The Saab 90 Scandia was a civil passenger aeroplane, manufactured by the Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (SAAB), in Linköping, Sweden. In 1944, as it was becoming clear that hostilities in Europe (the Second World War) would soon be at an end, SAAB realised that the company had to diversify from purely military endeavours if it were to survive. The board therefore decided to put into action a plan to manufacture a twin-engined, short- to medium-haul passenger aircraft, as a successor for the Douglas DC-3 Dakota. (This was the same commercially-driven stimulus that led to automobile production, with the Ursaab and subsequent Saab 92 passenger vehicles.)
The design of the 90 Scandia is quite similar to the DC-3. The only distinct visible difference is that the 90 has tricycle gear while the DC-3 is a taildragger. The 90 had to compete with the many surplus DC-3s available on the market at the same time, making sales difficult.
Design and development
Development started in February 1944. Take-off weight was specified at about 11,600 kg, with a range of about 1,000 km. The prototype Saab 90 (Scandia) first flew in November 1946. It was capable of seating 24–32 passengers, with low-speed capability. It was to be fitted with Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engines. It had a single nose-wheel and fully retractable undercarriage. ABA Swedish Airlines, a predecessor of SAS, ordered 11 examples. The 'Type Certificate' was issued in June 1950. Delivery started in October 1950 but, after testing, specification had changed to the Pratt & Whitney R-2180-E1. Two Brazilian airlines (VASP and Aerovias do Brasil) also ordered a total of 6 aircraft. The prototype was subsequently converted to a luxury private executive aircraft, for the Brazilian industrialist Olavo Fontoura.
The Scandia project was initiated in 1944 by a supposed need (after WW2) of aircraft carrying 25–30 passengers for a distance of up to 1000 km.
Main design objectives:
The wing was shaped, using NACA profiles, to provide good stalling characteristics. Low wing design was chosen since it provides:
The wing was built in three pieces. The centre section with engine mounts. Left and right section which were bolted to the centre section, just outside the engine area.
The airframe diameter was chosen to allow for 4 seats per row. This configuration gave a capacity of 32 passengers. A configuration with wider and more comfortable seats, three seats per row, carrying a total of 24 passengers was also offered. The prototype (90.001) was equipped with 1,450 bhp (1,080 kW) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R2000 engines (changed to 1,650 bhp (1,230 kW) P&W Twin Wasp R2180 on production version).
First Flight & Test Flights
The prototype (SE-BCA) made its first flight on November 16, 1946. Claes Smith was the pilot. The first flight lasted for 20 minutes. The plane had exceptionally good low flying characteristics, with full control down to 110–115 km/h. The stall was slow and preceded by vibrations. The plane also turned out to be easily maneuvered with one engine turned off, which at the time was typically not the case with two-engined aircraft. Unfortunately the rudder harmony was not satisfactory, with high lever forces in some situations. The engine installation also needed redesign.
The prototype flew a total of 154 hours before the winter of 1947/48 when it was parked in the hangar for modifications. The engines were elevated for increased clearance between propeller blades and ground. The cabin, that previously only contained test equipment, was decorated. On February the 7th 1948 the prototype took off again and began the second testing phase. The second phase mostly consisted of performance tests. After 700 hours of test flying it was decided to introduce the following changes to the production planes:
In 1947 had the prototype quickly visited Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland. In May 1948 it made a one day trip from Linköping to Newcastle via Oslo. During these flights the prototype only had test equipment on board. No real demonstration flights with potential customers took place. For this reason it was decided to make a real demonstration tour through Europe now that the cabin was properly decorated.
In every town the Scandia was welcomed by the respective airline and local press, but it did not result in any orders. Many airlines also visited Linköping for a closer look and demonstration during the years 1948–49. Some of these were DNL, Fred Olsen, DDL, Aero Oy, Swissair, FAMA, Aerol, Argentinas, KLM, Air Service, Sabena, Garuda.
The first trip went to Paris where the extra fuel tanks were removed. On August 23 SE-BCA arrived to Addis Abeba (Ethiopia). The following day emperor Haile Selassie went on a demonstration tour. Present on this tour was also Carl von Rosen, who at the time was counsellor for the Ethiopian Air Force. Athen, Kairo, Asmara, Port Sudan and Luxor were also visited on this tour. On this tour the plane was subjected to temperatures of 50C, with no problems. When the plane returned to Paris the extra fuel tanks were reinstalled.
On September 4 SE-BCA left Paris with destination of Pratt & Whitney's homebase in Hartford, Connecticut. Stop-overs in Greenland, Iceland and Prestwick. The trip took 3 days. In Hartford the extra fuel tanks were removed and the interior was refitted. A extensive demonstration program all over the USA took place. Some of the cities visited were New York, Washington, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and Houston. In Los Angeles Howard Hughes flew the Scandia, and he praised the design. On October 14 the Scandia returned to Hartford.
The first production Scandias were delivered in 1950. SAS received their eight aircraft between October 1950 and October 1954. SAS initially operated their Scandias on intra-Scandinavian flights. Scheduled services by Scandias were also operated to European cities including London Airport (Heathrow) between 1953 and 1955.
VASP operated their fleet of new and ex-SAS Scandias on intra-Brasilian scheduled flights between October 1950 and late 1966.
The Swedish Air Force put heavy and insistent demands upon the SAAB factory, for the Saab 29 Tunnan fighter aircraft, which spelled the end of the Scandia project in Sweden, with residual production being undertaken by Fokker, in the Netherlands.
Altogether, only 18 examples were manufactured. The entire SAS fleet was eventually purchased by VASP, in 1957.
A larger version with pressurised cabin called 90B was planned, but never made.
Accidents and incidents
Five Saab Scandia have been lost at crashes. Three of them were fatal with a total of 64 fatalities.
Date: December 30, 1958
Date: September 23, 1959
Date: August 15, 1960
Date: November 26, 1962
Date: March 8, 1964
Only one 90 Scandia, PP-SQR, remains. It stands outdoors in a museum in Bebedouro, Brazil. It is said to be complete, but in very bad condition. SAAB tried to buy the plane for its 50 year jubilee in 1987, but the owner asked a price SAAB thought was unreasonably high.
Published in July 2009.
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