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The Convair 880

The Convair 880


Although smaller and lagging behind Boeing’s 707 and Douglas’s DC-8, Convair’s 880, featuring the same overall configuration, could have preceded them. Seeking to build upon the success of its CV-240, -340, and -440 pistonliners, the Covnair Division of General Dynamics considered the same design route its competitors took as far back as 1955–namely, develop a low, swept-wing, quad-engine, 123-passenger, JT3-powered Model 18 domestic jetliner and a larger, J4-powered intercontinental Model 19, seating 24 more. Unlike the 707, both would have inceptionally offered six-abreast coach seating and perhaps have been the US aircraft with which to have competed.

But TWA, through Howard Hughes, its majority shareholder, was the only carrier that expressed interest. Nevertheless, if Convair could not have been first, it was at least the first to admit that the market could not support three first-generation jet airliners and officially announced that it cancelled its own proposal on July 28, 1955.

Success, Convair concluded, could be achieved with significant product differentiation, and toward this end it proposed the Model 22. Alternatively designated Skylark 600 to reflect is 600-mph cruising speed, it was intended for intermediate ranges with capacities of about 80, offering performance superior to that of the 707 or the DC-8. Yet, despite its speed, it paradoxically created its own limitations, because the piston-plying local service carriers toward which it should have been targeted did not have the financial capability to order and operate such an advanced, expensive design, and suitable powerplants for the 50-seaters that would have been more appropriate for them were not available, once again leaving TWA as the most likely launch customer.

Although it appeared as if it would compete with Boeing’s 707 and Douglas’s DC-8, Convair believed that both of these first-generation, long-range airliners offered too much capacity on some of the routes they initially served. The sheer transition from types such as the Lockheed Constellation and the Douglas DC-6 and DC-7 resulted in almost double the amount of seating required. It also felt that they operated over sectors that were too short for their design goals. As a result, they saw the need for a comparable four-engine aircraft that was intended for shorter-range, lower-capacity routes.

In concept, it sought to design the first intermediate-range and -capacity jetliner.

While it was firmly convinced of the need for such an aircraft, engines to power it were limited, and it questioned whether such sectors could even be exploited with pure-jet technology. That the Comet 1’s brief, but catastrophic introduction to the jet age cast doubts about this form of air transport certainly did nothing to gain passenger acceptance of it and caused a protracted period of development.

The intended aircraft was, to a significant degree, dictated by Trans World Airlines, which, controlled by Howard Hughes, determined its performance and specifications. Because he continually changed them, it could not assume any definitive form. He initially envisioned a medium-range airliner to serve routes similar to those intended for the domestic versions of the 707-120 and the DC-8-10, for instance, but with fewer passengers.

While the Convair Division of General Dynamics agreed with his original design definition, it felt that its range, geared toward TWA’s routes, was insufficient and an increase would enhance its flexibility. Because they believed that the market for such a pure-jet design was just emerging, they saw the large-capacity pistonliners as replacing the 707s and DC-8s on these shorter routes, questioning the purpose of such a jet.

While TWA’s philosophy was advanced, technology was not. No suitable powerplant then existed, especially since jet speeds could only be exploited on longer sectors, leaving the medium-range market as the only viable one.

Yet Convair had unknowingly placed its program on a course of failure. It could have seized the opportunity to design an aircraft for a segment that had no competition. Neither Boeing nor Douglas had available engineering talent or even production capacity to launch such a design at the time, and Convair’s own reputation would certainly have proven an advantage in light of its earlier, piston series of short-range airliners.

But the deciding factor was one which Convair did not envision-namely, that passengers had so embraced pure-jet travel, that they expected it on all ranges.

The project’s direction, in all fairness, was not entirely up to Convair, which itself was under heavy influence from Hughes. Representing the future aircraft’s only launch customer, he had ultimate authority, yet, demonstrating his eccentric tendencies, he himself was not sure which market the idealized aircraft should serve and frequently changed his mind. During his negotiations with Convair, for instance, he dictated transatlantic range, such as from New York to Paris, yet at the same time stressed the necessary economy for operation over medium routes, like those from Boston to Chicago.

Although he had already ordered 707-120s for TWA, they did not have transcontinental range in their original, non-fanned versions, and he refused to approach Douglas with his needs because of his traditionally poor relations with them. The only other major US manufacturer, Lockheed, was already designing its own short- to medium-range alternative, the L-188 Electra, which was turboprop-powered.

