Following the classic Convairliner

The first Convairliner flew initially on July 8, 1946. A one-off, proof-of-concept plane, this was followed by 1086 production aircraft. Many of these later were re-engined with turbines, a dwindling number of which remain airworthy. Here, a Great Lakes Airlines 4-40 sits at Toronto on January 4, 1974. It was photographed from the best “YYZ” vantage point in those days — the parking garage of the famous “Aeroquay” passenger terminal (now demolished). GLA was one of Ontario’s early regionals. Having begun in 1961, it added its first Convairs in 1969. Service was such cities as London, Sarnia, Toronto and Ottawa. The first 5-80 was added in 1976. In 1981 GLA became Air Ontario, affiliated with the Deluce family, owners of Austin Airways. The best source for such details is A History of Airlines in Canada by John Blatherwick. As with the previous (C-119) blog item, these historic Larry Milberry photos has been subtly sharpened up for presentation by astronomer Andrew Yee, whom many of you know from The Weather Channel.

Convairliner memories: One of the all-time beautifully-designed airplanes is the Convairliner series. Countless books, papers and articles cover the topic, so where should one turn for the hardcore details? “Good question”, as the pundits all say these days. Each fan will have favourite sources, but for the basic gen start with Air Britain’s The Convairliner Story. Then back up your digging with Piston Engine Airliner Production List and Turboprop Airliner Production List by Eastwood and Roach. After that, you’ll find what you like on the bookshelves and magazine racks at your favourite hobby shop or by mining the web. For “mags” put Propliner at the top of your list. Rarely an issue goes by without some valuable new Convair info (why not take a look right now and get on the subscription list of this incomparable publication:

As full-out aviation fans in the 1950s-60s, we local Toronto schoolboys never tired of watching a Convair on approach, firing up in a cloud of blue smoke, taxying by, trying to run us over, or just sitting handsomely on the ramp. The local Malton or Buffalo beauties were, of course, those polished, natural-finish American Airlines 2-40s. What gems to behold. There often was one overnighting at Malton in the Genaire hangar. If we got out early enough to do our spotting and photography, we often could catch it sitting in some nice morning light. They also parked at the old DOT terminal building, where we would wander around on the ramp, even as passengers were coming or going. Of course we always stood clear before the props got whirling. Almost no one ever hassled us, other than maybe some baggage handler or passenger agent giving a “Have an eye.” Here is a typical gorgeous American Airlines Convair 240. N94279 “Flagship Wolverine State” was caught taxying on a perfect day at Buffalo, August 1, 1960. Buffalo was better than Malton for photography — not a fence to be found to spoil a shot or oblige us to keep a distance (as this old black-and-white shows). On any such airport visit, we learned a hundred and one tidbits. What was the Wolverine State? If we didn’t know it was Michigan, we’d soon look it up when we got home. In the distant right is Cornell Aeronautical Labs. We always hoped to see one of their oddball research planes, but only ever caught the F7F Bearcat.

N94260 “Flagship New England” on the Genaire ramp at Malton on March 26, 1960. There always was something of interest at Genaire, from such residents as the Canadian Breweries DC-3 to Shell’s DH Dove or Comstock’s A-26. For about a year several ex-RCAF Vampires were lined along the hangar. One day I walked into the hangar to have a shotgun pointed at me. I had no idea that the American Airlines DC-6F inside was being loaded with gold bars! Happily, the security guys were not too eager to shoot down a kid taking pictures.

Imperial Oil’s CV-240 CF-IOK. In 1961 we noticed that it was outside in the weather, but Imperial always kept its planes safely hangared. Why outside? The answer was that CF-IOK’s replacement had arrived — million-dollar Gulfstream CF-IOM, fresh from Grumman’s production line. Imperial’s CF-IOK and Lodestar ‘TDB soon were sold and disappeared. CF-IOK had begun in 1949 with Claire Lee Chennault’s CIA-funded Chinese airline, then operated on mysterious Central American duties until acquired by Imperial in 1954. Sold stateside in September 1961, it served many operators (initially as N400M) until fading from the scene in the early 1980s.

