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Honeywell's Convair 580 Aircraft Retires after 67 Years

Honeywell's Convair 580 Aircraft Retires after 67 Years

Thousands of people have retired from distinguished careers at Honeywell around the age of 67, but our latest retirement is bittersweet in a different way. We’re not talking about a person, but rather a beloved aircraft with an epic history that spans seven decades.

Honeywell’s Convair 580 test aircraft took its last flight for us earlier this month, and it will soon make its way to Kelowna, British Columbia in Canada, where Barry Lapointe of KF Aerospace is planning an aviation museum. The aircraft leaves a legacy of helping Honeywell develop some of the most important safety innovations in the world of aviation.

There are estimated to be fewer than 100 Convairs left flying, and this aircraft was initially certified on Jan. 15, 1952. It was first put in service by United Airlines, it’s original owner, Sept. 2 of that year. The original Frontier Airlines of Denver, Colorado purchased the aircraft in August 1966, where the company had it converted to a Convair 580 with Allison turbo-prop engines.

The plane traded hands a few times in subsequent years (see timeline below) before Allied Signal purchased it in January 1992 and based it in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It wasn’t until 2000 that Allied-Signal and Honeywell merged, and from there it sported the N580HW as its tail number.

In Honeywell’s fleet, the Convair 580 aircraft was a workhorse in the area of weather radar development. The aircraft’s design made it capable of holding gear that is usually meant to be installed on larger commercial aircraft. Its interior was completely stripped to make room for multiple data centers and servers to record information collected during test flights. Honeywell Engineers would then take the recorded data and use it to create what is known today as the Enhanced Proximity Warning System (EPWS), Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), and the IntuVue RDR-4000 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 off the coast of Florida. The IntuVue RDR-4000 Weather Radar System is the world’s first airborne 3-D 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, pilots would also test the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) by flying directly toward mountain terrain. Pilots did that to confirm that warning signals were being activated once the aircraft was close in proximity with mountainous terrain. 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 heavy duty and has very reliable engines,” said Randy Moore, Chief Test Pilot for Honeywell Aerospace.

Over the past few decades, innovations tested on the Honeywell Convair 580 have helped lower 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, it’s time for the Convair 580 to turn in its wings. It will live on in the planned museum in Canada, and there it will be on display so others can share in its storied history.

Adam Kress
Director, External Communications


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