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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Convair 880
A Delta Air Lines 880 in flight shortly after delivery: Delta had the second-largest fleet, behind TWA.
Role Narrow-body jet airliner
National origin United States
Manufacturer Convair
First flight January 27, 1959
Introduction May 1960 with Delta Air Lines
Status Retired
Primary users Trans World Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Japan Airlines
Produced 1959-1962
Number built 65
Variants Convair 990 Coronado

The Convair 880 is an American narrow-body jet airliner produced by the Convair division of General Dynamics. It was designed to compete with the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 by being smaller and faster, a niche that failed to create demand. When it was first introduced, some aviation circles claimed that at 615 mph (990 km/h), it was the fastest jet transport in the world.[1] Only 65 Convair 880s were produced over the lifetime of the production run from 1959 to 1962, and General Dynamics eventually withdrew from the airliner market after considering the 880 project a failure. The Convair 990 was a stretched and faster variant of the 880.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The World’s Fastest Subsonic Airliner: The Convair 990A Coronado
  • ✪ Convair CV-880 Jetliner Maintenance Report - 1959
  • ✪ SST - The Supersonic Transport & Air Traffic Control - 1965
  • ✪ Modern Air Convair CV-990A - "Landing 1R SFO" - 1970


Thanks to SquareSpace for making this video possible and for allowing me to launch my new Mustard website so easily. More on that after this video. Before Concorde defined what it meant to fly fast, there was another plane that tried to push the limit of speed. The Convair 990. Outside the box engineering allowed it to cruise faster than any airliner before it, and still faster than anything you can fly on today. But while the 990 broke speed records, Convair broke the bank. Losing nearly half a billion dollars on a flawed idea that speed would sell airliners. Flying in the late 1950's and early 60's was defined by speed, luxury, and boozy sky lounges. And so in 1958, American Airlines, looking to one-up their competition, reached out to manufacturers to build them a faster jet. One that could cross the country at least 45 minutes quicker. Boeing flat-out refused. Their engineers said this was impossible. Because subsonic jets like their own 707 were already pushing the limit of speed, while still offering reasonable range in efficiency. But one company beg to differ. Convair agreed to build American Airlines their fast jet. An airliner that would cruise at 635 miles per hour. And they even backed it up with a speed guarantee. They'd pay millions in penalties if their new jet couldn't fly as fast as promised. To understand why Convair had taken on such an enormous challenge, you really have to understand what the company was up against. The Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 were the first American jet liners. And almost overnight, they transformed jet travel from a small niche into something mainstream. Compared to jet powered airliners before them, these two planes with their larger size, efficiency, range, and speed were nothing short of revolutionary. The two rivals sold hundreds of jetliners in just a few short years. But Boeing and Douglas weren't alone. Convair had also introduced the jetliner, the 880, just a year after its rivals. The company had a history of building successful propeller driven airliners and military aircraft. But while Convair's jetliner looked similar to its rivals, the company tried to capture a different segment of the market. There's been a lot of talk about speed, but there can only be one fastest jetliner, only one speed champion. On its delivery flight, Delta's first Convair 880 became that champion, setting an ocean-to-ocean transcontinental record with an average speed of 665 miles per hour. To avoid competing directly against Boeing and Douglas, Convair bet there was a market for a medium-ranged smaller, faster and more luxurious jet. And sure there was a market. It was just extraordinarily small. Even before the first 880 rolled off the assembly line, it was clear that Convair's new jet wasn't going to be a sales hit. Orders for the 707 and DC-8 piled up while, Convair could barely sell more than a few dozen 880s. So the company was in a tough position. They had already sunk millions into development and Boeing and Douglas had already captured the market for long-range jets. So when American Airlines came looking for a faster jet, Convair jumped on the opportunity. They could take their 880 and modify it into something larger and even faster. But there's a reason why Boeing was skeptical. The 707 was already a very fast jet, flying near the limit of subsonic speeds. Beyond subsonic but before supersonic, is a speed regime called transonic. In this middle ground, drag on an aircraft it dramatically increases. So flying here is inefficient. Convair was really going to have to innovate because their new jet would not only need to be fast, but be efficient enough to fly further than the 880. And the 880 would need more than just a few tweaks to cruise at 635 miles per hour. Convair worked on a new design called the 990. It would need more powerful engines. So the turbojets on the 880 were modified to add a separate fan system into the exhaust of the engine, creating the world's first turbofan-powered airliner with 40% more power. To counter transonic drag, the aircraft was given a new wing with a 39 degree wing sweep. Engineers added large anti-shock bodies to the trailing edges of the wings, another first for an airliner. These would reduce transonic drag and increase the aircraft's critical Mach. They would also serve as additional fuel storage to increase range. With its state-of-the-art wind tunnel tested aerodynamics and new turbofan engines, it looked like Convair had just built the world's fastest airliner. At least on paper. Because when the first 990 took to the skies on January of 1961, problems started to appear. This aircraft couldn't cruise at 635 miles per hour. Turbulence around the inboard engines interfered with the effectiveness of the aircraft's elevators, the surfaces used to control pitch. The anti-shock bodies on the wings when filled with fuel, caused the outboard engines to oscillate from side to side. Excessive drag areas were discovered all around the aircraft on the after body near the thrust reversers on the underside of the wings leading edges, and where the wing joined the fuselage. Convair engineers had to bring in industry experts for help. But as the months and painstaking modifications dragged on, the 990 still couldn't cruise at 635 miles per hour nor would it meet its range requirements. And by the fall of 1961, American Airlines in desperate need of new jets, called Convair back to the negotiating table. They reduced their order. At this point all American wanted was for the first 15 to simply be... jets. But the remaining 5 would still need to be faster versions and Convair was given more time to work out the issues. The new speed guarantee was now lowered to 620 miles per hour, but convair engineers persisted and eventually worked out all the issues. The faster 990 a was able to meet the new speed guarantee and you could say Convair ultimately proved Boeing wrong. The company had built a faster jet. The fastest subsonic airliner ever. Not that it mattered. Because by the time it finally took to the skies, Boeing and Douglas were firmly established as leaders in the new jet age. Convair's airliners with their little bit of extra speed and luxury, at the cost the practicality, range, and efficiency, wasn't what the market wanted. Reportedly, the company lost half a billion dollars building their jetliners, and they'd never build another one again. But the 880, and especially the 990, earned a legendary status. Partly because they were a rare sight and they weren't around for very long. After the fuel crisis of the early 1970s, most airlines couldn't wait to get rid of their fuel thirsty Convairs. These planes really were the final throes of another era, before flying meant packing in as many people as possible, and when burning an extra 10,000 pounds of jet fuel just to shave 45 minutes off of flight, sounded pretty swell. On the morning of May 14th, Mustard's didn't have a website. On the afternoon of May 14th, Mustard had a killer website. It took me less than a day to build it with SquareSpace, and it was actually a ton of fun to do. I even recorded myself building it. With so many beautiful award-winning templates to choose from and a completely intuitive user interface, anyone can build an amazing website with SquareSpace. Whether you're a photographer, blogger, YouTuber or run a small business. And if for some reason you ever get stuck, SquareSpace has award-winning 24/7 customer support. Start building your website for free at and when you're ready to launch your website, use the code 'mustard' for 10% off your first purchase.


