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CONVAIR C-131 / R4Y Samaritan: USAF and US Navy’s VIP Transport Aircraft

Today we bring for our readers the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan which served the United States Air Force and the United States Navy as their Transport aircraft. The CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan was a twin-engine military aircraft that was developed by the aircraft manufacturing company named Convair from 1954 till 1956 and 512 units of this aircraft were ever created that served US military’ various branches with few units being exported to Paraguayan Air Force.

The CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan happens to be a militarized version of a simple commercial aircraft designated Convair CV-240. Before getting militarized variant, the CONVAIR CV-240 was sold to American Airlines as it primary operator with almost 1181 units manufactured until 1956.




As for service with US military, the aircraft was sued for VIP Transport of the US Navy and USAF officials. Some of the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritans were modified for serving the SAR (Search And Rescue) roles for the United States Coastal Guard.

Origin & Development:-

The origin of the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan comes from the American Airlines CV-240 which was also built by the CONVAIR aircraft manufacturing company. The design for the CV-240 rose after the American Airlines placed a requirement for a pressurized cabin airliner much like the Douglas DC-3. This original design from the CONVAIR had the seat capacity of 40 passengers and was driven by 2 propeller driven engines.

Following the success of the CV-240 the US Air Force also accepted the airliner for its transport and VIP transport roles and designated the militarized version as CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan. This very first military version of the CV-240 was designated as C-131A and entered the service of US Air Force back in 1954.

Powerplant & Performance:-

A single CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan was powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney R-2800-99W Double Wasp 19-cylinder radial piston and air cooled engines. Each of these engines would generate a power of 2100 HP which was used for propelling its propeller assemblies; each of which had 3 blades.

These engines would then allow the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan to fly at a top speed of about 295 mph with a combat range of about 450 miles while the ferry range it could muster was about 1650 miles. The aircraft could fly at its top speed on a service ceiling of almost 46000 feet with a climbing rate of nearly 1520 ft/min.

Service with USAF:-

The very first CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan was provided to the US air Force for service back in 1954 and was similar in design of the T-29 Flying Classroom; a training aircraft which was already in service of USAF since 1949. These Flying Classroom trainer aircraft were sued by the USAF to train their pilots as well as their navigators, radar operators and bombardiers. As for the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan, it was utilized first by the US Air Force as the MEDEVAC aircraft which was able to airlift the patients as well as the medical staff. When the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan was fitted for seating appropriately, it was able to have the quality of a passenger hauler.

4 of the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritans were used by the USAF in their VIP transport runs and were designated as VC-131H. As for some of the units of the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan, they were modified to serve various following roles.

  • Fixed-wing testing gunship
  • Photo reconnaissance
  • Electronics training platform

Notable Variants:-

Few of the notable variants that were in the line of the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan family aircraft include the following.

  • C-131A
  • C-131B
  • C-131D
  • C-131F
  • T-29A
  • T-29C
  • T-29D

The C-131A was the same aircraft model as the CV-240 which had a seating capacity for 39 passengers and was used as such by the military. 26 units of this variant were created. Following it came the C-131B which was a modified frame design of the CV-340 and had the seating capacity of 48 passengers. USAF procured 36 of these variant models. As for the C-131D, it was passenger hauler military version of the CV-340 with seating capacity for 44 passengers and only 33 units were created.

As for the T-29A, it was the trainer model of the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan which had the unpressurized cabin and allowed a workstation for 14 students. USAF had 46 of these trainer aircraft. Following it came the models T-29B, T-29C, and T-29 D. each of them was a pressurized trainer aircraft that would see modification in the engine configuration for better speed.

The CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan variant used by the US Navy was the C-131F which was later designated by the Navy as USN R4Y-1. It was a modified version of the original variant C-131A.

Service with US Coastal Guards for SAR roles:-

Both the US Air Force and the US Navy sued the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan in both its trainer and base models for their transport and MEDEVAC missions. As for the retired US Navy CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan units, they were then sent to the inventory of the United States Coast Guard (USCG). There they were redesignated as HC-131A and were used for SAR (Search And Rescue) missions. These USCG CONVAIR C-131 Samaritans were then painted in the red and white color scheme of the coastal guards.

Project Tailchaser:-

The first flying gunship test was carried out on the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan back in 1963 in a project named Project Tailchaser. For this project, one C-131B variant was equipped to have a gunsight window on the side but in place of the guns, it was equipped with cameras in its cargo areas. Eventually a 7.62mm Gatling styled miniguns of the General Electric SUU-11A/A model was fitted in this gunship model. Tests conducted over water and the land missions with live ammunitions proved successful.

Total number of aircraft produced and retirement:-

The mass production line of the CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan was started back in 1954 ad lasted only until 1956. The entire construction was carried out by CONVAIR and during that short window of time; nearly 512 of these CONVAIR C-131 Samaritan aircraft in all their variant forms were created.

The aircraft was immensely helpful for the US Navy and the USAF as well as the USGC as the last of these aircraft retired back in 1990.

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