The Sud-Aviation SE-210 Caravelle
The dawn of the 1950s marked the dawn of the jet age. While the world cautiously watched the de Havilland DH.106 Comet take to the sky for the first time on July 27, 1949 with its gleaming, silver fuselage and modestly-swept wings, so, too, did France. Aside from assessing its performance and passenger appeal, it wondered if this new pure-jet technology, devoid of vibration-producing propellers, was applicable for short-range routes, hitherto the realm of piston and turboprop aircraft.
As far as long-range sectors were concerned, they eventually became the threshold to this technology with the likes of the Tupolev Tu-104–for a period the only jetliner to offer sustained, scheduled service after the Comet’s insufficient skin gauges resulted in several inflight explosions and necessitated its grounding; the Boeing 707, which evolved from the narrower 367-80 prototype; and the similarly configured Douglas DC-8.
The intermediate-range Convair 880 and Boeing 720, which retained the conventional wing pylon-mounted configuration and resultantly appeared little different than the first-generation quad-jets, had yet to fly; and de Havilland’s DH.121 Trident, which later became a Hawker Siddeley program and featured its novel aft-mounted engine and t-tail arrangement, hat yet to be conceptualized. Yet France foresaw this technology’s application on lower-capacity, shorter stage length routes.
It also saw such a smaller jetliner as something else-a symbol of the country’s post-war commercial aircraft manufacturing resurgence and a way of regaining prominence. Although it endeavored to fill a virgin market and such conditions seemed to tip the scales in its favor, there were several factors that wrestled to do the opposite.
First and foremost, the proven reliability of the pure-turbine engine had yet to be proven, especially in the mid-1950s. It was loud, fuel-thirsty, and range-deteriorating, as demonstrated by the initial Comet 1, which had a 1,500-mile range at best.
Applicable engine capability was also a shortcoming, since the Comet’s original 5,000 thrust-pound de Havilland Ghost powerplants were woefully inadequate.
Finally, it was questioned whether the speed on short- to medium-range routes, particularly those from Paris to European cities, could be exploited to significantly decrease the block times of those covered by piston and turboprop equipment. Could such a design furthermore be profitable?
Aside from the Comet’s need to increase fuselage skin gauges to cater to significantly increased internal pressurization required for cruises at altitudes as high as 40,000 feet, the British aircraft industry taught-or would teach-two other lessons.
1). Although Vickers needed to design its heavier, overengineered VC10 to cater to BOAC’s operation to high-temperature and -elevation and short-field Empire airports, it was more expensive to operate and therefore found limited airline application.
2). De Havilland’s-and, later, Hawker Siddeley’s-request to scale down the Trident to meet launch customer British European Airways’ (BEA’s) needs resulted in a design that was exclusively geared to it and not the world market, attracting 117 sales of all of its versions as opposed to the 1,832 of the comparable Boeing 727, also a tri-jet.
As a result, France was painfully aware that it needed to design its proposal for the world’s airline needs and not just national carrier Air France’s.
Speed, at this point, took on a dual purpose-namely, the speed at which a short-range jetliner could fly and the speed at which it could be designed to become the first in this market and therefore avoid any competition.
Its seed was planted as early as November 5, 1951-or two years after the Comet first flew-when the French Ministry of Civil Aviation (SGACC) issued specifications for a “moyen courier,” or “medium-range” airliner capable of carrying a 12,000- to 14,000-pound payload at speeds between 380 and 435 mph on sectors not exceeding 1,200 miles and, above all, be consistent with world airline needs.
Although eight French aircraft manufacturers responded with twin-, tri-, and quad-engine turboprop and pure-jet proposals, the one submitted by the Societe National de Constructions Aeronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) and designated X.210 most closely conformed to the SGACC’s requirements.
The X.210, powered by three aft-mounted, French designed, 6,600 thrust-pound SNECMA Atar turbojets in the same configuration as that later featured by the HS.121 Trident and the 727, was a small-capacity, 60-passenger airliner and was selected by the Secretariat d’Etat a l’Air the following year, in September of 1952. It was subsequently awarded a contract for two government-funded prototypes and two test airframes
The SNCASE or, simply, Sud-Est, X.210 design had intermittently evolved. When the more capable Rolls Royce RA.16 Avon turbojet became available, it made the simpler twin-jet configuration possible, eliminating both the third engine and the grouping’s greater aerodynamic complexity and structural weight. Now aft fuselage-mounted, the two turbojets would avoid horizontal tail exhaust interference with a semi t-tail.
