The Lockheed L1649A Starliner was the final development of the basic Constellation design and first flew on October 11, 1956. Only 44 Starliners were built, the L1649A being the last of the Lockheed piston-engined airliners.
Lufthansa originally purchased this Starliner and was delivered to the airline on 17 January 1958 and allocated the registration D-ALOL and was used for Trans-Atlantic flights. It was leased to World Airways from 5 October 1962 to February 1964 and registered N45520. It was sold to Trek Airways (Trek Lugdiens) and registered ZS-DVJ on 24 April 1964.
Prior to Trek obtaining their Starliners they leased two South African Airways Lockheed L749A Constellations. They were painted in Trek Airways livery and retained the SAA registrations, ZS-DBS and ZS-DBU.
From 7 May to September 1965, ZS-DVJ was leased by South African Airways to operate regular services between Johannesburg and Perth. It was also chartered to operate services between Johannesburg and Cape Town during the peak season of 1967–1968. In basic Trek colours, it wore “S.A. Airways” and “S.A. Lugdiens” titles on the fuselage.
In 1966, ZS-DVJ scored two “firsts” in South African aviation history. Flying the first non-stop commercial crossing of the Atlantic by a South African operator, ZS-DVJ touched down at Rio de Janeiro shortly after midday on 15 February 1966, having left Luanda at 22:30 the previous night. July 5, 1966 saw ZS-DVJ landing at Tokyo on the first Far-East flight by a South African airliner.
She went to Safari Travel Ltd and was leased to Luxair on 18 May 1967 and was registered LX-LGX. She returned to Trek Airways in June 1968 as ZS-DVJ.
Only a few Connies remain in airworthy condition. Many were sold to smaller airlines and with the arrival of more modern equipment, these grand old ladies of the skies were either demolished under the breakers hammer or allowed to die a slow death parked out of sight on some airfield.
When Trek Airways moved into the jet age they no longer required the services of the Starliners and they were sold. ZS-DVJ was retired by Trek Airways in April 1969 and stored at Johannesburg. ZS-DVJ’s sister ship ZS-FAB, c/n 1041 ex ZS-DTM, was sold to a Germiston scrap metal dealer for R5 000. When he realised he could not sell her for a profit ZS-FAB was broken up at the then Jan Smuts Airport. Starliner ZS-DVJ was the lucky one. On 27 July 1971 she was purchased, for R2000 by Mr. W.J. Pelser, owner of “Klein Kariba” pleasure resort just outside Warmbaths, now Bela-Bela.
On 9 October 1971 she undertook her last flight. Former Trek Airways pilots, Laurie Giani and Piet Retief put her down on the specially prepared strip next to the Klein Kariba pleasure resort in the Waterberg Mountains. Happily this Starliner was not destined to end her days at a pleasure resort where she was robbed of various bits and pieces.
In May 1979 ZS-DVJ was donated to SAA. She was dismantled by SAA engineers, and taken by road to the then Jan Smuts Airport, arriving on 23 May, and painstakingly re-assembled. Restoration began in February 1984 and was completed in time for SAA’s Open Day on April 30, 1988. She was restored to her former elegant appearance in Trek Airways livery.
ZS-DVJ is a stunning example of what a dedicated group of aviation enthusiasts, all members of the South African Airways Museum Society, can do in the way of restoring a dilapidated old aircraft into something quite beautiful.
During February of 2004 she was given a new coat of paint, again Trek Airways livery, which was generously donated by SAA Technical. She is one of four that survive in the world and must rank as the World’s finest L1649A in passenger configuration, restored to static display.