American’s plan was to use the Convair jet for the first class only “Blue Streak” service and configure American’s 707s for all economy. American purchased 25 of what was essentially a new aircraft from Convair but the aircraft’s radical changes were not made clear to the General Dynamic’s board.
Problems with the aircraft, now called the CV990, surfaced almost immediately on test flights and the aircraft was unable to meet its speed and fuel burn guarantees despite a host of modifications.
The Convair 990 needed to gulp fuel to reach its speed guarantee.
When the production run finished with just 102 880s and 990s built, GD had written off $4.16 million per plane – more than they sold for.
Any possibility of further sales of the Convair jets was dashed when Boeing announced its three-engine 727 tri-jet in 1959.
Suddenly a three-engine jet would basically do the same mission as a four-engine model and be far cheaper per passenger on fuel burn.
New superb colorized images of the Convair 990 – hot rod of the skies – have been done by Frenchman Benoit Vienne.
The photos epitomize the raw speed of what was the world’s fastest subsonic jet built by San Diego-based Convair, a division of General Dynamics.