Vintage Drug-Running Plane To Transform Into JFK Cocktail Lounge

An old commercial airplane with some interesting history is being transported from Maine to New York City where it will be transformed into a cocktail lounge for air travellers and hotel visitors.

The Lockheed Constellation, dubbed the “Connie,” was celebrated at a send-off event at Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine before starting its journey south on Oct. 9, reports the Associated Press. The trip between the two states was scheduled to take several days as the plane was being moved over 300 miles on a tow truck at a speed no higher than 50 mph.

The L-1649A Starliner will serve as a cocktail lounge outside the TWA Hotel, an establishment that plans on showing visitors “the magic of the Jet Age.” A spokeswoman for the 512-room hotel told the AP that the aircraft, which was built in 1956, no longer flies.

Lockheed built hundreds of Constellations in the ‘40s and ‘50s; however, only 44 Starliners were produced, and there are currently only four of its kind left in the world.

Trans World Airlines flew the Connie for three years. It was later used as a bush pilot plane in the Alaskan wilderness, according to Tyler Morse, CEO of New York-based hotel owner and operator MCR and Morse Development, which is building the TWA Hotel.

Interestingly, in the ‘70s the Connie was used as a drug-running plane in South America and had giant cargo doors to fly pallets of marijuana around the continent, Morse told the AP.

The plane was moved to Florida in the ‘80s after it was abandoned in Honduras. An airplane aficionado took the Connie to Maine with an intent to restore it but did not have enough funds to carry out the job. It thereby sat on the tarmac for many years.

Ten years ago, German airline Lufthansa Technik purchased three vintage planes from the aircraft enthusiast with the same goal in mind: restoration. Lufthansa cancelled its plans in 2018 and decided to move one of the planes to Germany to complete its restoration. The company also has plans for the other plane.

The Connie will finally have a permanent home at JFK next to terminal 5. The TWA Hotel will feature six restaurants, eight bars, a 10,000-square-foot rooftop observation deck with pool, a 10,000-square-foot fitness facility, a museum devoted to the Jet Age, and flight tubes to JetBlue Terminal 5 that were made famous by the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

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