A new Super Star

A new Super Star

Dignitaries from the USA and Germany, as well as local media representatives witnessed on November 20, 2008 the festive “roll-in” of the Super Star into its new overhaul hangar at Auburn-Lewiston airport.

Even though it looks “vintage” to the layman’s eye, the Super Star of the year 2017 is principally a new aircraft. More than 90 percent of all structural parts have been removed and replaced by newly fabricated structural elements.

Furthermore, every single component, like landing gears, propellers, hydraulic components, electric cables, flightdeck instrumentation and flight control items, has been removed, meticulously overhauled or newly fabricated. While some of these components have already been re-installed, others will follow suit.

Apart from the aircraft itself, its four Curtiss-Wright piston engines have been thoroughly checked, and will soon be re-attached to the wing.

Why a new Super Star?

In order to safeguard a regular operation with fare paying passengers, the LSSG Super Star will be registered in the commercial airliner category, according to the highest possible certification standards.

The resulting additional expenditures in terms of money and time are wisely spent, since the future LSSG passengers can look forward to travel on board the “new” Super Star at the highest possible safety level, comparable to a modern passenger aircraft.

As we aim to offer the most comfortable travel experience, we are going to reinstall the original pressurized cabin. This will allow flights at higher altitudes, above the clouds and annoying turbulences.

A comparison of the restoration hangar pictures taken in 2011 and 2017 reveals that not only the Super Star as changed a lot in the course of time. The large number of work stations, necessary to overhaul structural parts and components on site, requires a constant change in the hangar layout.

In addition to the technical team in Auburn, a global chain of highly qualified and specialized suppliers is contracted to overhaul various Super Star components. Leaving nothing to chance, the Super Star engineering teams located in the US and Germany, in cooperation with the regulatory authority assure first class quality by closely monitoring each and every working step of these external parties.

The overhaul of a component doesn’t mean, that it is instantly re-installed on board the Super Star. Therefore not all of these parts are captured on the pictures, like the overhauled main landing gears, propeller sets, and the four Curtiss-Wright engines. They will only be installed when the meticulously detailed project management flowchart signals the best possible time for their mounting.


Highlights of 2017

The first half of 2017 was filled with an array of special highlights. Since the completion of the primary structure overhaul of the fuselage, wings and empennage, the Super Star technical teams in Auburn and Hamburg switched their main focus to the overhaul and installation of secondary structural parts.

In the meantime all four overhauled engine nacelles have been re-attached to the Super Star wings. While only the inner nacelles serve as main landing gear wells, both the outer and inner nacelles are packed full of aircraft system components. The cabin supercharger compressors are connected to the outer engines, which are needed to keep up the cabin pressure while flying at high altitudes.

During the first six months of this year, the wings have begun to regain their original shape as the leading and trailing edges plus wing tips are in the process of being reinstalled. Additionally the aerodynamic, wing to body fairings were attached. The overhauled main landing gears will be installed in the wheel wells after the inner nacelles have been fitted with cables and hoses, connecting the engines in front of the nacelles. Only then will the Super Star again stand on her own three gears.

The Super Star team expects this very special milestone of the L-1649A project to happen in 2018. In parallel to this the wooden racks, which have, for many years, held the aircraft in a stress free position to enable overhaul work, will be dismantled. Amongst other things, this stress free mounting is a prerequisite for the current installation of flap rails in the exact angle.

Back in 2016 the horizontal and vertical rudder overhaul was completed. When covered with a special fabric by a specialist company, the rudders will return successively to their original position at the aircraft empennage. In a short while the characteristic look of the Super Star with its three fins will be reinstated. 

The Super Star technical team is not only working at high pressure on the prerequisites for the installation of the new glass cockpit but in parallel they devote a lot of time and effort on the test and overhaul of complex flight control components. Furthermore the first overhauled components are being installed in the forward underfloor hydraulic bay of the Super Star fuselage. One floor up, the team outfits the future passenger cabin with floor panels and seat tracks. They are a prerequisite for the installation of the already completed passenger seats. 

The first six months of 2017 was a time filled with lots of intensive hard work but the second six months will not by any means be less productive, which will bring the project a big step closer to completion.


Highlights of 2016

In the first half of the year, the structural work on the Super Star fuselage and wing was completed. During the last years, more than 90 percent of the aircraft structure has been replaced by newly fabricated material.

The iconic, fully overhauled Super Star tripletail returns to the rear of the L-1649A.

The Super Star front landing gear, meticulously overhauled by Lufthansa Technik in Germany, returns on board the L-1649A.

The overhauled main landing gears will be installed as soon as the repair of the wheel wells has been completed.