Malton was blessed with resident Convairs — the only two in Canada circa 1960, other than the small CPA fleet based in Vancouver. Imperial Oil had CV-240 CF-IOK, which lived in the company’s new hangar at the north end of the field (the first hangar away over there). Its hangar mates were Lodestar CF-TDB and DC-3 CF-IOC. The fleet was lovely to behold in its polished metal with white and red trim. Shell Oil one-upped Imperial — it had the spectacular 4-40 CF-KQI, quite an improvement over its previous Toronto plane, the dainty little Dove CF-TCP. The first time I noted ‘KQI was on February 20, 1960. These Convairs were certainly the Rolls-Royces of corporate aviation around Malton in the 1950s and must have been the envy of other local companies with their DC-3s (Abitibi Paper, Canadian Breweries and Ontario Paper) and Lockheeds (BA Oil, Canada Packers, Massey Ferguson and Noranda Mines).

Shell’s CF-KQI at Malton on August 11, 1960. I never shot it in colour — these were our “glorious black and white” days, mainly because we rarely could afford Kodachrome. But use your imagination here — ‘KQI wore a medium gray, dark blue and white paint job. The same day N270 was in town, a CV-240 in white with yellow trim. Also photographed was B-23 Dragon N33311 of General Electric in from White Plains, NY. Malton always seemed ready to serve up some nice surprise.

Modified with a rear airstair, 2-40 N557R at Malton on July 2, 1960. After an airline career it was converted by Remmert Werner of St. Louis in 1960, which seems to have kept it around doing charters for a year, then sold it to Falstaff Brewing. It drifted back into the airline world with Pacific Coastal in Alaska in 1966 and went for scrap at Long Beach in 1978.

A highlight of my earlier aviation hobby days came on August 15, 1959 when my pal, Merlin Reddy, treated me to a day at Buffalo Airport. For something like $22 he got us each a return fare on American Airlines. Bright and early we hopped over to Buffalo (a flight of about 20 minutes, over on a Convair, back on a DC-6). We spent the day photographing Convairs, DC-3s, DC-4s, DC-6s, Connies and Viscounts, then flew home about supper time to find a Fairchild Aerial Surveys B-17 and Beech Kansan on the ramp, so talk about a great day altogether.

Visiting Convairs appeared fairly often at Malton. On September 7, 1959 I spotted N70Q, noting it as Gulf Oil. But it may have been some other outfit on a Gulf charter — it’s not listed anywhere as owned by Gulf. N70Q had been American’s N94269 until 1958. N440W was at Malton on November 29. Originally a 3-40 with Braniff in 1953, it was a newly-converted by Remmert Werner, one of the main shops in the 1950s converting Convairs, DC-3s, Lockheeds, etc. for corporate use. (N400W later was a turboprop CV-580, which ended in Canada with Kelowna Flightcraft in 1990.) N98G of Gulf Oil visited Malton on December 30. Built initially as a corporate plane, it later was a 5-80 with North Central, etc. until scrapped in California in 1997.

Convair lookalike. N404K at Malton on January 10, 1960. Note the Martin’s trademark rear boarding stairs. Originally TWA’s “Skyliner Bethlehem” in 1952, it was sold to Beldex Inc. in 1959 and converted for corporate use. Many owners followed — an oil company, a cult, an automotove parts company, a land developer. It last was heard of in Florida with the George T. Baker Aviation School.

Sometimes we’d be taken aback at Malton — “There’s an odd-looking Convair!” That’s because it was one of the Martinliners that occasionally stopped by. Martin N404K arrived while we were skulking around and shivering late on the afternoon of January 10, 1960. Convair N401M of Union Carbide was at Malton on February 16, but we didn’t get to shoot it. Who knows why … maybe it was parked too far across the tarmac (where we rarely ventured), or maybe we were just disinterested, or low on film. Occasionally we’d find out who was aboard such impressive corporate planes. Entertainment king, Arthur Godfrey, was at Malton one day in his private Convair 340, but we usually didn’t enquire about such trivia — we hadn’t learned yet to appreciate the connection between the planes the people.

I photographed AA CV-240 “Flagship Lake Arrowhead” on March 20, 1960, but the scene was starting to change at Malton — fewer AA Convairs and DC-6s were around, more and more of the company’s flashy new Electras. On April 13 CV-440 N90860, formerly of Continental and now of Honeywell, was an impressive sight in its blue-with-red-trim on April 13. Six days later we were back in Buffalo, where one of several Convairs noted was Mohawk’s N4405 “Airchief Hiawatha” (N4405 later was a CV-640 that spent years in Canada as C-FPWO working for PWA and Echo Bay Mines).

