DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the Aviation Traders’ ATL-98 ‘Carvair’ operated its maiden flight in 1961.
As the name suggests (Car-Via-Air), this unique aircraft was able to accommodate 22 passengers and five vehicles on short flights.
The ‘car-via-air’ concept was nothing new. The Bristol Type 170 Freighter had been in service since 1946. However, it had limited capacity and desperately needed a replacement.
Sir Freddie Laker
In the 1950s, legendary aviation entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker spotted a market for these ‘car ferry’ aircraft. Laker built a cardboard model of his new airliner to show to potential customers, highlighting its vastly improved payload compared with its predecessors.
Using his aircraft trading and spares company Aviation Traders, Laker cheaply sourced several DC-4s and began modifications.
Engineers cut the DC-4 fuselage forward of the wing and replaced it with a large, distinctive two-deck ‘hump,’ which housed the flight deck. A sizeable hinged cargo door was added to the nose, allowing cars and cargo to be loaded. Meanwhile, a fuselage plug would be added after the wing to accommodate more passengers. The tail section was also entirely redesigned.
On February 16, 1962, the first of the type entered service with Channel Air Bridge. It would be used by various other airlines, including Aer Lingus (EI), British Air Ferries (VF), and even Ansett Australia (AN), the latter of which provided its own DC-4s for conversion.
However, just 21 airframes were built between 1961 and 1968. By this point, the sea ferries had introduced bigger and faster ships and offered a much cheaper alternative. The Carvair did solider on as a freighter, flying as late as 2007.
Featured Image: G-ASKN had started life as a Douglas C-54, delivered to the USAAF in February 1943. Photo: Richard Goring, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.