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TWA and the Constellation

Hughes: In other words, up to the time of the Hudson bomber Lockheed really had not achieved any success of consequence. It is interesting to note that the three airplanes which accounted for Lockheed's success up until the end of World War II were the Hudson Bomber, which might never have become a reality without Hughes flight around the world; the P-38, which in some manner had its origin from the Hughes conceived 2-engine interceptor that Hughes-submitted to the Air force; and thirdly, the Constellation, which Hughes requested Lockheed to build. I'm sure the story on the Constellation is covered elsewhere but, in short, Hughes took the preliminary design to Consolidated and Rube Fleet refused it, and then Hughes took it into Lockheed, and Lockheed finally agreed to build it with Hughes taking all the financial risks.

Hughes at the controls of TWA Constellation showing the radar equipment,1947.
Hughes at the controls of TWA Constellation showing the radar equipment,1947.

Now this part of the story, however, and everything to do with Lockheed should be handled with some consideration not to peak (sic) the pride of Lockheed too much. In other words, naturally, if you give the Hughes version of this thing they are not going to be very happy about it and, naturally, their story would be somewhat different but I think the facts sustain what I have just said. Of course I probably haven't given myself any of the worst of it.

Jack Frye, President of TWA when it was acquired by Hughes, did in fact have a somewhat different story which he provided in a letter to the editor of Look magazine.

"As a reader of Look, I have noted with personal interest the references made to me and TWA in your current series of articles - The Howard Hughes Story.

A number of my friends in the aviation field have called my attention to, and I have recognized as much myself, several gross errors appearing in the article which refers to Mr. Hughes's introduction to TWA and that part concerning me...

The references concerning that part Mr. Hughes performed in connection with the Boeing Stratoliner and Constellation are grossly exaggerated . . . TWA had already secured bids from one manufacturer on the airplane in question that ultimately evolved into the Constellation - before Mr. Hughes ever showed interest in TWA or became its principal stockholder.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Mr. Hughes deserves credit for having the courage to financially support the purchase of the Stratoliner and Constellation after he purchased a stock interest in TWA."

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