CV-440 N130B of Canco Carriers (aka American Can Co.) was at Malton on June 21, 1960, but somehow eluded my camera. But on July 2 I caught N557R of Remmert-Werner. This gorgeous 2-40 was blue overall with yellow and white trim and a handsome lion on the tail. N557R was c/n 42 — a 1948 beauty that had begun with the airlines in Australia, migrated to Pakistan, then to the Netherlands before switching to the corporate world. Four days later I saw Mohawk’s N910BS “Airchief Black Hawk” at Malton. Again, no photos.

CV-340 N200A at Malton on July 8, 1960. You can see how brazen we keeners were 50+ years ago. To get this shot I was standing right out on the tarmac as N200A taxied in, even before the customs man, who normally was Johnny-on-the-Spot. The TCA planes beyond are at the DOT terminal, opened in 1938 and by this time barely able to serve Toronto’s growing air transport needs. Away across the field is the Imperial Oil hangar, the pioneer resident over there. By this time the Field Aviation hangar also was up, and you can just see the steel rising for the third north-end hangar — The Skyport. N200A had been built in 1952 for United Airlines (“Mainliner Bakersfield”). At this point it was listed to ESSO Tankers Inc. Converted to a Convair 580, it served Great Lakes Airlines and Air Ontario 1977-81 as C-GQHA, and last was heard of with Swiftair in Spain in 2000.

Nick Wolochatiuk and I shot this lovely 4-40 somewhere on a Great Lakes expedition. Clearly an airport close to town, but where? Serial 372, N400J served General Dynamics 1957-62, then was sold to Gulf Oil, became N108G and eventually was a 5-80. Following many adventures, it joined Kelowna Flightcraft in 1987 as C-FKFL. In 1990 it migrated to New Zealand to fly cargo as ZK-KFL. See it in action on YouTube — some nice take-off footage dating to May 2011. Notice the standard angle for photographing a Convair on the ground. The straight side view did the job, but the 3/4 front really added the visual appeal we were looking for. Naturally, we always tried for an angle that included markings and registration.

CV-440 N6666C “The Wind Ship” began with Ansett in Australia 1957-59, then was converted by Remmert Werner for Coca Cola. In 1964 it joined the Italian air force, where is seems to have ended its days. “The Wind Ship” is shown at Malton on August 16, 1961. This is looking westward at the north end. Nothing but farms at the time all around Malton. Nothing but tightly-squeezed urban development today. N200A, another CV-440 passed through on July 8, 1960, so we sure were making a lot of trips to Malton that summer. Nick and I were in Buffalo on July 19, where we noted 5 AA Convairs plus N1012G of Mohawk. This was another real Nick and Larry gong show. When we spotted the Cornell Aeronautical Labs F7F Bearcat N700A landing, we kept an eye on where it taxied, then hustled around to Cornell. We soon were clicking away, while the pilot was still unstrapping. We were just ready to scurry off, when Cornell security scooped us up, raked us over the coals, then turfed us out, happily, still with our film. Relieved, we thumbed our way back to Toronto, passing George Richards at one point. George was another of Toronto’s plane spotters, but he always operated solo. Who knows what treasures he had come across around Buffalo this day. I can’t remember half the details of those crazy forays, but on August 1 I was back at Buffalo Airport. There was a ton of great actions, but the only Convair I shot was N94279 “Flagship Gettysburg”. The big find this day was C-46 N1674B. A year later it was gone — shot down in Laos. It was a real bind getting home this day. I’d hung around too late and it was dusk as I scrounged for a ride along the Queen Elizabeth Highway — it was 100 miles to get home from where the QEW started in Fort Erie across from Buffalo. I spent the night under the stars in an orchard, then caught a ride at sunrise with a fruit farmer heading for Toronto’s main food terminal.

In Next year I didn’t make many trips to Malton — graduating from high school and going to work meant a whole new take on reality. On June 3, 1962, however, I noted “N72B”, but must have mis-read the registration, as I see no sign in the records of N72B. But there is an N62B. GM’s 4-40 N5126 dropped in on August 23. We saw 2-40 N270L at Malton on July 22, 1963. Then owned by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, it later served Colorado-based Aspen Airways. On January 17, 1970 it was landing at Aspen from Denver. Pretty well every seat was filled — 52 passengers and crew. All did not go well, however, as the pilot goofed — he landed gear up. No one was hurt, but the Convair was a dead loss.

