MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the Convair CV-240, the first pressurized, twin-engined airliner, took to the skies for the first time in 1947. The type was a revised design that had a longer but thinner fuselage than the Model 110, accommodating 40 passengers.

The American airliner was produced by Convair from 1947 to 1954 as a potential replacement for the widely used Douglas DC-3. The CV-240 series, which had a more modern design with cabin pressurization, made some inroads as a commercial airliner and had a long development cycle that produced various civil and military variants.

Despite attrition, later variants of the “Convairliners” continued to fly well into the new millennium. According to FlightRadar24.com, the CV-580 still flies today with Air Chathams (3C) from New Zealand.

A 1949-built Convair 240 of Swissair at Manchester, England, in March 1950. Photo: RuthAS – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7498402

Design and Development


American Airlines needed an airliner to replace its Douglas DC-3s, so the concept started there. Convair’s first build, the unpressurized Model 110, was a twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with 30 seats made entirely of aluminum. Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engines propelled it. It had a tricycle landing gear and a passenger boarding airstair on the ventral side. 

The concept Model 110, NX90653, took to the air for the first time on July 8, 1946. American Airlines had revised the specifications to include pressurization by this time, and the design was considered too limited. Convair used the first aircraft for development work on the 240 series before dismantling the plane in 1947.

Convair CV-240, American Airlines. Photo: Jon Proctor (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons

Initial Operations


On February 29, 1948, Convair delivered the first production Convairliner to American Airlines (AA). The company delivered 75 to AA, as well as 50 each to Western Airlines (WA), Continental Airlines (CO), Pan American Airways, Lufthansa (LH), KLM (KL), Swissair (SR), Sabena (SN), and Trans Australia Airlines (TN).

In an interesting note, the CV-240 was the first private aircraft to be used in a presidential campaign in the United States. During his presidential run in 1960, John F. Kennedy used a CV-240 called Caroline (after his daughter). The National Air and Space Museum now houses the type.

Convair CV-580 (Air Chathams) in Auckland. Photo: Ingolfson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Subsequent Variants


The Model 340, which had a longer fuselage, longer-span wings, and more powerful engines, was introduced after the Model 240. The 340 took to the air for the first time on October 5, 1951.

Convair designed the Model 440 Metropolitan in 1954 to compete with turboprop-powered airliners like the Vickers Viscount. It featured more streamlined cowlings, new engine exhausts, and improved cabin soundproofing.

The design reached the limit of piston-engine output as the “Super 240” developed into the CV-340 and CV-440, and future development focused on conversion to turboprop power with the CV-580.


Featured image: KLM Convair CV-240. Photo: By Sba2 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from Wikipedia to Commons by KTo288., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5613971. article sources: Wegg, John. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1990, pp. 187–199 ISBN 0-87021-233-8; “Convair-Liner History.” The American Museum of Aviation. Retrieved: October 21, 2011.