By the end of WWII, the Douglas DC-3, and its military spin off, the C-47, were dominant players in the airliner market. But one knock against the DC-3 was that it lacked pressurization, and as airlines looked to move ahead in the postwar years, the comforts of a pressurized cabin became a necessity. At first, Convair developed what they called the 110, an unpressurized, twin-engine airliner with tricycle gear, to compete with the DC-3. But American Airlines, who was looking to replace their DC-3s with more modern aircraft, told Convair they wanted pressurization, and more seats. So Convair developed the 110 into the pressurized 240. The 240 became the progenitor of a long line of variants, each getting slightly larger, or more powerful, and the Convairliners served widely into the 1970s with both civilian and military operators. One of the most important changes to come to the 240 series was the adoption of turboprop engines. These first appeared on the 540, a conversion of the Convair 340, and later on the 580. The 580 became a passenger and freight workhorse, and provided the nascent Frontier Airlines with their first aircraft.
Today, a few 580s soldier on, working mostly in more remote locations where it carries passengers, freight, or both. This video features some ground testing and a flight of a Canadian 580 belonging to Nolinor Aviation. The video is long, but it’s also an aviation geek’s dream, as we get to see the crew go through checklists, start up, and engine tests while the crew talks through the procedures. The following morning is a flight from Winnipeg to Churchill, where we watch the loading of freight and passengers, de-icing, takeoff, and flight. All the while, the captain, with seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the aircraft, tells viewers all about the aircraft, its systems, and its operation, and you witness the crew work together to carry out a safe flight. It’s really quite fascinating, both from a flying perspective and a historical perspective. I’m not certain of the video’s claim that Nolinor’s 580s are the last ones still carrying passengers, but there is no denying that these venerable aircraft are becoming a rare sight.
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