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The Super Constellations   used by the 'Hurricane Hunters in aerial hurricane reconnaissance were conceived in the era 0f World War II. Executives from Lockheed and Trans-World Airlines met in 1939 to design a 40 to 50 passenger aircraft with a maximum cruising speed of 300 miles per hour. In an attempt to attain maximum aerodynamic efficiency, the Constellation was designed with the three vertical tails -- one of the distinctive trademarks in aviation.

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By the time the intricate and costly period of design development was completed, the United States was in World War II. No commercial production of Constellations was allowed after Pearl Harbor but 15 aircraft were constructed for the Air Force and known as the C-69.

Used from 1943 until the end of the war, the C-69   with its oversized engines and enlarged wings, flew at a speed in excess of 325 miles per hour and possessed a tremendous load capacity.

In l944 Wilbur Wright, one of the pioneers of aviation, made his last flight in a Constellation at the age of 72. After the war the C-69 established new records for transcontinental and trans-oceanic non-stop flights. A total of 5O Constellations were manufactured in a span of 15 years and divided almost equally between the military and the commercial airlines.

The six Constellations used by Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Four had been used exclusively for aerial hurricane reconnaissance since l958. The WC-121-N "Warning Star" Is an extensively equipped aircraft, its four Wright turbo-compound engines deliver a total of 13,000 horsepower--more than the combined power of eight diesel freight locomotives. Its, 8,5OO gallon maximum fuel supply enables the l45,000 pound aircraft to stay airborne on reconnaissance flights approximately 22 hours. That same fuel supply would keep the average family car in operation for ten years.

In the WEARECONRON FOUR version of the Constellation, the emphasis is on electronics. On many reconnaissance flights, the "Connie" is flown into storm winds of more than 150 miles per hour, with zero visibility, and guided solely by its own powerful radar.

The aircraft has two complete and independent radar systems. The long range search radar (which gives the aircraft its pregnant appearance) is one of the most powerful airborne radars in use today and can cover an area of 200,000 square miles. Its companion aboard a height-finding radar (which looks like a storage space for a giraffe), is a short-range radar used to measure the height of storm clouds and other meteorological phenomena. The aircraft also contains equipment, which permits it to transmit radar presentations in a manner similar to television. Thus, ships and shore installation can receive continuous radar "pictures" from the aircraft in the storm and keep abreast of storm conditions.

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The meteorology station of the aircraft is located in the rear section of the fuselage. This station is equipped with specially adapted airborne weather instruments. Communications equipment, video tape recorders and an installation for dropping weather surveying gear by parachute is located here.

Internal communications in the Super Constellation leave nothing to be desired. There are three separate systems which enab1e key personnel to talk to any crew member - two individual intercommunication systems for the flight crew and radar crew, and a public address system with sixteen speakers so that the plane commander can direct ground handling crews from inside the aircraft.

To operate the radars, communications equipment, weather instruments, flight instruments, lighting and hydraulic systems, huge quantities of electrical power are required. To meet these requirements, the Constellation can produce sufficient power to provide lighting for an average community of approximately 3,000 persons.


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