We spotted GM CV-580 N5126 at Malton on August 23, 1962. It last was heard of in Colombia in the late 1990s. This photo was taken elsewhere, but I have no record. It might have been at Oshawa, home to GM in Canada. The British cars pretty well eliminate a US location. This was the first 5-80 that I photographed.

MC-131 Samaritan 52-5801 on approach at MPLS on August 20, 1963. On the main gear door it reads “1st Aeromedical Transport Group”. This lovely Convair later served the US Coast Guard, then went to the desert boneyard in Tucson in 1976. The role of the Samaritans was transporting military medical staff and patients throughout their particular regions. The MC-131 eventually was replaced by the C-9 Nightingale, a modified DC-9.

Some nice shooting took place at Minneapolis on August 20, 1963, while Nick and I were on a Great Lakes trip. There was a nice 3-40 of North Central (N90855) and a special treat — a USAF MC-131 Samaritan (52-5801). Two days later at O’Hare we saw CV-440 N1270V, but no chance for a photo. Next day at Midway we saw VT-29C 52-1174, some USAF “Two Star” general’s private buggy (the T-29 was the training version of the C-131, the prefix “V” specified it as a VIP plane).

Here are several other US military Convairs, starting with Washington-based (Andrews AFB) US Marine Corps VC-131G 145962. Polished to Andrews AFB standards, it was a nice surprise for Nick and I when we visited Toledo, Ohio on August 30, 1964. This Convair served into 1986, then retired to the desert, likely to be picked clean of useful parts and scrapped.

JC-131B 53-7791 at Wright Patterson AFB on May 21, 1966. This was one of at least two such Convairs converted to fly zero-gravity missions on research programs, especially to help Mercury astronauts adjust to zero G (see for some archival film footage). The sight of such an unusual airplane always got our pulse rates going. Christened “Sine Gravitate”, ‘791 had the mission profile painted on the nose. This was one of the original “Vomit Comets”, so named since many an astronaut heaved his cookies after one too many zero-G manoeuvres. Andrew Yee prepared the nifty graphic shown here — a replica of what was painted on the nose.

Convair NC-131B 53-7788 at WPAFB on a weathered-out New Year’s Day 1967. Who else would be poking around WFAFB this day, other than Nick and Larry! We announced ourselves at the gate, and somehow found a sympathetic MP to escort us around in the clag to take photos of some far-out planes, all test editions — a B-47, B-66, the weirdest C-135s we’d ever seen, an RF-101, even this lowly Convair. Note its bumps and bulges — what looks like a SLAR installation (the long thing hanging under the fuselage), a ventral radome and some largish pod between the main undercarriage. ‘7788 had a long USAF career — 1954-77. In 1992 it was moved from the boneyard in Tucson to nearby Sam’s Scrapyard, where it likely ended as ingots.

The US Geological Survey had its CV-240 at Field Aviation, Malton on August 19, 1964. That’s about where my detailed airport visit note-keeping ended, sad to say. But that didn’t end my interest in Convairs. Over the decades we fans always had our eyes peeled for them. At Malton, which became Toronto International Airport, then Lester B. Pearson International Airport (always know in short as “YYZ”), the demise of AA’s “Flagship” fleet was noted, but then the turbine Convairs started showing up, especially with Allegheny and North Central, and YYZ-based Worldways added two 6-40s.

Worldways Convair 640 (R-R Dart engines) C-FPWT at Malton on June 6, 1976. It was used mainly for passenger charters, and often hauled around sports teams. It had been sold new in 1952 to Arabian American Oil, then went to General Dynamics in 1966, where it became a 6-40. It served PWA 1967-76, Worldways 1976-82, then migrated across the pond to join Gamcrest in Senegal as N862FW. On February 9, 1992 it departed Dakar with 59 aboard. This was a Club Med charter heading for Cap Skirring, Senegal. On approach to land, the plane crashed, killing 28. The cause of this disaster? A dilapidated airplane and a time-expired pilot who mistook the lights of a hotel driveway for his runway!