Because of the Avon’s greater reliability and advancement over the originally conceived Atar’s, it was considered instrumental in the aircraft’s simplicity. Designed by Pierre Satre, it was redesignated the Sud-Est SE.210 in February of 1953 and named “Caravelle” after the small 15th- and 16th-century sailing ships that connected cities by sea, a role it was intended to fill by air.
As then envisioned, it was to have accommodated 52 dual-class passengers in a cabin wide enough for five-abreast coach seating.
In order to further reduce the program’s risk, Sud-Est used the Comet 1’s cockpit and forward fuselage, for which it paid a royalty. Although these sections were equipped with British parts, such as the windshield, they were produced in France and mostly consisted of French equipment, systems, and instruments.
Its wings were also not unlike those of the Comet, but were of a much higher aspect ratio to reduce drag, especially during initial climb. This feature, combined with a clean, uninterrupted wing planform, facilitated takeoffs on little more than half the DH.106’s power, yet enabled the aircraft to become airborne during one engine-out conditions.
The prototype, powered by two 10,000 thrust-pound Rolls Royce RA.26 Mk 521 Avon turbojets, offering a 1,580-square-foot wing area and, provisioned with a cargo door on its forward left, side, first flew from Toulouse on May 27, 1955, in the process notching up several “firsts.” It was the first short-range, low-capacity jetliner; the first French-designed jetliner; and the first aft engine-mounted one, taking to the sky well before the Vickers VC10, the Ilyushin Il-62, the Hawker Siddeley HS.121 Trident, and the Boeing 727. It was, in fact, only the third pure-turbine airliner to do so after the Comet and the 367-80, although the latter was also intended for military tanker-transport purposes.
Despite these milestones, the Caravelle faced heavy criticism because of its early appearance. Indeed, at the time, many doubted if the pure-jet engine was appropriate for long-range routes, much less those of a shorter nature, and they questioned if its higher fuel burn could result in economical operation. Since it had yet to prove itself in a quad configuration, it was particularly doubted if it could so in a twin one. Finally, because of its unique, aft-mounting and semi t-tail arrangement, it was wondered whether this aerodynamic efficacy had been fully understood and tested.
Yet, despite these negative views, Air France apparently transcended them and expressed its ultimate confidence when it placed a 12-strong launch order on November 16, 1955. It strongly believed that passengers would ultimately expect the same jet speed and comfort on short-range routes as would shortly be offered on long ones with the likes of the Comet and the emerging 707. With the Caravelle’s lower passenger capacity and only half the number of engines, it saw it as ideal for its high-frequency, inter-European services from its Paris home base. Its speed, in fact, would enable it to offer two daily roundtrips on longer sectors, such as those to North Africa.
After the second prototype first flew on May 6, 1956, several route-proving flights, in freighter configuration, were operated between Paris and Algiers. Because the Caravelle represented both a new configuration and concept, its development and flight test period was lengthy, during which it was demonstrated to the world market, often alongside the Comet and, later, the 707.
The result, which was partially due to the gradual acceptance of this technology on its originally intended longer stage lengths, was its second-and first foreign-order for six, with 19 on option, from SAS Scandinavian Airline System in June of 1957. In February of the previous year, Air France had also doubled its order, from twelve to 24.
Emerging into the world of four-engine, long-range jetliners, the Sud-Aviation SE.210 Caravelle, with half the number of powerplants and its unique semi-t-tail, served as the threshold to a market that was only the realm of propellers, resultantly generating the question of whether it could fill a market that did not exist or create one that eventually did.
The initial production version of the Caravelle, with an all-metal monocoque, circular-section, pressurized fuselage, was four-feet, 7.5-inches longer than that of the prototype, giving it a 105-foot overall length, a 10.6-foot width, and a 28.7-foot height. Employing the cockpit and forward section of the Comet 1, as previously stated, it sported four forward-facing, slit-resembling windows and two on either side, the first of which was triangular and the second of which was rectangular in shape.
