26 April 1944

Lockheed C-69 Constellation 43-10310, at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 26 April 1944. (McMahan Photographic Archive)

26 April 1944: The first production Lockheed C-69 Constellation, 43-10310, landed at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, shortly after 2:00 p.m. The crew were Lieutenant Colonel George A. Hatcher, Material Command Project Engineer, and Lieutenant Colonel Clarence A. Shoop, Materiel Command resident inspector at Lockheed Burbank in California.

Orville Wright on a ladder entering a Lockheed Constellation airplane at Wright Field. 4-26-1944 (Digital Services Department; Wright State University Libraries)

Orville Wright was present to see the airplane. After a tour, he was invited to stay aboard as a passenger. The flight was planned for 15 minutes, but the actual duration was 50 minutes.

Colonel Hatcher invited Wright to take the right seat and to handle the controls. Wright was reluctant but did so and grinned. While Hatcher climbed out of the left seat so that Brigadier General Franklin Otis Carroll could take his position, Wright continued to fly the Constellation. It was the first time in 25 years that he had piloted an airplane.

After the flight, Wright said, “It was absolutely marvelous. . . You can say that I ran the whole thing. Put exclamation points and question marks around that—because all I had to do was just let it take care of itself. . . I enjoyed every minute. I guess a ran the whole plane for a minute. But I let the machine take care of itself. I always said airplanes would fly them selves if you left them alone.”

Orville Wright, inventor of the airplane, grins as he sits at the co-pilot’s controls of the Lockheed C-69 Constellation during a 50-minute flight from Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 26 April 1944. (jack-frye.blogspot.com)

“It’s a fine plane. . . it [the flight] was really fine.”

Orville Wright and Brigadier General Franklin Otis Carroll, Materiel Command, with the Lockheed C-69 Constellation at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 26 April 1944. (Digital Services Department; Wright State University Libraries)

Later the C-69 was flown to Dayton Army Air Base at Vandalia, Ohio, for testing and crew training.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 thoughts on “26 April 1944

  1. Great story, just saw Bob Bogash give his “why I love Connie’s” talk and he mentioned this was Orville Wrights last flight before he passed.
    Love your website, so much great aviation history!
    (FYI there’s a couple of typos in this entry)

    1. The airplane was later sold by the War Assets Administration for spare parts. Lockheed rebuilt it for Flying Tiger Lines, registered NC38936. It was destroyed by fire after a landing accident during a training flight at Burbank Airport, 22 January 1953.

      1. Thank you, too bad it was destroyed, it would have been fantastic for the last plane that Orville Wright flew, displayed next to the first airplane that Orville Wright flew.

  2. What an amazing advance in technology in 39 years ! Wright’s first flight distances were about the same as the Connie’s wingspan.

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