Nationwide Air Aviation Traders Carvair (ZK-NWA) in Christchurch in 1977

Nationwide Air Aviation Traders Carvair (ZK-NWA) in Christchurch in 1977

What would you get if a DC-4 made love to a Boeing 747-100 Freighter and they had a child? You would get one interesting looking Aviation Traders Carvair that’s what.

Actually the birth of the Carvair came more from an abundance of left over DC-4’s and a need to replace aging Bristol 170 Freighters used in car ferrying services. They weren’t just getting older, but cars were getting bigger and a larger a aircraft was needed to keep the car ferrying business profitable.

Car ferrying service was popular between England and the rest of Europe. An aircraft was needed that was able to reliably cross the channel while holding enough cars and passengers to be profitable. In the late 1950’s airlines started replacing prop aircraft, like the DC-4, with jet powered Boeing 707s and DC-8s.

To convert the old DC-4s wasn’t too difficult and was relatively inexpensive. They would take the cockpit, raise it and create an upperdeck. Unlike the Bristol 170s which only held three cars and 20 passengers, the Carvairs were able to carry five cars with 25 passengers.

The first Carvair flew on June 21, 1961 and 21 of the aircraft were built. Eight of those aircraft ended up crashing out of their lifetime in different parts of the world. One of the Carvairs, N89FA is based in the US and according to FlightAware she last flew in January 2010.

More good stuff to check out:
* Photos of Aviation Traders Carvair on
* Google maps shows a crashed Carvair in Alaska
* Great website about the Carvair
* Old advertisements on the Carvair’s service
* Video of Carvair

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
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David Capodilupo

Great photo…we should get one, paint it with current BA or United livery on current 747s, and fly it around at airshows!

Could be the poor-man’s 747 VIP plane :)


J Hassett

I remember British Air Ferres used to fly them. I think they were based at Southend, but their main route was between Lydd in Kent & Beauvais outside Paris.

Kensan Okole

Used to be two of these parked in HNL. Till about mid 90s? Made us appreciate our elderly 741s every time we taxied by.

Ken Clark

In the 1960s my uncle worked in the spray shop at Southend Airport where they built 3 Carvairs, nos. 1, 11 and 21. I was fortunate enough as a youngster, to go aboard one of them as it was being fitted. I stood on the flightdeck before the cockpit was completed. The car hold seemed enormous to a young kid. I was also there the day it went for it’s first test flight.

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