The Canadair CL-44 was a Canadian built aircraft that was based on the Bristol Britannia. It was lengthened by 3.75 meters over the Britannia 300 and featured other modifications such as a hinged tail for cargo operators. Military people may know the plane from its Royal Canadian Air Force designation, the CC-106 Yukon.

Cartierville Airport in Saint-Laurent, Quebec hosted the first flight on 16 November 1959. Powered by four Rolls-Royce Tyne turboprops, the CL-44 featured a range of 8,993 kilometres and could carry up to 189 passengers or 29,959 kilograms of cargo.

Canadair CL-44 Video

Following on from the last video about the Antonov An-140, this time we head over to Canada for a look at the Canadair CL-44. This excellent presentation runs for just under 10 minutes and gives a decent overview of the aircraft and what it could do.

Illustrated with decent pictures as well as interesting video selections, it’s pretty fascinating. The swing tail certainly stands out as the most unusual feature, making the aircraft popular as a cargo carrier.

In Service with Loftleiðir

The only airline operator was Iceland’s Loftleiðir, which picked up some unsold airframes that Canadair was trying to offload. Their four Canadair CL-44D4-8 aircraft were all converted to the CL-44J standard. This was at the request of the Icelandic airline, who asked for the aircraft to be stretched to carry more passengers. They also operated one CL-44D4-2 that remained unconverted.

With 3.07m added ahead of the wings and 1.55m aft, the CL-44J became the largest aircraft operating across the Atlantic, with a capacity of 189 passengers. In an attempt to appeal to the US market, the airline called the plane the Rolls-Royce 400 PropJet as nobody knew what a Canadair CL-44 was.

The cheap fares between USA and Europe offered by Icelandic Airlines (as they were sometimes known) were popular with college students in the USA, to the extent that the airline marketed the services as hippie flights. Success meant other airlines took notice, and airports decided not to allow the airline to use the plane at full capacity. It was restricted to 160 passengers, the same amount as their Douglas DC-6s, at all airports in Europe except Luxembourg.

Loftleiðir took delivery of the plane in May 1964, while the last left the fleet in February 1972. An interesting fact is the Canadair CL-44 was the first airliner with enclosed overhead bins, which is common today. You can see a fantastic film here from November 1966 of a Loftleidir flight to New York, with the first 10 minutes on the CL-44.

Overall Thoughts

The Canadair CL-44 was primarily operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force and cargo carriers such as Flying Tigers, Seaboard World Airlines and Slick Airways. Only Loftleiðir operated it in regular passenger service, with their aircraft being converted to cargo afterwards.

Just 39 aircraft were produced in total with the last, the Conroy Skymonster (a Guppy conversion of a CL-44), flying in 1999. That ended the interesting history of the aircraft.

Did you ever fly on board a Loftleiðir CL-44 back in the late 1960s? What was that like? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Halldor Gudmundsson on
Ground image via Icelandair.
With thanks to Yesterday’s Airlines.