The TAA Convair
The Consolidated Vultee Convair 240 - was based on a 1946 design and had still to be tested. The Convair was designed and purpose built as an aircraft to replace the Douglas DC3, which was currently used by many American airlines.
In 1947, John Watkins, TAA's Engineering Manager, was on his world tour, and visiting Consolidated Vultee at San Diego. John Watkins had heard that the previous problems with engines and configuration had been overcome, and he therefore undertook a demonstration flight.
Convair engine - cowls open
The flight impressed him with the aircraft's power, performance, and revised features, including cabin pressurisation with passenger vents, and the ability to integrate folding passenger stairways, dual nose wheels, and the interior cabin fittings.
Duel nose wheel landing gear
He informed Arthur Coles, TAA's Chairman, of his findings by telephone and then telegram and added, that to secure early delivery, Consolidated had indicated that production vacancies in the assembly line were now available due to the cancellation by an American operator.
Wing, engine and fuselage assembly
Three aircraft could be delivered by mid 1948, instead of 1951, as previously indicated.
TAA would therefore be the first operator outside the USA to place orders for this aircraft.
On being notified of this, Arthur Coles rang Arthur Drakeford, but he was not available due to parliamentary sittings, and was informed that as soon as possible, Drakeford would return the call.
After numerous telephone calls and discussion about financing, Drakeford sanctioned the placing of orders in the vacant slots and began the process of having the funds approved.
Roll off at the end of the assembly line
This was relayed to Watkins and the orders were secured. The contract provided for a 'fixed price per aircraft' and with spiraling post war costs this ultimately proved to be the wisest decision, as it saved TAA in excess of US$ 500,000.
Above - TAA's engineering specialists and Convair employees at San Diego
- Capt. John Chapman and Flight Crew with John Watkins before departure to Australia.
TAA finally purchased 5 Convairs, VH-TAO, VH-TAP, VH-TAQ, VH-TAR, VH-TAS.
The Long way Home
Because aircraft such as the Convair were designed and developed for the American domestic market they had limited range, which prohibited them from flying across the Pacific Ocean, as some stages could not be fuel planned because of the distance between island airports.
For this reason the alternative route would be the long way 'home' and set a world record for the Convair.
The flight took the Convair across America, then via Canada, Greenland, United Kingdom, France, North Africa, Arabia, India, Malaya, Singapore, Darwin, Alice Springs to Melbourne.
The Convair fitted with a 'fuel bladder' for extended range, and with crew, plus Watkins and other administrative staff, arrived in Melbourne as planned and without any problems.