ConvairlinersThe ConvairLiner was another clean break for civil aviation after the 2nd World War: it had become clear in the United States that there was a whole world open for travel and by air was the quickest means (for those who could afford it). The first model, Convair CV240, struggled with the competition of the war-surplus C-47s (Douglas DC-3). The next model, CV340, was faster and bigger. The Convair CV440 brought sales to over a thousand Convairliners. The US Air Force and US Navy ordered CV440s as well and they remained in use till the end of the 1980s, a sure sign of success. Most early model CV240s have since found their way to scrapyards and desert storage, but the improvements on the CV340/440 as CV580 and CV640 are still around in considerable numbers. And so, after taken to the air in the 1940s, these Convairliners still ply the airways in the 21st century.
Photos © R.Leeuw
This Convair is one of the oldest models produced, a CV240. N81599 has c/n 53-25 and the last CV240 model produced was 53-26. N81599 was delivered to the USAF in nov.'54 and designated a C-131A (52-5805). It spent much of its service life in Europe, based at Rhein-Main. In 1975 it was stored in the desert of Arizona, at Davis Monthan AFB. It was assigned its present tailnumber N81599 in may 1989, when it was registered for Central Air Service. It remained at Avra Valley for a few years, where I took this shot in 1993. It was registered in dec.'96 for Starship Inc,Tucson and reportedly sold to a Mexican owner in 1997, but never went there and was reported in 1999 still in Tucson. Beauty is only skin deep, but this one could do with some work, I say !
Well now, this one looks much better ! This is a CV340 model, cn 274, designated C-131B when it was delivered to the USAF in sep.'55 as 53-7822. It moved thru various departments of the military, e.g. FAA and Systems Command. This one too ended up in desert storage (MASDC=Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, Davis Monthan AFB, Tucson,AZ) in dec.'87. It was registered to Mr Steven G.Penning in 1991 as N41626 and changed owners under the same tailnumber in dec.'93, to Miami Air Lease. The situation had not changed in feb.'99 when I took this photo at Opa Locka,FL.
This one looks even better, but is in fact older. Cn 93 is a CV240 and was delivered as VH-TAS to Trans-Australia Airlines ("James Cook") oct.'48. Consider that, for a minute. In 1956 it went to Pakistan Int'l Airlines (AP-AHS). It went Dutch as PH-NLP for Fokker (operated for Euravia) and came home as N559R for Beldex Corporation (july'60). It was reregistered as N396CG for Faberge Inc in sep.'70 and flew for movie star Cary Grant. It went thru various owners, incl Howard Hughes in the 1970s. It was stored in Pontiac,MI 1982-1986. C&M Airways,TX bought it in aug.'89, but it was registered to another owner a few months later… It was leased by Renown Aviation, as a freighter, in the early 1990s. This photo was taken when I visited Camarillo,CA in may 1997. It flew passengers for flag carriers, VIPs for Hollywood and now it sits disgarded by cargo operators while the grass grows high around it….
Gil White wrote me: I noted on your website was the ex TAA (Trans Australia Airlines) Convair VH-TAS. My father was one of the first 10 pilots to be employed by TAA back in 1946 and he flew this aircraft many times before moving on to the Vickers Viscount.
Gil wrote an excellent history on this aircraft and sent it to me early 2005. You'll note the crewlist of the delivery flight to Melbourne-Essendon (VH-TAS 'James Cook'). History caught up in April 2007 when Mary Wilson wrote: "My father, who is 90, claims to have been on the first delivery flights of the CV240 to Australia. I noticed on your website that the 'James Cook' arrived in Oct. 48" The First Officer's name of the ferry crew: P. Wilson.
Alas, the mystery remains unsolved as Mary wrote: "My Dad is Tom Wilson..He was a civilian Technical rep from Hamilton Standard sent along to be an advisor to the Australian crew. They set off from San Diego and picked him up in Montreal, then continued on to London, etc. I wrote to that museum and they said they did not have such a plane! Anyway, my father was not the First Officer."
"Mary wrote me on 02Apr11:
"I found out many things about that 'round the world' flight, including the names of the Austalian crew of 6, the journalist Stanley Brogden, the Cinesound Cameraman- Mr. Thompson, J.Watkins of T.A.A....but no mention of Dad.
But on April 1, 2011 I wrote to the Hamilton Sunstrand PR and they sent me a clip from the Hamilton Std. Company newspaper Prop Tips and... Lo & behold there it was: 'Tommy Wilson of the service dept. landed at Melbourne, Australia...in a Consolidated Vultee Convair liner...was the first to be delivered to Trans Australian Airways!
I finally found proof! Real proof!
Am sending for the film that was taken on that flight, with hopes that he will be in it.
I wanted you to know for all the help you gave me, thanks!"
See also the item on Photos by Friends & Guests (page 25)
N396CG was sold, or donated, to the Air Heritage Foundation in Aug.2009. The museum is located at Beaver County Airport, Beaver Falls,PA (a little north of Pittsburgh).
This must have fallen through as 'noizeedave' on the Warbirds forum WIX posted in May2010: "Hi everyone. I have taken a break from fulltime Warbird"ism" to help relocate a historic aircraft. Cary Grants' Convair 240 has found a home at the museum by LAX, at the Proud Bird Resturant. It will be moved From Camarillo to LAX this year, as soon as funds allow." The posting included photos.
