- Queen of the Honeywell flight test fleet helped pioneer some of the most advanced safety systems in aviation
- Aircraft logged more than 100,000 landings and will live on in planned museum
PHOENIX, May 16, 2019 — Honeywell (NYSE: HON) has retired its Convair 580 test aircraft after 67 years of service in flight, leaving behind a legacy of testing and helping bring to market some of the most advanced safety features in modern aviation. AlliedSignal acquired the venerable aircraft in 1992, and when the company merged with Honeywell in 2000, it remained in the test fleet until its final flight a month ago.
In Honeywell’s flight test fleet, the Convair 580 was a workhorse in many areas because the aircraft’s design made it capable of holding gear usually meant for installation on larger commercial aircraft. Its traditional passenger interior was stripped to make room for multiple data centers and servers to record information collected during test flights. Honeywell engineers used the recorded data to create what are known today as the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, and the IntuVue RDR-4000 Weather Radar System.
To test the accuracy of IntuVue and other radar systems, test flights were performed during real-life and highly dangerous scenarios. During the summer months, pilots would test the IntuVue RDR-4000 Weather Radar System by flying the Convair under and directly into thunderstorms over the Everglades and off the coast of Florida. The IntuVue RDR-4000 Weather Radar System is the world’s first airborne 3D weather radar. It is fully automated, allowing pilots to focus more on detection and analysis versus controlling the radar manually.
In addition to flying through thunderstorms, Convair pilots would fly directly toward mountainous terrain to test that the warning signals in the EGPWS were activating when the aircraft was too close to dangerous terrain features. Once the aircraft was near, pilots would hear warning signals such as “PULL UP” and “TERRAIN.”
“You have to have confidence in your aircraft to be around mountains, thunderstorms, and volcanos, because you’re flying so close to terrain, you’ll experience a lot of turbulence. Thankfully, the Convair is a heavy-duty aircraft and has very reliable engines,” said Randy Moore, chief test pilot for Honeywell Aerospace who has flown the company’s 580 since 2004. “I always thought of it like a 1952 Chevy pickup. That’s what the Convair was like.”
There are estimated to be fewer than 100 Convairs left flying. This aircraft was initially certified on January 15, 1952, as a Convair 340, not a 580. It was first put into service by United Airlines on September 2 of that year, and it had an uneventful run until late 1964. On December 30, 1964, the jet experienced a forced landing after both engines stopped because of fuel starvation. The plane landed safely in a field in a small town northwest of Los Angeles, and none of the 43 passengers or crew on board were injured.
The aircraft flew with United Airlines until it was acquired in August 1966 by the original Frontier Airlines of Denver, where the company had it converted to a Convair 580 with Allison turboprop engines. The plane traded hands a few times in subsequent years before AlliedSignal purchased it in January 1992 and based it in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It wasn’t until 2000 that AlliedSignal and Honeywell merged, passing the aircraft into Honeywell’s ownership, and from there it sported N580HW as its tail number and flew primarily out of Phoenix.
Over the past few decades, innovations tested on the Honeywell Convair 580 have helped reduce the number of passenger fatalities to all-time lows. But with 67 years of flying experience, 67,000 total flight hours, and a staggering 103,000 landings, the time has come for N580HW to retire from its day job. It is expected to soon make its way to Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, where Barry Lapointe, chairman and CEO of KF Aerospace, is planning an aviation museum where it would be displayed so others can share in its storied history.
Honeywell Aerospace products and services are found on virtually every commercial, defense and space aircraft. The Aerospace business unit builds aircraft engines, cockpit and cabin electronics, wireless connectivity systems, mechanical components and more. Its hardware and software solutions create more fuel-efficient aircraft, more direct and on-time flights and safer skies and airports. For more information, visit www.honeywell.com or follow us at @Honeywell_Aero.
Honeywell (www.honeywell.com) is a Fortune 100 technology company that delivers industry-specific solutions that include aerospace products and services; control technologies for buildings and industry; and performance materials globally. Our technologies help everything from aircraft, buildings, manufacturing plants, supply chains, and workers become more connected to make our world smarter, safer, and more sustainable. For more news and information on Honeywell, please visit www.honeywell.com/newsroom.