My first Convair Kodachrome. After driving to Dorval with Nick in his VW on September 4, 1961, it was a delight early next morning to catch this Canadair 540 being towed to position at the terminal for its day’s work. Quebecair had two 5-40s on lease. Captains such as Claude Castonguay thought highly of them, but there were maintenance headaches, so Quebecair returned the 5-40s to Canadair, opting instead for a fleet of F.27s. CF-LMN had begun as 4-40 N8473H in 1957, then went to Canadair in 1959 for conversion. Following Quebecair, it was RCAF 11161, then was sold to GM in 1966 and made into a 5-80. It served North Central and a string of subsequent operators. Showing a certain stubbornness, it still was flying in 2009, by then as N582P with Air Tahoma of Columbus, Ohio. This carrier, however, was grounded that year by the FAA. There are numerous photos of N582P on the web.

The first RCAF Convair I photographed was 11106, one of the small batch of Canadair 540 “Cosmopolitans” modified, serviced or produced at Cartierville. Convair afficanado, Ken Pickford, added this excellent info in August 2020: “This aircraft was one of 3 unsold 440s built by Convair in San Diego that were transferred to Canadair, after being stored for 1 – 2 years. It’s correct that Canadair converted it from its original Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines to the Napier Eland, becoming a 540, but the airframe itself wasn’t one of the 10 built by Canadair.  The photo just above in Quebecair markings is one of the other two 440s that went to Canadair and was converted to a 540. Those 3 aircraft were Convair serial numbers 454, 462 and 475 built in 1957 (of the 510 Convair-built 340s/440s). You also mention that the 540s were later re-engined with Allison 501s to become 580s, implying the RCAF did that. That’s true for 7 of the 10 Canadair-built 540s. One was written off in a hangar fire in 1967 before the 580 conversion. Two weren’t converted — they retained their Napier Elands and were scrapped in 1972. The three original 440s, that became 540s, were converted to 580s, but after leaving the RCAF.” Now back to Windsor in 1959 … RCAF 11106 was impressive as it arrived with VIPs for the Windsor, Ontario airshow on September 19, 1959. Totally grand in scope (Golden Hawks, etc.), this event celebrated the 50th anniversary of the flight of the Silver Dart. Merlin and I drove down early and, as you can see, got right out among the airplanes on the preferred side of the crowd control barriers. Canadair: The First 50 Years tells the story of the oddball 5-40, a Convair with Napier Eland engines. The whole effort really was a bit of a bust and the RCAF “Cosmos” were re-engined with Allisons to become 5-80s. Cosmo 11106 later was re-number 11162. On March 19, 1962 it lost an engine and all hydraulic pressure. An emergency landing was made at Malton, from where it had departed with VIPs an hour earlier. Without brakes or flaps ‘162 finished its day severely bent in a ditch. All the details of this frightening event can be read in Sixty Years (CANAV 1984). Before we go, Ken Pickford adds a bit more gen: “The photo of 11106 is easily identifiable as not being one of the Canadair-built aircraft by the lack of the large main deck cargo door in the rear fuselage (note passenger windows in that area which didn’t exist on the 10 Canadair-built aircraft. Those aircraft also had a “bulge” on the upper fuselage a few feet long forward of the tail (not sure what that was, presumably an antenna of some type; it only appears on the 10 Canadair-built Cosmos). Note the photo of 11106 lacks that protruberance. After various other operators and registrations in the U.S, Venezuela and Canada, the former 11106/11162 is still registered today as C-FHNM to Nolinor Aviation based at Mirabel, now a freighter. Not sure if it’s still flying regularly but it was in the following video landing at Quebec City in July 2019″ (google

Cosmo 11155 impresses the crowd with a slow pass at Trenton on July 1, 1961. The occasion was Air Force Day, which turned out to be one of the all time great Canadian airshows. Nearly every RCAF type was on display, including in the air. This Cosmo went for scrap at an early date in 1972.

Nick and I shot Cosmo 11158 on September 5, 1960 at Cartierville, where it was awaiting delivery. Mainly operated in the VIP role by 412 Squadron of Ottawa, these highly-polished beauties sometimes mockingly were called “Cosmopoliticians”, since the Ottawa top elite and their flunky mandarin cronies were the usuals on the passenger manifest. 11158 also was scrapped in 1972, but why? Was there damage or corrosion?

