The Aérospatiale SN 601 Corvette is a French business jet of the early 1970s, Aérospatiale's only venture into that market. Sales were disappointing, and only 40 prototype and production Corvettes were built.
Design and development
Design work began in the second half of the 1960s as a joint venture between Sud Aviation and Nord Aviation. In January 1968 Sud and Nord decided to proceed with the programme after SNECMA announced it was developing a suitable engine, the M49 Larzac. The SN 600 was first shown to the public as a scale model, on display described as the SN 600 Diplomate at the 1968 Hannover ILA Air Show. It was a conventional design for its class, a low-wing monoplane with turbofan engines mounted in rear fuselage nacelles. The prototype SN 600 first flew on 16 July 1970 with two Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15Ds installed; the Larzac was never fitted to the aircraft as it was still in development over a year after the SN 600 crashed on 23 March 1971.
The first of two prototype SN 601s (by this time called Corvette 100), with a fuselage 3 ft 5½ in (1.05m) longer than the SN 600's 41 ft 11½ in (12.79m), flew for the first time on 20 December 1972. In late 1976 Aérospatiale decided to cease production after the company had only received orders for 27 aircraft in the two-and-a-half years following the type's certification (it had hoped to sell six per month). Aérospatiale studied a version with a further fuselage stretch to accommodate 18 seats, to be called the Corvette 200, but SN 601 production ended before any had been built.
A number of Corvettes sold were used by French regional airlines Air Alsace, Air Alpes, Air Champagne and TAT. One Corvette was used as a VIP transport by the Congolese Air Force. As of January 2009 a small number of Corvettes are still active in Europe and Africa, including one in France fitted out for aerial photography.
Including the prototype SN 600, a total of seven Corvettes are recorded as having been written-off in crashes. The worst loss of life in a Corvette crash was on 3 September 1979, when an SN 601 of Sterling Airways crashed in the Mediterranean Sea off Nice following a double engine failure. All ten occupants were killed.
On March 19, 1998 a Corvette crashed in Portland, Oregon after the pilots decided to take off with only the portside engine running, while the starboard one was inoperational due to a damaged engine starter. Nobody was injured, while the aircraft suffered damage after only a short flight.
Specifications (SN 601)
Published - July 2009
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