As a result, Convair, whose strings were continually pulled by Hughes, had little choice but to respond with variations and iterations that had so far only existed on paper.

After numerous meetings, which sometimes spanned the night, it was ultimately decided to power the new aircraft with four Pratt and Whitney J-57 turbojets, currently the only commercial ones available and therefore also employed by the 707. But the Convair design attained its first competitive advantage when the higher-thrust J-79s appeared on the horizon, since they would enable it to offer superior performance and shorter block times than the similarly powered and configured Boeing or Douglas counterparts.

Convair had already amassed experience with the engine on its delta winged B-58 Hustler, then the fastest bomber. Refined and modified for civil use, it would prove an ideal power source for a commercial airliner, offering a 35-mph greater cruise speed than the competing 707s and DC-8s. It was that advantage that convinced Hughes to order the aircraft.

After receipt of 30 firm orders from TWA, Convair officially announced the program in April of 1956. Although it appeared similar to the 707 at this time, it featured a shorter, narrower fuselage, a lower fuel capacity, and a lower gross weight.

Delta Air Lines was the second interested customer. Having already ordered the non-fanned DC-8-10 for its long-range, US domestic routes, it believed that shorter-segment jet operation could be economical because of overwhelming passenger acceptance of it and it was particularly attracted by its promised performance. As a result, it placed a ten-firm order, valued at $3.5 million per aircraft, on June 20, 1956.

Full program go-ahead proceeded in September of that year.

Although the type’s initial designation was Convair Model 22, it changed several times-to the Skylark and finally to the Golden Arrow to reflect its initially intended golden anodized fuselage and its superior speed. After it was discovered that variations in the aluminum panels would not have created a uniform tint, its name changes once again continued-in this case, to the Convair 600 to reflect its 600-mph cruise speed, and then Convair 880 to express that speed in feet-per-second. The definitive Convair CV-880 was thus born.

The inability to determine its designation was perhaps reflective of the fact that the project’s design definition was still elusive. Exactly which market it had been designed for was still not determinable, since it strove to cater to one created by TWA, through Hughes. Unable to efficiently combine features for both medium- and long-range deployment, it became a hybrid expression.

Because of the inability to define its market, Barry J. Schiff wrote in his book, The Boeing 707 (Arco Publishing Company, 1967, p. 20), “As for the Convair 880, it was simply too small and too late,” a statement that reflects the fact that it appeared to have been designed for the same mission as the 707 itself. It was not.


The Convair 880, with a 129.4-foot overall length, featured a circular section fuselage comprised of aluminum skins as thick as one-eighth of an inch that both reduced the number of required stringers and minimized internal noise. Cabin floor support was provided by transverse beams.

External vision was achieved with windows consisting of two stretched plexiglass panes, only one of which was required to carry the full load, and a third, rubber-mounted one.

The all-metal wing, the thinnest ever employed on a commercial airliner and therefore able to offer the aircraft’s high performance, was built up of both forward and aft spars, as well as a partial center one that extended to the outboard engine pylon. Its construction was completed by means of bulkheads and machine tapered skins. Scotchweld, a Convair-designed process first used in the production of the Convair-General Dynamics F-102 and F-106 interceptors, entailed the insertion of a thin adhesive film between the surfaces that had to be joined before being riveted and was followed by entire airfoil baking in a low-heat furnace. The resulting, leak-proof structure created fuel-tight wing integral tanks that eliminated the need for additional rivets and their associated weight.

Each wing contained a double-skinned leading edge, along which ran a hot air deicing duct, and three-section, double-slotted trailing edge flaps. Manually operated, spoiler-linked ailerons, which themselves were hydraulically actuated, augmented roll control, but both the spoilers and the trailing edge flaps could be used as speedbrakes in flight.

The wings themselves, mounted with seven degrees of dihedral, had a 35-degree sweepback, a 120-foot span, and 2,000-squre-foot area. Their maximum loading was 92.25 pounds per square foot.

Fuel, whose collective capacity was 10,770 US gallons, was stored in the wing integral tanks. Consumption, at 30,000 feet, was 1,700 gallons per hour.

Oil capacity was 28 US gallons.

The horizontal tail, mounted with a small degree of dihedral, had a 35-degree sweepback and a 395-square-foot area and was hydraulically operated with manually controlled, servo tab-provisioned elevators. The vertical tail, with a 295-squre-foot area, had a manually operated rudder and gave the aircraft a 36.4-foot overall height.