A row of also triangular-shaped passenger windows ran down either of the fuselage’s sides, from either the forward, left passenger or forward, right galley servicing doors, to the aft, fuselage-mounted engines. The uniquely shaped windows themselves provided the same downward view as either square or rectangular ones, but at the same time avoided the stress-prone sharp cutouts of those used by the DH.106 1 and 1A.
The fuselage also featured a long, thin dorsal fin, which almost appeared as if it were an extension of and therefore an integral part of the vertical tail, but housed avionics aerials, although a dozen production aircraft lacked it.
The three-spar, all-metal, two-section wings, which were joined at the fuselage center line, had cambered leading edges, an 8.02 aspect ratio, three degrees of dihedral, 20 degrees of sweepback, a 112.6-foot span, and a 1,579-square-foot area. Its leading edge, which was devoid of high-lift slats or flaps, was thermally deiced. Two sawcut fixes, located on the upper, outer surface of each wing, assured straight air flows.
Low-speed lift was attained by means of a single, continuous-span, single-slotted, hydraulically actuated trailing edge Fowler flap, whose 265.8-square-foot area covered 58-percent of the span from the fuselage mating point. It could alternatively be operated by an electrical backup system.
Each airfoil was also provisioned with two-section ailerons, which themselves were operated by dual hydraulic units and covered an 84.4-square-foot area. Hydraulically jack-operated “lace edged” airbrakes, similar to those of the later-appearing Vickers VC10, were installed on both the wings’ upper and lower surfaces and extended after touchdown to spoil any remaining lift.
The mid-set horizontal stabilizer, which was of all-metal construction and thermally deiced, had a 30-degree sweepback, a 34.9-foot span, and a 232-square-foot area, 69.4 square feet of which consisted of hydraulically-actuated elevators. These could alternatively be operated off of an electrical backup system.
The swept-back vertical tail, which had a 107.6-square-foot area, was equipped with a 59.2-square-foot, hydraulically-actuated rudder, which itself could be reverted to electrical backup power
The tailplane’s fully powered controls, manufactured by the British Lockheed (Automotive Products) Company, were similar to those installed on the Comet.
The semi-t-tail, employed to facilitate the aft engine mounting and avoid potential exhaust interference with its surfaces, was considered a compromise over the full configuration, avoiding the aerodynamic problems that were associated with the Trident and the 727.
Power was provided by two 10,500 thrust-pound, nacelle-encased, reverse thruster-devoid Rolls Royce RA.29 Mk 522 Avon turbojets based upon the ones designed for the later and larger, Comet 2 and 3, the latter of which only served as the test vehicle for the ultimate Comet 4. Engine installation served two primary purposes: To leave the wings aerodynamically clean and without pylon interruption, and to create a quieter passenger cabin. The former, particularly, endowed it with significant lift and short-field capability, despite its twin powerplant configuration, and enabled it to operate from shorter runway airfields. Lower fuel consumption and operating costs were byproducts of it.
The aircraft’s 4,068-Imperial gallon fuel capacity was carried in wing-integral tanks.
A hydraulically-actuated tricycle undercarriage, consisting of a forward-retracting nose and two quad-wheel, laterally-retracting main units, was equipped with Hispano shock absorbers. The main wheel base was 38.7 feet.
Entrance was provided by three main doors. There were also four overwing emergency exits.
Although the number of cockpit engine instruments were half those of the Comet’s, the Caravelle’s flight deck was otherwise similar and it was certified for both two- and three-member operation. Elimination of the standard flight engineer aided in the aircraft’s economics.
Featuring a 73-foot, 8.5-inch overall length, excluding the cockpit, an 8.11-foot width, and a 6.7-foot height, the production version’s cabin afforded increased volume for passenger accommodation and was typically provisioned with a forward, right galley, which itself was equipped with heating ovens, ice-contained cooling units, meal tray storage compartments, a beverage cart, a chrome counter, a coffee maker, and varying sized drawers and cabinets for utensil, cup, glass, napkin, and canned item storage. It facilitated the service of hot or cold meals or snacks to all passengers.
