Aviation Historian 24
D.Stringer - The Viscount comes to America (1)
At the time of Carmichael’s visit, Capital was looking to update its ageing fleet of piston-engined airliners, including DC-4s, which the airline cannily disguised as more modern DC-6s (which had rectangular cabin windows) by painting black rectangles, trimmed with white lines, around the former’s windows, as seen here on DC-4 N88745 Capitaliner Charleston at O’Hare Airport.
Viscount V.745D N7447 (c/n 203) was delivered to Capital on October 29, 1956, acquiring Fleet No 366. The registration on the fin was relocated in larger type on the rear fuselage in 1958 in line with new FAA regulations.
The Viscount entered service with Capital Airlines in July 1955, supplementing the company’s fleet of Douglas DC-3s, DC-4s and elderly Lockheed Constellations. At a stroke, Capital became the standard-setter for airlines in the USA, having acquired a cutting-edge aircraft type that had the flexibility to operate profitably over a varied network.
Seen here in 1961 shortly after the merger of Capital and United, V.745D N7454 (c/n 209), originally delivered to Capital in November 1956 with Fleet No 372, taxies out in its new United Air Lines uniform. Note the legend "Viscount Mainliner" applied to the rear fuselage of United’s Viscount fleet.
Capital Viscount V.745Ds in the factory at Hurn, where an additional Viscount production line was set up in 1953. Leading the line here is N7411, Fleet No 330, which made its first flight on January 20, 1956, and was delivered to Capital on March 8 the same year. Some 279 of the 444 Viscounts built were produced at Hurn.
Capital’s President, J.H. "Slim" Carmichael (right) discusses the merits of the Viscount and its Dart engines with Vickers-Armstrongs Aircraft Division’s Managing Director George Edwards at Weybridge during Carmichael’s fact-finding mission to the UK in 1953.
The first of the initial three Viscounts to be delivered to Capital was V.744 N7402 (c/n 88), Fleet No 321, named Capitaliner Viscount Washington, which was handed over to Capital on May 17, 1955. The three V.744s were leased to Capital while its V.745Ds were still under construction. Of the three V.744s, N7402 and N7403 had returned to the UK by February 1958, N7404 having been written off in a landing accident at Chicago-Midway on February 20, 1956.
In the summer of 1954 the prototype Viscount V.700, G-AMAV, which had participated in the London to New Zealand Air Race the previous October, was painted in a Capital scheme to enable the airline to make the promotional film A New Concept in Flight. The scheme ultimately adopted for Capital’s Viscounts had the hawk motif further forward on the fuselage.
In early 1960 Capital unveiled a new colour scheme, replacing the elegant "hawk" theme with a more austere scheme incorporating a white fuselage top with a broadening red line aft to a white and red fin carrying a simplified oval logo with upper case Bold Gothic letters; it had been noted that the old identity was not in capitals!
Capital’s 1955 brochure, also called A New Concept in Flight, drew attention to the Viscount’s 26in (66cm)-high by 19in (48cm)-wide windows, which offered splendid views for the passengers. The brochure also challenged passengers to “balance a quarter on your table at 25,000ft... a true symbol of the Viscount’s smooth, vibrationless flight”.