In 1973, the Rolling Stones
rock group came "Down Under" on their Far East Tour. To a
certain section of Australasian society, their visit is remembered not
so much for their music or their celebrity but rather for what they
brought with them. Transporting the Stones' sound and lighting gear
was a veteran Lockheed 749 Constellation which turned out to be the
last of its type to appear in the skies of Australia and New Zealand.
For this it is fondly remembered to this day.
In those days, such a tour was breaking new ground and discovering new
challenges with logistics. Much of the sound and lighting equipment
had to travel with the group, not so much because the performers demanded
it but because such equipment was simply not available in the countries
on the tour. In those days, taking a tour "on the road" was
not like the multi-million dollar extravaganzas that we have come to
expect as the norm today. Indeed, when the Stones went on tour in 1973
it was very much a low budget operation. Whereas today's promoters would
think nothing of chartering a Boeing 747 freighter, the logistics managers
of the Stones' tour had to set their sights much lower. Their budget
determined that the freighter of choice would be a twenty-six year-old
Lockheed Constellation which had been built for the Dutch airline KLM
in 1947. Even an afficionado of fine old propliners would have to concede
that this once beautiful aeroplane was now best described as decrepit.
The Stones' tour of Australasia was promoted by the Paul Dainty Organisation.
Arranging transportation for the Stones' sound and lighting gear fell
to Production Manager, Patrick Stansfield. (Patrick went on to become
the Production Manager of choice for many famous performers until he
retired in 2002). Enquiries eventually led to Miami, Florida and Air
Cargo International which was just one of many companies owned by the
enigmatic Lance Dreyer whose name had become synonymous with the Constellation
during the twilight years of an airliner once considered to be the Queen
of the Skies. By the time KLM's former PH-TET Tilburg was
sold to Dreyer's Unum Inc in March 1972 she had already led a hard life
with several owners and numerous flights to and from South American
destinations with indeterminate payloads. She also featured prominently
in the Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness surveillance reports.
Patrick Stansfield takes up the story:
|The decision to use
the Connie was random and happenstance, a result of tight budgets
and the frugal management of Peter Rudge, the Stones' U.S. manager.
I had commissioned my broker Mr Marsh Brownfield of BCC to find
a charter that fit our limited budget as the Japan & Hong Kong shows
were cancelled just before the Tour. Air Cargo International provided
the aircraft and crew, barely. Once the aircraft reached us they
never funded the operation in any way. It was up to me to draw cash
from the local promoters to buy fuel, pay landing fees, and meet
other operating costs. The ship was flown into Long Beach by the
co-pilot Brooks A. Moore. The Captain, Charlie Rector, joined at
Long Beach for the leg to Honolulu. As Brooks had no ticket to fly
this aircraft type, the entire enterprise began in violation of
FAA regulations, for which Lance Dreyer was cited and I believe
fined eventually. Captain Rector was also a navigator so in addition
to doing the take-offs and landings he had to take the occasional
sighting through the periscope sextant in the Connie's cockpit roof.
Ricky Riccatelli of Buffalo N.Y. was Flight Engineer and he babied
the old girl, replacing cylinder heads between each flight leg.
This changing of cylinder heads became a daily ritual as Ricky took
replacement parts from a box of spares carried on board. We all
became accustomed to the "tap-tap-tap" of chisel on anvil
as Ricky shaped replacement fibre head gaskets which he then coated
with a gunk known as "Forma-Gasket", a large tin of which
was included in the flight spares.