Power was provided by four 11,200 thrust-pound, cowling-encased General Electric CJ-805-3 turbofans pylon-mounted to the wing leading edge underside by means of cantilever struts. Equipped with both daisy-type noise suppressors and clamshell thrust reversers, they eliminated the need for then-common water injection, as occurred with the 707-120 and the DC-8-10, to increase output, reducing, in the process, the amount of smoke emission. Considered the most advanced turbojet at the time, it was lighter and simpler and required less maintenance attention than other comparable pure-jet engines.

The Convair 880 rested on a ten-wheel tricycle undercarriage manufactured by Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company. The steerable nose unit, which retracted forward into the fuselage, consisted of dual wheels whose size was 29 x 7.7 and whose tire pressure was 160 psi. The two main gear units, each of which featured two pairs of tandemly arranged wheels, retracted laterally into fuselage bays and featured a 39 x 13 size and 150-psi tire pressure. All three bogies, which were hydraulically retractable, but could be gravity extended, were equipped with air-cooled disc brakes, shock absorbers, and wheel axle-located anti-skid units.

As with all aircraft, their extension increased drag and reduced air speed.

Entry was provided by two port and two starboard, uniquely wedge-shaped passenger and galley servicing doors, whose dimensions were greatest at the shoulder level, but gradually reduced due to progressive tapering. Two overwing emergency exits facilitated evacuation.

The aircraft was standardly operated by a three-person cockpit crew, although there was provision for up to five.

The passenger cabin, measuring 89.3 feet in length, 10.8 feet in width, and 7.1 feet in height, featured closely spaced windows and seat tracks that facilitated installation of several cabin configurations and densities. Forward and aft areas were standardly occupied by galleys and lavatories, but seating varied according to customer: a four-abreast first class section, for instance, entailed seat pairs on either side of a two-foot aisle, separated themselves by a 20-inch armrest, and they were rreclinable to 38 degrees. Coach or economy class seats were usually in a five-abreast, two-three, arrangement, while a club lounge, consisting of 12 places around a coffee table in living room-style, could be optionally installed in the forward part of the cabin.

All first class and coach configurations resulted in, respectively, 88- and 110-passenger capacities, with several mixtures of each varying accommodation.

A single, unenclosed overhead rack, in which passenger service units offering air vent, reading light, flight attendant call, speaker grill, and drop-down oxygen mask facilities, provided storage for light hat, coat, pillow, and blanket items.

Even in a single-class configuration, the cabin offered artificial division by means of varying ceiling panel heights and lighting effects.

Glass fiber padding and sound-dampening tape installed between the fuselage panels and the cabin walls reduced internal noise levels.

Pressurization was achieved by dual, independent Hamilton Standard air conditioning systems, which compressed the air ingested by two wing leading edge intake ducts, cooled it to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and then circulated it throughout the cockpit and the passenger cabin, changing it every 2.5 minutes. An 8.2-psi differential ensured that sea level conditions were maintained up to a 20,000-foot altitude, while a 6,000-foot atmosphere was achieved at 35,000 feet. Eight thousand feet was maintained at the aircraft’s 41,000-foot service ceiling.

Two lower deck baggage, cargo, and mail compartments, accessed by starboard hatches, collectively offered an 863 cubic foot volume.

With a 23,150-pound payload capability, the Convair 880 had a 184,500-pound maximum takeoff weight and required a 5,200-foot runway. Rate-of-climb at this weight was 3,700 fpm. Its 615-mph cruising speed qualified it as the fastest commercial jet airliner at the time. Range with a first class payload was 3,450 statute miles. Its maximum landing weight was 132,800 pounds.


Despite the obstacles that had plagued the Convair 880’s design definition, the aircraft that first took to the sky from San Diego’s Lindbergh Field on January 27, 1959 exuded speed. A narrow, drag-reducing fuselage extended from its pointed nose, its razor-thin wings were swept back, and its turbofans were housed in long, thin nacelles. It subsequently landed on Coronado Island’s North Island Naval Air Station after a successful maiden flight.

During its 14-month, three production-aircraft flight test program, the type achieved Mach 0.93 speeds, which exceeded its 0.89-maximum; its water tank immersion consistently applied an internal, 8.6-psi pressure, which itself exceeded its 8.2-psi design goal; and the simulated pressurization cycle, coupled with upward and downward flexing of its wings, resulted in the equivalent of 20 years of service life. Every test was passed without structural failure, resulting in FAA type certification the following year, on May 1.

