Parts of a Lockheed Super Constellation that flew in Qantas colours during the 1950s have been returned to Australia after sitting abandoned in a Kuwait desert for more than four decades.
According to information provided to Australian Aviation from Qantas, the salvage effort for VH-EAB Southern Horizon that took place in mid-November managed to retrieve sections of the aircraft’s fuselage, engine cowlings, the main entry door and tip tanks from near the Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait.
From there, the 700kg of parts were taken to Ali Al Salem Air Base by truck and then onwards to Dubai in a Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules.
And in a case of the past coming face to face with the present, the final leg of the journey from Dubai to Sydney was on a Qantas Airbus A380 that happened to be in Dubai undergoing a repaint into the airline’s new livery.
While Southern Horizon would have taken about two and half days to complete the 6,500nm journey – the distance measured by the great circle mapper – the A380 made the trip from Dubai to Sydney in 13 hours and 42 minutes.
The project involved volunteers from the Qantas Founders Museum, as well as former and current staff at the airline.
There was also support from the Australian Defence Force, the Kuwait Air Force, a number of Kuwait Air Bases, the United States Air Force, the Australian Embassy in Kuwait and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs.
Qantas First Officer Don Hill said there was overwhelming support for the project to bring Southern Horizon back to Australia.
“Despite snakes, scorpions, and “once in a century” desert rainstorms, I’d say the biggest surprise was how enthusiastic each person became when they heard about Southern Horizon’s story and journey back to Australia,” First Officer Hill said in a statement.
A look at the former Qantas Super Constellation sitting in a desert in Kuwait (images from Qantas)
According to Qantas, Southern Horizon was delivered new to Qantas in 1955 and flew with the airline for eight years, including carrying the Olympic Flame from Greece to Australia for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. It was one of 16 Super Constellations the airline flew during the 1950s.
More broadly, the Super Constellation launched Qantas’s trans-Pacific services in 1954 and operated the first ever regular around-the-world air service via both hemispheres in 1958.
Southern Horizon was eventually sold to Boeing in 1963 and flew with a number of operators before being abandoned at Kuwait City Airport in 1976, Qantas said.
“Southern Horizon was subsequently acquired by Kuwait’s Ministry of Defence for training and fire-fighting drills, and miraculously remained largely intact while the airport was bombed during the Gulf War in 1991,” Qantas said.
Qantas said the the callsign of the A380 ferry flight from Dubai to Sydney was changed from QF6012 to Southern Horizon.
Listen below as the pilots refer to the flight as Southern Horizon with air traffic control.
The salvaged parts were expected to be on display at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach once they are cleaned in 2019. Qantas said some parts were also likely to be placed at the airline’s Sydney headquarters in Mascot.
Qantas Captain David Evans, who was one of three pilots that flew the A380 carrying Southern Horizon back to Australia, said the Super Constellation’s significance to the airline’s history could not be understated.
“We’re thrilled to have parts of this special aircraft back in Australia where it belongs,” Evans said in a statement.
“We’d love to see people visit Longreach to see the parts for themselves when they’re on display early next year at the Qantas Founders Museum.”
The museum recently brought back a Super Constellation from Manila it bought at an auction in 2017. While that aircraft did not fly for Qantas, the museum has restored the aircraft and painted it in the airline’s livery.