The aircraft arrived in Honolulu during our two day stand at the
Neil Blaisdell Center. (All the stage gear had been freighted to
Honolulu with Pan Am). I had taken a Quonset hut on the back side
of the old Honolulu runway on "Rotten Row" where we loaded
and reloaded 77G trying to get enough of our tech gear to fit into
her as we could. It's worth noting that she carried all band music
equipment, sound system, and eight "Super Trouper" type
arc spotlights custom painted in bright colors. These took up about
1/3 of the aircraft. As we loaded the aircraft for the third or
fourth time, the FAA developed an interest and set a watch to make
sure we did not depart without resolving several issues they had
with the ship. For a time it seemed unlikely we could get in the
air. A conversation regarding weight and balance between Brooks,
and the Stones' English Stage Manager Brian Croft went something
Brian: "Brooks old man, how heavy do you think the cargo actually
Brooks: "Well Brian, 17,500 pounds as per the manifest."
Brian: "Ah yes the manifest... but what would you say if I told
you the cargo actually weighed 26,000 pounds?"
Brooks: "Well shit man, she ain't gonna climb like no homesick angel."
We waited in the Quonset hut for a clear time and eventually the
FAA car went away (perhaps for lunch - I never knew). We scrambled
the crew, and loaded the sandwiches and coffee. The Captain arrived
at the last minute by taxi and off she went probably madly overweight.
Also on board the Connie out of Honolulu as "Cargo Masters"
were Lighting Director, David Noffsinger and Stage Sound Director,
David Pelletier. On arrival in Auckland, Paul Dainty was there to
meet the aircraft and he was horrified at the sight of the Constellation.
owner of Phoebus Lights, San Francisco, with seven of the eight
brightly painted "Super Trouper" arc spotlights which
took up one third of the Connie's cabin on the Rolling Stones tour
of Australia and New Zealand. (Photo: Patrick Stansfield Collection)
N7777G departed Honolulu
on 6 February 1973 and arrived at Pago Pago, American Samoa after just
over 22 hours flying time since leaving Long Beach. Meanwhile, on the
same day, the Rolling Stones departed Los Angeles for Sydney by airline.
After a night stop, the Connie departed for Auckland, New Zealand where
it arrived on 8 February having crossed the International Date Line.
The first Australasian concert by the Rolling Stones was a daytime performance
at Auckland's Western Springs Stadium on Sunday 11 February. Later that
day, N7777G set off for Brisbane, Australia where the next concert was
scheduled for Wednesday 14 February at the Milton Park Tennis Courts
which was then the largest venue available. (More recently, the Milton
venue has been demolished for residential development. Brisbane now
has several world class stadiums as well as a modern tennis centre).
The day after the Brisbane concert, the Rolling Stones and more particularly
the Connie, were in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons. Under
the headline "Stones' Worst Kept Secret", the Brisbane Telegraph
reported that, during a routine search of the Connie, Her Majesty's
Customs had found "a grass-like substance hidden on board".
One could be forgiven for
thinking that this was to be expected on an aircraft used previously
for transporting livestock but nevertheless, subsequent analysis revealed
the substance was indeed six grams of cannabis. Patrick Stansfield takes
up the story:
|I had arrived in Brisbane
the day before the Connie arrived (I never did travel on the Connie)
and I had arranged for Customs to do their search of the stage gear
at the Milton venue so they were searching an empty aircraft. I
was the person at Eagle Farm Airport to whom H M Customs Agent Reg
Standiford presented the offending bag of grass-like vegetable substance.
In fact the substance was the illegal herb and it was found in the
side wall between the plyboard panel and the exterior skin of the
aircraft. Apparently it had been given as "flight provisions"
for the long overwater jumps from Honolulu to Auckland, stashed
and missed by the NZ Customs fellows. Arriving trans-Tasman at the
old Eagle Farm Airport the Aussies found it within about three minutes
of swarming over the aircraft with kitbags full of mirrors and long
tongs, etc. Remarkably enough, though it generated screaming headlines
in the tabloids, the incident came to naught legally. I stonewallled
the officers commenting: "It wasn't on the ship when it left
Auckland, and there are three Americans and three Australians here
now to pick from so shoot your best shot!" In fact, despite a subsequent
microscopic search of the gear at Milton Park Stadium by an assembly
line of HM agents, no other contraband was found and the incident
never resulted in charges being brought against any member of the
crew or the passengers. During the searches, Lighting Director,
David Noffsinger felt that he had been singled out for special attention,
perhaps because he was the only one on the Connie carrying a surfboard!
