot of smoke,
and foam was applied as a precaution.
Again...these are all my assumptions based on the one photo.
Thankfully, damage was mild enough that she was not ‘written off' (scrapped)
and she was repaired and returned to service.
She came awful close to having one very short life! Also note that the
plane is in service for Air France and has its astrodome and skylight windows prominently visible. Nice to know this plane
definitely did have them when new and while in service, early on. A
postcard exists from the era featuring a painting that shows F-BAZB wearing slightly refined livery. It gained a white top
fuselage, lost the rear stabilizer flourishes and the logos on the engine cowlings, and the extra top glass pieces are gone.
My personal opinion is that the artist based this painting off of first-hand viewing of the actual plane or photos of it.
Thus, it seems likely that F-BAZA would have received the same changes. So it is likely safe to assume that Air France chose
to have the top cockpit glass and astrodome removed and the holes covered over. This theory is bolstered by the fact that
later Air France Connies (L749 models) did not get the extra cockpit roof glass... but they did get the astrodome.
Air France upgraded by 1950 and sold the four planes to TWA,
which christened c/n 2072 F-BAZA as ‘The Star of the Azores' with her new US registration number being N9412H. TWA returned
the planes to Lockheed for preparation to TWA standards. This included the addition of several windows on the fuselage and
additional seating installations. TWA then had them painted in their red and white livery and flew these four planes
through 1959 before selling them off.
[Photo: Unknown] This photo is represented
elsewhere online as being N9412H, but I can't personally
confirm this as the photo is too grainy to determine the
tail's registry number..
N9412H spent the 1960s going from one small airline (and airliner brokerage) to the next, each having her for a relatively
short time. In 1962, she flew for ‘World Wide Airlines', then for ‘Royal Air Burundi' in early 1963. By this time,
regulations required all airliners to have weather radar installed. Photos of this plane in 1962, and after, show it sporting
its longer, black, radar-equipped (and to my eye, less attractive) nose.
[Photo: J. Roger Bentley] This photo is represented elsewhere online as being
taken in Jun 1966,
but is more likely
from early 1963, as reports indicate the plane was with other airlines throughout 1966.
From 1963 to 1965, though ownership changed several times, its lessee remained
[Photo: Peter M. Bowers] This shot is likely from sometime in mid to late 1963.
[Photo: Unknown] I have it on good authority
that this is a shot of passengers
(possibly a Moose Lodge group) under one of Edde's two Constellations.
Chances are 50/50 it is or isn't N9412H but my guess it is
NOT. Note the wider stripe and thicker lettering than the prior photo.
For 1966-67, she was stored in the southwestern US. Then, in 1968, she was purchased by ‘Mineral County Airlines'
and initially flew under the ‘Hawthorne Nevada Airlines' name, which was renamed ‘Air Nevada' in 1969 before the
airline folded that same September. It is believed she was re-christened ‘Champagne Lady' during this time.
[Photo: Jack Bol] This shot was likely
taken in the early 1970s while stored in Arizona.
between 1964 and 1970, her three Air France sister ships had each been scrapped-
N9412H is the only surviving Air France
L-049. From late 1969 through 1976, she was shuttled between
storage facilities in California and Arizona, awaiting a new buyer and a return to regular flight.
lucky enough to capture footage of the Connie landing at 4N1.
In 1976, Frank Lembo
Enterprises (owners of Grenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey) bought her for $45,000 for use as a restaurant &
The plane was serviced for her final flight and made the journey in 1977, landing on GLA's
short, 2700-foot runway. She was placed against the airport's
main building and anchored in place.
To date, she has never flown again.
[Photo: Daniel L. Berek]
Greenwood Lake Airport, West Milford, New Jersey, 1992
By 1981, the interior changes had been completed, a stairway built and large doorways cut into the fuselage, port-front
starboard-rear. The restaurant opened... and quickly closed due to a lack of customers. The plane then sat, unused
and neglected until 1996 or so, when it was used
by local pilots as their shop. But hauling parts up and down those
stairs was likely too inconvenient and once again, the plane was closed up and treated as a storage shed.
Rumor has it that around the time she served as a shop, someone decided to see
if they could get the
long-idle engines to fire up. While three of them seemed unwilling, #2 was said to have started
and run quite well.
In 2000, the State of New
Jersey purchased the airport...and in the same deal, got the plane. Still, the plane sat unused.
But in 2005, a flight
school began using the plane as its office, so changes were again made inside, and a large deck added
to the front,
port side of the fuselage. The tarmac was also treated to a new chain-link fence surrounding the plane.
Currently the Connie is open to be used for Parties and Events. It was recently renovated
and looks wonderful.