The French built Sud Aviation Caravelle was a short to medium range jet airliner, powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon engines. First flying on 27 May 1955, it entered commercial service with SAS on 26 April 1959.
Unique to the Caravelle are its triangular shaped windows. Working on the basis that passengers tend to look down most of the time, it has a wide base and a smaller top. This way less metal was removed from the fuselage, making it stronger.
Following on from last weeks video about the Hawker Siddeley Trident, this week we stay in Europe and check out the Sud Aviation Caravelle. This video runs a little over seven minutes and tells all about the United Airlines aircraft.
United was the first airline in the USA to put a twin engine jet into service. To mark this, it was used on their prestige Executive flight between Chicago and New York.
Seating was four abreast and the passengers received a quality meal and finished with cigars. The video has lots of interior and exterior shots and an interesting look at this area of the aircraft’s story.
Australia’s TAA wanted to introduce the Caravelle as their first jet aircraft. They calculated it was £400,000 cheaper to introduce and had 15% lower direct operating costs than the Lockheed Electra. Unfortunately, the Government approved the Electra instead and Australia had to wait until the Boeing 727 in 1964 for domestic jet travel.
Sud Aviation Caravelle Promotional Film
For those wanting more information on the aircraft, there is a twenty minute promotional film on the Sud Aviation Caravelle below. This contains quite a bit of detail on the jet’s production, including water tank testing for fatigue reasons.
Unusually, the French decided on a criciform tail for the Caravelle. What does this mean? It is where the horizontal stabiliser or tailplane is located half way down the fin, rather than on top as on most aircraft with rear mounted powerplants.
Lots of air to air shots of the Air France version are in the flight testing portion of the film. Also shown is the new – for the time – rear stairway, which inspired the same on the Douglas DC-9 and Boeing 727.
Another fun fact about the Caravelle is the nose section, which is the same as that from the de Havilland Comet. Sud Aviation licensed the design from the British company and why not?
The Caravelle is a very pretty plane. With 282 built, it had a long service life, the last one being withdrawn in 2005. There are many aircraft in museums around the world, mainly in Europe and the USA so you can see one if you wish.
Did you ever fly on board a Caravelle? What was it like? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image by Jon Proctor via Wikimedia Commons.
In 1969, flew from Washington D.C. home to Buffalo N.Y. after flying there on a Boeing 737 (both ways UAL). When the pilot hit the ‘air brakes’, our one queasy flyer’s eyes got as big as saucers from the turbulence that ensued. He was also using an air sickness bag on the 737 on the way down, so this was even more stressful. I never flew again until 2008 for a family wedding, so I have fond memories of my introduction to aviation travel, including the school group’s Buffalo area liaison getting flight insurance for the twelve minors in the… Read more »
Sounds like it would have been some experience on both that 737, which would have been really new at the time, and the Caravelle. It’s never good to feel unwell on a flight, that’s for sure. Interesting memories 🙂
I flew on the SE210 Caravelle many times. I worked for TAP and did the flight dispatch for the Caravelle – Flight planning, Ops, Traffic (load & Balance), the whole shooting match. It was a delightful aircraft to fly on and work with. If I recall correctly, TAP had 5, CS-TLA, B, C, E, & F. Several years of years of fun. The 727 eventually replaced it.
Great that you have such intimate experience with the Caravelle. One of the best looking aircraft out there too. I wish I’d had the chance to fly on board one, but luckily there are still some around in museums. Thanks for the comment, I enjoyed reading that!
My favorite plane to work was the Caravelle. I worked for United Airlines in the ’60s. I loved it being all first class. Thinking back, it was all men because it was a business flight! And that is just how it was back then. Also, it was a time where everyone was polite and respectful to one another. Maybe it was because I was a 19-year-old girl from a small town and expected people to be “nice.” I bid the same route every month, so it was the same passengers and quite delightful! Everyone had drinks and a delicious full… Read more »
I’ve heard about those all men business class flights with United on the Caravelle. That’s fantastic that you got to work on the aircraft and that it was your favourite. I think United were the only US airline to have the Caravelle, which means you’re one of a unique band of people who worked the aircraft. Awesome that you got to know the passengers as well, that would be very rare these days. Thanks so much for the comment! Great hearing your memories of how it was on board. I’m sure you have plenty of stories to tell!
I remember flying home after a student exchange visit to the South of France when I flew the Marseille – Paris – London leg on Caravelle, ‘Maid of Orleans’. The most notable thing about the flight was that Air France managed to send my luggage off on a trip to Tokyo. Apart from that little hiccup and that the engines were at the rear was the remarkable similarity to the Comet 3
Great that you got to experience the Caravelle! You are right, the nose of the Caravelle was licensed directly from de Havilland and taken from the Comet. The similarity is unmistakable. Thanks for the comment!
Sadly I never flew in a Caravelle. A beautiful looking aircraft. I read of TAA’s interest in the type and subsequent government decision to approve Ansett’s Lockheed L188 Electra choice. As a keen aeromodeller I am currently constructing a plastic kit of the Caravelle and painting it in the 1970’s ANSETT livery, just for fun. I hope to create a TAA version too. Had TAA’s original request to buy the Caravelle been successful then we would have seen both domestic carriers operating the type. The wonderful Trans-Australia Airlines museum in Essendon has an amazing collection of “what if” models showing… Read more »
That model will certainly be interesting in the Ansett livery from that time. I imagine it’s going to look pretty good, so nice work there. I was not aware there was a TAA museum in Essendon! I will have to go and check that out when I am next in Australia. Those models sound awesome – it will be great to see those! Thanks for the tip and the comment 🙂
Funnily enough this was the second jetliner I ever flew. After my CMB BOM on the AE TRD flew to DEL on an Indian Airline CRV 3. Remember thinking it was strange that the engines did not have thrust reversers and that a civilian aircraft had a braking parachute instead. We took a delay because the CRV that was scheduled to fly the leg went mechanical after its parachute fell off on landing and we took a delay waiting for the next aircraft’s arrival. The same trip also let me fly on an IT CRV on a round trip between… Read more »
What are the chances I would post these two one after the other and they’d match your first two jet flights! That’s pretty cool. Yes, the parachute was certainly interesting, that’s for sure. Looks like you had a few Caravelle’s in your past, which is excellent! I think someone should bring back the triangular windows just for fun. Thanks for the comment!
I was lucky enough to fly the LHR-ORY segment on Air France when I was about 8 or 9 y/o. Probably around 1973-4, I remember staring out those cool windows the entire time. An all too brief flight!
Haha – I have a feeling I would have done exactly the same thing! Thanks for the comment!
Those United EWR-ORD flights would be violently opposed by #MeToo. They were men only flights. That way, men could read porn magazines without women and children seeing. However, public masturbation was not allowed. I am not kidding.
Some later Caravelles had Pratt Whitney engines, an American design.
Yes, I remember hearing they were men only flights. It definitely was a completely different era, wasn’t it? Nothing like that would fly today. I did hear that some later Caravelle’s had Pratt and Whitney JT8D engines, which were more powerful. Makes sense! Thanks for the comment!
When I was fourteen years old, I flew alone from Chicago to Marseille via Montreal-Dorval and Paris-Orly. This was in 1964. The carrier was AF. I flew a 707 on the Chicago to Paris leg, and on the Paris to Marseille leg, I flew a Caravelle. I don’t recall many details of the flight, but I definitely remember the odd triangle-shaped windows. At least I can include a Caravelle on my list of “flown” aircraft
Sounds like a really long trip, what with the two stops along the way. Great that you got to fly on the Caravelle though – those windows really are something else. No-one else has done it on a commercial passenger jet.