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The ConvairLiner

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CovairLiner Model 110

The "holy grail" for aircraft manufacturers directly after World War II was to develop a replacement for the DC-3.  Convair developed the Model 110 to an American Airlines' specification.  Although the prototype flew in 1946, it never went into production as American had already determined greater capacity was needed.

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The Model 240


To meet this new requirement, Convair developed the Model 240 (2 engines, 40 seats) that was first flown in 1947 and went into service in 1948.

If length of service is an indication of success, the ConvairLiner was a successful aircraft.  The Model 240 went through two stretches (the 340 and 440).  The aircraft was purchased by the U.S. Navy and Air Force as well as the Canadian Forces and the Bolivian, German, Italian and Spanish air forces.

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The Model 340

The Model 440

About 560 ConvairLiners were built of which more than 240 were converted to turboprop engines.  About 80 were still in service as of 1998.

The Model 580, 600 and 640 were all turboprop conversions of earlyer models

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Model 580 Model 600 Model 640


The Convair 240, 340 and 440 was one of the closest designs to come near to being a Douglas DC-3 replacement as despite a glut of cheap DC-3s in the postwar years this family of airliners achieved considerable sales success.

Design of the original 110 was initiated in response to an American Airlines request for a DC-3 replacement. American found the 110 (which first flew on July 8 1946) to be too small and asked that the 110 be scaled up in size, and this resulted in the 240 ConvairLiner. The 240 was arguably the most advanced short haul airliner of its day, and first flew on March 16 1947 and entered service on June 1 1948.

The success of the 240 led to the 1.37m (4ft 6in) stretched 340, which first flew on October 5 1951, and the improved 440 Metropolitan which incorporated extra cabin sound-proofing, new rectangular exhaust outlets, tighter engine cowlings, and some other aerodynamic improvements and first flew on October 6 1955. Most of the 440s were also delivered with weather radar in an elongated nose, which had been an option on the 340.

The 240, 340 and 440 sold in large numbers, mainly to airlines in North America, and formed the backbone of many airlines' short to medium haul fleets. Today the small number of piston Convairs that remain in service are mainly used as freighters.

Many of the Convairs were also built for the US Air Force as the C-131 and T-29 in many versions, and for the US Navy as the R4Y which were redesignated too as C-131 in 1962.

However, the original piston Convairs have been the subject of a number of turboprop modification programs, the line's inherent strength and reliability making it a popular choice for conversions.

As early as 1950 the potential of turboprop powered 240s was recognised, leading to the first flight and development of the 240-21 Turboliner, while an Allison 501D powered YC-131C military conversion first flew on June 19 1954. One other early conversion occurred in 1954 when D Napier and Sons in Britain converted 340s with that company's 2280kW (3060hp) Eland N.El.1 turboprops as the 540. Six such aircraft were converted for Allegheny Airlines in the USA, although these aircraft were later converted back to piston power. Canadair meanwhile built 10 new aircraft with Eland engines as the CL-66 for the Royal Canadian Air Force, where they were designated CC-109 Cosmopolitan.

The most popular Convair conversions were those done by PacAero in California for Allison, and this involved converting 340s and 440s to 580s with Allison 501D turboprops, plus modified tail control surfaces and a larger tail area. The first such conversion flew on January 19 1960, although it was not until June 1964 that a converted aircraft entered service.

Convair's own conversion program involved Rolls Royce Darts, and the first of these flew on May 2 1965. Thus converted 240s became 600s, while 340s and 440s became 640s.

Super 580 Aircraft Company, a division of Flight Trails Inc., replaced the Allison 501-D13D engines by -D22Gs and incorporated some further improvements on two or three 580s which were redesignated Super 580.

Kelowna Flightcraft in Canada however has offered the most ambitious Convair conversion program, the 5800, having stretched the 580 by 4.34m (14ft 3in) and reverting to the 440's original tail unit. Production conversions have a new freight door and digital avionics with EFIS.

Most of the remaining Convairs are now used as cargo transports.


The Convair C-131D "Samaritan"


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The C-131D "Samaritan"

The C-131 is a USAF transport version of the Convair 240/340/440 series commercial airliners. The first Samaritan, a C-131A derived from the Convair 240, was delivered to the Air Force in 1954. It was similar to the T-29 trainer (also based on the Convair 240) flown by the USAF since 1949 to instruct navigators, bombardiers and radio operators. The C-131 was acquired primarily for medical evacuation and personnel transportation. While some T-29s also saw duty as staff transports, a few C-131s likewise were used for training and testing. In fact, the first prototype of the Southeast Asia vintage side-firing "Gunship" program used the C-131 airframe. Nearly all of the USAF's C-131s left the active inventory in the late 1970s, but a few were still serving in Air National Guard units in the mid-1980s.

