11/30/2009. When General Dynamics, then the parent company of Canadair, phased out the Convair CV-440 twin-piston-engined civil transport to make room at San Diego for Convair CV-880 production lines, Canadair acquired the remaining unsold CV-440s and the production jigs and tools. At that time, Napier, the British aero-engine manufacturer, was offering conversion programs to re-engine Convair 340s and 440s with the small-diameter, single-shaft 3,500 shp Eland propeller-turbine.
Canadair planned to re-engine and sell the three CV-440s which had been inherited; to build Eland-engined CV-440s on the Convair jigs; and to design and build a modified all-cargo version with these engines. At the time, in the late 1950s, following the success of the propeller-turbine Vickers Viscount civil transport, the program seemed to be sound enough, with a guaranteed future production.
The re-engined CV-440s were designated Convair CV-540s and the new aircraft were given the Canadair designation CL-66. The three variants were the CV-540A (CL-66A), which was to be a 48 to 64-passenger version; the CV-540B (CL-66B), a cargo and passenger version with a reinforced floor, a wide loading door aft and a payload of 14,300 lb (6,486 kg); and the CV-540C (CL-66C), which was the provisional designation for the inherited CV-440s when re-engined as pre-production aircraft.
The first of these, civil-registered CF-LMA (originally serialed 11106), made its initial flight, in the hands of W. Longhurst and G.T. McLean, on February 2, 1959. This, and/or one of two other CV-540s, CF-LMN (11108) and CF-MKO (11107), made extensive demonstration tours in North and South America during the following May, and in Europe during June. One of them was introduced experimentally into service during July by the local-service carrier, Allegheny Airlines (later merged into USAir).
The first and only contract for a production version came from the Canadian Government, with an order for ten CL-66Bs, serialed 11151-11160, for RCAF Air Transport Command. These were powered by 3,500 eshp Eland NE1.6 Mk 504s. The first was test-flown by G.T. McLean on January 7, 1960, and delivered to the RCAF on April 19. One of the 540Cs, probably CF-LMA, was used for crew-training before delivery of the CL-66Bs, or CC-109s, to use their RCAF designation.
Two, or possibly three, CV-540Cs were operated for a short time by Quebecair. These have been recorded as being delivered to the airline on August 24 (CF-LMN), December 2 (CF-LMA) and December 31, 1960
(CF-MKO), but only two were in service during 1961 and none in 1962. They were returned to Canadair, taken over by the RCAF and reserialed 11161 (CF-LMN), 11162 (CF-LMA) and 11163 (CF-MKO).
As they were non-standard in relation to the CL-66Bs, two (CF-MKO and
CF-LMN) were sold to Allison, the engine company, which re-engined them with its propeller-turbines and sold them to the local-service carrier, North Central Airlines (later merged with Southern Airways as Republic Airlines); CF-LMA was sold to a broker, similarly re-engined and re-sold to Avensa, the Venezuelan carrier. With their Allison engines the CY-540s became CY-580s.
Of the ten RCAF CL-66Bs, eight were also re-engined with Allisons in 1966. Two others (11155 and 11158) were used for spares and another (11153) was destroyed in an oxygen fire during maintenance. The remainder were still in service with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 1973, subsequently they were replaced by the CC-142 Dash 8 and CC-144 Challenger.
109156 was delivered June 21, 1960 with s/n 11156, in 1966 re-engined by PacAero at Burbank, California, USA, with 3,750 eshp Allison 501-D13D turboprop engines (civil version of the military T56). Renumbered 109156 when taken over by CAF on May 26, 1970, withdrawn from use in June 1994 and stored at Air Maintenance Development Unit, CFB Trenton, Ontario.
In 1996 on Canadian Registry as C-FNCV, subsequently to USA as N987L, to Kenia as 5Y-BNV, and Rwanda as 9XR-NB (where it was registered to Central African Cargo, based at Lanseria, South Africa). Reportedly it was destroyed while owned by Canadian in Swaziland as 3D-ZOE.