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Tom Cleaver
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President Eisenhower’s “Columbine III” Heller 1/72 Super Connie

December 22, 2012 · in Aviation · · 13 · 2.3K

I personally don't think there was a more beautiful airliner ever made than the , 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.

Reader reactions:

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13 responses

  1. Wonderful story. I'll agree that the Connie was da airliner of all time. And also about golf... /m

  2. Nice, clean build, tell me - what's the 'real' dimensions of a 72nd Connie (and where's the model now)...?

  3. Granted, this is the most beautiful ship of all time.

    Very interesting story.

    And complex kit for construction.
    My friend built this model 3 years:

  4. "After looking at that model, I think I'll take up knitting."

    Oh, what have I done! In no case do not do it.

  5. I also really like this plane, one of the most beautiful in the world.

  6. I remember this airplane from the black and white TV news when I was a little kid. I remember wondering what in the heck is a Columbine? Beautiful! Adios, Larry.

  7. That's a gorgeous Connie, Tom. Excellent natural metal finish!

  8. You don't see too many of these kits built up and the paint scheme is very utilitarian and effective in showing the lines of the aircraft. Yeah, it works well and of course the story about Ike is frosting on the cake. Two thumbs up on this one.

  9. Tom... Nice Connie. I enjoyed your recollections, as I was living in Denver during the "Ike" years, and remember seeing his convoy of cars on several occasions when he was in town. They did not require the city to shut down for a President in those days. I did get to fly on a Connie once on Hughes Airlines from San Francisco to Los Angles once, and as I recall it was painted yellow.

  10. Columbine III was in a museum annex hangar at Wright-Patt. I used to go in there as a kid and play on the Columbine III (during the Carter Admin) as well as the then world’s only JU-88. (defected Romanian)
    They locked that hangar after they found me rapping on the flying saucer with my knuckles. ?

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