Guppy 9G-LCA, May 2003

I know it's a serious business, but this plane does have a comical appearance this way...!

A shot with the tail open. It says it all on the fuselage: Over Size Cargo.

Not many Canadair CL-44s were built . Canadair made an effort to re-enter the civilian market after building the DC-4M2, C-4 North Star.
After 8 converted Britannias ('Yukons') for the military, the civilian CL-44 was supposed to be a modified Yukon: higher rated engines and only one cargo-door. The swingtail was introduced, too.

This plane was designated CL-44D4. Canadair built the plane without a launch customer. This aircraft, serial no.9, was used as a demonstrator for many years. It was built in 1960 but not sold until 1965, to Loftleidir.
The Flying Tiger Line ordered 12 aircraft and Seaboard World Airlines ordered 7 aircraft. Many airlines were eagerly awaiting the first jets, eventhough the economics were evident. BOAC Cargo leased a CL-44D4 from Seaboard while waiting for their new Boeing 707.

Canadair built a total of 39 CL-44 aircraft. 12 CC-106 Yukon and 27 CL-44D4. Seaboard World Airlines bought seven aircraft and The Flying Tiger Line bought twelve. Later Slick Airways ordered four more.
This left Canadair with the unsold prototype and three CL-44D4s already finished but not sold.
Icelandic low fare carrier Loftleidir was searching for alternatives to replace their ageing fleet of DC6Bs. Loftleidir was interested provided the CL-44Ds would all be stretched to accommodate more passengers. An engineering office in the United States carried out a study to stretch the CL-44. Canadair carried out the work and the first stretched D4 flew on November 8, 1965. Loftleidir had already taken the other three D4s into service, but they too were converted.
A CL-44D4 of Flying Tiger Line was converted by Jack Conroy Aviation of California into a CL-44-0 'Guppy' or 'Skymonster'. This aircraft had its upper fuselage removed and replaced by an enlarged section, which raised the cabin height by 1.5m. It was the only one thus converted. Jack Conroy went on to convert Boeing Stratocruisers in even larger Super Guppies.
9G-LCA is the only airworthy CL-44 remaining and amazingly enough, no CL-44s are preserved.


A sequence of closing the 'swingtail'.

By August 2003 I was informed that all those efforts, to restore 9G-LCA to airworthiness, had apparently been in vain... No contracts had been secured and the financial backer, Mr Fahrad Azima, had thrown in the towel. Rumor was that it's next destination would be a museum !

Unfortunately 9G-LCA did not operate any commercial flight (probably loosing out to the cheaper Antonov An-22, also in the market for outsize cargo) and by 2006 rumors circulated of it a/going to a museum, or b/being scrapped and c/being restored for an unnamed airline (restored by whom as BASCO was rumored to be on the brink of bankruptcy..?).

Who is Mr Azima, the financial force behind the Skymonster for many years ? A profile:
Since 1981, Mr. Azima served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aviation Leasing Group of Companies (ALG). ALG is directly involved in airline operations and technical support of the aviation industry. The Group currently owns, operates, and/or manages over 50 aircraft
The Company specializes in creating turnkey airlines with clients in South America, Africa, St. Lucia, a number of USSR Republics, the U.S. and Canada. Services include aircraft leasing, procurement, financing, management, training, operations and technical support, and automation.
In 1976, Mr. Azima founded Global International Airways, a large U.S. carrier, providing passenger and cargo service worldwide. Global operated an all Boeing fleet including 747s, 707s and 727s. Mr. Azima held the positions of President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer during the ten years of operation. Concurrent to his participation in Global, in 1982, he acquired the controlling interest in Capital Air, a U.S. scheduled air carrier with domestic and international operations. Mr. Azima served as Chairman. Capital's operation included a large maintenance base for major aircraft overhaul located in Smyma, Tennessee. Both the airline and maintenance operations were sold in 1985.
Azima maintains residences in Kansas City, New York and London.
The operation of group companies is directed from Kansas City for the Americas and the international operations are headquartered in London.

