The most successful commercial jet aircraft ever produced in Western Europe is the short-to medium-range Caravelle 12, the final version of the S.E.210 Caravelle designed by Sud-Aviation in 1953 on orders of the French Secretariat for Air. The Caravelle prototype was completed two years later and first flew on May 27, 1955. Since that time the Caravelle has undergone a number of modifications, including the extension of its fuselage, until the appearance of the Caravelle 12 in the early 1970s.
The Caravelle was powered by two Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines developing 14,500 pounds of static thrust each. The Caravelle's engines were mounted in nacelles on either side of the fuselage just forward of the tail assembly. One design feature of the Caravelle later copied by American manufacturers was the passenger entrance door on the bottom rear of the main passenger cabin.
Passenger capacity of the Caravelle ranged from 80 in the earliest versions to a maximum of 139 in the latest models. Flight crews varied from two to four officers, depending on the length of any given flight, plus cabin attendants. The aircraft's maximum cruising speed was about 510-520 miles per hour at 25,000 feet, and its maximum range without reserve fuel was approximately 2,500 miles.
The Caravelle was an exceptionally attractive aircraft, both on the ground and in flight. Its fuselage was almost perfectly round and extended from its slanted nose to a gradually upswept and rounded vertical stabilizer that rose out of a low dorsal fin running nearly half the length of the airframe. Both the Caravelle's main wing, which was mounted at the extreme bottom of the fuselage, and its high-set tailplane were swept back and were without dihedral.
The latest version of the Caravelle had a wingspan of 112.5 feet and a length of just under 119 feet.
The first Caravelles were delivered for service to Air France and SAS in mid-May of 1959, and since that time a total of 280 have been built. United Airlines became the first American carrier to acquire the Caravelle, and in all more than 40 major airlines on every continent have used the airliner at one time or another to carry their passengers on important routes.
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- AIR FRANCE.