President Eisenhower’s “Columbine III” Heller 1/72 Super Connie
I personally don’t think there was a more beautiful airliner ever made than the Constellation, and I like the Super Constellation with its long lean look to be the best of the bunch. Doing it in simple natural metal, as President Eisenhower’s Air Force One, “Columbine III,” emphasizes the beautiful curvilinear shape. Anyone who’s made the kit knows how much putty and sanding and rescribing it takes to get this ill-fitting kit to look anywhere close to the original. I completely puttied over the windows and used the decal windows included in the Red Pegasus set of decals for this airplane.
During his presidency, Eisenhower made Denver his “western white house” for vacations, because his wife Mamie’s family were a long-time Denver family. As everyone knows, the President was an avid golfer, and he mostly played the Cherry Hills Country Club. In the summer of 1958, I got a job there as a caddy (an experience that left me hating the game for the rest of my life, mostly due to the “I’m better than you so say ‘sir’ to me” types you meet there). Anyway, one weekend the President was due to play 18 holes, and 12 of us were chosen to be caddies for the Presidential party, including Yours Truly. Those of us who weren’t “professionals” caddied for the four Secret Service men in the party ahead of and behind the President’s; as I recall, my group was in front. At the end of the round, the President came over to us and we were introduced to him (at age 13 going on 14 he seemed like my grandfather), and he tipped each of us with a brand-new crisp $5 bill – truly a fortune in those days to a kid (I spent it on models for a month). And we were invited to come visit “Columbine III” then parked out at old Stapleton Airport. My dad being the original “aeronut” in the family we went despite his being a Democrat who believed Eisenhower was proving we didn’t need a president (which in later history shows how good Eisenhower was, that no one saw him doing what he did, which was mostly keeping us from destroying the world during the coldest part of the Cold War). “Columbine III” was very impressive, though we only got to step in the front cabin, where the “hoi polloi” traveled and glance through the door to the rear, which was very fancy in there indeed.
I’ve been fortunate to fly in a Constellation, the airplane MacArthur used as “Bataan,” his personal VIP transport, which is now in the care of Planes of Fame Air Museum and out at their Grand Canyon site. Once you’re inside one you understand why Douglas beat it, because the “aluminum tube” of the DC-6 and DC-7 and later airliners is much easier to move around in. But the Connie is still the beauty queen of the skies.
3 additional images. Click to enlarge.