Artist's concept of covered scaffolding used for the enlarging of the CL-44 fuselage. This method has been proven to be practical in Santa Barbara climate through a similar type of structure used for the construction of the Mini Guppy cargo aircraft.
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This article was originally printed in the January 20, 1969 issue of American Aviation. Conroy Airlift Company used this article as a part of it's PR and press packages.
(Click on image above to link to artlcle)
Canadair CL-44 N447T, which at the time was owned by Flying Tiger Lines, was converted into a Guppy by Jack Conroy, Conroy Aircraft Corp. in Santa Barbara, in 1968. This is the first airplane Jack converted for outsize cargo operations after selling Aero Spacelines to Unexcelled, Inc. who took over the construction of his last Boeing-based Guppy design, the 377MG Mini Guppy.
Jack forsaw a possible logistical problem for Lockheed who at the time was building their L-1011 Tristar. The problem as he saw it, involved getting the completed Rolls-Royce RB-211 turbofans from the factory in Belfast, Ireland to Palmdale, California for final mating to the L-1011s. Stripped to the bare bones, the RB-211 would just fit into a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The clearence was very tight and because of the limited range of the C-130, many fueling stops would be needed.
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Jack found this situation unacceptable and thought he could do better. His solution was to take a modern cargo aircraft with the same lifting power but with longer range, and add an outsized fuselage designed to carry several complete RB-211s. After looking at the available designs Jack decided on Canadair's cargo version of the CL-44.
He probably selected the CL-44 because of it's existing swing-tail, a necessary feature for outsize cargo operations. He mounted the project in partnership with Flying Tiger Lines who at that time, operated a fleet of CL-44s for their cargo operations. When Jack was unable to get a commitment from Lockheed about the project, he decided to go ahead with the CL-44 conversion on speculation.
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The airplane was ferried to Santa Barbara Airport, but Jack was unable to secure hanger space for the conversion. His solution was a metal cover similar to an awning to protect the inside of the airplane from the weather after the original top half of the fuselage was removed and the new outsize portion was being built to replace it. The nose section was built using foam and fiberglass molded to shape, making this possibly the first large aircraft to use composite construction techniques.
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(The above photos courtesy of Ólafur Sigurdsson. Visit his website at: www.CL44.com/)
The airplane received an FAA STC and has been flying continuously ever since. It was sold to TransMeridian Air Cargo, in Stansted, England, in 1969, and it operated with them, under FAA Registry N447T. It was during this time that N447T's nickname was changed from Conroy 103 to Skymonster. Later "Bahama Trader" was also added, as seen in the far left photo, though the motives behind trying galmourize the Skymonster are still unclear. TransMeridian operated the Skymonster until they went out of business many years later. Seen in these two photos in it's early and later paint schemes.
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It then went to HeavyLift where it flew for many more years before being sold to Buffalo Airways as seen in the first two photos having the registration number EI-BND for both companies. The Skymonster was then sold to Azerbaijan Airlines and re-registered as 4K-GUP, which operated primarily out of Europe as seen in the third photo.
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The Skymonster was operated briefly by Baku Express under the registery numbers that Azerbaijan Airlines used with Baku only removing Azerbaijan's name. The present owners First International, who bought the transport in September 1998, now operate the Skymonster under registery 9G-LCA.
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Gallery page added 8/23/04-
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