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The aircraft arrived in December 1950. They were registered ET-T-20 'Eagle of Ethiopia' and ET-T-21 'Haile Selassie'. From January 1951 they operated routes connecting the capital, Addis Ababa, to Cairo, Nairobi, Jeddah, Dhahran and Karachi. By May 1952 the fleet included the two CV-240s and 9 DC-3/C-47s. Services to India and Sharjah ended in 1953 but a new management agreement was signed with TWA albeit one that saw an eventual transition to a company run entirely by Ethiopians. This eventually occurred from 1971.
A new service to Athens via Khartoum and Wadi Haifa began in April 1954. Expansion continued in 1956 with a third CV-240 acquired. This aircraft, ET-T-22 'The Spiritual Power', was purchased from SABENA (ex OO-AWV) and had previously been used by the oil company TEXACO. The Convairs were unusually equipped with JATO (jet assisted take-off) rocket packs. These were more usual on military aircraft of the era due to the limited thrust of available engines but were highly unusual on civilian airliners. The JATO system took the effect of underwing cannisters that fired for 12 seconds on take-off. The impact in a Convair must have been quite spectacular, however at full weight without them neither the runways at Addis Ababa or Asmara were long enough for the CV-240s given their 'hot and high' locations.
Operations with the JATO equipment were stopped when a mis-aligned cannister blew a hole in the wing of ET-T-21. By 1954 it was anyway clear that the Convairs were too small and in 1956 an order was placed for a pair of Douglas DC-6Bs (with an option for a third taken up later). These didn't enter service until 1958 (becoming ET-T-25, ET-T-27 and ET-T-56). The Convairs continued on regional routes with the ex-SABENA machine sold in 1960 followed by the original pair in 1964. By then the ET-T regos had been changed to ET (in 1962) with the Convairs becoming ET-AAV and AAW. The trusty DC-3 would continue to serve Ethiopian for many years well into the 1970s.
It is no doubt a further sign of Ethiopian's high quality operations that both of the original CV-240s after 14 years of service in relatively primitive and arid conditions could be sold back to the United States. Both joined the local service airline Central Airlines (AAW to N74856 and AAV to N74857). In April 1966 they were upgraded with turboprops to become CV-600s and in October 1967 became part of Frontier's fleet when Central was merged into that carrier. They were both purchased by California Airmotive in 1973 (N74856 served a lease to Mandala Sulewah Airlines of Indonesia as PK-RCR in 1970). Both were reregistered in 1975 (as N128AJ and N129AJ) and joined Midwest Air Charter in 1977. Only in death did the frames part as each was sold to separate operators for parts. N128AJ went to Bar Harbor in 1981 and N129AJ went to Wright Air Lines in 1983.
The Convair-liners, like the DC-3, regularly served for 30-50 years so these Ethiopian examples longevity was far from unusual. At least however the repeated JATO take-offs didn't weaken the robust structure of the airframes. For Ethiopian they provided a useful stepping stone between start-up ops and true long-haul services and helped set the firm basis for the carrier's continuing success.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: