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Video - The Caravelle celebrates its 59th birthday

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59 years after its maiden flight, the Caravelle has taken on its livery again, that of a former French airline. This aircraft, the last produced by Sud-Aviation, will soon join the Aeroscopia Museum which is scheduled to open in the second half of 2014. An occasion for us to take a brief look at its history. At its inception in the mid-50's, it was the first mass-produced civilian twin-engined jet in the world, and the first to be equipped with an ''all weather'' landing system. Another unique feature, at the time, were its engines, located not on the wings, but at the rear of the fuselage.

 Jacques Rocca, Director - Airbus Heritage Department :

"In its time it was very innovative, allowing not only for an extremely fine wing, but one quite close to the ground too."

Before its entry into commercial service in 1959, the Caravelle also showed its aerodynamic potential. During a test flight, at an altitude of 1,600 metres ( 5,250 ft. ), the engines were set to idle, leaving the aircraft to glide for 46 minutes between Paris and Dijon. Inside - mind your head please - 80 to 130 passengers could be accomodated in the cabin, very close, finally, to those of today's commercial aircraft; and over a distance of up to 3,400 kilometres ( 2,100 miles ). One particularity was that it was possible to gain access not only through the normal side doors but also via an unusual access under the tail. However, the main negative point of the jet was the luggage compartment with a volume of only 16 m3 ( 565 cu.ft. ), almost half that found in today's short-haul's.

Jacques Rocca, Director - Airbus Heritage Department :

"At the time there were no international norms, and Sud Aviation had not accepted the international standards of luggage transportation etc.; so that was a choice that was fully taken into account in the design of the A-300."

At the end of its 19 years of production, 279 mass produced Caravelle's had been produced and in use by some 147 airlines. With competion in the 80's from the Douglas DC-9 and Boeing 727, the Caravelle became obsolete, leading to its airworthiness certificate being withdrawn in 2003. A lackluster success for this aircraft, therefore, which had at least one merit - the democratization of air travel.

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