Although most C-131Ds were military versions of the Convair 340, the C-131D on display is one of six -Ds derived from the Convair 440. Its principal mission was the transportation of personnel and its last assignment was with the South Dakota Air National Guard. It was flown to the Museum in September 1985.

105 ft. 4 in.
Length: 79 ft. 2 in.
Height: 28 ft. 1 in.
Weight: 52,414 lbs. loaded
Armament: None
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-103W of 2,500 hp. ea. with water/alcohol injection
Crew: Four plus 23 passengers
Cost: $635,000
Serial number: 55-301
C/N: 239
Other registrations: N8443H

Maximum speed:
314 mph.
Cruising speed: 227 mph.
Range: 2,200 miles
Service Ceiling: 32,000 ft.



The ConvairT-29 / C-131 "Samaritan"


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T-29 C-131

The T-29/C-131 series of aircraft was one of the military's many cost saving examples for its utility and transport needs.

The C-131, which served as flying ambulances, could accommodate four crew members and up to 48 passengers. At the start of the Korean War, the Army and Air Force still had not reached agreement on a division of aero-medical responsibilities. By December 1951, however, the Army and the Marines, with approval of Air Force Headquarters, assumed primary responsibility for forward medical evacuation. The Army and Marines soon acquired their own helicopters for that purpose. In December 1953, however, the Air Force was given responsibility for organizing and staffing aero-medical staging facilities, even in forward areas. The medically designed C-131 Samaritan joined the Air Force’s aero-medical fleet in 1954.

The C-131 Samaritan entered the Coast Guard during the 1970's, and Air Station Corpus Christi Retired the last Coast Guard C-131 in early 1983. Nearly all of the USAF's C-131s left the active inventory in the late 1970s, but a few were still serving in Air National Guard units in the mid-1980s. Aircraft that have been assigned to the Peoria Air Guard include the C-131E Samaritan, from June 1975 to May 1989.

Many C-131s were put into service as VC-131 staff transports. The 99th Military Airlift Squadron was officially organized at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland on 08 January 1966. The mission was to “provide safe, reliable, and efficient transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, Members of the Cabinet, Members of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other high ranking domestic and foreign dignitaries.” The squadron was assigned six VC-140, five C-140, four VC-131 (Convair 580), four U-4, and one VC-6 aircraft. By October of 1969, all U-4 aircraft had been assigned to other units. The first three VC-131 aircraft were later transferred to another unit by 1977.

The NC-131H Total In-Flight Simulator (TIFS) is a modified C-131 transport (Convair 580 turboprop airliner). Operated by the Air Vehicles Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, it was modified into an in-flight simulator in the late 1960s. TIFS uses a model-following flight control system that controls all aerodynamics control surfaces plus the throttles to achieve independent control of aircraft motions in all six degrees of freedom. Modifications included the addition of a separate evaluation cockpit, side-force surfaces, direct-lift flaps, computer-controlled hydraulic actuators on all control surfaces, and turboprop engines. The aerodynamics and control systems of any aircraft can be programmed on the TIFS' digital computers to produce the proper model responses at the evaluation cockpit.

The TIFS has simulated a wide variety of aircraft, including the B-1, B-2, Space Shuttle, X-29, YF-23, C-130, C-141, and airliners such as the Boeing 7J7, Douglas MD-12X, and Nusantara N250. TIFS also performs generic research and development in the areas of flying/handling qualities, flight control development, and display/human factors. Another TIFS capability allows student test pilots to be instructed in avionics systems test techniques. To perform this mission, the evaluation cockpit is removed and replaced with an interchangeable avionics nose and a modular crew station in the main cabin with seating for two students and an instructor. The avionics suite includes air-to-air/air-to-ground radar, infrared seeker, electro/optical seeker, inertial, low-frequency radio, and global positioning navigation systems. TIFS also can be used in this configuration for avionics system testing.

Most recently, TIFS has been involved in NASA research to develop a cost-effective next-generation supersonic transport. The simulation nose was rebuilt to make room for radar and a large video display. In this configuration, TIFS will allow pilots to evaluate landing a supersonic transport without any forward visibility. The Convair was extensively modified to accommodate the test flights, receiving a new cockpit canopy and nose cap; instrument panel; side and center consoles; rudder pedal and throttle feel systems; and various sensors, displays and instrumentation, including a Silicon Graphics computer and high-definition TV camera and displays.

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