Part of Lufthansa’s efforts to restore the Lockheed Constellation Starliners

AUBURN — When Lufthansa Technik announced plans Thursday to dismantle its “Super Star” Constellation and send it back to Germany after a 10-year restoration project, the timing came as a surprise locally.

Bettyann Sheats, chairwoman of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport board of directors, said they knew the plane wouldn’t stay forever, but they’d expected it to be here until it could fly off on its own, which was at least a year off.

She drew an analogy to discovering a teenager would graduate early.

“You’re obviously happy for them,” Sheats said. “You’re not prepared to talk about what’s next; you’re dealing with just getting him out the door safely.”

As part of its announcement, Lufthansa thanked the community and airport for its support of the project. There’s no firm departure date.

While the airport board explores what’s next for the hangar that the Constellation project had leased and called home, Sheats said there’s no risk of it going empty.

“We have an immediate need for corporate hangar space,” she said. “(But) that is not the highest, best use of that space. It is a very, very valuable building. We can build corporate hangar space and leave that building to something better. While we’re looking for something better, that building will never be empty.”

Airport Director Rick Lanman said the building’s value comes in part from its size, heated floors and tall doors.

“There’s all manner of aviation activity that can go on in there,” he said. “It’s big enough that we can put three of the largest airplanes this airport can handle in it. It allows us a lot of flexibility that up until this point we haven’t been able to actually consider because we don’t have the space available to us.”

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The “Super Star” Constellation is going to be dismantled and sent back to Germany after a 10-year restoration project in Lewiston. (Sun Journal 2010 file photo)