Design and development
The aircraft was designed by Jack Conroy as a transport aircraft that could be used to ferry three Rolls-Royce RB.211 jet engines from Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Palmdale, California, United States. The engines were to be installed on the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar Airliner.
The Skymonster is based on the Canadair CL-44 freighter (itself a derivative of the Bristol Britannia). It features an enlarged fuselage, like the Mini Guppy which was produced by Jack Conroy's previous company, Aero Spacelines.
The Skymonster first flew on 26 November 1969, under the US registration "N447T". The CL-44 from which it had been converted also bore this same registration, and was previously operated by the Flying Tiger Line.
Only one prototype was built. Another one was ordered, but the CL-44 on which it was to be based crashed before delivery.
In 1970, the prototype was leased by Transmeridian Air Cargo, who gave it the name "Skymonster". Despite its being renamed "Bahamas Trader" later on, the name Skymonster stuck, and it is now commonly known as this.
In 1978, it was bought by British Cargo Airlines.
The aircraft went into storage in 1993, but only 2 months later, it was bought by a leasing company, and was leased to Buffalo Airways.
Its next lease was to Azerbaijan Airlines in 1997, under the registration 4K-GUP.
In March 1998, it was leased to Baku Express.
In August 1998 it went to First International Airlines and was registered 9G-LCA.
In 1999, it was placed into storage, initially in the USA, but then it was flown to Bournemouth Airport, UK, where it was scheduled to be scrapped.
A museum in Germany then expressed an interest in taking on the aircraft..
In December 2006 the aircraft was registered in the Philippines (RP-C8023) and was being prepared for service in Australia. In March 2008, it was reported that the British Civil Aviation Authority had refused to lift an order grounding the aircraft which was made in 2006, due to concerns over the aircraft's maintenance. As of March 2008, the Skymonster was still at Hurn. In August 2008, it was reported that the aircraft was in the process of being scrapped, however as of September this was on hold amid further rumours about donation to a museum in Germany.
Published - July 2009
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