The Convair CV-240 family is a series of early airliners that were created to rival the DC-3. The original model, the Convair 110, was made of aluminum, featured two large radial engines, was unpressurized, and had seats for 30 passengers. However, before it reached production, pressurization had become a must for commercial airliners, so Convair had to go back to the drawing board. The redesigned Model 240 was longer, accommodating 40 passengers, and incorporated the required pressurization system.

 

First Flights and Advancements

The first flight of the Convair 240 took place in 1947, and the first production Convairliner was delivered to American Airlines the next year. Building on this success, the Model 340 was introduced soon after, featuring further improvements in size, power, and payload capacity. This series quickly gained a reputation for reliability. Notably, a Convair 240 became the first aircraft to be used in a U.S. presidential campaign; John F. Kennedy named his plane Caroline after his daughter. Several military variants were also introduced, known as the Samaritan or the Cosmopolitan, which were utilized by the U.S. and Canadian militaries.

 

Competing with the Vickers Viscount: The Model 440 Metropolitan

The Convair Model 440 Metropolitan was developed to compete with the Vickers Viscount, the first turboprop airliner. Convair made significant strides in making the 440 quieter, more powerful, and more streamlined. However, it soon became apparent that piston engines could no longer compete with the newer turboprop technology. In response, Convair began programs to convert their CV-340s and CV-440s to turboprops, resulting in the CV-580. Equipped with new Allison engines and modified control surfaces, these converted aircraft continued to serve effectively. Many CV-580s are still flying today, including one operated by the National Research Council Canada (NRCC).

 

The Versatile C-FNRC: A Flying Research Laboratory

Beginning its life as a 440 Metropolitan, the NRCC’s CV-580 was initially a private aircraft delivered to Bethlehem Steel on Halloween in 1957. It was converted to a CV-580 in 1964 and then sold to the Canadian government to serve as a research platform. Designated as C-FNRC, this aircraft has been transformed into a flying research laboratory capable of a wide range of scientific and defense-related missions.

According to the NRCC, the team utilizing this unique aircraft conducts projects involving atmospheric research—such as cloud physics, aircraft icing, storm studies, air quality, atmospheric chemistry, and forest fire analysis. Additionally, the aircraft supports gradient aeromagnetics, spotlight synthetic aperture radar, earth observation, satellite calibration and validation, and testing sensor prototypes in flight. Outfitted with over 40 different sensors and heaps of specialized equipment, C-FNRC can seemingly do it all (and record it, for science). The aircraft also handles defense research and development and serves as a testbed for new technologies. It is often spotted internationally, collaborating with other governments on various projects.

 

A Legacy of Innovation and Adaptability

The Convair CV-240 family showcases a remarkable evolution from early unpressurized models to sophisticated research platforms that remain in use today. The advancements in design, technology, and versatility highlight Convair’s significant contributions to the aviation industry and underscore the enduring legacy of these pioneering aircraft. The story of the Convairliners is a testament to innovation and adaptability in the face of changing technological landscapes and operational needs.

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