Built at Burbank with the construction number 4175 , it was delivered on November 1. 1955, to the Military Air Transport Services (MATS), it was phase out of active USAF service in 1962, going to the Mississipi Air National Guard’s (ANG) 183rd Air Transport Squadron. It was quite common for aircraft to be transferred between different ANG units. Next stop was the 167th Aeromedical Transport Squadron of the West Virginia ANG.
When the Lockheed C-130 Hercules became available, this C-121C was retired in 1972 and flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, for storage and eventual disposal. There seemed to be little use for it, but Aviation Specialities at Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona, had other ideas.
The company possessed the last surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner, and a deal was worked out to obtain the C-121C in trade of the 307. Aviation Specialities had no love for the Stratoliner, and wanted to convert it to join its fleet of B-17 fire bombers/sprayers. However, it also needed a large-acreage sprayer, so the 307 went to the National Air and Space Museum.
After Aviation Specialities acquired the Super Connie it received the Civil registration N73544. On arrival at Falcon Field it was gutted of military equipment and a huge tank was installed in the fuselage and spray bars were rigged on the wings. It spent the next six years attacking the spruce budworm population, but maintenance was minimal and the aircraft’s condition deteriorated.
In 1982 the aeroplane was flown to nearby Chandler Memorial Airfield in response to a far-fetched plan to use two ex-USAF Connies on tours of the Grand Canyon. Nothing came of that, and the aircraft was flown to Chino Airport in California in 1983, where it was half-painted by a group of house painters.
In late 1983 N73544 was purchased by Daryoush “Benny” Younesi and a partner for Winky’s Fish Company. The plan was to haul tuna from the Philippines to Tokyo. The company had two Connies, and one actually made a few trips before being impounded at Manila in 1988, where it still sits.
The aircraft remained firmly on the ground at Chino until January 15,1984, when the Super Connie was flown to Camarillo. As it approached the field, one of the R-3350s had its propeller feathered and another was on fire. It was an eventful flight. Once on the ground, the Connie was pushed to a remote end of the field and left there.
Its condition went steadily downhill, and it appeared that its next visitor would be the scrapman.
However, in 1991 Benny formed the Constellation Historical Society (CHS) and gathered a dedicated band of volunteers who eventually brought the Connie back into flying condition. Their hard work came to fruition on June 23, 1994 when Frank Butorac and Chuck Grant completed a successful test flight.
Since then the aircraft has seen constant improvements, and it has been flying regularly on the US air show circuit.
Today negotiations for a leasing/purchase of N73544 are taking place between the “Super Constellation Flyers Association” and Benny Younesi. If everything goes well, this magnificent Super Constellation will be flying around Europe for many years to come.