I was aided in handling the aircraft all round the capitals by Mr
Doug Laurie, Cargo Manager for TAA who sent a telex out to render
all assistance to me and N7777G in our travels. The aircraft was
unpopular with the TAA engineers and loaders as it fairly rained
oil and hydraulic fluid from all possible points nose to tail necessitating
tarpaulins to protect the tarmac hardstands.
Sound Stage Director, David Pelletier, remembers being covered in
hydraulic fluid even before leaving Honolulu. He also recalls: "I
swear to God that thing hurt my hearing. It was louder than a Double
A Dragster for almost 24 (expletive) hours. Like a thousand hammers
hitting the outside of the fuselage with no let up."
The day after the Brisbane
concert, N7777G departed for Melbourne where the next concert was scheduled
for Saturday 17 February at the Kooyong Tennis Courts. In fact two concerts
were held on the Saturday with another on the Sunday. Adelaide was next
on the itinerary with concerts at Memorial Drive Park on Tuesday and
Wednesday 20/21 February. All the stage gear was trucked from Melbourne
to Adelaide by Comet Transport while the Connie remained in Melbourne
for maintenance. Trans-Australia Airlines internal correspondence states
that TAA contracted to unload 20,000 pounds of equipment in Melbourne
and to perform a 100 hourly service on the Connie. For the purposes
of this contract, the owner of the aircraft was shown as Sunday Promotions
of Houston, Texas (President Lance Dreyer). The contract stipulated
that all services rendered would be paid for in cash by the aircraft
captain. The 100 hourly service would be under the supervision of the
aircraft Flight Engineer who would also sign the aircraft out. TAA worksheets
show that the service was carried out over the period 15 to 18 February
but the aircraft log books show that the engines were run at Melbourne
on 20 February. As part of the service, the aircraft batteries were
serviced, requiring the supply of two gallons of battery acid. TAA documents
also record the allocation of two manhours to paint the leading edges
of the fins and tailplane (see photo). (Patrick
Stansfield recalls this work and believes that it was for reasons of
cosmetic appearance). Curiously, a TAA memo dated 2 February 1973 names
the Captain as J.E. Carlin. At the time this memo was written, N7777G
was still in Miami so it is presumed that Captain Rector was a late
substitution for Captain Carlin. (see Footnote)
On Wednesday 21 February, N7777G positioned empty from Melbourne to
Adelaide. After the Stones' second Adelaide concert, the Connie positioned
to Perth on 22 February. The Adelaide visit was memorable because of
the clash between a local bikie gang and the Police! Again the group's
equipment was roaded from Adelaide to Perth but N7777G was not exactly
empty on this sector. Popular belief has it that the Stones never travelled
on the Connie. Not so, as Patrick Stansfield explains:
|Keith Richards was the
only Stone to fly in the Connie and that was on the empty Adelaide
to Perth leg. He and his chums fitted it with wall hangings, oriental
pillows and diaphanous curtains to give a sort of "Casbah"
look and feel to it. I am sure the smoking lamp was lit, and much
fine spirits were consumed. I believe that Bobby Keys the trumpet
player was along on that run along with some pretty people for decoration
and fun. The cabin must have been bloody hot on the ground and likewise
cold at 3000m as there was NO insulation at all, just a plywood
liner to keep the cargo from punching holes in the skin. David Pelletier
said that Keith once told him that he couldn't believe how loud
it was inside. Damning criticism coming from a rock muso! This pleasure
flight may have been the reason behind the attempt to improve the
appearance of the aircraft with some cosmetic paintwork on the tail.
