(NCS) — If an aviation fanatic had been to compile a roster of the world’s weirdest trying planes, the ATL-98 Carvair would undoubtedly advantage a spot of honor.

Its bulbous nostril, seemingly out of proportion with the relaxation of its physique, give this now-defunct aircraft a chubby, unmistakable look.

And but the Carvair, which made a quick cameo in the James Bond film “Goldfinger,” anticipated options that we’d later see in iconic plane varieties, similar to the Boeing 747.

This odd-looking aircraft was really a closely modified Douglas DC-4 airliner designed to satisfy a really specific mission in the Nineteen Fifties: flying each automobiles and their drivers abroad.

To load Carvair planes, vehicles would be elevated to cabin level with a scissors-type lift and loaded through the front door.

To load Carvair planes, autos could be elevated to cabin degree with a scissors-type raise and loaded by way of the entrance door.

Courtesy of Iberia Photo Archive

British automobile homeowners eager to drive their very own autos round mainland Europe might select between the sluggish, and probably shaky, sea crossing, or just jump over to the continent by air — automobile and all.

Travelers would drive proper onto the airport apron and into the stomach of the ready plane, simply as they’d with a ferry that carries vehicles throughout water.

Born from post-war journey goals

Aircraft like the Bristol 170 Freighter and its bigger by-product, known as the Superfreighter, began carrying vehicles as cargo from the mid-Nineteen Forties, shortly after the finish of WWII.

Those planes had been sturdy machines that sacrificed velocity and vary for robustness and economics. They featured clam-like frontal doorways that opened sideways to permit automobiles to be pushed into the cargo maintain, whereas the raised cockpit elevated cargo capability by making the complete size of the fuselage out there for self-rolling hundreds.

As ingenious as this design could have been, although, these plane had a slightly restricted payload and might carry not more than three average-sized automobiles at a time.

A car is loaded onto an Aer Lingus  Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair at Bristol Airport in the UK.

A automobile is loaded onto an Aer Lingus Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair at Bristol Airport in the UK.


By the late Nineteen Fifties, with the conflict years in the rearview mirror and automobile possession on the rise, legendary aviation entrepreneur Freddie Laker noticed a chance.

Laker, who would later be identified for his pioneering, however ill-fated, low price airline ventures in the Seventies and early 80s, got here up with the concept to construct a bigger and higher automobile ferry.

With the introduction of the jet period, hundreds of World War II-era propeller planes similar to the DC-4, or its navy model, the C-54, had been quick changing into out of date and may very well be had on the low cost. This labored in Laker’s favor.

One of the firms already in his portfolio, Aviation Traders Limited, had gathered ample expertise refitting and repurposing a big quantity of navy plane that had served in the conflict for civilian use, making it well-placed to execute his imaginative and prescient.

The consequence was the ATL-98, additionally known as “Carvair” — brief for “Car via Air”.

Linking the UK to the mainland

To create this airborne automobile ferry, Aviation Traders Limited took a DC-4, lower its ahead part and added a further part to stretch its fuselage. Next, it was fitted with the Carvair’s attribute elevated cockpit and a pair of side-hinged doorways that allowed automobiles and different cargo to be loaded by way of the entrance.

The ensuing plane would be capable of carry as much as 5 automobiles and 22 passengers directly, a major enchancment over the Bristol 170 Freighter.

Even higher: this configuration may very well be rapidly and simply tailored to satisfy the wants of the second. For instance, it might carry simply three automobiles and 55 passengers or transformed to hold both simply cargo or solely passengers. If the latter possibility was chosen, the Carvair’s non-pressurized cabin may very well be fitted with as many as 85 seats.

In Spain, domestic carrier Aviaco's Carvairs shuttled passengers -- and their cars -- between the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland.

In Spain, home service Aviaco’s Carvairs shuttled passengers — and their automobiles — between the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland.

Courtesy of Iberia Photo Archive

When in car-carrying mode, autos could be elevated to cabin degree with a scissors-type raise and loaded by way of the entrance door, whereas passengers would sit at the again of the aircraft, simply as they’d in a standard airliner.

The Carvair was developed primarily for cross-Channel routes linking the UK to the European mainland. In its apogee, Channel Air Bridge, one other agency in Freddie Laker’s aeronautical empire, operated 24 each day roundtrip flights from Southend airport, close to London, to Calais (France), Ostend (Belgium) and Rotterdam (The Netherlands).

Eventually the community would stretch a lot additional into continental Europe, with planes heading to Strasbourg on the French-German border and the Swiss cities of Geneva and Basel.

In later years, as interest in car ferries dwindled, the planes were used to ship cargo.

In later years, as curiosity in automobile ferries dwindled, the planes had been used to ship cargo.

Richard Vandervord

In Spain, home service Aviaco used Carvairs to function an everyday car-carrying air shuttle between the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland, whereas Aer Lingus ran automobile ferrying operations between Ireland and UK cities Liverpool and Bristol in addition to Cherbourg in France.

The Irish service additionally used its Carvairs on common cargo providers to a number of British cities.

Why do not we see automobile ferries in the skies in the present day?

Twenty-one Carvairs had been constructed between 1961 and 1968. But, concurrently, sooner and extra environment friendly sea transport choices turned out there on most of the routes served by the air automobile ferries and none of the new, trendy plane had been developed for this area of interest market.

In the finish, the idea merely light away.

But the evaporation of the automobile ferrying market and power upkeep points didn’t forestall Carvairs from persevering with to function as freighters for a string of cargo operators throughout the world, from New Zealand and Australia to the US, Europe and Africa.

Twenty-one Carvairs were built between 1961 and 1968.

Twenty-one Carvairs had been constructed between 1961 and 1968.

Courtesy of Iberia Photo Archive

Despite a slightly excessive attrition charge, with practically half of the world Carvair fleet being misplaced to accidents in some unspecified time in the future in its practically 4 a long time of service, some of them saved flying no less than till 2007, when one of the previous few surviving airframes crashed, with no victims, whereas making an attempt to land at the Nixon Fork Mine, in Alaska.

As of 2021, no Carvair is understood to be operative, though a pair of airframes are in long run storage. Their airworthiness standing is unsure.

One of them is in Gainesville, Texas, the place it has been parked at the native airport for a quantity of years. The different belongs to Phoebus Apollo Aviation, a South African pilot coaching college, based mostly at Rand airport in the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Attempts to contact this agency and verify the standing of the plane went unanswered, though the footage which can be publicly out there (together with these discovered on Google Earth) counsel it’s not match to fly.


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