Cosmo 109152 on the 5 Air Movements Unit ramp at Lahr on April 3, 1993, the day I returned from a trip to Somalia that had begun on March 14. ‘152 was in Lahr doing general purpose transport for Canada’s NATO forces in Europe and beyond. In 1994 Canada, having recently spent millions upgrading its Cosmos, parked the whole fleet at Trenton. Later, Albert Ethier of Norcanair fame bought all seven for cheap. Several ended far afield. On April 4, 2004, one crashed at Shabunda in the Congo, but the crew escaped. One became FAB-74 in the Bolivian Air Force, another became HP-1468 in Panama. There are photos on the web of most of the RCAF/CF/ex-CF Cosmos. Over the decades I enjoyed several Convair flights, starting with our Malton-Buffalo excursion of August 15, 1959. There was a Downsview-Trenton trip in Cosmo 11160 on August 31, 1969. We flew the same route on September 2, 1971 in 109157 and again on August 21 the following year. On July 13, 1977 I rode on SEBJ 5-80 C-FFHB “Sakami” from Dorval to Bagotville and Lac Pau to do a story for Hugh Whittington about the James Bay hydro development. I came back to Dorval on the 16th in ‘FHD, this time via Quebec City. On the night of July 5, 1993 Capt Jim Rogozynski and FO Joe Davidson of Canair Cargo had me in the jump seat going Calgary-Winnipeg-Hamilton in 5-80 C-FBHW and what a grind that was. It sure helped me appreciate the tough job courier pilots have flying slow old clunkers on trans-Continental routes, and why they didn’t see much about them that was romantic. Amazingly, there still are a few Convairs on the wing, their latest incarnation in Canada being as fire bombers.

Propliner several times has featured Convairs on its cover. And rightly so. Propliner No.33 featured a standard view of DHL’s 5-80 OO-DHC taken at Ostend by Tony de Bruyn. Subscribe today to Propliner — one of the world’s few really essential aviation journals.

SEBJ 5-80 C-FFHF “Opinaka” waiting at Dorval on July 13, 1977 for its next trip into James Bay country. Quebec’s legendary Frank Henley established SEBJ’s air transportation operation, including acquiring six ex-North Central 5-80s. These all carried his initials “FH” in the registration and were named after James Bay waterways. Originally a PanAm CV-340 vintage 1954, this Convair joined North Central in 1964. It became a 5-80 in 1967. Later in SEBJ times, Air Inuit took over the 5-80 contract, ‘FHF was sold back into the US in 2002, where it toiled with Michigan-based Contract Air Cargo, before migrating to Colombia in 2004.

Here is a selection of other vintage Convair Kodachromes. German-registered  D-ACOH was a pleasant surprise on the Field Aviation ramp at Malton on May 20, 1972. It had served Lufthansa 1954-70. Here, it was having some mods or repairs done before proceeding to Costa Rica where it seems to have operated into 1977. It next was registered in the US (N478KW), where it worked for various outfits, the last being Air Resorts. By 1990 it was derelict in Carlsbad, California.

CV-580 N25278 on Carl Millard’s ramp at YYZ over the winter of 1983-84. This Convair began as N73141 with United Airlines (“Mainliner Boston”) in 1953. After earning its keep for about 15 years, it went to Tex Johnson Inc. for 5-80 conversion. Next, it joined Jack Conroy’s California-based Aerospace Lines. In 1972 Jack sold it to Armstrong Cork Co. in Pennsylvania, where it became N25278. In 1983 Carl Millard held a slot on Cessna’s Citation line in Wichita. He was ready to cash in on this just as the cork company wanted a Citation, but Cessna didn’t want a Convair in trade. Carl knew all about used airplanes, so made the deal with Armstrong — cash and a Convair for his Citation. In October 1984 Carl sold the Convair to Kelowna Flightcraft, where it became C-FICA. It later served Time Air, which traded it to Boeing of Canada (aka de Havilland Canada) on a Dash 8 deal. Boeing flipped ‘ICA to Soundair of Toronto, next it was with Air Toronto and, finally, Canair Cargo. On the night of September 18/19, 1991 ‘ICA was at 16,000 feet on the well-trodden courier run from Moncton to Hamilton. Over Burlington, Vermont, however, it fell in pieces out of a very dark sky. The NTSB would determine that the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit when told by Boston Center to execute a 30-degree turn. In carrying out his instructions, he lost control and the plane broke apart.

C-FKFZ of Kelowna Flightcraft on final at Vancouver on July 31, 1993. Originally with PanAm in 1954, it was converted to 5-80 specs in 1967, then joined Allegheny, one of the great US regionals that made the 5-80 such a grand success. After later service with Aspen Airways and Air New England, it joined Kelowna in 1992 to fight the night time courier wars. Few such 5-80s remain in Canadian service, most having been sold abroad or come to natural endings as scrap metal.