The Perth concert was held
at the famous Western Australia Cricket Ground (The WACA) on Saturday
Noted Australian aviation
historian Geoff Goodall was on duty in the Perth control tower when
N7777G arrived and departed. He recalls:
"Such were our shifts, that I was on a morning shift in the Tower
on 22 Feb, 0600-1300 coming back the same evening at 2300 for a run
of night shifts 2300-0600. Early that morning the young trainee whose
job was to tear the flight plans off the teleprinter and make up a strip
for each flight, looked up and asked blankly 'What's a L749?'. I leapt
out of my seat to look at the plan, and was quite excited at the prospect
of seeing a Connie. The departure message came from Adelaide, which
gave an ETA around 3pm that afternoon, so I decided to make the ultimate
sacrifice and wait in the Tower after the end of my shift, rather than
the usual rush home to hit the sack before coming back for the night
shift. I was rewarded by watching him land on RWY 24, giving me time
to rush down the tower steps and out on to the main apron to photograph
the Connie taxiing to the Ansett Air Freight parking area.
"I returned to the Tower at 11pm that night, noticing that the
Connie was a hive of activity surrounded by trucks and being loaded.
Its flight plan came on the teleprinter, and to my surprise it read
'PH-SY DCT VFR B050', filed by some US flight ops planning company in
Houston. Under Australian ANRs, VFR was only available up to 12,500lbs
AUW (Kingair), and VFR at night had to plan above LSALT along the route,
'Below 5000' was not acceptable. So I had the unenviable job of telling
the gnarly old Captain when he called up, that he had to submit a new
IFR flight plan - but I offered to take it over the radio for him. He
asked me what the heck he needed to plan, so between us we cooked up
a legitimate plan. I pointed out to him that as soon as he left controlled
airspace 40 miles from Perth, he would be on his own all the way until
40 miles from SY, as long as he stayed south of Alice Springs, when
he could choose his own level. I clearly remember his 20 minute run-up
at the holding point for RWY 20. I wasn't going to miss that, so told
the two B727s getting ready for the RedEye back to Melbourne that I'd
be off frequency for 5 minutes and went out on the Tower balcony to
enjoy the sounds of his mag checks. The Connie crew didn't have any
SID plates, so I just gave him Runway heading to get him away, but he
climbed so slowly that he went over Jandakot Airport to the south before
I could let him turn East to get above the Perth ranges. Curiously,
they used a callsign of 'November Triple Seven Golf' in and out of Perth."
The day after the Perth concert,
N7777G headed back to Sydney with all the stage gear for the final concerts
at Royal Randwick Race Course on Monday and Tuesday 26/27 February.
Patrick Stansfield recalls:
Sydney concerts, the Stones made their entrance in a grand, powder
blue coach drawn by four horses. They were illuminated from about
a quarter mile away by the eight strong "Super Trouper"
arc lights imported by lighting and design legend Edward Herbert
Beresford "Chip" Monck. These amazing arc lights were chosen by
Mr Monck as his signature for the tour, and were all painted in
different bright, saturated enamel colors for effect as they resided
sometimes onstage and reflected the band in a giant forty foot wide
by sixteen foot high array of mirror panels hung over audience and
stage. The "Super Troupers", which were sold to Paul Dainty's
partner Ron Blackmore after the tour, may still be in existence
in Australia today. Mr Monck now resides in Australia.
The nature of
the Australian venues would tend to support the popular belief that
Australians care more for their sport than they do for other cultural
pursuits! Fortunately the nation has matured and all capital cities
now have several fine performance venues.
the tour concluded, the Rolling Stones departed Sydney on Wednesday
28 February for various overseas destinations. The Connie was loaded
up with all the stage equipment and departed Sydney for Nadi, Fiji on
1 March. Another stop was made at Pago Pago and the aircraft finally
arrived in Honolulu on 3 March after crossing the date line. After two
days for crew rest the Connie departed for Long Beach on 5 March but
that's not the end of the story. Patrick Stansfield explains:
|I was in Long Beach
awaiting the aircraft to arrive from Honolulu when I received a
message from N7777G:
"Lost prop, returning HNL".