Although the aircraft should theoretically have been inaugurated into service by TWA, its launch customer and, in many respects, its designer, the honor fell instead to Delta Air Lines. Hughes, source of both catalyst and conflict, was once again behind the obstacle.

Oblivious to TWA’s financial capability, he ordered 33 707s and 18 CV-990s, an advanced, higher-performance successor to the CV-880, despite the fact that it neither needed such a massive fleet nor could determine which types were appropriate to which routes. Because his own millionaire status had been reduced to one of debt, he could not afford a 76-aircraft expenditure himself nor could TWA secure the necessary loans to cover it.

Forced, therefore, to delay their delivery, he was unable to offer TWA its rightful launch carrier status and he even inhibited further aircraft production with armed guard surveillance.

In the event, Delta, the type’s second operator, became its first. In order to prepare for its inauguration, it had opened the Delta-General Electric Jet Familiarization School on March 11, 1957 in Atlanta, the first such airline-established facility, with an initial, 26-strong class. All were subsequently elevated to instructors.

Delta’s first glimpse of its new flagship was attained during a July 1957 visit to Convair’s production facility in San Diego, but the aircraft was only in plywood mock-up form at the time. By the end of the year, the wing subassemblies were built and wing-to-fuselage mating occurred in October of 1958. Attended by some 1,000, its roll-out ceremony took place two months later, on December 15.

Hopes, spirit, and lift combined the following month when it rose into the sky and completed the successful one -hour, 16-minute maiden flight of what it considered its medium-range jet aircraft. On February 6, 1960, two Delta pilots received their Convair 880 type certification and four days later, C. E. Woolman, the airline’s president, was given the golden key to his first aircraft at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.

Speed, the aircraft’s intended advantage over existing quad-engine jetliners, was demonstrated before the type even entered service. In an intentionally staged demonstration, a Delta Air Lines Convair 880 covered the 2,359 miles between San Diego and Miami in three hours, 31 minutes, 54 seconds on its delivery flight, cruising at 641 mph and crossing Texas in a mere 50 minutes, before continuing to its Atlanta destination, marking the second time the carrier achieved a cross-country record after the previous one established during its DC-8 delivery from Santa Monica to the same Florida city.

A subsequent sector to Atlanta, following its Florida arrival ceremony, qualified it for its Delta-bestowed title of “undisputed speed champion,” reflecting the type’s design goal and the competitive advantage it offered over existing Boeing and Douglas types.

Delta inaugurated “Royal Jet Service” with the CV-880 on May 15, 1960 from Houston to New York-Idlewild with aircraft N8802E configured with a 12-place forward lounge and a 72-passenger, four-abreast first class cabin. Two other inaugural routes were also flown that day-from New York to New Orleans with N8804E and from New York to Atlanta with N8803E.

The events also marked the second time in its history that it had done so with a new jetliner because of extenuating circumstances. During the first, a time difference had bestowed it with the honor over United with the DC-8-10.

Nine CV-880s delivered that year enabled Delta to offer an increasing number of intermediate-range routes with it, including Dallas-Atlanta and Houston-New Orleans on July 1; Chicago-New Orleans and Chicago-Atlanta on August 1; Houston-St. Louis-Chicago and Philadelphia-Baltimore-New Orleans-Houston on October 30; and Chicago-Miami and Cincinnati-Miami by the end of the year. By December of 1961, it also operated the type internationally-in this case, to Montego Bay in Jamaica and to Caracas in Venezuela.

It stressed the speed of both its DC-8s and CV-880s in two of its advertisements. “Delta means the most jets to the most places” in one and “The fastest, quietest, most luxurious jetliner travel to the world is now available as new Delta Convair 880s link New York nonstop with Atlanta, New Orleans, and Houston.” In the other. It continued by saying that “eighteen major cities will soon be on Delta’s Convair 880 and DC-8 jet routes.”

By mid-1972, the CV-880 notched up nine official speed records during their routine scheduled operations. But on December 5 of the previous year, it had already relinquished its all-first class strategy, reconfiguring its aircraft with 56 four-abreast first and 32 five-abreast coach cabins. The forward lounge was altogether eliminated.

Its 17-strong fleet, sequentially registered N88801E to N8817E, ultimately touched down in 24 cities.

Offering the same jet speeds and comfort on medium-range routes as its DC-8s did on its longer ones, and providing unmatched competition to Eastern with its piston-powered types, Delta received overwhelming passenger acceptance and praise, and its pilots would often point out its rival’s slower-flying, propeller aircraft as they passed them.

Because it introduced pure-jet technology on routes never having previously received it, it was able to credit the 880 with its growth.