The Super Star cabin team designed an installation concept for three identical emergency slides for the evacuation of passengers and crew in case of an emergency landing. Although all three main cabin doors are of different shape and have to be handled differently, the newly developed slide containers can be installed at all three doors. The functionality of the system was demonstrated to the authorities during a life test in the fall of 2016.


Highlights of 2015

The successful exchange of the wing to body fittings marks the completion of a highly complex replacement and installation process. The newly fabricated fitting blocks were exchanged by a highly experienced multi-national team, consisting of members from Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg and Lufthansa Technik Philippines. A challenging task, comparable with open heart surgery. 

After the completion of its overhaul, the fuselage barrel 8 returns to the original position at the rear of the aircraft.

Straight after the replacement of the wing to body fittings, the German / Philippine Lufthansa Technik team started with the exchange of the fuselage mainframes. Again, this was a huge task, requiring all the skill and expertise of the component team. In terms of structural aspects these mainframes are the most critical areas of the Super Star fuselage with the highest applicable loads. 


Highlights of 2014

The landing gear specialists of Lufthansa Technik in Germany complete the overhaul of the Super Star landing gears in “better than new” condition. The task was very demanding as original overhaul instructions were partially incomplete or missing. Therefore the team had to develop its own repair procedures, based on their profound knowledge.

In parallel to the cabin design, the Super Star cabin experts develop specially designed passenger seats in a “retro look”. The fabrics and colors are based on the Lufthansa “Comforette” seat model, in use on board of the Lockheed L-1049G and L-1649A long-distance fleet of the 1950’s.


Highlights of 2013

The Super Star team celebrates the 55th Lufthansa Super Star first flight jubilee. On February 13, 1958, the inaugural flight left Frankfurt airport for the first commercial Lufthansa non-stop service across the North Atlantic. The L-1649A was the first aircraft in the Lufthansa fleet with a sufficient range to cover the distance of 6.189 kilometers between Frankfurt and New York, without a mandatory refueling stop en route.

A US supplier initiates the Super Star propeller overhaul. The project is lead by Chet Heth – then 96 - who started his career working on Super Star propeller fabricated by Hamilton Standard in the 1950’s.

A team of Hungarian sheet metal experts, sent by Lufthansa Technik Budapest to Auburn, is tasked with the fuselage plank fabrication. The planks are formed on site in the restoration hangar with the help of an “English wheel”. The dolphin like shaped fuselage of the Super Star demands the full expertise of the Hungarian sheet metal specialists.


Thanks to the vast experience of a Lufthansa Technik Budapest team member, a replacement for the damaged pressure bulkhead could be built on site in Auburn. Beforehand this seemed like an almost impossible task. The Hungarian “metal artist” completed this job in just three weeks and in compliance with the strict demands imposed by the project engineering and the surveying FAA.


Highlights of 2012

An in depth analysis of the aircraft structure reveals that all fuselage frames and planks have to be replaced by newly manufactured parts. The frames are mostly pre-fabricated by Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg while highly specialized team members form the planks on site in Auburn. 

The Super Star is completely surrounded by scaffolding to allow the best possible access to all areas of the aircraft structure.

Anderson Aeromotive completes the overhaul of the third Super Star engine. Like the first two engines, motor #3 was successfully test run.

The FAA grants Lufthansa Technik the permission to overhaul L-1649A landing gears. Soon after the go-ahead, landing gear experts of Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg and Frankfurt start with their overhaul.

A Super Star cabin mock-up is built by active and retired employees of the VIP & Executive Solutions division by Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg. The mock-up is used to put the virtual Super Star cabin design to a practical test.

2008 – 2011

Highlights 2008 – 2011

November 20, 2008: The inauguration of the Super Star restoration hangar at Auburn-Lewiston airport, Maine, marks the official start of the L-1649A overhaul.

A former Lufthansa Super Star has been identified as the ideal source for passenger doors. They are needed to re-convert the Super Star freighter in Auburn back into its original passenger aircraft configuration. The donator, a former Lufthansa L-1649A, once registered D-ALOL, is on display at an aviation museum in South Africa. The original passenger doors are thoroughly overhauled by a team of experts at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg.

Anderson Aeromotive, a specialized engine repair shop located in Grangeville, Idaho, commences the overhaul of the four Curtiss-Wright Turbo Compound engines.

Upon their return to Auburn, the overhauled components are stored in ideal conditions at a facility close to the Super Star restoration hangar.

A component management team is established at Auburn. Thousands of parts are catalogued and shipped to specialized overhaul companies in the US and Germany.

The Lockheed Super Star engineering team moves into new office premises near the hangar at Auburn-Lewiston airport. Every technical finding is reported to project engineering. In close cooperation with the Designated Engineering Representative (DER) and the FAA, the project engineers decide if a damaged part can be repaired or has to be replaced. In both cases the engineering team issues the necessary instructions and documentations.