A vintage 1956 Lockheed Constellation plane that was once part of the fleet for the now-defunct TWA Airlines has arrived at JFK Airport. Connie, as the plane is affectionately known, journeyed 300 miles from Maine to Queens for one important purpose: It will be transformed into a cocktail lounge situated outside of the forthcoming TWA Hotel.
In preparation for its new career, Connie will spend the next two to three months being retrofitted with interiors that hark back to the early 1960s, the era from which it hails. “It’s going to be a full theatrical experience, down to the uniforms, the gift bags, and the food that we serve,” said Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR/MORSE Development, who is behind the landmarked TWA Flight Center’s transformation into a 512-key hotel. “You’re going to feel like you walked into 1962, without the cigarette smoke.”
The airplane has a storied past: Connie was delivered to TWA in 1958 and is one of 44 L-1649A Starliner planes produced (only four remain). The plane flew for TWA for a mere two years before being replaced by a Boeing 707. From there, Connie went on to serve as an Alaskan bush plane and even as a drug-running plane in South America during the 1970s. After being auctioned off a few times, Connie eventually ended up at Maine’s Auburn-Lewiston Airport, where it sat unused for the last 35 years.
Getting the plane from Maine to New York City wasn’t easy. It required a flatbed three times the length of a normal one, and its wings had to be removed so that the plane could make its way down multiple highways over the course of its journey. Once the plane arrived in Queens, a few traffic lights had to be temporarily removed so that it could pass through various streets and intersections.
When Connie is ready for revelers, it’ll serve a menu inspired by what was offered on the aircraft when it was in operation. Additionally, banquet-style seating will line both sides of the aircraft, along with four rows of seats in the center of the plane. The cockpit will be restored, giving guests the chance to enter and even flip the switches.
The transformation of Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal at JFK Airport, which has an anticipated opening date of spring 2019, got underway in 2016. In August, the project revealed renderings for its 1960s-inspired event space, which includes two ballrooms and private skyboxes. The hotel is expected to begin accepting reservations in December 2018.
- All TWA Terminal coverage [Curbed]