“Back to Bataan"
The newest addition to the Lewis Air Legends collection is the historic Lockheed C-121 Constellation known as “Bataan”.
First delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 1948, it was re-configured for VIP transport. This Connie was the first C-121 to be fitted with AVQ-10 all weather radar. It was also upgraded with the TR3350-75 engines and short “jet stacks” exhaust. Soon after the refit, the plane was assigned as the personal transport of General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. It was named “Bataan” by MacArthur in honor of the American prisoners of war that endured the notorious death march. "Bataan" continued use as MacArthur's flying command post for Korean War operations.
This aircraft went on to carry many military leaders, politicians and dignitaries including, Generals Mark W. Clark, Curtis E. LeMay, South Korean President Syngman Rhee, Vice President Richard M. Nixon and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The plane was declared surplus at the end of 1965 and it was sent to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ for storage. Revived for use by the Goddard Space Flight Center in support of the Apollo Lunar Program, “Bataan" once again met it’s mission until budget cuts forced her back into surplus. A search was made to find a fitting home for this venerable aircraft. "Bataan" ended up at The Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, AL. where it remained until 1992. A new curator to the museum decided that the plane did not fit into his overall plan and prepared to scrap it. Ed Maloney of the famous ‘Planes of Fame” air museum in Chino, CA. stepped in to save this historic Constellation. After an exhaustive nine month restoration, the aircraft flew again. Following additional restoration work in Alabama, Texas and Chino, CA, it was decided in 1995 to move the Connie to the "Planes of Fame" auxiliary facility in Valle, AZ.
Fast forward to March 2015. Lewis Air Legends founder, Rod Lewis decides to add ’Bataan” to his already outstanding collection. “I though the Connie needed to be rescued and put back in the air again to honor our veterans” said Mr. Lewis. “There are lots of single and twin engine warbirds out there, it’s nice to see a few of these “Big Boys” flying. I thought it would be great to let people see and hear one of these behemoths of days gone by”. Twenty years have passed since the aircraft arrived in the high desert near the Grand Canyon. History repeats itself once again as the “Planes of Fame” crew work their magic and bring “Bataan” back to life. Once in California, the Connie will be restored as she was while serving General MacArthur.