Classes, cabins, and densities varied according to customer, ranging from 64 four-abreast, first class ones to 80 dual-class ones, the latter consisting of 16 four-abreast first and 64 five-abreast coach passengers. A single-class, high density charter or inclusive tour arrangement resulted in 99 five-abreast seats at a 29-inch pitch. Intended as a low-capacity, short-range twin-jet, the Caravelle thus accommodated half the number of passengers that the long-range quad-jets did on half the number of powerplants.
The triangularly-shaped windows were usually curtained.
Two lavatories and a garment storage closet were standardly installed in the tail, but a second galley could be optionally chosen for installation there.
Baggage, cargo, and mail were carried in two heated, lighted, and pressurized lower-deck holds accessed by three- by 2.6-foot starboard hatches and collectively encompassing a 339-cubic-foot volume. Because of the aircraft’s low relation to the ground, these waste-high points could be accessed without ground equipment.
The Caravelle, with higher weights than those of the prototype, featured an 18,453-pound payload and, respectively, 51,600-, 77,162-, and 95,900-pound empty, zero-fuel, and gross weights. Cruising speed, at a 32,800-foot altitude, was 456 mph and range, with reserves and its full payload, was 1,150 miles. Landing, at its maximum, 91,340-pound landing weight, it required a 3,050-foot runway, despite its absence of thrust reversers.
FIRST FLIGHT AND SERVICE ENTRY
. The first production Caravelle I took to the skies for the first time on May 18, 1958 and was delivered to launch customer Air France the following year on March 19, shortly followed by handover to SAS for precertification crew familiarization training. French certification itself occurred on April 2, 1959, coinciding with the first official delivery.
Although Air France had placed the initial order for 12 aircraft, SAS, which itself had purchased half a dozen, took the title of inaugural operator of the world’s first short-range twin-jet when it placed the third production aircraft, LN-KLH, into service on April 26, 1959 between Copenhagen and Cairo via several intermediate stops.
Air France, which had already taken delivery of the first wo production Caravelle Is and used them for crew training and route proving, followed suit on May 6 between Paris and Istanbul with aircraft F-BHRA “Alsace.”
A new era in commercial aviation had, in the process, dawned, and the Caravelle’s appearance in the sky sparked several far-reaching effects.
First and foremost, the same way that the low-wing, twin-engine Boeing B247 monoplane established the standard configuration for modern airliners during the piston era, so, too, did the SE.210 during the twin-jet era, with its characteristic clean, swept wings, aft-mounted engines, and cross of Loraine tail, becoming the first in a series of similar designs that included the British Aircraft Corporation BAC-111, the Tupolev Tu-134, the McDonnell-Douglas DC-9, and the Fokker F.28 Fellowship. The same layout was employed by the Hawker Siddeley HS.121, the Boeing 727, the Tupolev Tu-154 and the Yakovlev Yak-42, although each featured a third, vertical tail-installed powerplant.
Because the Caravelle blazed the aerial trail, it can, perhaps, be singularly and significantly credited with gaining passenger and airline acceptance for operation within this market. Advanced in both concept and design, it exerted the same impact on it as the first-generation quad-jets did in the long-range one.
Usually introducing pure-jet travel to airports that had thus far only received piston or turboprop service, it gained overwhelming passenger acceptance because of its speed, vibrationless cruise, and comfort, as evidenced by Air France’s operation on the Paris-London-Nice route on July 27, 1959 in competition with BEA’s turboprop Vickers Viscounts and Vanguards. Passengers flocked to the jet equipment, generating consistently higher load factors than they did on the propeller aircraft, dispelling the myth that turbine technology could not be profitable on such sectors.
After a year of service, during which Air France had amassed a considerably sized fleet, it had carried 282,000 passengers on it, and within two years, the Caravelle radiated from Paris to European, North African, and Middle Eastern cities, bestowing the carrier with the title of becoming the first short-range jet operator.
Nineteen of the original production Caravelle Is were ultimately produced.
A subvariant, powered by two uprated Rolls Royce RA.29/1 Mk 526 Avon engines and designated SE.210-IA, was offered, but it otherwise remained identical to the initial production version. Of the 13 of these that were built, the first flew on Funerary 11, 1960.
