The Convair 880 was designed to be smaller and faster than the competing aircraft of the era, the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. It is called an 880 to represent its speed of 880 feet per second or 600 miles per hour.
First flying on 27 January 1959, it entered service on 15 May 1960 with Delta Air Lines on the Houston to New York route. Just 65 were built at Convair in San Diego during its production run, which ended in 1962.
Convair 880 Video
Following on from the last video about the Boeing 307 Stratoliner, this week we look at the super fast Convair 880. Titled “Introduction to a Champion”, it was produced by Delta Air Lines in 1960 and runs for about 13 minutes.
This film has it all, with a short piece on the production line, as well as a look at the General Electric “pure jet” engines. Next it goes inside, showing the typical five abreast seating, as well as the “club compartment” with tables in between the seats.
Next, the voiceover switches to a stewardess with a southern accent. Passengers receive snacks, cocktails and much is made of the quietness and passenger appeal of the cabin. I rather enjoy seeing the design of the cabin of the era, very different to now.
Beautiful air to air shots taken at dusk are a feature towards the end of the video, followed by a dinner service. Those trays are loaded with food, so I doubt anyone went hungry when flying Delta back then!
That Famous Convair 880 Photograph
There are two absolutely iconic photographs of the Convair 880 that you must see. Larry Pullen and Tom LeBoutillier had the idea for a head on shot and gained the permission from the Delta Air Lines Chief Pilot and the FAA to make the attempt.
Four departures took place each morning in Houston when the lighting was correct. Unfortunately, none of the shots on the first day worked out as the aircraft were too high by the time they arrived where the photographers were. The next day, the first two flights gave the same result. Captain John Steiger was in command of the third one and promised to help out.
Keeping the aircraft virtually on the ground, the landing gear was retracted and the famous pictures were taken. You can read the full story of how the pictures came about by Larry Pullen on this Facebook post. You will be amused by what happened directly afterwards!
So how does the Convair 880’s speed compare to the aircraft you might fly on today? The Convair regularly cruised at Mach 0.87, which is very fast. Well, by comparison an Airbus A320 will cruise at Mach 0.78 while a Boeing 777 will clock in at Mach 0.84.
All of that speed came at the cost of fuel efficiency, while the five abreast cabin meant less seats. As a result, the aircraft was less economical to operate which is partly why it was not a sales success.
Did you ever fly on board a Convair 880? What did you think of the video? Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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