Consolidated Vultee
Founded1943 (1943)
Defunct1996 (1996)
FateOperations shut down
Convair F-106 Delta Dart
Convair 880
RIM-2 Terrier antiaircraft missile on board USS Providence
Atlas rocket launching Friendship 7, the first U.S. crewed orbital space flight
Atlas-Centaur with Pioneer 10 on launch pad

Convair, previously Consolidated Vultee, was an American aircraft-manufacturing company that later expanded into rockets and spacecraft. The company was formed in 1943 by the merger of Consolidated Aircraft and Vultee Aircraft. In 1953, it was purchased by General Dynamics, and operated as their Convair Division for most of its corporate history.

Convair is best known for its military aircraft; it produced aircraft such as the Convair B-36 Peacemaker and Convair B-58 Hustler strategic bombers, and the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and Convair F-106 Delta Dart interceptors. It also manufactured the first Atlas rockets, including the rockets that were used for the crewed orbital flights of Project Mercury. The company's subsequent Atlas-Centaur design continued this success and derivatives of the design remain in use as of 2023.

The company also entered the jet airliner business with its Convair 880 and Convair 990 designs. These were smaller than contemporary aircraft like the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, but somewhat faster than both. This combination of features failed to find a profitable niche and the company exited the airliner design business. However, the manufacturing capability built up for these projects proved very profitable and the company became a major subcontractor for airliner fuselages. The jets made their first flights on January 27, 1959 and January 24, 1961 respectively. 65 and 37 examples of the Convair 880 and Convair 990 were produced respectively.

In 1994, most of the company's divisions were sold by General Dynamics to McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed, with the remaining components deactivated in 1996.[1]



Consolidated produced important aircraft in the early years of World War II, especially the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber and the PBY Catalina seaplane for the U.S. armed forces and their allies. Approximately 18,500 B-24s were produced by Consolidated and a number of major contractors across a number of versions; it holds records as the world's most-produced bomber, heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft, and American military aircraft in history. The Catalina remained in production through May 1945, and more than 4,000 were built.

What was soon called "Convair" (first unofficially, and then officially), was created in 1943 by the merger of the Consolidated Aircraft Company and the Vultee Aircraft Company. This merger produced a large airplane company, ranked fourth among United States corporations by value of wartime production contracts, higher than the giants Douglas Aircraft, Boeing, and Lockheed.[2] Convair always had most of its research, design, and manufacturing operations in San Diego County in Southern California, though surrounding counties participated as well, mostly as contractors to Convair.

Jet Age, Cold War, and Space Age

In March 1953, all of the Convair company was bought by the General Dynamics Corporation, a conglomerate of military and high-technology companies, and it became officially the Convair Division within General Dynamics.[3]

After the beginning of the Jet Age[citation needed] of military fighters and bombers, Convair was a pioneer of the delta-winged aircraft design, along with the French Dassault aircraft company, which designed and built the Mirage fighter planes.

One of Convair's most famous products was the ten-engined Convair B-36 strategic bomber, burning four turbojets and turning six pusher propellers driven by Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major radial piston engines. The Convair B-36 was the largest landbased piston engined bomber in the world. The Atlas missile, the F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart delta-winged interceptors, and the delta-winged B-58 Hustler supersonic intercontinental nuclear bomber were all Convair products. For a period of time in the 1960s, Convair manufactured its own line of jet commercial airliners, the Convair 880 and Convair 990 Coronado, but this did not turn out to be profitable. However, Convair found that it was profitable to be an aviation subcontractor and manufacture large subsections of airliners — such as fuselages — for the larger airliner companies, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, and Lockheed.

In the 1950s, Convair shifted money and effort to its missile and rocket projects, producing the Terrier missile ship-launched surface-to-air system for the U.S. Navy during the 1960s and 1970s. Convair's Atlas rocket, originally proposed in 1945 with a unique pressurized cylinder airframe, was revived in the 1950s as an ICBM for the U.S. Air Force using V-2 technology motors in response to the Soviet missile threat.[4] It was first launched in 1957 but its use as an ICBM was soon replaced in 1962 by the room-temperature liquid-fueled Titan II missile, and later by the solid-fueled Minuteman missile. The Atlas rocket transitioned into a civilian launch vehicle and was used for the first orbital crewed U.S. space flights during Project Mercury in 1962 and 1963.