Design and development

Convair began development of a medium-range commercial jet in April 1956, to compete with announced products from Boeing and Douglas. Initially the design was called the Skylark, but the name was later changed to the Golden Arrow, then Convair 600 and then finally the 880, both numbers referring to its top speed of 600 mph (970 km/h) or 880 ft/s (268 m/s). It was powered by General Electric CJ-805-3 turbojets, a civilian version of the J79 which powered the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom,[2] and Convair B-58 Hustler.

The first example of the initial production version, the Model 22, made its maiden flight on January 27, 1959.[3] No prototype was built. After production started, the Federal Aviation Administration mandated additional instrumentation, which Convair added by placing a "raceway" hump on the top of the fuselage, rather than ripping apart the interiors over the wing area. The final assembly of the 880 and 990 took place at the Convair facilities in San Diego, California.[4]

The airliner never became widely used and the production line shut down after only three years. The 880's five-abreast seating made it unattractive to airlines, while Boeing was able to out-compete it with the Boeing 720, which could be sold at a significantly lower cost, as it was a minimal modification of the existing 707. In addition, the General Electric engines had a higher specific fuel consumption than the Boeing's Pratt & Whitney JT3Cs.

General Dynamics lost around $185 million over the lifetime of the project, although some sources estimate much higher losses.[citation needed] The aircraft were involved in 17 accidents and five hijackings.

A modified version of the basic 880 was the "-M" version which incorporated four leading-edge slats per wing, Krueger leading-edge flaps between the fuselage and inboard engines, power-boosted rudder, added engine thrust, increased fuel capacity, stronger landing gear, greater adjustment to seating pitch, and a simpler overhead compartment arrangement.[5]

A more major modification to the 880 became the Convair 990, produced in parallel with the 880-M between 1961 and 1963. Swissair named theirs Coronado, after an island off the San Diego coast and where the first 990 landed.[6]

Operational history

Trans World Airlines was the major operator of the Convair 880. One of their aircraft departs from Chicago O'Hare on a scheduled service in April 1971.
Trans World Airlines was the major operator of the Convair 880. One of their aircraft departs from Chicago O'Hare on a scheduled service in April 1971.

