Convair 990 Coronado

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Convair 990 Coronado
Spantax CV-990 at Basle - June 1976.jpg
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[edit]

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 smokey.

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

Operational history[edit]

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 727 and 720, a derivative of the 707. 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.


  • 990 : Initial production version.
  • 990A : Faster 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[edit]

Aircraft on display[edit]

Several 990s have survived. A former Swissair Convair 990 is on display in the Swiss transportation museum, the Verkehrshaus in Luzern,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Specifications (Convair 990A)[edit]

Data from Macdonald Aircraft Handbook[10]

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[edit]

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. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8. 
  2. ^ Proctor, Jon (6/96). Convair 880 & 990. Miami: World Transport Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8. 
  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. ^ Gero 1997, p. 111.
  9. ^ "Accident description: 12 APR 1973." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: August 20, 2011.
  10. ^ 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[edit]