The Atlas rocket became a very reliable booster for launching of satellites and continued to evolve, remaining in use into the 21st century, when combined with the Centaur upper stage to form the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle for launching geosynchronous communication satellites and space probes. The Centaur rocket was also designed, developed, and produced by Convair, and it was the first widely used outer space rocket to use the all-cryogenic fuel-oxidizer combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The use of this liquid hydrogen – liquid oxygen combination in the Centaur was an important direct precursor to the use of the same fuel-oxidizer combination in the Saturn S-II second stage and the Saturn S-IVB third stage of the gigantic Saturn V Moon rocket of the Apollo program. The S-IVB had earlier also been used as the second stage of the smaller Saturn IB rocket, such as the one used to launch Apollo 7. The Centaur upper stage was first designed and developed for launching the Surveyor lunar landers, beginning in 1966, to augment the delta-V of the Atlas rockets and give them enough payload capability to deliver the required mass of the Surveyors to the Moon.

More than 100 Convair-produced Atlas-Centaur rockets (including those with their successor designations) were used to successfully launch over 100 satellites, and among their many other outer-space missions, they launched the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 space probes, the first two to be launched on trajectories that carried them out of the Solar System.

In addition to aircraft, missiles, and space vehicles, Convair developed the large Charactron vacuum tubes, a form of cathode-ray tube (CRT) computer display with a shaped mask to form characters,[5] and to give an example of a minor product, the CORDIC algorithms, which is widely used today to calculate trigonometric functions in calculators, field-programmable gate arrays, and other small electronic systems.


General Dynamics announced the sale of the Missile Systems Division segment of Convair to Hughes Aircraft Company in May 1992[6] and the Space Systems Division segment to Martin Marietta in 1994.[7] In July 1994, General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas mutually agreed to terminate Convair's contract to provide fuselages for the 300-seat MD-11 airliner.[8] Manufacturing responsibility was to be transferred to McDonnell Douglas, which said it would not preserve the operation in San Diego. General Dynamics had tried for two years to sell the Aircraft structures segment of Convair unit, but the effort ultimately failed.

The termination of the contract meant the end of the Convair Division and of General Dynamics' presence in San Diego, as well as the city's long aircraft-building tradition. The defense contractor once employed 18,000 people there, but after selling its divisions, that number is now zero. General Dynamics closed its complex in Kearny Mesa, demolishing the facility between 1994 and 1996. Homes and offices now occupy the site. The Lindbergh Field plant that produced B-24s during World War II was also demolished and the consolidated rental car facility now occupies this space.

The Fort Worth, Texas factory, constructed to build the B-24s, and its associated engineering locations and laboratories — all previously used to make hundreds of Consolidated B-24s, General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark fighter-bombers and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons, along with dozens of smaller projects — were sold, along with all intellectual property and the legal rights to the products designed and built within, to the Lockheed Corporation.[9] In 1996, General Dynamics deactivated all of the remaining legal entities of the Convair Division.





