Convair 240 (T-29 / C-131A) 'Spirit of Modesto'
By kjfitz @ 2007-03-10 15:16:28
The Convair 240 was one of the first post World War II passenger transports. It entered airline service in June 1948 and was popular with airlines serving smaller cities where traffic did not support a larger aircraft. The Air Force had a need for a "flying classroom" for the training of navigators and radar navigator/bombardiers. After evaluation, Convair was given a contract for a version of the Model 240, designated as the T-29. It was equipped to train 10 navigators and 4 radar operators simultaneously and replaced the TB-25J. T-29s entered service in 1950. The Air Force also had a need for a new aircraft for medical and casualty transport. Convair developed a version of the 240 with a large cargo door on the left side aft of the wing to facilitate loading of litter patients. The first of 26 C-131A Samaritans was delivered in 1954. Convair developed the basic design further to the Model 340 and, later, the 440. Both had more powerful engines and increased wing area as well as increased payload allowed by a fuselage "stretch". Later models of the T-29 and C-131 were based on the 340/440 series. In the mid-1970s, 23 C-131As were refurbished and modified for service with the U. S. Coast Guard, newly designated as HC-131A.
The display aircraft was built as a civil model 240-11 in 1949 and initially served in Europe with Swissair. In 1956, it returned to the U.S. for service with Mohawk Air Lines until 1966, then went through a series of small corporate owners before being used by a travel club in Modesto. In 1979 it made an emergency landing in a corn field 3.7 miles short of the runway at Modesto airport. The aircraft was not damaged, but efforts to get it out of the field failed, mostly for economic reasons. In 2000, the landowner donated it to Castle Air Museum. Museum volunteers dismantled it and a house mover hauled it down Santa Fe Drive to the museum. Our volunteers have spent several thousand hours restoring it.
It is displayed as a Coast Guard HC-131A in tribute to the men and women of the U. S. Coast Guard, who provide search and rescue and maritime patrol, often under very hazardous conditions. The HC-131A served with the Coast Guard from 1976 until the last one was retired at CGAS Corpus Christi in 1983.