I sent a query for amplification and received the terse legendary
message from the Co-Pilot Brooks A. Moore:
"Prop in drink repeat returning HNL love Brooksie. Over and out!"
David Noffsinger told me that that the owner, Lance Dreyer, wanted
the crew to ferry the aircraft to Long Beach on three engines but
this would have required an FAA permit. The FAA had not forgotten
the earlier incident when N7777G departed Honolulu overweight and
without a clearance so they had the crew in for a little sit down
I shipped most of the freight back to Los Angeles on Pan Am as it
was rental gear, leaving only transformers and cables to lighten
her load. The FAA permitted her to continue after Lance reappeared
and was duly cited I guess.
All in all without the friendship and efforts of TAA, particularly
Doug Laurie of TAA Cargo, the whole operation would have collapsed.
Trucking was arranged by our friend Ted Edwards of Comet/Kwikasair.
It was Ted who kindly introduced me to Doug Laurie. Without TAA's
assistance N7777G never would have flown at all over the free blue
skies of Australia.
Presumably the FAA mandated
that an engine change was required because it wasn't until 24 March
that N7777G resumed her voyage home when she departed Honolulu for Los
Angeles International. This brought to a close Seven Seven Golf's involvement
in the Rolling Stones Far East Tour but more adventures were to come.
Eventually N7777G returned
to her Miami base on 4 April and later did the odd charter to the Caribbean
and Central and South America. On one such flight to Iquitos in Peru,
the hydraulics failed while landing on the short strip. After bringing
the aircraft to a halt at the end of the runway, the crew incurred the
wrath of airport management by abandoning the aircraft where it came
to rest. Later it was towed to a parking area where it sat for ten days
awaiting parts from Miami. In November 1973, the aircraft went to Lanzair
(Channel Islands) Ltd under a lease/purchase agreement. The owner of
Lanzair, Captain Duncan Baker, operated several charters within the
USA but on 5 December the aircraft departed for Amsterdam via Gander
with a load of produce. The prodigal KLM veteran had returned to her
old stamping ground in typical Connie fashion - on three engines! The
aeroplane sat at Amsterdam until 18 February 1974 when it was ferried
to Coventry, UK for further maintenance. Lanzair had booked a livestock
charter from Dublin to Tripoli on 8 March 1974 but the owners of the
aircraft sent its own crew to operate the charter. After the Triploi
charter, the aircraft positioned empty to Dublin where it arrived in
the early morning of 10 March. It transpired that this was to be the
last flight for N7777G. There then ensued a lengthy legal dispute between
the owners, Lance Dreyer's Air Cargo International and the lessee Duncan
Baker's Lanzair. This dispute kept the aircraft impounded at Dublin.
As so often happens in these situations, while the lawyers fiddled,
the aircraft sat at Dublin deteriorating in the weather with the occasional
engine run until both parties lost interest in the aeroplane. Duncan
Baker's Lanzair resumed operations with Super Constellation N11SR which
had once flown for Qantas as VH-EAB Southern Horizon. A full
history of this aeroplane can be found here.
Many chickens came home to roost on 22 September 1975 when the Federal
Aviation Administration issued a lien against N7777G. The document read
|Please take notice that
on September 19 and November 21, 1972 and during the period February
5, 1973 through April 4 1973, civil aircraft N7777G, a Lockheed
Constellation, was involved in various alleged violations of the
Federal Aviation Regulations, and is therefore subject to the priority
lien established by Section 901(b) of the Federal Aviation Act of
1958, as amended, [49 U.S.C. 1471 (b)] to secure civil penalties
for which the owner/operator is subject by reason of the violations,
and is subject to seizure by the United States of America under
the authority of Section 903 (b) (2) of the Federal Aviation Act
of 1958, as amended [49 U.S.C. 1473 (b) (2)]. Litigation is now
pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District
of Texas, Houston Division, seeking full recovery of civil penalties
for which the owner/operator is subject by reason of the operation
of the aircraft, and such aircraft N7777G may be seized at anytime
by the United States of America.
