In 1955 Convair went ahead with the Model 22 Skylark, seating 80-108 passengers over sectors up to about 2,500 miles. It was announced in September 1956. During construction the aircraft was renamed Golden Arrow, and it was proposed to anodise the external skins gold. Then, because it was to cruise at 600 mph, the type became the Convair 600, and finally this was changed to Convair 880, because 600 mph is 880ft per second. The aircraft grew slightly in weight, the 880M weighing 193,000lb with 11,650-lb thrust CJ805-3B engines. Designed at the request of Howard Hughes, the owner of TWA, the first 880 made its maiden flight on January 27, 1959 and was technically a very advanced aircraft. Powered by four 49.8kN (11,2001b) st CJ-805-3s it had a boldly swept (35 degrees) wing and was a very fast aircraft indeed, justifying the much-hyped claim that it was 'the fastest airliner in the world'. At the time of the first flight, 78 Convair 880 variants were on order. The second aircraft off the line flew on 31 March 1959.
The FAA certified the 880 for airline use on 1 May 1960, and 15 days later Delta Airlines put the liner into commercial service.
It was built in two versions: the 880 Model 22 basic model with 49.8kN General Electric CJ-805-3 turbojet engines, flown for the first time on 27 January 1959; and the 880 Model 22-M with 51.8kN CJ-805-3B turbojets, power-boosted rudder and four leading-edge slats. The first 880 Model 22-M flew on 3 October 1960.
The first aircraft completed to full airline standards (number 7) actually broke a transcontinental speed record on delivery from San Diego to Miami. TWAs aircraft were stored while the airline's ownership was hotly disputed and Delta gained the honour of initiating the first services on 16 May 1960.
TWA became the largest operator of the type, with deliveries beginning two days after Howard Hughes relinquished control of the airline, on December 30,1960. Subsequently, Convair 880s were also delivered to Northeast Airlines, though a massive, once nearly firm order from United, was lost to Boeing.
Some 17 Convair 880Ms were built, these having four leading edge slats on each wing, a larger fin and powered rudder, a retractable tailskid, provision for pre-loaded baggage containers and a 7,094 lit (1,560 Imp gal) centre-section tank. The aircraft also had a strengthened undercarriage and CJ-805-313 engines.
The oil crisis of the early 1970s made the Convair 880 particularly uneconomical to operate and Delta retired its aircraft at the end of 1973, followed by TWA in June 1974. New operators included LANICA in Nicaragua, a number of travel clubs and even Elvis Presley, whose aircraft, named Lisa Marie after his daughter, and callsign Hound Dog One is now part of the Graceland museum. Airtrust Singapore operated three Convair 880Ms until 1979, latterly operating services for Air Malta. Another aircraft was sold to the Ciskei Government.
A number of Convair 880s were briefly used as freighters. Monarch Aviation converted about seven with a cargo door and more without the door. American Jet Industries (later part of Gulfstream American) worked closely with Convair to convert some 20 Model 880s as Airlifters, but the company completed only two aircraft and the remainder were stored at Mojave, many with unused cargo doors installed. Attempts to market the aircraft in the mid-1980s foundered because they were not hush-kitted. General Air Services converted one more Convair as a freighter. The last freighter flying was probably retired (in about 1986) in Haiti.
The last aircraft in regular service was the US Navy's sole UC-880, 'Old Smokey', equipped as a tanker, and for missile test control and telemetry. This was retired at the NATC, Patuxent River, in September 1993 and in 1995 was used for ground-based tests simulating high-altitude bomb explosions. Some 15 aircraft remained in storage at Mojave in 1998.
Total sales were 65.
880 Model 22
Engines: 4 x General Electric CJ805-3 turbojet, 5080 kg / 49.8kN / 11,200 lb thrust.
Max level speed: 615 mph (990 kph).
Cruising speed 482kts (895km/h) at 35,000ft (10,668m).
Range 6,518km (3,513nm).
Weight empty 42,185kg (93,000 lb).
Gross weight 87,772kg (193,500 lb).
Span 36.5m (120ft 0m).
Length 39.4 m (129ft 4in).
Height: 36 ft 0 in (10.97 m).
Wing area 185.8sq.m (2,000 sq.ft).
880 Model 22-M
Engines: 4 x General Electric CJ805-3B turbojet, 5285 kg / 51.8kN / 11,650-lb thrust.
MTOW: 87410 kg / 184,500 lb.
Empty wt. 88,615 lb
Top speed 615 mph.
Cruise 501 mph.
Stall 121 mph.
Initial climb rate 3,565 fpm.
Range 3,995 miles.
Ceiling 41,000 ft.
Takeoff run 8,050 ft.
Landing roll 6,150 ft.
Pax cap: 110.
Max fuel cap: 47445 lt / 12,534 USG