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Convair 990 Coronado

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Title: Convair 990 Coronado  
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Subject: Convair, Spantax Flight 275, Convair/GD aircraft, Convair Model 58-9, Convair XP6Y
Collection: Convair Aircraft, Quadjets, United States Airliners 1960–1969
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Convair 990 Coronado

Convair 990 Coronado
Convair CV-990A of Spantax at Basel Airport. Even at landing power the smoky engines are evident.
Role Narrow-body jet airliner
Manufacturer Convair
First flight January 24, 1961
Retired September, 1987
Primary user American Airlines
Produced 1961-1963
Number built 37
Developed from Convair 880

The Convair 990 Coronado was a narrow-body four-jet airliner produced by the Convair division of General Dynamics, a "stretched" version of their earlier Convair 880 produced in response to a request from American Airlines. The 990 was lengthened by 10 ft (3.0 m), which increased the number of passengers from between 88 and 110 in the 880, to between 96 and 121. This was still fewer than the contemporary Boeing 707 (110 to 189) or Douglas DC-8 (105 to 173), although the 990 was claimed to be 25–35 mph (40–56 km/h) faster than either in cruise.


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
  • Variants 3
  • Operators 4
  • Accidents and incidents 5
  • Aircraft on display 6
  • Specifications (Convair 990A) 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Design and development

American Airlines asked Convair to design an aircraft for coast-to-coast flights, able to fly nonstop from New York to Los Angeles against the wind. They wanted a somewhat larger passenger capacity than the 880, which was the smallest of the first-generation U.S. jet airliners. The 990 began flight testing January 24, 1961.[1]

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. Originally, there were no plans to use the outboard anti-shock bodies as fuel tanks. But to allow for increased range Convair modified the basic design to incorporate fuel storage in the outboard pods as well as those inboard. During test flights the extra weight caused outboard engine oscillations in certain conditions. So the outboard pylons were shortened 28 inches causing increased drag. The inner set of pods also served a secondary role as fuel dumps for the fuel tanks.[2] The engines were also changed to the uprated General Electric CJ-805-23s, which were unique in that they used a fan stage at the rear of the engines, compared to the fan stage at the front of the engine found on the Pratt & Whitney JT3D that powered the 990's competitors. The engine was a simplified, non afterburning civil version of the J79, used in military fighters. Like the J79, the CJ805 was smoky.

Like the 880, 990s incorporated a dorsal "raceway" added to the top of the fuselage to house the two ADF antennas and one VHF antenna[3]

Operational history

The 990 did not meet the specifications promised and American Airlines reduced their order as a result. The 990A was developed by adding fairings to the engine nacelles, among other changes.[4] Despite the modifications from the basic 880 and those in response to drag problems in testing, the aircraft never lived up to its promise of coast-to-coast nonstop capability from JFK to LAX. American Airlines' timetables show little or no difference in scheduled time between 707 and 990A flights; AA began to dispose of their 990As in 1967.

In 1963 the 990A was reported to burn 13,750 lb/hour at Mach 0.84 (483 knots) at 35,000 ft at a weight of 200,000 lb.[5] That compares to a modern 757, which carries up to 220 passengers and burns around 7000 pounds per hour.

Swissair CV990A Coronado "St Gallen" at Manchester Airport in 1964

Swissair bought eight 990As beginning in 1962, operating them on long-distance routes to South America, West Africa, the Middle and Far East, as well as on European routes with heavy traffic. Their fleet was withdrawn from service in 1975. Scandinavian Airlines also operated Coronados on their long-haul schedules to Tokyo and other destinations in the Far East.

The 990's niche was soon captured by the Boeing 720, a derivative of the 707, and the Boeing 727. By the time the assembly line shut down in 1963, only 37 990s had been produced, bringing General Dynamics' entire production of commercial jet airliners to 102 airframes. The failure of airlines to broadly accept the Convair 880 and 990 led Convair to suffer what at the time was one of the largest corporate losses in history, although they later profitably built fuselages for the DC-10, KC-10 and MD-11.

When the major airlines retired their Convair 990s, they found a second life on charter airlines. Spantax of Spain had a large fleet until the mid-1980s and so did Denver Ports of Call. In 1967, Alaska Airlines purchased Convair 990 PP-VJE from Varig, and operated it as N987AS in scheduled airline service until 1975.


  • 990 : Initial production version.
  • 990A : Higher cruising speed and longer range.[6]


Interior of a Convair 990 operated by Swissair now on public display in the Swiss Museum of Transport, the Verkehrshaus der Schweiz in Luzern.
NASA Convair 990. This aircraft has been retired, and is now on display at the entrance to the Mojave Spaceport.

*Original operators.

