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Convair 880
Cathay Pacific Convair 880 in flight.jpg
The Convair 880 is a low-wing airliner with four underwing turbojets
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
Northeast 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 but 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.

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 Model 22 initial production version (no prototype was built) made its maiden flight on 27 January 1959.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[4] 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. The sole UC-880 was damaged in a cargo hold explosive decompression test at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in 1995.[5] The aircraft managed to remain theoretically controllable via backup systems unique to the 880 and 990.[4]


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
Convair 880 flight deck
Convair 880 flight deck
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.[6]
  • 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.[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • On November 20, 1967, TWA Flight 128 crashed on approach to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Seventy people were killed and 12 survived.[9]
  • On June 24, 1969, Japan Air Lines Flight 90, a CV-880-22M-3 (JA8028, Kikyo), crashed on takeoff from Grant County Airport, Washington, 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.[10]
  • 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.[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • On August 20, 1977, a Monarch Aviation CV-880-22-2 (N8817E) struck trees and crashed shortly after takeoff from Juan Santamaria International Airport, Costa Rica due to overloading, killing the three crew.[13]
  • 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.[14]
  • On May 11, 1983, a Groth Air CV-880-22-2 (N880SR) burned out at Juarez International Airport.[15]
  • In October 1986, an FAA CV-880-22M-3 (N5863) was intentionally destroyed in a test with anti-misting kerosene fuel additive at Mojave, California.[16]

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[32]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Capacity: 110 passengers / 24,000 lb (11,000 kg)
  • Length: 129 ft 4 in (39.42 m)
  • Wingspan: 120 ft 0 in (36.58 m)
  • Height: 36 ft 3.75 in (11.0681 m)
  • Wing area: 2,000 sq ft (190 m2)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 0011-64 (modified); tip: NACA 0008-64 (modified)
  • Gross weight: 87,400 lb (39,644 kg) 22
94,000 lb (43,000 kg) 22M
  • Max takeoff weight: 184,500 lb (83,688 kg) 22
193,000 lb (88,000 kg) 22M
  • Maximum Landing Weight: 137,000 lb (62,000 kg) 22
155,000 lb (70,000 kg) 22M
  • Maximum Zero-fuel Weight: 117,000 lb (53,000 kg) 22
121,500 lb (55,100 kg) 22M
  • Fuel capacity: 22 10,584 US gal (8,813 imp gal; 40,060 l) internals ; 22M 12,538 US gal (10,440 imp gal; 47,460 l) with optional centre-section tanks
  • Powerplant: 4 × General Electric CJ-805-3 turbojet engines, 11,650 lbf (51.8 kN) thrust each 22
General Electric CJ-805-3B turbojets – 11,650 lbf (51.8 kN) 22M


  • Cruise speed: 534.5 kn (615.1 mph, 989.9 km/h) maximum at 22,500 ft (6,900 m) (with max TO weight)
  • Economical Cruising Speed: 470 kn (540 mph; 870 km/h) / M0.82 at 35,000 ft (11,000 m) and AUW of 140,000 lb (64,000 kg)
  • Maximum Cruising Altitude: 41,000 ft (12,000 m)
  • Stall speed: 105 kn (121 mph, 194 km/h) at 122,500 lb (55,600 kg) 22
95.5 kn (109.9 mph; 176.9 km/h) at 122,500 lb (55,600 kg) 22M
  • Approach speed: 139 kn (160 mph; 257 km/h) 22
  • Range: 2,472 nmi (2,845 mi, 4,578 km) with 22,500 lb (10,200 kg) payload and 14,000 lb (6,400 kg) reserve fuel 22
2,503 nmi (2,880 mi; 4,636 km) with 24,000 lb (11,000 kg) payload and 16,000 lb (7,300 kg) reserve fuel 22M
  • Ferry range: 2,720 nmi (3,130 mi, 5,040 km) zero payload and 14,000 lb (6,400 kg) reserve fuel 22
2,942 nmi (3,386 mi; 5,449 km) zero payload and 16,000 lb (7,300 kg) reserve fuel 22M
  • Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,000 m)
  • Wing loading: 92.25 lb/sq ft (450.4 kg/m2) 22
96.5 lb/sq ft (471 kg/m2) 22M
  • Take-off field length: 8,750 ft (2,670 m) 22
7,550 ft (2,300 m) 22M
  • Landing field length:6,250 ft (1,900 m) at 135,000 lb (61,000 kg) 22
5,350 ft (1,630 m) at 135,000 lb (61,000 kg) 22M

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. Vol. III no. 3. March 1959. p. 87. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Wegg, John (1990). General Dynamics aircraft and their predecessors (1st ed.). Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. pp. 214–217. ISBN 0-87021-233-8.
  3. ^ Pourade, Richard F. "City of the Dream, 1940–1970". San Diego History Center | San Diego, CA | Our City, Our Story. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Proctor, Jon (1996). Convair 880 & 990 (First ed.). Miami: World Transport Press. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8.
  5. ^ a b Lockett, Brian. "Goleta Air & Space Museum : Convair 880". Goleta Air & Space Museum. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  6. ^ Accident description for N8804E at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 16 December 2010.
  7. ^ Accident description for JA8030 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  8. ^ Accident description for VR-HFX at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ Accident description for JA8028 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  11. ^ Criminal description for VR-HFZ at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 19 May 2010.
  12. ^ 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 : NTSB-AAR-73-15 (PDF). Washington D.C.: NTSB. 5 July 1973. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  13. ^ Accident description for N8817E at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  14. ^ Accident description for YV-145C at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  15. ^ Hull-loss description for N880SR at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  16. ^ Accident description for N5863 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Convair 880 Prototype". Delta Flight Museum. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  18. ^ "Ship 3". 21 September 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Aircraft N801AJ Data". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  20. ^ Air Classics May, Vol. 54/No. 5, (2018)"Saving the Last Convair Jetliners – by Ralph M. Pettersen"
  21. ^ "Convair 880, serial no. 23, N817TW". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  22. ^ Bell, Diane (28 September 2018). "Column: Ghost of Convair jet rises from desert graveyard, returns to public view". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  23. ^ "CONVAIR 880 ARRIVES AT THE AIR MUSEUM". Coastal Zephyr. 31 August 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  24. ^ "Convair 880, serial no. 35, N815AJ". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  25. ^ "Other Graceland Museums & Exhibits". Graceland. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  26. ^ "Airframe Dossier – Convair CV-880-22-2, c/n 22-00-38, c/r N880EP". Aerial Visuals. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  27. ^ Proctor, John (September 1996). Convair 880 and 990. ISBN 9780962673047.
  28. ^ "'The Lisa Marie': Elvis Presley's Convair 880 Jet Airplane | Lisa Marie Presley". Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  29. ^ "BBC News – Elvis Presley's private jets up for sale". BBC Online. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  30. ^ "Convair 880 N88CH at Shadow Park Lodge » 2005-11-16". Aviation Pics. Aviation Pics. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ Taylor, John W.R., ed. (1965). Jane's all the World's Aircraft 1965–66. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd. pp. 232–233.

Further reading

External links

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