Yet all was not as smooth as its advertising suggested. Although, like all newly integrated aircraft in an airline’s fleet, it demonstrated the expected teething troubles, it experienced a fatal crew training flight on May 23, 1960. Piloted by Captain Henry L. Loube, who was being trained, the aircraft, designated Delta Training Flight 1903, rotated and commenced a steep climb, first banking to the left and then to the right, at which point it stalled and plummeted to the ground, killing all four crew members.

It was determined that the number four engine had been inadvertently throttled back to the idle position and that the aircraft naturally yawed in that direction. With only 2.5 seconds in which to recover, it was not able to do so.

Nevertheless, the type enabled business passengers to fly to more distant destinations and return home the same evening, while leisure-oriented ones fly further afield in shorter times.

Both the Convair 880 and the Douglas DC-8 provided increased productivity, since they accommodated more passengers and achieved greater productivity, operating a greater number of daily flights than the pistons they replaced. Their greater reliability also resulted in reduced maintenance-necessitated downtime.

Higher than expected fuel costs, however, resulted in their earlier-than-intended retirement as they constituted partial payment for the Boeing 727-200s that replaced them. Delta operated its last scheduled CV-880 flight in 1973.

TWA’s financial situation continued to rob it of its inaugural-carrier status. Indeed, six aircraft leased to New England-based Northeast Airlines, which itself later merged with Delta, gave it second-operator status after Howard Hughes agreed to release six of TWA’s 30 still-undelivered aircraft.

Aircraft N8482H set its own transcontinental delivery speed record on November 30, 1960 when it covered the San-Diego-Boston distance in four hours, 17 minutes, at a time when the 10,000-foot, 250-knot speed restriction had yet to be implemented.

Featuring a 32 first and 65 coach class interior, tis first Convair 880, mostly sporting TWA’s interior outfitting, was inaugurated into service the following month, on December 15, between Boston and Miami with an intermediate stop in Philadelphia, once again pitting its pure-jet aircraft against Eastern’s slower piston ones to Florida.

Although it ultimately operated a half-dozen, sequentially registered N8478H to N8483H, financial difficulties prompted their premature return. But they were subsequently replaced with four others, registered N8492H to N8495H, featuring 24 first and 74 coach class cabins and, by 1966, yellow exterior liveries to reflect the carrier’s new “Northeast Yellow Bird” image. It emphasized their advantage in its “world’s fastest jetliner” advertisements.

Even before the Delta merger, it began to replace its CV-880s with 727-200 trijets of its own.

Despite the design-determining input through Howard Hughes, TWA never had the honor of being the first to inaugurate the Convair 880 into scheduled service, although it could boast of operating the largest number of them-to the tune of 28. Seventeen days after the January 1, 1961 delivery of its first, it had amassed an initial, five-strong fleet, which included one example that had provided crew familiarization training.

Actual service implementation occurred on January 12 from five cities in its route system-namely, New York-Idlewild, Chicago-O’Hare, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles-but Dayton, San Francisco, and Kansas City rapidly followed by the end of the month.

As with other Convair 880 operators, its initial interior luxury vision, with a 12-place forward lounge, eleven four-abreast first-class seat rows, and seven five-abreast economy ones, progressively yielded to increased revenue and capacity, partially to cater to coach class travel demand, resulting in a 77-passenger main cabin that could only be serviced with the installation of an additional aft galley. Although its narrower fuselage, only accommodating five-abreast seating, proved a detriment to airline sales, passengers found it an advantage, since four-fifths of all seats were either window or aisle ones.

By the end of August of 1962, TWA served 17 US domestic destinations with the superlative-speed Convair 880, its longest route, from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, a virtual transcontinental one.

The following year, it acquired the six aircraft that had been intermittently leased to Northeast, and by October of 1964, all routes west of Wichita, Kansas, were served by them, ending its era of piston Lockheed Constellation operation there.

Demonstrating its design goals, the Convair 880 achieved several speed records in scheduled service. On January 24, 1961, for instance, a TWA example flew from Chicago to New York in one-hour, 11 minutes, reaching an 849-mph ground speed during the Columbus-Pittsburgh portion of it.

As had occurred with both Delta and Northeast, TWA became the third carrier to replace the quad-engine Convairs with tri-engine 727-200s when it announced a 17-firm and 17-optioned order for them on April 25, 1973. The following year, on June 15, the last CV-880 flight, with aircraft N824TW, was operated between Chicago and Kansas City.