The design entered service with Delta Air Lines in May 1960, slightly modified as the 880-22m, having newer version 805-3B engines. The 880s were flown by Cathay Pacific, Delta, Japan, Northeast, Swissair, TWA, and VIASA.

As they left commercial service, many 880s were bought by American Jet Industries for various uses. One example was converted to freighter use in 1974, and flew until 1982 with various companies. Another was used to train FAA flight examiners until it was destroyed by a minor explosion in the cargo hold in 1995. Most of the remaining examples were scrapped by 2000.

Delta Air Lines operated 17 Convair 880s between early 1960 and early 1974.
Delta Air Lines operated 17 Convair 880s between early 1960 and early 1974.

The United States Navy acquired one 880-M in 1980, modifying it as an in-flight tanker. It had been purchased new from Convair by the FAA, and used for 18 years.[7] Unofficially designated UC-880, it was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and employed in Tomahawk Cruise Missile testing and aircraft refueling procedures.[8] The sole UC-880 was damaged in a cargo hold explosive decompression test at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in 1995.[9] The aircraft managed to remain theoretically controllable via backup systems unique to the 880 and 990.[10]


One of the first 880s, in the factory gold, white, and black scheme
One of the first 880s, in the factory gold, white, and black scheme
The Convair UC-880 aircraft refuels an F-14D Tomcat.
The Convair UC-880 aircraft refuels an F-14D Tomcat.
The flight deck of a new Convair 880
The flight deck of a new Convair 880
A UC-880 assigned to Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, employed in Tomahawk cruise missile testing and refueling aircraft procedures
A UC-880 assigned to Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, employed in Tomahawk cruise missile testing and refueling aircraft procedures

Civil operators

(♠ = original operators)

Military operators

 United States

Accidents and incidents

  • On May 23, 1960, Delta Air Lines Flight 1903, a CV-880-22-1 (N8804E), crashed on takeoff at Atlanta Municipal Airport (now Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport), resulting in the loss of all four crew members. This flight was to be a training sortie for two Delta captains who were being type-rated on the 880. At rotation, the aircraft pitched nose up, rolled left, and then back more steeply to the right, at which time it struck the ground, broke apart, and was consumed by a fire.[11]
  • On August 26, 1966, a Japan Air Lines CV-880-22M-3 (JA8030) crashed on takeoff from Haneda Airport during a training flight, killing all five crew members. When the nose lifted up, the aircraft yawed to the left, for reasons unknown. The number one engine struck the runway and the aircraft left the runway and the nose went back down. All four engines separated, as well as the nose and left main gear, and the aircraft caught fire. The aircraft was leased from Japan Domestic Airlines.[12]
  • On November 5, 1967, Cathay Pacific Flight 033, a CV-880-22M-3 (VR-HFX) overran the runway on takeoff from Kai Tak Airport following a loss of control after the right nosewheel blew, killing one of 127 on board.[13]
  • On November 20, 1967, TWA Flight 128 crashed on approach to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Seventy people were killed and 12 survived.[14]
  • On June 24, 1969, Japan Air Lines Flight 90, a CV-880-22M-3 (JA8028, Kikyo), crashed on takeoff from Grant County Airport, killing three of the five crew members. The flight was to simulate a takeoff with one engine out. Power was reduced to the number four engine during takeoff, but the aircraft continued to yaw to the right until the number four engine struck the runway. The aircraft slid off the runway and caught fire.[15]
  • On June 15, 1972, a bomb exploded on board Cathay Pacific Flight 700Z over Pleiku, South Vietnam, killing all 81 passengers and crew on board.[16]
  • On December 20, 1972, North Central Airlines Flight 575, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31, collided during its takeoff roll with Delta Air Lines Flight 954, a Convair 880 (N8807E), as the Convair 880 taxied across the runway at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. Only two people on the Convair 880 were injured, but 10 people died and 15 were injured on board the DC-9.[17]
  • On August 20, 1977, a Monarch Aviation CV-880-22-2 (N8817E) struck trees and crashed shortly after takeoff from Juan Santamaria International Airport due to overloading, killing the three crew.[18]
  • On November 3, 1980, a Latin Carga CV-880-22-2 (YV-145C) crashed on takeoff from Simon Bolivar International Airport during a crew training flight, killing the four crew.[19]
  • On May 11, 1983, a Groth Air CV-880-22-2 (N880SR) burned out at Juarez International Airport.[20]
  • In October 1986, an FAA CV-880-22M-3 (N5863) was destroyed in a test with anti-misting kerosene fuel additive at Mojave, California.[21]

