Home Classic Airliners Convair 880s and 990s: Where Are They Now?

Convair 880s and 990s: Where Are They Now?

by Matt Falcus

In the 1950s Convair turned to developing a jet airliner to compete with the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. The result was the CV-880, which entered service in 1960.

It flew with airlines such as Delta, Swissair, Northeast and TWA.

In 1961 a stretched variant, known as the CV-990 “Coronado” entered service with American Airlines. It also went on to fly with Aerolineas Argentinas, Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific, SAS, Swissair and VARIG amongst others.

Both Convair jets were incredibly fast compared to their peers, but the cost of operating them became prohibitive during the oil crisis of the 1970s and the number built was limited by poor orders. 

Only 65 CV-880s and 37 CV-990s were built.

 

By Nilsman (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Nilsman (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most famous examples was the private jet of Elvis Preslie. N880EP started life flying for Delta Air Lines, but was bought by the superstar and is now on display outside his Graceland mansion in Memphis.

 

Today a handful of examples survive, mostly at Mojave Airport in California. Here are the details:

Convair 880 Survivors

03 N801AJ Forward section preserved Aviation Hall of Fame, Teterboro, NJ
23 N817TW Forward section stored Mojave Airport, CA
32 N814AJ Complete. Stored at Mojave Airport, CA

N815AJ
35 N815AJ Complete, TWA colours. Stored Mojave Airport, CA
38 N880EP Complete. Preserved Graceland, Memphis, TN
58 N88CH  Complete. Preserved as a home, East London, South Africa

N88CH

Convair 880 N88CH preserved as a home in South Africa (from Google Maps).

 

 

 

Convair 990 Survivors

02 N990AB Complete. Stored Mojave Airport, CA
12B HB-ICC Preserved, Swissair colours. Verkehrshaus Der Schweiz Museum, Lucerne, Switzerland

 
29 N810NA Preserved, NASA colours. Gate guard at Mojave Airport, CA

https://flic.kr/p/K6DJgm
30 EC-BZO Complete, Spantax colours. Stored Palma de Mallorca Airport, Spain

Prijs at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

The interior of HB-ICC on display at Lucerne in Switzerland. By Prijs at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

 

No Convair 880s or 990s are airworthy following the attempt in the 2000s to get one back in the air; it’s unlikely any will fly again.

 

Further resources:

ConvairJet.com Website

Convair 880 Wikipedia Entry

Convair 990 Wikipedia Entry

 

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8 comments

Chuck Bell July 5, 2017 - 1:59 am

I flew a roundtrip ORD-PHX in March of 1964 on 2 AAL 990s! I was so excited because it was a new type for me. My dad was a AAL employee.I spent the westbound flight in the first class lounge, which was then an assigned seat.

Reply
Matt Falcus July 5, 2017 - 9:41 am

Happy days Chuck! Must have been great to experience the 990.

Reply
Dave July 2, 2019 - 11:31 pm

Worked for AAL as a mechanic in the late 60s and remember the 990s well. They were such gas hogs – extra fuel tanks were installed and that was probably the reason they did not last long.

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Matt Falcus July 4, 2019 - 9:22 am

Thanks Dave! Great memories!

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perry hvegholm December 3, 2019 - 10:23 pm

Their fuel consumption had nothing to do with why the 880’s had relatively short careers. They were built to create a new market for ships that were smaller and faster than the 707 and DC-8. It was a commercial market that never really took hold. The 880 was considered a commercial failure and was why Convair ultimately pulled out of the passenger ship market.

880’s were fast. Faster than their contemporaries. That probably had something to do with their fuel consumption. Last I heard, the movie studios were lobbying hard to buy both the remaining 880 and 990, so they could blow them up for a movie. I hope they decide to keep them intact.

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Matt Falcus December 4, 2019 - 8:25 pm

Thanks Perry. I really hope that doesn’t happen to the precious remaining aircraft!
Matt

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Russell Pearce March 24, 2020 - 4:09 pm

Flew in all the Swissair 990’s as a child when they were used on Geneva London & Zurich London routes – very odd seeing a plane that you travelled on as a museum piece – Swiss Transport museum Lucerne. Used to watch them all the time as a young plane spotter in Geneva – my main memory is a very rough landing there where all the contents of the overhead “baskets” – they were not lockers in those days – flew across the cabin to the other side, then the same thing the other way as it bounced back! No damage but chaos as everyone tried to retrieve coats bags etc from their neighbours!

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Robert Jameson August 12, 2020 - 12:59 am

First flight (15 years old) was on an American CV990 from DTW to JFK in late 1963. I distinctly remember the take-off. The sound, The vibration. The angle it took off on. Then a charter flight DTW-LAS-DTW on Modern Air in mid 1970’s. Same experience! Great flying machines!!

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