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One of the first passenger jets, one of the last projects in 2020: Sud Aviation Caravelle, the flying beauty of the 60s!

As the poet Heinrich Heine put it so associatively and beautifully, “There is magic in every beginning”, and this can also be applied to this aircraft in a broad sense. The Sud Aviation Caravelle marks many a beginning for civil aviation and, I may say somewhat pathetically, is also the beginning of my own enthusiasm for aircraft.

But what about the inherent magic? Well, it can be read directly or between the lines in almost all descriptions of the Caravelle. There is a good reason for this, as will be described later.

The model

But let’s start at the beginning: although not the first, the SA Caravelle was one of the first jet-powered passenger aircraft to enter scheduled service. It only had to share the fame of being the first passenger jet with the De Havilland DH 106 Comet, with which it also had many other things in common.

In order to speed up the development of the Caravelle, which was equipped with a pressurised cabin, and also to make it safer, as was still believed at the time, the entire nose section, including the cockpit, was taken over more or less unchanged from the Comet. The experience gained with the Comet also helped in the final choice of engine.

Originally, three French SNECMA Atar engines were to be installed, but this was later changed in favour of Rolls & Royce Avon engines. The British engines were not only more powerful and thus allowed the reduction to two units, but were also considered more reliable than the French new developments due to their many years of use.

The Caravelle set new standards with the innovative mounting of the engine cells at the rear of the fuselage. The Avon turbines were not only able to work optimally here, but also kept the wings and fuselage aerodynamically clean in an exemplary manner. The Caravelle’s elegant and shapely lines, which are largely due to the ingenious positioning of the turbines, are a major aesthetic attraction.

However, the aerodynamic cleanliness not only gave the Caravelle an elegant appearance, but also ensured a high level of economy. The Caravelle was known as an excellent glider: with the engines fully cut back, it achieved a glide ratio of 20. A comparison illustrates the quality of this value: the Boeing 707 achieved 17 to 18, the Super Constellation 13 to 14.

The following example illustrates what such an excellent glide ratio could mean in concrete terms and in figures: During a test flight on 16 April 1959, after reaching an altitude of 12 000 metres over Orly at 14:03, the engines were shut down and the aircraft set course south-east towards the city of Dijon. After one and a half hours of gliding, the city was overflown at 15:00 at an altitude of 1600 metres. Only at 900 metres was the engine power increased again in order to land at the city’s airport a short time later. The take-off for this flight was, incidentally, for test purposes with only one engine. The Caravelle managed this without any problems and with flying colours.

By the way, I got this information from the book “Caravelle. Welcome aboard a legend” by Pascale Monmarson_Frémont and Veronique Damas-Peyraud, which I can only warmly recommend to anyone interested in the subject.

The tender that was to lead to the Caravelle was issued in 1951, and just five years later, on 25 May 1956, the maiden flight of the first of two prototypes built took place. One of the first customers was, of course, Air France, which used the Caravelle in scheduled service from 1959. The Scandinavian SAS and Alitalia were among the other owners who ordered larger numbers, each with 21 aircraft.

In addition, the Caravelle was flown by numerous European and non-European airlines and remained a familiar sight at airports around the world until the mid-1970s. Just how popular the Caravelle had become in the course of its career and the reputation France associated with this successful design became apparent in 1961 with the plans for a “Super Caravelle”.

Through many intermediate steps, this was to become the Franco-British joint production of the supersonic passenger aircraft Concorde. Of course, the Concorde had nothing in common with the Caravelle, but the naming proves how much the name Caravelle had become a synonym for a successful and worldwide known passenger aircraft.

My model shows the SA Caravelle “Ulf Viking” OY-KRD, one of the 21 Caravelle flown by Scandinavian Airlines/ SAS. The type was flown by SAS from 1959 onwards, the Caravelle was the first jet-powered type of this holder, along with the DC-8, which were procured in 1960.

About the kit
The markings for the “Ulf-Viking” come from the box of the kit reissued by Revell in 2007. The extensive and really great decal sheet, which also allows the design of some Swissair aircraft, is the only contemporary part of the kit.

The plastic parts are original from the early sixties; layout and finish of the mouldings leave no doubt about that. Proudly, an embossing on a not visible place of the parts for the wings shows the production date and thus its remarkable age: 1961.
So the parts date from the time when the original Caravelle was just beginning to win the hearts of passengers and airlines alike.

The layout of the parts is specific to the time, the chosen scale original: 1:100 is apparently explained by the standardised box size into which the aircraft parts had to fit. Since these circumstances would have made the depiction of an appropriately designed and detailed landing gear a pure “scratch-build”, I decided to depict the Caravelle in flight. This decision was all the easier, as the shapely lines of this classic would be all the more visible that way.

The construction was not complicated in the true sense of the word, but as the construction photos suggest, it required a little improvisational skill. The antennas were copied, everything else was taken from the kit.

At the beginning I announced my own biographical reference, which I do not want to owe. At the beginning of the 1970s, when I was still a child and followed my older brother’s modelling efforts as a tolerated “observer”, this kit of the Caravelle was one of my first encounters with a model aircraft. I can still remember the joy with which I followed the emergence of the elegant shapes- a joy with which the growing enthusiasm for aircraft of all kinds ignited! So this modelling project not only put a model of a really beautiful aircraft in my display case, but also brought me back to the beginning of my enthusiasm for modelling – and it still holds a magic for me today, for sure!

18 additional images. Click to enlarge.


7 responses to One of the first passenger jets, one of the last projects in 2020: Sud Aviation Caravelle, the flying beauty of the 60s!

  1. Well, you certainly turned that ancient kit into a marvelous modern model. I remember when United Air Lines used Caravelles here in the US.

  2. Great write-up and a beautiful looking model of this elegant and important airliner. Definitely liked.

  3. Thank you for your kind comments Tom and George!

  4. Amazing work on this old beauty, Roland!
    Looking really graceful on its base.
    Your supporting article was an absolute joy to read.
    Congratulations, my friend, and Happy New Year!

  5. Pics could fool me! Looks like the real McCoy! A few contrails and I would have bought it hook, line and sinker!

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