Accidents and incidents

  • May 30, 1963: An American Airlines Convair 990 (N5616) burned out on the ground while parked at Newark International Airport.[8]
  • May 28, 1968: A Garuda Indonesia Airways Convair 990 (PK-GJA) crashed in a nearly vertical attitude, some 4–5 minutes after takeoff from Bombay-Santacruz Airport outside Mumbai, India, killing all 29 passengers and crew on board and one person on the ground.[9]
  • January 5, 1970: A Spantax Convair 990 (EC-BNM) crashed at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport outside Stockholm, Sweden while taking off on a three-engine ferry flight to Zürich, Switzerland, killing five of seven passengers; the three crew members survived.[10]
  • February 21, 1970: Swissair Flight 330 crashed near Würenlingen, Switzerland while trying to return to the airport after a bomb detonated in the aft cargo compartment, killing all nine crew and 38 passengers.
  • August 8, 1970: A Modern Air Transport Convair 990 (N5603) was being ferried from New York to Acapulco when it crashed on approach to Alvarez International Airport, Mexico, killing one of eight crew.[11]
  • December 3, 1972: Spantax Flight 275 a Convair 990 (EC-BZR), crashed at Los Rodeos Airport on the island of Tenerife while taking off in almost zero visibility, killing all seven crew and 148 passengers.[12]
  • March 5, 1973: The 1973 Nantes Mid-Air Collision occurred when Spantax Flight 400, a Convair 990, on a flight from Madrid to London was involved in a midair collision with Iberia Flight 504, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9, over Nantes. The Convair 990 lost part of its left wing, but its pilots managed to land safely at Cognac – Châteaubernard Air Base. The DC-9 crashed killing all 68 passengers and crew on board.
  • April 12, 1973: A U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3C (157332) operating from NAS Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California collided with a NASA Convair 990 (N711NA) during approach to runway 32R. The aircraft crashed on the Sunnyvale Municipal Golf Course, half a mile short of the runway, resulting in the destruction of both aircraft and the deaths of all aboard except for one Navy crewman.[13][N 1]
  • July 17, 1985: A NASA Convair 990 (N712NA) suffered a blown tire during take-off at a speed of around 140 knots at Riverside-March AFB, CA. While attempting to clear the runway, the rim shattered and caused a puncture of the right-wing fuel tank forward of the right main gear. All 19 occupants survived but the subsequent intense fire destroyed the plane, its equipment, and documentation.[14]

Aircraft on display

Several 990s have survived. A former Swissair Convair 990 is on display in the Swiss transportation museum, the Verkehrshaus in Luzern,[15] while two are owned by the Mojave Spaceport. Of these, one is on display at the airport's entrance, and the other is used for movie and television filming projects.

Specifications (Convair 990A)

Data from Macdonald Aircraft Handbook[16]

General characteristics


  • Maximum speed: 621 mph (540 kts, 1,000 km/h) at 21,200 ft (6,460 m)
  • Cruise speed: 557 mph (484 kts, 896 km/h) at 35,000 ft (10,668 m)
  • Range: 3,595 mi (3,124 nm, 5,785 km)

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ One Navy crewman in the P-3 did survive the crash. He was in the P-3's tail section, which broke off the aircraft as the 990 collided from above. He fell out of the broken tail section and survived with massive injuries. People at the golf course who witnessed the crash, tried to break open windows on the wreckage with golf clubs in a futile attempt to pull the injured out before fire consumed the crews.
  1. ^ Proctor, Jon (6/96). Convair 880 & 990 (First ed.). Miami: World Transport Press. p. 55.  
  2. ^ Proctor, Jon (6/96). Convair 880 & 990. Miami: World Transport Press. p. 55.  
  3. ^ Dynamics, General (12/61). Convair Jet Airliners. San Diego: Customer Service Dept. p. 203. 
  4. ^ "Reduction of Drag Rise on the Convair 990 Airplane". AIAA Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 1 No. 1, January–February 1964, pp. 8–12.
  5. ^ Flight 31 Jan 1963 p150
  6. ^ "The Might-Have-Beens: Convair 880 and 990." Retrieved: August 20, 2011.
  7. ^ "World Airline Survey Flight International, April 14, 1966, p. 595. Retrieved: December 23, 2011.
  8. ^ Accident description for N5616 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-10-17.
  9. ^ Accident description for PK-GJA at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-10-17.
  10. ^ Accident description for EC-BNM at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-10-17.
  11. ^ Accident description for N5603 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-10-17.
  12. ^ Gero 1997, p. 111.
  13. ^ "Accident description: 12 APR 1973." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: August 20, 2011.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Green 1964, p. 225.
  • Gero, David. Aviation Disasters. Yeovil, Somerset, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd (Haynes Publishing), 1997. ISBN 1-85260-526-X.
  • Green, William. Macdonald Aircraft Handbook. London. Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1964.
  • Proctor, Jon. Convair 880 & 990. Miami, Florida: 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.

External links

  • Team Convair
  • Youtube video of an American Airlines Convair 990
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