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Convair 990 Coronado

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Convair 990 Coronado
The Convair 990 is a low-wing airliner with four underwing turbofans.
Role Narrow-body jet airliner
National origin United States
Manufacturer Convair
First flight January 24, 1961
Introduction 1962
Retired September 1987 (1994 with NASA)
Status Retired
Primary users American Airlines
Produced 1961–1963
Number built 37
Developed from Convair 880

The Convair 990 Coronado is a retired American narrow-body four-engined jet airliner produced between 1961 and 1963 by the Convair division of American company General Dynamics. It was a stretched version of its 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 passengers than the contemporary Boeing 707 (110 to 189) or Douglas DC-8 (105 to 173), although the 990 was 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 City to Los Angeles against the wind. They wanted a larger passenger capacity than the Convair 880, which was the smallest of the first-generation U.S. jet airliners. The design was known as the Convair 600 and was redesignated the Convair 990 in the month of its first flight.[1] The 990 began flight testing on January 24, 1961.[2]

One change from the 880 was the large anti-shock bodies on the upper trailing edge of the wings, to increase the critical Mach by reducing transonic drag. The inboard shock bodies, which were larger, were also used for additional fuel tankage. Later during the design period, Convair modified the design to include fuel in the outboard pods as well, but during the initial test flights the extra weight caused the outboard engines to oscillate in certain conditions. The pods were redesigned once more and shortened by 28 inches (710 mm), causing increased drag. The inner set of pods were used to route the fuel-dump tubes from the fuel tanks, terminating in a prominent outlet.[3]

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 supersonic military aircraft. Like most versions of the J79, the CJ805 and CJ805-23 were smoky, although secondary operator Spantax eventually had their engines refitted with low-smoke combustion chambers in the 1970s.

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.[4]

Operational history[edit]

Convair 990 Coronado cockpit

The 990 did not meet the specifications promised, and American Airlines reduced its order as a result. The 990A was developed by adding fairings to the engine nacelles, among other changes.[5] 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.[original research?] AA began to dispose of its 990As in 1967.[citation needed]

During May 1961, one of the pre-production 990 aircraft, while demonstrating the margin between its operating speed and its capability during a dive at .97 Mach from 32,000 ft to 22,500 ft, reached 675 miles per hour (1,086 km/h) at an altitude of 22,000 feet (6.7 km): the fastest true airspeed ever attained by a commercial jet transport at that time.[6][7] However, in level flight the maximum speed, 0.84 Mn, was less than that guaranteed to American Airlines, 0.89 Mn, because the drag levels with the anti-shock bodies were much higher than predicted. A drag reduction program was instituted during which streamlining of the engine pylon/wing interface and addition of nacelle fairings achieved 0.89 Mn.[8]

In 1963, the 990A was reported to burn 13,750 pounds (6.24 t) per hour of fuel at Mach 0.84 (484 kn; 897 km/h) at 35,000 feet (11 km) at a mass of 200,000 pounds (91 t).[9] In contrast, a modern Boeing 737 MAX 8 typically carries 162 passengers and burns 4,460 lb (2.02 t) per hour at Mach 0.78 (450 kn; 833 km/h) at sub-optimal parameters.[10][improper synthesis?]

Swissair 990A 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 (SAS) also operated 990A Coronados on their long-haul schedules to Tokyo and other destinations in the Far East and also to South America and Africa.[11]

The 990's niche was soon captured by the Boeing 720 and Boeing 720B, derivatives of the Boeing 707, and later by 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's parent company, General Dynamics, to suffer one of the largest corporate losses in history. As a result, Convair exited the jet airliner business, although it later built fuselages for McDonnell Douglas, specifically for the DC-10, KC-10 and MD-11.[12]

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, as 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.[citation needed]


  • 600 : Designation used for conception, design and build of first aircraft.
  • 990 : Initial production version.
  • 990A : Higher cruising speed and longer range.[13]


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]

  • May 28, 1968: Garuda Indonesian Airways Flight 892, a Convair 990 (PK-GJA), crashed minutes after takeoff from Bombay-Santacruz Airport, killing all 29 passengers and crew on board. One fatality also occurred on the ground.[20]
  • 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.[21][22]
  • February 21, 1970: Swissair Flight 330 crashed near Würenlingen, Switzerland while trying to return to Zurich International Airport after a bomb detonated in the aft cargo compartment, killing all nine crew and 38 passengers. The aircraft was also carrying a significant amount of mail, some of which survived the crash.
  • 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. No one was killed, but one of the eight crew was badly injured.[23]
  • December 3, 1972: Spantax Flight 275, a Convair 990 (EC-BZR), crashed at Los Rodeos Airport on Tenerife while taking off in almost-zero visibility, killing all seven crew and 148 passengers.[24]
  • March 5, 1973: Spantax Flight 400, a Convair 990 on a flight from Madrid to London, was involved in a mid-air 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.[25][N 1]
  • July 17, 1985: A NASA Convair 990 (N712NA) suffered a blown tire during take-off at a speed of around 140 knots (259 km/h) at Riverside-March AFB, California. 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.[26]

Preserved aircraft[edit]

Formerly preserved, scrapped[edit]

