Tuesday, December 16, 2008




STANDARD DATA: Seats 96-121. Gross wt. 244,200. Empty wt. 113,000. Fuel capacity 15,119-15,675. Engines four 16,100-lb. General Electric tur-bofans.
PERFORMANCE: Top mph 640. Cruise mph 610. Stall mph 105. Initial climb rate 3,250. Range 4,300-5,445. Ceiling 41,000. Takeoff run 5,350. Landing roll 4,770.

Nicknamed the “San Diego Anteater,” the Convair 990 does look a bit like it’s searching for ants on the runway. Its nose has a high slope from the cockpit window to the tip, which, aided by a short nose gear strut, gives the aircraft a rakish appearance. Easily identified in the air and on the ground by four large pods mounted on the top of the wing, the 990 was not widely accepted by United States airlines. Four General Electric aftfan engines, each with a thrust of over 16,000 lbs., provide the push to cruise at 621 mph, the fastest airliner made when the FAA certification was awarded in 1962. But the G.E. engines were one reason for the small number of 990s purchased. Most airlines felt it was uneconomical to have an airplane that didn’t use the almost-standard Pratt & Whitney engines. The aircraft’s long range came about by using the four wing pods as fuel tanks. The 24-foot-long pods, known as “antishock bodies,” reduce the intensity of shock waves generated when an airplane reaches the speed of sound. In essence, they control the air flowing over the wing and therefore reduce drag. Although passengers enjoy the quiet and luxurious 990, the economics of having an oddball plane in the fleet has caused the disappearance of the airliner from the lucrative routes. Convair stopped producing passenger liners after making the 990, leaving that specialized business to Douglas and Boeing.


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