Convair CV580 cn 151 is seen here awaiting duty at Vancouver,BC in aug.'99. The sun is setting and often that means those props will soon sputter to life… This aircraft was delivered to Pan American (Mexicana) feb.'54 as N11151. That same year it changed over to National Airlines. Thru Lockheed Aircraft Corporation it went to Allegheny Airlines in 1960, where it was modified from CV340 to CV440 and later to CV580. In 1967 it was reregistered as N5823. Aspen Airways bought it in aug.'76. Air New England leased it for various periods. It entered the Canadian Civil Register as C-FKFZ, when it was bought by Kelowna Flight Charter, an undisputed expert on Convairliners (as an operator, but also for maintenance and modifications).
Cn 48 is seen here in 1982 and on the next photo in 1996.... This CV240 was delivered as NC94226 to American Airlines in aug.'48. In 1962 it was bought by Trans Texas Airways. It was converted to a CV600 (cn 11) in 1967. The engines to modify the CV340/440s were too powerful for the wings of the CV240s. To re-engine CV240s from pistons to turbo-props a less powerful engine was found in the shape of the Roll Royce Dart 542-4. CV340/440s modified with these engines were certified as CV640s. Trans Texas renamed itself Texas Int'l Airlines in 1968. SMB Stage Lines bought N94226 in jan.'78. (Photo © Dave Brown)
N94226 spent most of the 1980s in storage at Marana,AZ. US West Financial Services bought it in 1990, but it stood stored at Sherman-Grayson County, Texas. Until Aircraft Leasing Inc bought it oct.'91. It was leased by Kitty Hawk Cargo when I came across it at the airport op Portland (PDX), OR. Meanwhile it has changed owners again: in 1999 it was seen operating for Rhoades Aviation from Columbus,IN.
CV580 N566EA (cn 381) was delivered to SABENA in dec.'56 as CV440 OO-SCT. This ended in 1968 when it was bought and delivered to Frontier Airlines as N73167. It was re-delivered in sep.'68 as a CV580. Frontier Leaseco was registered as owner in may 1983. It operated for Frontier Commuter from 1983-1984, then it was registered to Metroflight Inc (American Eagle) feb.'86. SAAB Aircraft Holding Inc bought it july 1987, but all it did was put it on hold at Marana,AZ. Then ERA Aviation came to the rescue in 1989, registering it as N566EA. Since then it has been faithfully operating on scheduled services and charters in Alaska. This photo has been taken at Anchorage in july 1995. I found the reception at ERA less open, less friendly, to airline enthusiasts than other propliner operators. Perhaps they copy this from the larger, scheduled airline operators: they appeared more distant. Maybe I should have bought something.
ERA Aviation terminated the use of these Convairs (2002?) and this one moved on via Kelowna Flightcraft to Air Chathams (ZK-CIF, anno 2006) in New Zealand.
CV580 OO-DHD (cn 135) started life in the Netherlands with KLM as a CV340 PH-CGK (reregistered PJ-CVB) in dec.'53. It was converted to CV440 and bought by Lund Aviation (CF-ECS) in jan.'60. Eastern Canada Stevedoring Co. was registered as owner a few weeks later... In 1962 it was converted to CV580. Various owners followed, but it lasted with Allegheny Airlines as N5812 from jan.'66 till 1978. Plymouth Leasing (N582PL) bought it and Evergreen Int'l Airlines used it, so did Interstate Airlines. In june '82 Air Traffic Service bought it, and leased it to Summit Airlines in 1983. Air Traffic reregistered it as N536SA in feb.'87. European Air Transport (DHL) started a lease oct.'87 and so I came to photograph it at Amsterdam Int'l Airport Schiphol in oct.'94.
See how it looked in the early 1960s CF-ECS in black & white
Apparently two Convairs have been registered CF-ECS; one is this one, but there was another one... See my page Photos by Friend & Guests (28).
Cn 484 was delivered to Mohawk Airlines in july 1959 as a CV440. After a long and faithful servicelife, it went on to Executive Airlines Boston in june 1971. It was repossessed by First National Bank of Boston in dec.'71. Probably something to do with money... Wright Airlines bought it in mar.'71 and it was registered to Key Airlines in 1976 as N28KA. For some reason it was reregistered to N28KE in 1984. Basler Flight Service Inc bought it in june 1986, but the next year it went to Salair (registered may '88 N357SA). Omni Air Group bought it in nov.'95 and it went to Europe as CS-TML of the Portugese Agroar Trabalhoa Aereos in may 1997. Meanwhile Atlantic Airlines of Coventry (UK) was keen to operate it (oct.'99), but for some reason it failed to register in the UK. So it found a new home at Coventry, but still as CS-TML and that is how I found it in august 2000.
It was reregistered G-CONV in Apr01, pending approval of the CAA to issue an new Certificate of Airworthiness; but a test flight (apparently with CAA officials on board) resulted in failure, with damage to the hydraulic system as a result. The aircraft never recovered from that and restoration was shelved.
Credits: the CONVAIRLINERS Story by J.M.Gradidge, in collaboration with John M.Davis, Douglas D.Olson and Dr John A.Whittle (published by Air-Britain Historians Ltd, 1997)
A graceful photo by John Allan of CS-TML in flight, with Agroair titles flying from Coventry in aug.2000, can be found on Airhistory.net
For more technical and historic background: click here
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