Despite what may be considered accolades, the Convair 880 still fell short of its promised speed. Along with its narrow cabin and competition from the quickly-designed Boeing 720 to compete with it, it only attained 48 sales.


Although the aircraft’s superior performance served as its strength, it still failed to meet its performance goals. As a result, Convair designed a minimal-change variant that would increase its speed and range.

Designated CV-880M, it introduced four leading edge slat panels, two of which spanned the distance between the engine pylons and two of which ran from the outer powerplant to the wingtip. These, extending forward and down to increase airfoil camber, were actuated in conjunction with the existing, double-slotted trailing edge flaps and improved low-speed lift. Yet the gap between the wing-to-fuselage intersection and the inner engine was equally filled-in this case, by Kreuger flaps that extended up- and outward from their under-wing retraction positions, ensuring proper air flow over the horizontal stabilizers, all in an arrangement that was not unlike that of Boeing’s own 727, which employed this Krueger flap, leading edge slat, and trailing edge flap configuration to achieve maximum low-speed lift.

Wing loading increased to 96.25 pounds per square foot.

Fuel capacity also increased-in this case, to 13,870 US gallons after installation of three center section bag tanks.

Yaw axis control was augmented with a larger fin, whose rudder was now controlled by a combination of aerodynamic and hydraulic power boosting, although the horizontal stabilizer’s elevators remained aerodynamically operated.

Power was provided by four 11,650 thrust-pound General Electric CJ-805-3B turbofans.

A strengthened undercarriage with higher capacity brakes catered to the slightly higher weights, and a retractable tail skid was introduced.

With new maximum payload and takeoff weights of 26,780 and 203,400 pounds, respectively, he Convair 880M, which had originally been designated Model 22M, had a 4,210-statute-mile first class payload range. Its maximum landing weight increased to 155,000 pounds. The variant’s greater lift reduced its stall speed to 106 mph and it required a 4,930-foot runway for landing.

The first such CV-880M, which was a modified CV-880, first took to the skies on October 3 and was soon joined by two other aircraft that constituted the nine-month flight test program.

Although US-based Capital Airlines, a major Vickers Viscount turboprop operator, was the type’s launch customer after it placed a seven-strong order, it was cancelled after United Airlines acquired the carrier. United itself chose the comparable, but wider-cabin Boeing 720 for its intermediate-range needs, its six-abreast seating capacity sealing the deal.

This transferred the launch customer title to Civil Air Transport (CAT) of Taiwan, which took delivery of its first aircraft on June 5, 1961 and inaugurated it into service the following month, on July 17.

Viasa Venezuelan International Airways become the major South American operator of the modified version, enabling it to connect Caracas with both Miami and New York on August 8 and to deploy its longer-range DC-8s on transatlantic routes to Europe.

Only twelve days later, Alaska Airlines, the only US carrier to order it, placed it in service between Anchorage and the Lower-48, and Swissair, which ordered the higher-performance Convair 990 (more about which see), leased two CV-880Ms for interim use on its Far Eastern sectors as of September 10 until it was able to take delivery of the later version.

In the Orient, two major carriers accounted for the type’s operation. Cathay Pacific connected its Hong Kong hub with it as of April 8, 1962 with its nine-strong fleet, which bore registrations VR-HFS, -HFT, -HFX, -HFY, -HFZ, -HGA, -HGC, -HGF, and -HGG.

Japan Air Lines (JAL) placed it into domestic service on its high-density routes, alongside its existing DC-6Bs, DC-7Cs, and Viscounts. As with Viasa, it relegated its DC-8s to its long-range, intercontinental sectors to Europe.

A single CV-880M was purchased by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US.

As had occurred with the original Convair 880, its 880M successor achieved several speed records during routine passenger flights. On December 4, 1961, for instance, a Civil Air Transport CV-880M covered the Taipei-Tokyo distance in 128 minutes, recording a 635.68-mph speed. Earlier that year, on September 19, another CAT aircraft flew from Seoul to Tokyo in a mere 74 minutes, achieving a 679.2-mph speed.

Despite the Convair 880M’s improved performance, only 17 aircraft were, in the end, ordered, all, with the exception of Alaska Airlines, by foreign carriers.

Article Sources:

Lewis, W. David, and Newton, Wesley Phillips. Delta: The History of an Airline. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1979.

McClement, Fred. It Doesn’t Matter Where You Sit. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.,


Proctor, Jon. Convair 880 and 990. Miami: World Transport Press, Inc., 1996.