By Nov.2006 it became clear that this amazing plane was being restored for a new owner, saving it from the scrapman who had already been waiting in the wings... Andrew Stevens posted on Yahoo's Classic-Propliners forum the news that by 13dec06 it had been reregistered to the Philippines as RP-C8023 and had been spotted doing engine testruns that day at Bournemouth-Hurn. Wonderful news!
Persistent rumors indicated a departure to a new owner in Down Under Australia or the Philippines. But this failed to materialize.

Malcolm Porter was again instrumental in often restoring the hopes and dreams of many propliner fans: to see this plane back in the air. Which is a good opportunity to put his book on the CL-44, "The Swingtail Story", back in the spotlight!

'Malcolm Porter passed away on Monday 17th December (2018) after suffering from vascular dementia.
He joined the R.A.F., serving largely on Britannias as load master.
After leaving the R.A.F. he joined the Rhodesian Air Force before being transferred to Air Trans Africa, later to become Affretair, enjoying some exciting flights over the dark continent as load master.
He then moved to Trans Meridian, then moving to Boeing 707s on GW1. He then flew in Libya.
He was involved on the sales tour of the military freighter version of the BAe 146. He started his own airline flying newspapers, flying Bandeirantie,s on the east coast.
He formed the CL 44 Association and authored the definitive book on the type.
I'm certain 1970's spotter will be along with details when they are confirmed.'
posted 18Dec2018.


Here is a fine photo of RP-C8023, credit © Andrew Stevens:



By Feb.2008 I received a message that all hope to restore this Skymonster to commercial airworthiness seems to be lost now:
" Despite the best efforts of Australian Geoff Leach -a former Flying Tiger Line employee of the 1970's-, the sole surviving CL44 (S/N 16) seems likely to remain at Bournemouth's Hurn Airport.
During the latter part of 2006 and early 2007, a concentrated effort was made to return the aircraft to commercial service for its new owners Heavylift Cargo Airlines of Cairns. However, something of an internal Company struggle took place in 2007 and Geoff Leach left the company but made an attempt to purchase the Guppy on behalf of a new, interested airline. This company had definite plans to place the unique aircraft in Southern Africa and forecast that a modest 75 flying hours per month would ensure the aircraft's immediate future.
Large inventories of parts were identified in Southern England (LGW) and in the USA (MCO) whilst other stocks had already been purchased and are currently on board the aircraft. Alas, co-operation could not be achieved between the owners and potential operators and in February 2008 Geoff returned to Australia following a short illness. The CL44 Association will be publishing a story on the past 2 years of the Guppy's life in its July Newsletter.

By May 2013 someone described the status such: "The aircraft is currently 9G- registered but NTU, the Phillippine registration was deleted and removed 2 yrs ago."
This was after news came about that the Conroy CL-44 had once more been reregistered, to N447T (R06May13) and hopes for a flight were rekindled.
But maintenance issues make this unlikely and scrapping seems the most viable fate.

Fahrad Azima, a profile (Link removed and no longer valid by may 2013)
Aviation Leasing Group (ALG), companies of ALG ( seems blocked)


Back to my Propliners in the UK, 2003

Guppy at Bournemouth
A quick revisit to Bournemouth on 22Sep2013 saw the Guppy parked surrounded by fences, opposite Bournemouth Helicopters. For reasons unknown to me, devoid of livery, titles and possibly no tailnumber either.

Guppy at Bournemouth

This vintage image was shared by Richard Nash
Guppy EI-BND
"Here is a photo of me (in Blue Lep T Shirt) at Southend, many years ago, helping to load the
Skymonster during a Dock Strike."
Richard Nash also provided the following image:
Conroy Skymonster of HeavyLift

UPDATE: On 23Apr21 it was again registered as N447FT for Harlan Wayne Jordan of Santa Ana, California.


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Created: 13-06-03
Last updated 06-Apr-2021