THE CARAVELLE III
Although only produced in paltry numbers, the Caravelle 1A nevertheless demonstrated the fact that improvements could considerably increase the basic design’s payload and range and prompted a more significantly modified version, the Caravelle III. Sparked by an order from Alitalia, it introduced uprated, 11,400 thrust-pounds RA.29/3 Mk 527 or 527B engines, a 19,000-liter fuel capacity carried in four wing integral tanks, and an electric starter for ground self-sufficiency at ill-equipped airports. It was later retrofitted with a Sud-Lear all-weather system that facilitated certification for Category IIIA landings, consisting of 50-foot decision heights and a 700-foot runway visual ranges (RVR).
First flying on December 30, 1959, it featured higher weights, including payload, empty, zero-fuel, and takeoff weights, respectively, of 18,453, 52,740, 78,265, and 101,413 pounds. Both cruising speed and range also increased-in this case to 481 mph at a 32,800-foot altitude and 1,450 miles with its maximum payload and typical reserves. Its new, 96,563-pound landing weight required a 3,543-foot runway.
These modifications were implemented with the 24th production airframe and Alitalia took delivery of the first Caravelle III in April of 1960. Eighteen of the original 19 SE.210 Is and all 13 of the subsequent SE.210 IAs were converted to this standard, resulting in an original and modified production run of 78 aircraft that were operated by multiple major carriers, including Aerotour, Air Algerie, Air Burundi, Air Cambodge, Air France, Air Inter, Air Laos, Air Liban, Air Vietnam, Avensa, Centafricair, China Airlines of Taiwan, Finnair, Garett Corporation, General Electric, Inex Adria, Lufttransport-Unternehmen (LTU), Middle East Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, the Rwanda Government, Sabena, SAS, the Senegal Government, SMFA (the French Civil Aviation Department), STAe (the French Defense Ministry), Swissair, the Swedish Air Force, Thai International, Transavia Holland, Transunion, Tunis Air, and Varig Brazilian Airlines.
Lauded by passengers and airlines alike, the Caravelle, quickly replaced both piston and turboprop types and became the European airlines’ workhorse.
THE CARAVELLE VIN AND VIR
As a result of specifications issued by Sabena, Sud-Aviation developed another version, the SE.210-VIN, which once again strove to offer improved performance. Powered by 12,200 thrust-pound Rolls Royce RA.29 Mk 531 Avon engines, it featured both payload and gross weight increases-to 18,453 and 105,822 pounds, respectively. Both cruising speed and range also increased-to 513 mph and 1,535 miles.
First flying on September 10, 1960, the new version, with a 100,751-pound maximum landing weight that required a 3,740-runway, was delivered to Sabena Belgian World Airlines the following January. The 53 eventually produced were operated by numerous worldwide carriers, including Aerolineas Argentinas, Aerotur, Alitalia, Air Algerie, Air Charter (of France), Air Lease International, the Argentine Air Force, CATAIR (again of France), Indian Airlines, JAT, Middle East Airlines, Minerve, Sabena, Saeta (of Ecuador), SAM (of Italy), Sobelair, and Transavia Holland.
The SE.210-VIR, prompted by a landmark order from United Airlines, offered increased cockpit visibility attained with four larger side windows; greater engine capability with 12,600 thrust-pound RA.29 Mk 532R or 533R engines; shorter deceleration runs with thrust reverser provision; increased engine sound absorption; and upper wing surface spoilers to more effectively transfer the aircraft’s weight from its airfoils to its undercarriage after touchdown, increasing braking effectiveness.
The 56 Caravelle VIRs built were operated by the likes of Aerotal of Colombia, Air Gabon, the Atlanta Skylark Club in the US, Austrian Airlines, Aviaco, BLAS of Belgium, Catair, Cruzeiro do Sul of Brazil, Euralair, Far Eastern Air Transport of Taiwan, Filipinas Airways, LAN-Chile, Litton Industries, Luxair, Libyan Arab Airlines, Minerve, Panair do Brasil, Ron Clark Enterprises of the US, Sanair of Ecuador, SPAe, Sterling of Denmark, TAC of Colombia, TAP Air Portugal, and Transavia Holland.