Surviving aircraft

Elvis' Convair 880, named Lisa Marie after his daughter
Elvis' Convair 880, named Lisa Marie after his daughter
Convair 880 in private ownership in South Africa
Convair 880 in private ownership in South Africa
The cockpit instrument panel of the USN UC-880
The cockpit instrument panel of the USN UC-880

Specifications (880 Model 22 and 22-M)

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1965-66 [38]

General characteristics


See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. ^ "Here's Convair 880 - Fastest Jet Transport in the World."Popular Mechanics, March 1959, p. 87.
  2. ^ Wegg 1990, p. 214.
  3. ^ Wegg 1990. p. 215.
  4. ^ Pourade. Richard F. "San Diego history." Retrieved: May 19, 2010.
  5. ^ Proctor, Jon (1996). Convair 880& 990 (First ed.). Miami: World Transport Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8.
  6. ^ Proctor, Jon. Convair 880 & 990.
  7. ^ Proctor, Jon (1996). Convair 880 & 990 (First ed.). Miami: World Transport Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8.
  8. ^ Pugh, Vernon. "DVIC image DN-ST-92-10041." Archived 2008-05-28 at the Wayback Retrieved: May 19, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Lockett, Brian. "Convair 880." Goleta Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: May 19, 2010.
  10. ^ Proctor, Jon (1996). Convair 880 & 990 (First ed.). Miami: World Transport Press. p. 46.
  11. ^ Accident description for N8804E at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 16 December 2010.
  12. ^ Accident description for JA8030 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  13. ^ Accident description for VR-HFX at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  14. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report Trans World Airlines, Inc., Convair 880, N821TW, Constance, Kentucky, November 20, 1967" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board Report Number NTSB-AAR-69-05. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  15. ^ Accident description for JA8028 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  16. ^ Criminal description for VR-HFZ at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 19 May 2010.
  17. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report North Central Airlines, Inc., McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31, N954N, and Delta Air Lines, Inc., Convair CV-880, N8807E, O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, December 20, 1972, adopted July 5, 1973." National Transportation Safety Board Report Number NTSB-AAR-73-15.
  18. ^ Accident description for N8817E at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  19. ^ Accident description for YV-145C at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  20. ^ Hull-loss description for N880SR at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  21. ^ Accident description for N5863 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Convair 880 Prototype". Delta Flight Museum. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Ship 3". 21 September 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  24. ^ "Aircraft N801AJ Data". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  25. ^ a b Air Classics May, Vol. 54/No. 5, (2018)"Saving the Last Convair Jetliners - by Ralph M. Pettersen"
  26. ^ "Convair 880, serial no. 23, N817TW". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  27. ^ "Convair 880 Arrives At The Air Museum". Coastal Zephyr.
  28. ^ a b Convair jet rises from desert graveyard, returns to public view, by reporter Diana Bell,
  29. ^ "Convair 880, serial no. 35, N815AJ". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Other Graceland Museums & Exhibits". Graceland. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  31. ^ "Airframe Dossier - Convair CV-880-22-2, c/n 22-00-38, c/r N880EP". Aerial Visuals. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  32. ^ "The Lisa Marie – The Convair 880 jet." Retrieved: May 19, 2010.
  33. ^ "BBC News - Elvis Presley's private jets up for sale". BBC Online. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  34. ^ "Convair 880 N88CH at Shadow Park Lodge » 2005-11-16". Aviation Pics. Aviation Pics. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  35. ^ Hollands, Barbara. "Down by the river with Billy Nel, the collector king of boys’ toys." Archived 2005-02-28 at the Wayback Machine, January 29, 2005. Retrieved: May 19, 2010.
  36. ^ "Remember when ..." Archived 2011-06-15 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: May 19, 2010.
  37. ^ "Airport has not taken off." Retrieved: May 19, 2010.
  38. ^ Taylor 1965, p. 233.
  39. ^ Proctor, Jon (1996). Convair 880 & 990 (First ed.). Miami: World Transport Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8.
  40. ^ Proctor, Jon (1996). Convair 880 & 990. Miami: World Transport Press. p. 11.


  • Proctor, Jon. Convair 880 & 990. Miami, FL: World Transport Press, 1996. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8.
  • Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1965-66. London: Samson Low, Marston, 1965.
  • Wegg, John. General Dynamic Aircraft and their Predecessors. London:Putnam, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-833-X.
  • Wilson, Stewart. Airliners of the World. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd., 1999. ISBN 1-875671-44-7.

External links

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