1956 - 2021, Celebrating  over 65 Years of Service

by William Patrick Dean
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc

Box 611, Jefferson, NC 028640

Web Site:
Binding:  Hardbound Height:




Pages:  407 No. Photos:

The ATL-98 Carvair was a strange airplane. Most buffs havenít seen one or maybe even heard of it. It was a unique hybrid built for the special purpose of carrying cars across the English Channel to points in Europe. All 21 Carvairs began life as C-54 or DC-4 airframes, most of them ex-USAAF aircraft, some used in the Berlin Airlift, or well-used commercial DC-4s. They were modified in the 1959 Ė 1968 time period by a series of companies organized by Griffith J. Powell and later, Freddie Laker. As the various companies merged, were bought out, or went belly-up, the chain of ownership and corporate management was mind-boggling. The business began in 1946 in New South Wales, UK, when an in-house airline serving a zinc mine began flying freight between Wales and London. The company later determined to fill the niche of car ferry on cross-channel service. One of Lakerís corporations, Aviation Traders Ltd. (ATL), did the actual modifications. They created a huge bulbous upper deck which included a front-opening door, allowing as many as five cars to be loaded inside. The Carvair resembled other Guppy-type aircraft and its upper deck was not unlike that of the later Boeing 747, leading the author to infer that its design was used by Boeing.

This book, the subject of author Deanís lifelong accumulation of material, presents the fascinating and confusing background of Freddie Laker and other principals who carried out this program. Not only are the personalities interesting, but the idea of carrying cars for the rich and famous is also. It allowed them to take their vehicles long distances in relatively short times and presents a colorful look at the struggles of a niche airline to survive. ATLís technicians were a sound, enterprising group, dedicated to craftsmanship and innovation. They constructed freighter cargo floors, loading ramps, auto hoisting machines and other products that were sold worldwide. When the car-ferry business fell off due to the increased use of channel water ferries between the UK and the continent, the airline changed horses and carried freight and passengers. Surprisingly, the aircraft flew well and were hardy enough to survive several accidents. A tribute not only to the Douglas Aircraft Company, but to the Carvair modification is that there are still a few existing today.

Fully three-quarters of the book is taken up by a meticulous accounting of the life history of each of the 21 Carvair aircraft. Those stories were the interesting part of the book to me, especially the birth and early life of each airframe Ė and the final disposition. There is ample detail and statistics here, especially for the Douglas DC series buff.

Noel Allard


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