THE CARAVELLE 10B AND 10R
Aborted Caravelle VII and 10A attempts led to Sud-Aviation’s next version, which incorporated some of their features. Designated SE.210-10B, it introduced a three-foot, 3.5-inch fuselage stretch, for a new, 108-foot, 3.5-inch overall length; a raised passenger window line; a 76-foot, 11.5-inch cabin for capacities that ranged from 68 four-abreast first and 86 mixed to 104 single-class five-abreast; and a collective 423-cubic-foot below-deck hold volume.
Aerodynamically, the new variant incorporated a modified wing leading edge, which was extended forward adjacent to the root, and trailing edge double-slotted Folwer flaps, which were extended ten additional degrees, to the 45-cegree position. A 4.7-foot horizontal stabilizer span increase resulted in a new 39.4-foot span and a bullet fairing was installed at the rudder and elevator mating point.
The Rolls Royce Avon engines were replaced for the first time with a new power source-in this case, 14,000 thrust-pound, thrust reverser-equipped Pratt and Whitney JT8D-1 or -7 low bypass ratio turbofans, or the same ones that powered the now-competing Douglas DC-9. An optional center section fuel tank raised the capacity to 22,000 liters.
The type also introduced several new systems, including constant frequency electric power, variable delivery hydraulic pumps, and a self-contained auxiliary power unit (APU), which provided power for cabin air conditioning, lighting, pressurization, and engine starting, facilitating operation from limited-facility airfields and improving dispatch reliability from full-equipped ones.
Alternatively known as the Horizon B or Super B, the Caravelle 10B, first appearing with the 169th airframe, offered both improved performance and 10- to 15-percent lower operating costs.
The first “Super” Caravelle 10B first flew in prototype form on March 3, 1964 and was subsequently delivered, as the 181st aircraft produced, to launch customer Finnair four months later, on July 25. It inaugurated it into service on August 16.
Sud-Aviation increased the aircraft’s versatility by combining the SE.210-VIR’s short fuselage with the SE.210-10B’s 14,000 thrust-pound JT8D-7 turbofans. Designated Caravelle 10R, it incorporated Sud-Aviation designed cascade thrust reversers, which provided more effective deceleration after touchdown, and introduced vertical floor bracing struts to replace the original slanting ones, increasing combined below-deck hold volume from 339 to 374 cubic feet to facilitate greater baggage and cargo storage.
First flying on January 18, 1965, this foreshortened variant offered the same 114,600- and 119,050-pounsd gross weights as the longer Caravelle 10B, the first of which introduced a new, 20,720-pound payload capability. Requiring a 6,400-foot runway at the first of the two weights, it could achieve a 497-mph cruse speed at 25,000 feet.
THE CARAVELLE 11R
Ever striving to increase the aircraft’s versatility, Sud-Aviation developed a second Super Caravelle version based upon the SE.210-10R.
Designated SE.210-11R, it was intended for operators requiring increased cargo space on short- to medium-range routes and as a result introduced a 36.6-inch forward fuselage stretch, resulting in a new 107.4-foot overall length; a forward, left, upward-opening, main deck door; and a cabin floor strength increase from 123 to 205 pounds per square foot over a 29.6-foot-long area. Provisioned with a moveable divider, the internal space resulted in a new 76-foot, 8.5-inch cabin length and both floor area and volume increases to, respectively, 670 square feet and 4,379 cubic feet. Freight attachment rails increased from a former four to a current seven.
The version’s inherent main deck passenger and cargo load capability resulted in several mixtures, including 1,642 cubic feet of forward freight and 12 four-abreast first class and 50 five-abreast coach seats, the latter reached by ventral airstair and door boarding. Another ratio entailed 2,331 cubic feet of cargo and 50 economy passengers.
As a pure-freighter, it accommodated a 20,050-pound payload in 4,061-cubic feet of internal, upper and lower deck space.
Power was provided by the Caravelle 10R’s 14,000 thrust-pound JT8D-7 engines, which offered improved high-temperature and climb performance over the JT8D-1s originally fitted to the SE.210-10B.