Convair B-36 Peacemaker, which used both piston and jet engines in later versions
Convair CV-340
The Convair XF-92A was the first U.S. delta wing aircraft
Convair B-58 Hustler
Model name First flight Number built Type
Vultee XA-41 1944 1 Prototype single-engine (28-cyl. radial) ground attack aircraft
Consolidated Vultee XP-81 1945 2 Prototype combined turboprop/turbojet engine escort fighter
Convair 106 Skycoach 1946 1 Prototype single-engine (6-cyl. opposed-piston) general aviation aircraft
Stinson 108 1944 5,135 Single-engine (4-cyl. opposed-piston) general aviation aircraft
Convair Model 110 1946 1 Prototype twin-engine (18-cyl. radial) airliner
Convair Model 111 1940s 1 Prototype single-engine utility airplane
Convair Model 116 1946 1 Roadable aircraft
Convair B-36 1946 384 Combined piston/jet engine strategic bomber
Convair CV-240 1947 Twin-engine (18-cyl. radial) airliner
Convair XB-46 1947 1 Prototype four jet-engine medium bomber
Convair Model 118 1947 2 Roadable aircraft
Convair XC-99 1947 1 Prototype transport aircraft
Convair XF-92 1948 1 Experimental single jet engine interceptor aircraft
Convair C-131 Samaritan 1949 512 Twin-engine (18-cyl. radial) cargo aircraft
Convair CV-340 1951 Twin-engine (radial) airliner
Convair YB-60 1952 1 Prototype eight-engine jet strategic bomber
Convair F2Y Sea Dart 1953 5 Twin jet-engine fighter seaplane
Convair F-102 Delta Dagger 1953 1,000 Single jet-engine interceptor
Convair R3Y Tradewind 1954 13 Four turboprop-engine transport flying boat
Convair NC-131H TIFS 1970 1 In-Flight Simulation testbed aircraft
Convair NB-36H 1955 1 Experimental nuclear powered bomber
Convair XFY Pogo 1954 1 Experimental vertical takeoff and landing fighter
Convair CV-440 Metropolitan 1955 Twin-engine (radial) airliner
Convair B-58 Hustler 1956 116 Four jet-engine strategic bomber
Convair F-106 Delta Dart 1956 342 Single jet-engine interceptor
Convair 880 1959 65 Four jet-engine airliner
Convair 990 Coronado 1961 37 Four jet-engine airliner
Convair Model 48 Charger 1964 1 Prototype twin turboprop-engine light attack aircraft
Convair CV-600 1965 Twin turboprop-engine airliner
Convair CV-640 1965 Twin turboprop-engine airliner
Convair XB-53 N/A 0 Unbuilt triple jet-engine medium bomber
Convair X-6 N/A 0 Unbuilt experimental nuclear powered aircraft
Convair XP6Y N/A 0 Unbuilt combined piston/jet engine anti-submarine flying boat
Convair Kingfish N/A 0 Unbuilt twin jet-engine reconnaissance aircraft
Convair Model 23 N/A 0 Unbuilt twin jet-engine seaplane bomber
Convair Model 58-9 N/A 0 Unbuilt supersonic transport aircraft
Convair Model 49 N/A 0 Unbuilt three turboprop-engine coleopter
Convair 660 N/A 0 Unbuilt twin jet-engine airliner[17]
Convair Model 200 N/A 0 Unbuilt single jet-engine VTOL fighter aircraft

Missiles and rockets



  1. ^ "Saturn Launch Vehicle Toroidal Tank Development Program". Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  2. ^ Peck, Merton J. and Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p. 619
  3. ^ "General Dynamics Corporation". U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2006.
  4. ^ see Karel Bossart
  5. ^ "Charactron Tube". Computing at Chilton, of Atlas Computer Laboratory, Chilton, Oxfordshire. 5 August 2006. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2006.
  6. ^ "Archives". Los Angeles Times. 12 May 1992. Archived from the original on 11 December 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  7. ^ "The San Diego Union-Tribune - San Diego, California & National News". Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  8. ^ "Archives". Los Angeles Times. 2 July 1994. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Lockheed Buys General Dynamics | Lockheed to acquire jet division General Dynamics selling F-16 program - tribunedigital-baltimoresun". Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  10. ^ Textron Lycoming Turbine Engine Archived 3 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine, a company history of AVCO and Lycoming/Textron
  11. ^ Avco Financial Services, Inc. Archived 29 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine from the Lehman Brothers Collection – Twentieth Century Business Archives
  12. ^ Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation Archived June 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission
  13. ^ General Dynamics Corporation Archived November 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission
  14. ^ Central Manufacturing Co. of Connersville, Indiana Archived 25 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine, a history of Cord, AVCO, and others
  15. ^ "Atlas to sell big block of Convair stock". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. United Press. 31 March 1953. p. 17. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  16. ^ "General Dynamics, Vultee Directors Approve Merger". The Day. New London, Connecticut. 2 March 1954. p. 15. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  17. ^ "Convair 660". Flight International. 1967. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016.


  • Wegg, John (1990). General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books. ISBN 0-85177-833-X.
External videos
video icon Convair Heritage: History of General Dynamics/Consolidated/Convair