Convair 440


Photo – Bruce Perkins FlightZone Aviation Photography

The Convair 240 / 340 / 440 family of airliners was produced between 1947 and the mid 1950’s as a successful attempt at a DC-3 replacement. It was the first twin engined, pressurised airliner. After a false start, the configuration of two R-2800 engines and 40 seats was settled on – hence the “240” as the model number. An interesting feature of the 240 series was the “air-stair” at the tail, similar to that which became normal on the DC-9 and Boeing 727.  First flight was in March 1947. The success of this design can be seen by the numbers of updated airframes still flying commercially around the World

Trans Australia Airlines was barely two years old when it became the first non-USA operator of the aircraft, aggressively introducing modern aircraft to the Australian domestic scene. TAA, whilst they only operated the 240 series, they did so till 1959.

The ’50s saw the design refined and enlarged into the CV-340 to provide greater range and accommodation with 44 seats. The CV-440 was a further refinement intended to compete with newly introduced turbo-props however in its piston engined form, the CV-440 “Metroliner” had reached its limit.  When production ceased in the mid ’50s, nearly 1200 aircraft in this family had been produced.

CV-340 and CV-440 comparison

Convair 340 and 440 aircraft are almost identical with the 440 series being essentially a refined variant of the former with improved sound proofing and greater takeoff weight through various refinements. Externally, a 440 can be identified by rectangular exhaust stacks and in some cases an elongated nose, originally conceived to house early weather radar, though this is not necessary today.

A few facts about the Convairs:

  • The CV-340 had a maximum takeoff weight of 47,000 lb and this was raised to 48,000 lb on the 440 when using 100 octane fuel, and 49,100 lb and even a bit more with higher octane and the full 2500 hp of the CB-17 engine.
  • Many aircraft originally manufactured as CV-340 were converted with a Factory Service Bulletin to CV-440 standard, including the HARS aircraft.
  • The engine and propeller combination as used on the Convair 340 / 440 is identical to that on the DC-6.
  • There are many designations for what is effectively the same R-2800 engine used on the aircraft – the first designation is the engine using 100 octane and the second high octane fuel – these days with only 100LL (blue) fuel, only the first stage, or (low blower) can be used:
  • CB-3 / CB-4 has only a single stage supercharger
    CB-16 / CB-17 has a two stage supercharger
  • The Convair 340 / 440 was one of the first transport aircraft to be “Mach Limited” with a limiting Mach No of 0.56. Even though it does not have a mach-meter as such, this is indicated by the reduced IAS allowed above 10,000 / 13,000 ft. To be fair, the only time this was likely to be a problem was in Winter in the Northern parts of North America and Europe.

Turbo-Props

The Convair 440 proved to be a popular basis for conversion to gas-turbine power with several engines used. Two that spring to mind are the Allison 501 (miltary designation T-56) and the Rolls Royce Dart, with the former being the more common. Installation of the Allison engine was very popular and the huge increase in installed thrust resulted in an instant increase in take-off weight to 58,000 lb, a ten thousand pound increase. Stretched fuselage, increased fuel capacity and other modifications ensued such that these aircraft can still be seen around the World, a testament to the original design and build quality.

Military Convairs

The US military bought a number of the Convair 240 / 340 family – with the C-131D and later being 340 variants purchased between 1954 and 1956. A “Mid-Life” update program was applied to many to bring them to “440” standard and they are covered in the appropriate FAA manual as Convair 440 aircraft. The USAF and USN used their own designations for the engines, however they are each considered to be CB-16/CB-17 engines.

  • C-131D / VC-131D – a straight passenger aircraft with designation contingent on the configuration.
  • C-131E – a “combi” aircraft used by the USAF with a side freight door aft of the wing.
  • C-131F – US Navy version of the C-131E
  • C-131G – C-131F with 300 us gal additional fuel capacity.

HARS Convair Aircraft

HARS currently has three Convair aircraft:

  • VH-TAA – an ex-USAF VC-131D acquired from Rovos Rail in South Africa
  • VH-EAQ – an ex USN C-131F currently with the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson
  • VH-PDW – a Convair 580 (Allison TurboProp) freighter at the Parkes Air Musem in NSW.

VH-TAA

Most recently, this aircraft was owned and operated by Rovos Air (as ZS-ARV), a subsidiary of Rovos Rail in South Africa. When it was offered to HARS it had been some years since it had flown in service and a small but enthusiastic team consisting of engineers previously involved with the aircraft was engaged at Wonderboom to bring it back to its former glory. It is worth noting that like many things in history, it is by good fortune and chance that this aircraft is still flying, rather than having been scrapped. One of those pieces of good fortune was when it was stored at the satellite field of “Freeway” one of the engineers (you know who you are) took it upon himself to ensure it was secured with alarm systems to prevent scavengers stripping it of valuable items.