While I was visiting Moose Jaw on July 11, 1987 for the local airshow, this attractive NorcanAir/CP CV-640 (G-GQCQ) pulled in with a load of fans from Edmonton. Having begun as a 4-40 with Lufthansa (later with Air Algerie), this Convair became a 6-40 in 1968. It began its long Canadian career in 1981 and last was head of in Arizona in the mid-90s.

N5810 swooshes over the fence to land on Runway 24 at YYZ on January 17, 1973. This example seems to have begun as United Airlines “Mainliner Des Moines” in 1952. It joined Allegheny Airlines in 1962, where it became a 5-80 in 1966. It moved to Plymouth Leasing in 1978 and eventually joined Soundair in 1978 as C-FBHW. It last was heard of with Air Tahoma in the late 1990s. 

Mohawk’s 2-40 N1013C “Air Chief Erie” at Willow Run (Detroit) on April 11, 1966. Depending on the customer’s preference, Convairs had main passenger doors on the port or starboard side, or had a rear air stair similar to the Martinliner. N1013C had begun as Swissair HB-IRP “Graubunden” in 1949. In 1967 it went to Fairchild-Hiller in trade for an F-227 purchase. Next stop was Houston Aviation Products, where the old workhorse went for scrap in 1975.

Having begun with Aeronaves de Mexico in 1954, this 4-40 came to Canada for North Cariboo Air in 1986. In 1990 it went into storage in Arizona, then was sold back into Mexico in 1992. In 1995 it was listed with Krissalan de Aviacion, a mystery airline known for such escapades as the 1996 crash of a C-123. C-GRWW is seen at Vancouver on June 4, 1982. In 2012 North Cariboo was operating the Dash 8-100 on routes around BC.

US Navy R4Y-1 (C-131F) BurAero No.141016 was at Naval Air Station Glenview (Chicago) on August 28, 1966. Note the inscription NARESTRCOM — Naval Air Reserve Training Command. This proved to be a wonderful base visit. As usual, Nick and I simply showed up at the gate unannounced and were shown aboard. Someone escorted us all around the ramp where were photographed such other types as the P2V-7 Neptune, R4D-8 (Super DC-3), R5D (C-54) and F4U Fury. This Convair was delivered to the USN in 1956. Ultimately, it end in the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB near Tucson.

Timeair’s 6-40 C-FPWY Edmonton “Muni” on May 17, 1987. It had begun as a 6-40 with Hawaiian Airlines in 1966, then joined Pacific Western Airlines in 1969, moved on to Aero Trades Western of Winnipeg in 1978, to Worldways of Toronto in 1983, finally to Timeair in 1984. It seems to have ended its days (likely as scrap) at Calgary’s Springbank Airport in the early 1990s. ‘PWY originally had been a 4-40 with National Airlines in 1953.

A Canadian Regional 5-80 Fleet No. 160 delivers its passengers to Campbell River on August 12, 1993, following their week at an exclusive BC salmon fishing camp.

In the early 1990s Kelowna Flightcraft saw a new future for the Convairliner — a stretched 5-80 freighter later to be dubbed the KFC 5800. Two 6’9″ fuselage plugs and a 10’2″ cargo door were installed. First flight was on February 11, 1992. The 5800 was certified in December 1993. A second example was built, but the idea did not catch on. The 5800s both were still in use with the IFL Group in the US as recently as 2011. Here the prototype climbs out from Abbotsford on August 7, 1993.

4 responses to “Following the classic Convairliner

  1. Marvelous stuff, Larry!

    I’d love to do an updated version of Gary Killion’s “The Convair Twins” in landscape colour…well, we can dream. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Larry for sharing this very nice selection of Convair stories. Some are still flying in Quebec wearing the colors of Nolinor; I took a picture of C-FHNM at YMX a couple of weeks ago :

  3. Hello! I’m late to the party. Just discovered this fine page full of your great shots! Point of note….the GM Convair 580 you photographed on August 23, 1962 at Malton was one my father likely flew. He was a pilot for GM from 1959-1992 when he retired. He flew pretty much all of them from Lodestar to D-18 to Convair 580, QueenAir, KingAir 90 & 200, Sabreliner 75, Gulfstream G-II and finally G-III. Your photo caption particularly interested me because it was taken on my birthday! On that day in 1962 I turned 5. Small world! 🙂

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