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Blast from the Past: United's Convairs of the 1950s

November 9, 2011 at 1:50 PM | by | Comments (0)

If there's one great thing the ABC show Pan Am has done, it's get people wondering why air travel these days isn't as chic and easy as it was back then. Along with the obvious answer of need for greater security, attitudes in general have changed. Travelers now base flight decisions mainly on ticket price, whereas way back when—even before the jet age—airlines would sell passengers on the airplane type itself, plus in-flight service "just like on the ground."

Case in point: this United souvenir/commemorative sheet from 1952, showing their Mainliner Convair and its cabin. Most of the boasting focuses on tech aspects:

The Mainliner Convair contains the most modern air travel features including cabin pressurization for high-altitude comfort, and "C-Band Radar" which enables the pilot to see ahead 150 miles and choose a smooth path through the clouds. The sleek twin-engined Convair cruises at 270 miles an hour and carries 44 passengers, a crew of 2 pilots and 1 or 2 stewardesses, plus 2,800 pounds of mail, express and freight. The two Pratt and Whitney engines develop 4,800 horsepower on takeoff.

If you were flying United in the 1950s, odds are you knew what sort of plane you were on, which is so not the case now. And just for giggles, here's some contrasts between the Convair and a current Boeing 737-800:

Convair: 270 mph.
737: 603 mph.

Convair: 44 passengers
737: 162 or 189 passengers

Convair: 4,800 horsepower at takeoff
737: Can't be converted since planes don't even measure this in horsepower anymore. [source]

[Images: Jaunted]

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