Today marks 76 years since the Convair CV-240’s first flight on March 16th, 1947. Powered by Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines, the Convair CV-240 became the first pressurized, twin-engine aircraft, and went on to inspire several further variants that made up the CV-240 family.
Its design was spearheaded by American Airlines, as the carrier searched for a replacement for its Douglas DC-3 aircraft. Convair’s original concept aircraft, the CV-110, could carry up to 30 passengers and its cabin was unpressurized.
By the time the Convair CV-110 first took to the skies in July 1946, American Airlines had deemed it too small, and also added the requirement of a pressurized cabin. This led Convair to pressurize the cabin, and extend the length of the fuselage to 74 ft 8 in (22.76 m), accommodating up to 40 passengers. And thus, the Convair CV-240 was born.
A commercial success for Convair
The Convair CV-240 proved to be successful, with numerous civilian and military operators around the world. The first commercial Convair CV-240 was delivered to American Airlines in February 1948, and over the course of the next six years, the carrier took a total of 75 of the aircraft. Other operators of the Convair CV-240 included Lufthansa, KLM, and Pakistan International Airlines.
In total, 176 Convair CV-240s were built before production ended in 1954. Following a varied career in the skies, the aircraft made its final commercial flight in 1985.
Later iterations of the Convair CV-240
Inspired by the success American Airlines had experienced with the Convair CV-240, United Airlines commissioned the manufacturer to build its successor, the CV-340. The lengthened fuselage held up to 44 passengers, and the increased wingspan offered improved performance and range. This aircraft flew for the first time in October 1951, and United Airlines went on to operate 52 of the type.
This was followed by the Convair CV-440 Metropolitan in 1953, which with improved soundproofing and an increased capacity of 54 passengers, proved popular with airlines including SAS and Finnair.
The most recent variant of the Convair CV-240 family, and the only one still flying today, is the Convair CV-580. Canadian cargo airline KF Cargo flies six of the aircraft for its cargo charter and forest fire patrol operations. Air Chathams, based in New Zealand, also operated the Convair CV-580 until recently, but retired the type last year.
Photo: Air Chathams
In total, over 1,000 Convair CV-240 family aircraft were built. The development of the Convair CV-240, and subsequently the CV-340 and CV-440 Metropolitan aircraft can be seen in this video:
The Convair CV-240’s history shows that the power and influence of airline customers in the design and manufacture of aircraft was perhaps even stronger in the 1940s than it is today. It seems unlikely, for example, that Airbus will meet the request made by Emirates last year for a larger Airbus A380 replacement.
Did you ever fly on a Convair CV-240? What memories do you have of the aircraft? Share your experiences by commenting below.