AUBURN – One of those antique planes that sat beside the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport for 20 years is a piece of German history.

The particular plane, known simply as “N974R,” once served as West Germany’s equivalent to America’s Air Force One.

So it’s little wonder that a foundation funded by Germany’s Lufthansa airline – “Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung” – bought the rare Super Constellation Starliners last week in an auction and almost immediately announced restoration plans.

“The crew that will restore the aircraft will be complemented by retirees from Lufthansa Technik that worked on this aircraft during their professional career,” Lufthansa spokesman Martin Riecken said.

That work may take place here in Auburn.

Within hours of the Dec. 18 auction, the Lufthansa foundation signed a letter of intent with the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, which would build a 50,000-square-foot hangar for the work.

The million-dollar deal would create the biggest hangar at the Auburn airport, roughly doubling the combined hangar space, according to airport Director Rick Cloutier.

Cloutier estimated that 20 or more people would be employed on the restoration.

“It makes us not a little airport in Maine,” Cloutier said last week.

The two antique planes were brought to Auburn by Maurice Roundy in the 1980s and parked beside his home, adjacent to the airport.

Roundy planned to restore the pair of planes, and a third which is in Florida, but it never happened. Roundy and his wife sold the planes last week as part of bankruptcy.

The Lufthansa foundation purchased all three aircraft for $748,000.

Plans call for at least one of the three, N974R, to be restored. The other two may be used for parts.

All three are prized relics.

Hundreds of constellations, known affectionately as the “Connie,” were produced by Lockheed starting during World War II. The three in Auburn came later, among 44 super constellations built by Lockheed in 1957.

The planes were among the fastest passenger aircraft in the sky until jets took over.

The specific plane known as “N974R” had been part of the Lufthansa fleet of super constellations. The Germans called them “super stars.”

The prized N974R was loaned to the West German government to transport then-Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to the United States and Japan, Riecken said.

The renovated plane will likely be stripped to its bare frame and rebuilt, accounting for every nut and bolt. Many parts will have to be custom-manufactured, Cloutier said.

If an agreement is reached between the airport and Lufthansa, construction on the new hangar could begin this spring Cloutier said.


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