By December 1977, with Lanzair having lost interest in 77G (and also
N11SR which had been abandoned in Kuwait!), the High Court in Dublin
lifted its injunction on the aircraft so it could now depart Dublin.
Clearly though, anyone wishing to do so would be well advised to give
the USA a wide berth. Although there were expressions of interest from
museums and potential operators, none were of substance until March
1982 when the Connie was purchased by Aces High Limited. This company
had gained fame from providing aircraft for the fondly remembered television
series "Airline". The show centred around the post-war operation
of DC-3s by the fictitious airline Ruskin Air Services. With a second
series in prospect, Aces High hoped to use the Connie so with this in
mind it was placed on the U.K. Register as G-CONI in May 1982. Although
Aces High painted their name on the Connie, the registration was never
applied to the aircraft. While work was continuing on making the aircraft
airworthy, the prospect of film work evaporated. Whether it was this
development or a growing appreciation of how much the aeroplane had
deteriorated after eight years in the weather, any prospect of flight
Fortunately, the historical value of the aircraft was recognised by
the London Science Museum and in June 1983 this organisation acquired
the Connie for £45,000. Having established that a ferry flight was not
economically viable, the aircraft was dismantled and transported by
road and sea to the Science Museum's facility at Wroughton where it
arrived in August 1983. During the ensuing twelve months, the aircraft
was restored to static display standard in the sixties colours of Trans
World Airlines but still carrying the registration N7777G. The choice
of TWA livery is puzzling given the aeroplane's genuine KLM history
and the fact that it never flew for TWA but perhaps it is appropriate
to recognise TWA as it was the most prolific operator of Constellations
and Super Constellations. The most important thing is that the aeroplane
has found a secure and honourable retirement. Certainly she's earned
N7777G Photo Gallery
for a larger image)
15 February 1973
15 February 1973
22 February 1973
27 August 1973
25 April 1982
4 May 1983
4 May 1983
9 August 1983
Captain Jim Carlin and (it is believed) Flight Engineer Rick
Riccatelli lost their lives in the crash of another Connie not
long after the Rolling Stones tour. On 9 June 1973, Lockheed
L-1049H Super Constellation N173W (c/n 4674) was taking-off
from Casey, Quebec in Canada when it crashed into trees soon
after take-off and was destroyed by explosion and fire. The
third crew member, First Officer A. Condey, was also killed
in the crash. The aircraft had been modified for spraying pesticides
on forests and it was engaged in these operations on the day
of the crash. The investigation revealed that the flaps had
been retracted prematurely after take-off. N173W was previously
owned by Lance Dreyer's Unum Inc. The Stones' Connie N7777G
was to be re-registered N173X but this was not taken up.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Is the legendary stage manager who, along with Bill Graham of
FM Productions, launched the modern music concert format by creating
and popularising the arena rock business. After a lifetime in
show business, Patrick today heads Patrick Stansfield Associates
Inc of California although he now considers himself to be semi-retired.
In addition to the Rolling Stones, Patrick has managed productions
for such legendary performers as Barbra Streisand, Santana, Neil
Diamond, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tina Turner and many others.
Once went to a concert.
The authors wish to thank the following without whose assistance
this story might never have been told. Special thanks go to Peter
Marson, a world authority on Constellation and Super Constellation
histories. Peter's work features prominently in this history of
N7777G. Much of the information in this article was extracted
from the log books of 77G which survive with the aeroplane in
the Science Museum at Wroughton, UK. This information was extracted
by Peter Marson. The Webmaster records his thanks to co-author
an image of N7777G during maintenance
in Melbourne in February 1973. Thanks to Robert Zweck.
an image of N7777G at Miami after the
Rolling Stones tour.
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