  • 30-10-5 – N990AC – Cockpit (retired registration numbers N990AC, OB-R-728) that was stored in a scrapyard in Tucson, Arizona has been scrapped and turned into luggage tags. [32]

Specifications (Convair 990A)[edit]

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1965-66[33]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4 (+ cabin crew)
  • Capacity: up to 149 passengers
  • Length: 139 ft 9 in (42.60 m)
  • Wingspan: 120 ft (37 m)
  • Height: 39 ft 6 in (12.04 m)
  • Wing area: 2,250 sq ft (209 m2)
  • Aspect ratio: 6.2
  • Empty weight: 133,000 lb (60,328 kg)
  • Maximum zero-fuel weight: 160,000 lb (72,575 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 253,000 lb (114,759 kg)
  • Maximum landing weight: 202,000 lb (91,626 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × General Electric CJ805-23B turbofan engines, 16,050 lbf (71.4 kN) thrust each aft=fan engines


  • Maximum speed: 540 kn (620 mph, 1,000 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,096 m) at 200,000 lb (90,718 kg) AUW
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.871
  • Maximum permissible diving speed: M0.91
  • Cruise speed: 484 kn (557 mph, 896 km/h) / M0.84 at 35,000 ft (10,668 m)
  • Stall speed: 109 kn (125 mph, 202 km/h) at 170,000 lb (77,111 kg) AUW with wheels and flaps down
  • Range: 3,302 nmi (3,800 mi, 6,115 km) with 104,373 lb (47,343 kg) usable fuel, 25,770 lb (11,689 kg) payload and 18,000 lb (8,165 kg) reserve fuel
  • Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,000 m)
  • Wing loading: 112.44 lb/sq ft (549.0 kg/m2)
  • Take-off run: 9,800 ft (2,987 m) at MTOW (SR-422B Field length)
  • Landing run: 5,400 ft (1,646 m) at 170,000 lb (77,111 kg) AUW (SR-422B Field length)

See also[edit]

A Convair 990 (right, with distinctive anti-shock bodies) and a competing Douglas DC-8 (left, engine cowlings open)

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ One Navy crewman in the P-3 survived 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. ^ "Convair Traveler Vol. XII 1960 61". 1953.
  2. ^ Proctor, Jon (June 1996). Convair 880 & 990 (First ed.). Miami: World Transport Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8.
  3. ^ Proctor, Jon (June 1996). Convair 880 & 990. Miami: World Transport Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-9626730-4-8.
  4. ^ Convair Jet Airliners. San Diego: General Dynamics: Customer Service Dept. December 1961. p. 203.
  5. ^ "Reduction of Drag Rise on the Convair 990 Airplane". AIAA Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 1 No. 1, January–February 1964, pp. 8–12.
  6. ^ "Aviation Week 1961-08-07". 7 August 1961.
  7. ^ Lebanon (Pennsylvania) Daily News, May 18, 1961 p32
  8. ^ The inside Story Of The Convair 990 The Fastest Subsonic Airliner In The World,John T.Kutney Sr.,AIAA 2007 5338,Figures 10,16,21
  9. ^ Flight 31 Jan 1963 p150
  10. ^ Fred George (May 12, 2017). "Pilot Report: Flying the 737-8, Boeing's New Narrowbody Breadwinner". Aviation Week & Space Technology.
  11. ^ https://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/sk/sk6404/sk64-05.jpg [bare URL image file]
  12. ^ "Convair 990 Coronado: Too Fast Too Soon | International Aviation HQ". 2020-11-14. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  13. ^ "The Might-Have-Beens: Convair 880 and 990." Archived 2016-05-26 at the Wayback Machine Airliners.net. Retrieved: August 20, 2011.
  14. ^ "World Airline Survey Flight International, April 14, 1966, p. 595. Retrieved: December 23, 2011.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Wegg 1990, p. 218
  16. ^ a b c d e f Wegg 1990, p. 219
  17. ^ a b c d e f Proctor 1994, p. 123
  18. ^ Proctor 1994, p. 80
  19. ^ Proctor 1994, p. 117
  20. ^ Accident description for PK-GJA at the Aviation Safety Network
  21. ^ Accident description for EC-BNM at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-10-17.
  22. ^ Images, Time Table. "Garuda Indonesia Time-Table". Archived from the original on 2018-01-01.
  23. ^ Accident description for N5603 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2014-10-17.
  24. ^ Gero 1997, p. 111.
  25. ^ "Accident description: 12 APR 1973." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: August 20, 2011.
  26. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Convair CV-990-30A-5 Coronado N712NA Riverside-March AFB, CA (RIV)". aviation-safety.net.
  27. ^ "Convair 990, serial no. 02, N990AB". ConvairJet.com. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  28. ^ "Convair CV-990 Coronado". verkehrshaus.ch. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
  29. ^ "Airframe Dossier - Convair CV-990, c/n 18, c/r EC-BZP". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Airframe Dossier - Convair CV-990-30A-5, c/n 29, c/r N810NA". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  31. ^ Edlind, Tony. "Spantax S.A (BX)". AngelFire. Tony Edlind. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  32. ^ "Convair 990, serial no. 05, tuned into luggage tags". planetags.com. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  33. ^ Taylor, John W.R., ed. (1965). Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1965-66. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd. pp. 233–234.


  • 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]