The CV-580 is one plane in the venerable Convair Liner family of aircraft. Let's zoom in for a clearer look at the Convair 240 family and one 580 in particular - N73163.
Convair was an American aircraft manufacturer (1943 - 1996) which is best known for its military aircraft, including the Convair B-36 Peacemaker, as well as the first Atlas rockets, rockets for the U.S. first human spaceflight program Project Mercury, and the Atlas-Centaur expendable launch vehicle. It also was known for its CV-240 family of passenger/cargo aircraft (including 340, 440 and 580) and its Convair 880 and Convair 990 jet airliners. Although its foray into airliner design wasn’t successful, they became a profitable subcontractor for airliner fuselage manufacturing. Convair, formed by the merger of Consolidated Aircraft and Vultee Aircraft in 1943, ranked fourth in value of U.S. wartime production contracts. It was purchased by General Dynamics in 1953 and operated as its Convair Division until General Dynamics sold its divisions and finally deactivated in 1996.
The Convair Liner family of planes began in 1946 with an American Airlines requirement for an aircraft to replace the Douglas DC-3, an airliner for short to medium range, with a high payload. There were many variants, both civilian and military, including these more well known models:
After the success of the original prototype design, the Model 110, the Convair CV-240 was developed. Unlike the 110, this model had a pressurized fuselage and was powered by two Pratt & Whitney 2,400 hp 2,400 hp (1,800 kW) R-2800 engines. 176 were built (excluding military).
The 240 was an all metal monoplane with tricycle landing gear. It boasted features which were meant to save the operator time and money such as its built in stairway and loading arrangement and its orange peel cowling which made servicing and inspection a breeze. Many efforts were made to provide comfortable flight conditions regardless of altitude. It became a successful, safe and dependable aircraft.
The 340 was a new airplane, with a longer fuselage, more powerful engines, increased power and fuel capacity, and an extended wingspan, all of which made for better performance at higher altitudes. It was introduced in October 1951 and was suited for both short range and medium range hauls. Like its predecessor, it was designed for easier maintenance and servicing and known for its proven reliability. Many airlines, and the United States Navy and Air Force, added the 340 to their fleets. A large number of them were later converted to CV-440s.
Also known as the Metropolitan 440, this twin engine airliner retained the best features of the previous models which made it a practical and reliable aircraft. In addition to its expanded range and speeds, much effort was put into reducing the noise and vibration in the passenger cabin interior. Along with the noise deflection and silencer to reduce levels in the cabin, passengers could also expect the utmost in comfort and safety because of its weather mapping radar, which allowed pilots to see ahead and avoid lightning, storms and turbulence. Following these improvements, the 240 family reached its limit for piston-engine performance, sparking the conversion to turboprop power.
Convair realized that adding a turboprop engine to its existing aircraft would give them better performance and increased range and speeds. The CV-580 was thus not a new plane, but the result of a collaboration with Pacific Airmotive to install Allison 501-D13 turboprop engines into either a CV-340 or CV-440. Additionally, the horizontal stabilizer was modified and the vertical fin was enlarged. The first flight occurred on January 19, 1960. The first delivery was in May 1960, spurring several airlines to sign up for conversions.
Our CV-580 began its life in 1956, as a CV-440-12, and registered as OO-SCO. It was delivered to SABENA Airline in October 1956. SABENA, an acronym of Societé anonyme belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation aérienne ( 'Belgian Limited Company for the Exploitation of Aerial Navigation'), was Belgium’s national airline from 1923 to 2001.
It was then sold to Frontier in November 1967 and registered as N73163. It was converted to a CV-580 in March 1968. It was Frontier Airlines’ first CV-580. By 1979, Frontier had a fleet of 25 Convair 580s and 35 737-200s, which it used to serve 94 cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Between May 1983 and September 1985, it flew with Frontier Commuter, a small regional carrier that operated under a service agreement with Frontier Airlines. It was sold to Metroflight in September 1985, then went to Saab Aircraft Holdings in October 1987 and remained in storage in Greenville, Texas.
In August 1988 it was sold to Renown Aviation and its livery once more changed, this time to white, gray and blue. It was again sold in October 2005 to an unknown owner, with its civil registration cancelled in August 2013. MotoArt obtained it from GenAir in Roswell, New Mexico in 2021.
The MotoArt team traveled to Roswell, New Mexico in Spring 2021 to obtain the material to create CV-580 PlaneTags. Although the plane was missing many components and was propped up on railroad ties, its silhouette was still grand and clad in the grey and blue livery from Renown Aviation.
“It’s not every day you come across a Convair 580 because so few were converted,” said MotoArt owner Dave Hall. “We are just so stoked to add one to the encyclopedia of aircraft we have preserved.”
PlaneTags are handcrafted, collectible aviation mementos created out of authentic fuselage skin. They are cut polished and assembled by hand at MotoArt’s Torrance, California studio. The Convair 580 PlaneTags are numbered to 5,000 and will initially be available in white, gray, and blue, with a small number of combinations.