Planes of The Past Part 3- Convair 880/990

Part 3 of PoTP is here! Today we’ll be covering the mobile smoke generator!

Convair 880/990


The Convair 880 doing what it does best!

Performance Specifications:
Convair 880
General characteristics
Crew: 3
Capacity: 110 passengers
Payload: 24,000 lb (10,900 kg)
Length: 129 ft 4 in (39.42 m)
Wingspan: 120 ft 0 in (36.58 m)
Height: 36 ft 3¾ in (11.00 m)
Wing area: 2,000 sq ft (185.8 m²)
Aspect ratio: 7.2
Empty weight: 94,000 lb (42,730 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 193,000 lb (203,400 lb [880-M]) (87,730 kg)
Powerplant: 4 × General Electric CJ-805-3B turbojet, 11,650 lbf (51.95 kN) each
Cruise speed: 610 mph[29] (max. mach: .89 [approx. 615 MPH]) (535 knots, 990 km/h) (max cruise at 22,500 ft (6,860 m)
Stall speed: 111 mph (97 knots, 179 km/h)
Range: 3,385 mi (3,750 880-M) (2,943 nmi, 4,430 km)
Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,500 m) (max cruise altitude)

Convair 990
General characteristics
Crew: Four
Capacity: 149 passengers
Length: 139 ft 9 in (42.5 m)
Wingspan: 120 ft (36.6 m)
Height: 39 ft 6 in (11 m)
Wing area: 2,250 sq ft (209 m²)
Empty weight: 113,000 lb (51,256 kg)
Loaded weight: 253,000 lb (111,674 kg)
Powerplant: 4 × General Electric CJ805-23B turbofans, 16,050 lbf (71.4 kN) each
Maximum speed: 621 mph (540 kn, 1,000 km/h) at 21,200 ft (6,460 m)
Cruise speed: 557 mph (484 kn, 896 km/h) at 35,000 ft (10,668 m)
Range: 3,595 mi (3,124 nmi, 5,785 km)
(credit: wikipedia)

Convair 880 history:

The Convair 880 was first thought up in April 1956 after announcements by Boeing (707) and Douglas (DC-8). The name came from the top speed of 600 mph (970 km/h) or 880 ft/s (268 m/s). Unfortunately it suffered from the same problem as the Dash 80 that in having a 2-3 seat layout it was inherently disadvantaged against the 707 and DC-8. This, coupled with the fact that it had the civilian version of the J79 turbojet which powered the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, and Convair B-58 Hustler (fuel consumption…) meant that it was less appealing to airlines. These flaws in the plane ended up with only 65 being built.

The final nail in the coffin for the type was Boeing’s “Convair 880 killer”, the shortened 707-120 aka the Boeing 720. Since it was based off the 707, development costs were reduced and Boeing could also afford to sell them much cheaper. The better fuel consumption also helped!

Delta Air Lines, one of the types biggest customers. Interestingly, the planes were delivered with a 2-2 all first class layout before being converted to a more conventional 2-2 first and 2-3 econ class config later.

Who flew them?
Civil Air Transport (Taiwan)
Cathay Pacific
Air Malta leased one briefly
Lanica (ex-DL in the mid 70s)
Swissair (interim until delayed 990s were delivered)

Convair 990 Coronado history:

The Convair 990 was born when AA requested for a larger 880 with extra fuel. Remember this was the time where speed mattered so Convair made the 990 fast. Very very fast. It would cruise at M.91 all day without issue, a speed rarely matched by non-supersonic passenger aircraft even until today!

The FAA TCDS for the Convair 990 (4A30 Rev.7) lists Mmo as follows:
Models 30 & 3CA -5, -6 & -8 Versions, Outboard Anti-Shock Bodies Empty: 0.912M above 21,500 ft.
Models 30 & 30A -5 Version Outboard Anti-Shock Bodies With Fuel: 0.784M above 21,400 ft.
Models 30 & 30A -6 & 8 Versions Outboard Anti-Shock Bodies With Fuel: 0.718M above 21,600 ft.

The plane was flown at around M.78-.80 for the greatest range as any faster would mean burning fuel like it was going out of fashion (which it was because the oil crisis of the 1960s soon hit, but thats another matter!)

One change from the 880 was the large anti-shock bodies on the upper trailing edge of the wings to increase the critical Mach and reduce transonic drag as part of the modifications needed to achieve the better performance over the 880. They also contained fuel in the outboard pods which increased the range slightly and had the effect of slowing it down (see above) further increasing range.

Operators of the 990:
SAS leased from Swissair
Internord (charter outfit in Scandinavia, late 60s)
APSA (Peru)
MEA and Lebanese Inrternational
Iberia (one painted in their colors)
Air France (leased from AA but painted in AF livery)

The cockpit of a restored Convair 990.


The engines for the Convair 990/880, in that order. You can see how the 990 managed to achieve the higher efficiency with the extra bypass flow.

In the end, the Convair 990 fared even worse than the 880, only managing 37 built. Convair ended up losing around $250M on the 880/990 programme, up to then the largest corporate loss in US history, sealing the company’s fate and chasing them away from the airliner market since.

And yes, I was lucky enough to get to visit the restored Swissair Convair 990 currently in a museum in Switzerland.

Sorry for the lack of pics, I didn’t know what the plane was when I went there and took the pics cos I was excited that I got to go into one like that. Slight pang of regret now…

If you’re ever nearby, I CANNOT recommend this museum enough! You can easily spend hours here with the Swissair stuff and also classic cars stored there. There’s also trains, this place is a Museum of Transport for a reason…

I hope you enjoyed this PoTP, as usual, constructive comments are much appreciated and will go towards improving future parts!

Thanks again for reading and see you in Part 4!


Convair 880 was a great aircraft and they are pretty! I wish we can see them flying in the skies again

Anyways, lovely article as always Iggy! Looking forward for your PoTP 4 😉


Who cares about old planes

I do, actually. I find history quite interesting and fascinating, as I’m sure many other people around the forum.

Nice topic, looking forward for Pt4 :)


Good post thanks. Keep this coming.

Can’t tell if your post is sarcastic or not but knowing this community it’s probably not sarcastic


Many of the old planes led to the success and design of the advanced aircraft we have today.


I’m really liking these short but substantaive threads! Please cite where you got the images from in the future.

One of my favorites planes from the past. Lovely post!


Elvis Presley’s Convair 880, named after his daughter, at Graceland. (Not my photo)


This plane has the worlds sexiest nose.

Personally I find these types of posts fascniating

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Yet again proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think these are magnificent examples of a bygone era in aviation. While they may not have been the most competitive or longest lasting, they are still great looking aircraft nonetheless. I sure wouldn’t turn down the chance to own one.

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Very interesting background and well detailed. Thank you for sharing.

Awesome post! You can catch good footage of the Convair in the beginning few minutes of a really bad made-for-tv movie from the 70’s “San Francisco International Airport”. Mystery Science Theater 3K featured this film in an episode that you can find on youtube.


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