First taking to the skies on April 21, 1967, the version entered scheduled service five months later on September 22. The combi variant appeared with manufacturer’s empty, zero-fuel, and maximum takeoff weights of, respectively, 63,585, 88,185, and 114,600 pounds, although, as had occurred with its predecessor, a 119,050-pound maximum was optimally available as of March 31, 1969 with some degree of structural strengthening. Range varied from 1,430 to 1,740 miles, depending upon the chosen weight. The Caravelle 10R’s 109,130-pound maximum landing weight remained the same.
Although the version was the most flexible of the others, only six were, in the end, built and operated by Air Afrique, Air Zaire, COTAM, and Transeuropa.
THE CARAVELLE 12
Sterling Airways, always envisioning the SE.210’s fullest operating potential, served as the catalyst to the last and largest of its Super versions, the Caravelle 12.
First announced in 1969, it introduced six-foot, 6.75-inch forward and three-foot, 11.5-inch after fuselage extensions, resulting in a new 118.10-foot overall length. In order to cater to its weight distribution, the center fuselage section above the wing was strengthened, while other modifications included the addition of two overwing emergency exists and a cabin reconfiguration.
With a 72.11-foot length or 87.5-foot one if the aft lavatories and compartments were included, a 766.4-square-foot floor area, and 5,015-cubic-foot volume, it became the largest-capacity variant.
Internal configuration, class, and density varied, as always, according to customer. A typically mixed one entailed 16 four-abreast first class seats at a 38-inch pitch and 88 five-abreast coach seats at a 34-inch pitch. Single-class arrangements included 118 at a 34-inch pitch, 128 at a 32-inch pitch (consisting of a forward, right galley, 12 forward rows, three well-spaced ones over the wings, nine rows aft, two four-abreast one in the extreme tail, and two aft lavatories), and 139 at a 29-inch pitch, resulting in a 139-passenger capacity. The latter exceeded that of the Hawker Siddeley HS.121 Trident 1/1E, the Boeing 727-100, and the Boeing 737-200, and fully equaled the DC-9-50’s, the ultimate stretch of that basic design.
Other fuselage-producing increases included a 48-foot, 6.5-inch wheelbase and a collective 556-cubic floor underfloor baggage and cargo hold volume, subdivided into 395- forward and 161-aft cubic-foot compartments.
First flying on October 29, 1970 with a lower, 119,500-pound gross weight that was only later increased to the figure quoted above, it was granted its type approval the following year on March 12 and was inaugurated into service by launch customer Sterling Airways on March 20.
It configured its “Super Star Caravelles” with 131 five-abreast, single-class seats, but 90 in a four-abreast “President” interior could be optionally chosen by inclusive tour groups. As then the world’s largest private air charter company, Sterling counted 29 SE.210-10Bs and -12s in its fleet in 1972, its first decade anniversary, and had carried two million passengers the preceding year.
Although the Caravelle 12, which was ultimately certified for a 127,870-pound gross weight, attempted to compete with more advanced twin-jets, particularly the BAC-111, the DC-9, and the 737, it incorporated 1950’s technology that could not compete with them, leaving French domestic carrier Air Inter, which operated an exclusively short-range, almost shuttle internal route system, to acquire the last five Super 12s.
The last of these elongated, sleek, Pratt and Whitney-sporting versions, rolled out of the production facility at then-named Aerospatiale’s Toulouse factory on April 15, 1973, marked the end of the type’s production run, which totaled 282, thus ending what could be considered the beginning of the short-range, low-capacity twin-jet era. The Caravelle was, nevertheless, Europe’s then best-selling pure-jet design and the second after the turboprop Vickers Viscount.
The Sud-Aviation SE.210 Caravelle, encompassing nine versions and variants and four fuselage lengths, was the third jetliner to fly after the de Havilland DH.106 Comet and the Boeing 707. It was the world’s first short-range, low-capacity twin-jet, the first to serve routes traditionally the realm of pistonliners, and both France’s and Europe’s best-selling, single-manufacturer pure-jet commercial design, and launched the first-generation, twin-jet, t-tailed era that eventually encompassed the British Aircraft Corporation BAC-111, the Douglas DC-9, the Tupolev Tu-134, and the Fokker F. 28 Fellowship.