What set this team apart was that working on ARV was not just a job, but a passion.

Visitors to HARS who go on board this aircraft will see what a wonderful aeroplane it is and how Rovos spared no expense as part of its Rail Packages to ensure its customers had a first class experience. When you realise that this fit-out is for the standard 44 seats, you realise how “economy” has been “economised” over the years.

We had to decide on a paint scheme. Part of us wanted to keep the Rovos scheme to advertise for them, we felt that strongly however that was not to be and we had to decide. There was only ever one long nosed 440 in Australia and that was one of the two aircraft in 34 Sqn, but there’s the rub. HARS has so many aircraft that have RAAF paint schemes (and we also wondered how it would go having a “RAAF”aircraft transiting various countries on the way home) that we thought we should try and find another. Ansett was thought of, however they never had a “long nose” and in the end a period TAA paint scheme was decided on, and we also were able to get the VERY generous transfer of that “VH-TAA” registration so that it all became obvious.

So, if you ever wonder why we chose that paint scheme, there you have it.

Finally, everyone at ROVOS were fantastic. If you want to try a really different holiday, I can only recommend them.

Rovos Air ZS-ARV / HARS VH-TAA History:

  • c/n 228
  • Built as a 340-67
  • F/F 18 Nov 1954
  • N8453H CONVAIR
  • Sold to U.S.A.F. del as VC-131D, 54-2820, 17 Feb 1955
  • Cur with 4600th ABW at Wright Paterson AFB Feb 1955 to 1971
  • Cur with 46th ADW/H.Q. ADC, ‘Smokey 04’, at Wright Paterson AFB 1971, to 1975
  • Cur with 116th FIS/WASHINGTON ANG, at Fairchild AFB May 1975 to Jul 1976
  • Unit changed to 116th ARS/116th ARW/WASHINGTON ANG, at Fairchild AFB, Jul 1976/Feb 1989
  • To M.A.S.D.C., 16 Feb 1988, coded ‘AACS0090’. Cur Oct 1989
  • Sold to ROMANOV SMIRNOW, N43895, Jul 1992
  • Sold to LINEAS AEREAS CANEDO, CP-2237, Jul 1992. Cur at CBB 4 Nov 1999. Cur at LPB 26 Sept 1994
  • Lsd to JORGE T. LAVADENZ, opd as CARIBBEAN FLIGHTS, YV-914C, Jul 1986
  • Retd to LA CANEDA, CP-2237, Sept 1997
  • Sold to ROVOS RAIL TOURS opg as ROVOS AIR, ZS-OTE Jun 2001
  • R/R ZS-BRV, Aug 2001
  • R/R ZS-ARV Oct 2001. I/S Oct 2001
  • Csd ops. 2009
  • Cur std. at HLA, Dec 2009, U.F.S. Std. in good cond. at PRY Jan 2011.
  • Flown in February 2011 to Gert de Klerk “Freeway strip” and stored.
  • Ferried 19 June 2012 to Wonderboom Airport. Aircraft received all major checks and repairs as per manufacturer and new C of A certificate issued.
  • Test flown in February 2013.
  • For sale as at June 2013.
  • Departed Wonderboom 9 August 2016 for the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, Illawarra Regional Airport, Australia, arriving on Sunday 21 August 2016.

Specifications

Length:

  • 79 ft 2″ short nose,
  • 82 ft 6 ” long nose

Wingspan: 105 ft 4 inches

Max Takeoff Weight

  • 48,000 lb CB-16
  • 49,100 lb CB-17

Max Landing Weight:   47,650 lb

Max Zero Fuel Weight:  47,000 lb

Empty Weight:  35,000 lb fitted.

Speeds

  • Vne 293 kt IAS
  • Vno 260 kt IAS
  • Mmo 0.56

Normal Cruise

  • 220 kt TAS typical
  • 180 kt TAS max range

Certified max Altitude:  23,000 ft

Engines

  • 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800 with water injection
  • 115/145 octane fuel – 2500 hp with water injection
  • 100LL fuel – 2400 hp with water injection

Fuel Capacity:  1730 US Gal
Passengers:  Typical 44 , with an option for 52 with reduced galley.

Links

TAA Museum

http://www.taamuseum.org.au/TAAAircraft/aircraft_convair.html

VH-TAA Convair History

http://tripletails.weebly.com/rovos-air.html

Videos

Convair 240 First Flight

Convair Shakedown at Wonderboom

Arrival Wollongong