Convair 340/440: JAT’s gamechanger aircraft

Written by Veljko Marinković

The Convair Liner CV-340 was a brand-new aircraft that JAT Yugoslav Airlines added to its fleet exactly seventy years ago. The impact of this aircraft on the development of JAT was immense, despite the fact that it may not have been as well-known in the history of EX-YU aviation as the Caravelle, DC-10, or the Boeing 737 later on. With the introduction of this aircraft, JAT laid the foundations for its future growth and competitiveness in the European market, so it can be said that the Convair was a gamechanger for JAT.

Propeller-driven DC3s, which made their debut in 1935 and could only accommodate 20 passengers, were the largest and most advanced aircraft in JAT’s fleet in 1952. Due to the aircraft's restricted use, the company's ability to grow was limited. The best example for this statement were the newly launched flights to Paris, which lasted ten-hour with the return trip to Belgrade departing the next day. As a result, JAT decided to purchase the Convair CV-340, a cutting-edge aircraft built for medium-distance travel. Convair, an abbreviation for Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft, was a San Diego-based company that first developed some well-known military aircraft before adding passenger alternatives. The fact that the piston-powered CV-340 gained an exceptional reputation for reliability and profitability not only for European airlines like Lufthansa, Swissair, and Alitalia but also in the US, is likely the reason JAT chose it over its British competitor, the Vickers Viscount. The primary benefits this aircraft offered to the Yugoslav national carrier's fleet included a faster top speed of 450 km/h, twice the capacity of the DC-3 (48 seats), and a pressurised cabin that allowed it to reach altitudes of more than 4.000 meters without causing any discomfort to passengers. It was the first aircraft to have voice contact between the pilot and ATC, and it also featured more advanced avionics. Convair 340 was the first in JAT's fleet to offer both hot and cold meal options, comfortable seating, tasteful decor, modern equipment, spacious lavatories, and cabin air conditioning, which greatly improved the passenger experience.

First three JAT Convairs displayed at old Belgrade Airport (1954) » JAT Convair boarding at the old Belgrade Airport » First JAT Convair YU-ADA preparing for its delivery flight 1954 (photo JMG Gradidge) »

JAT signed an agreement to pay 2.4 million US dollars for three aircraft, with delivery scheduled for early 1954. Upon the completion of the preparation of the CV-340s for delivery, JAT notified the supplier that it would not be able to pay the remaining 75% of the purchase price for the last two planes. Despite the US government's willingness to provide loans through the Export-Import Bank, the aircraft ended up being settled by the export of Yugoslav goods to the US. After a slight delay, the first aircraft, CV-340-58 (YU-ADA), touched down at the old Belgrade Airport in April 1954. Two more aircraft, YU-ADB and YU-ADC, were delivered by the end of June. A unique achievement was set during the delivery of one of these aircraft: JAT's chief pilot, Captain Milisav Semiz, flew a Convair from America to Europe in six hours without a stop, making history as the first pilot from Yugoslavia to do so. It's interesting to note that JAT commenced pilot training before introducing the Convair into service on a regular basis, and then sporadic flights started. When Tito, the President of Yugoslavia, was touring Asia, he was transported by one of these flights. Therefore, the first Convair (YU-ADA) took off from Belgrade and flew to Rangoon. Later, it flew as Air Force One and travelled the path of Rangoon-Heho-Mandalay-Rangoon before returning to Belgrade. Along with Captain Milisav Semiz, the chief pilot, the crew consisted of Captains Branivoje Majcen and Gliša Opačić, radio-telegrapher Mirko Dimitrijević, and Dragica Pavlović-Njanja, who service as JAT’s first flight attendant.

"Aviation Week" magazine article, regarding the purchase of Convairs: Tito’s Airline eyes new Convairs, 1952 »

Convair commercial ad: The world's leading airlines (JAT, Lufthansa, Swissair, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Trans-Australia…) choose the world’s most popular aircraft, 1959 » JAT ads regarding Convair aircraft, including one for the French market, the 1950s »

In 1955, Convair entered scheduled commercial service. The aircraft allowed JAT to launch direct flights from Istanbul to Beirut, extend its route from Athens to Cairo, and launch its first flights to London. That marked the beginning of transcontinental traffic in the history of EX-YU aviation. At the time, JAT aimed to develop its own Orient Express route, which would connect the east and west via Belgrade, by transforming Belgrade Airport into a global aerial crossroads. Passengers would be able to travel via Belgrade from the west to the east or vice versa in a single day, which is how JAT promoted those routes. It was therefore not surprising that Cairo emerged as JAT's most profitable and load factor-positive route for the following ten years, and it was only fitting that a new, four-engine DC-6B was assigned to this route solely in 1959.

JAT advertisement published in a foreign magazine: JAT connects London with Cairo, and Paris with Beirut by Convair 340, 1955 » From Belgrade to Cairo onboard JAT's Convair 340, 1955 »

The Convair was deployed only in international traffic, which had expanded dramatically from the previous year, and JAT transported more than 100.000 passengers in a single year for the first time in its existence, given that at that time it could only land at Belgrade Airport. As airports in other EX-YU cities underwent modernisation, the Convair started operating both domestic and international flights.

JAT Convair and its passengers: Football player Dragoslav Šekularac » French models before a flight, after visiting Adriatic coast » Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton step off a JAT Convair, 1971 »Warm welcome after arrival in Belgrade »

JAT Convair and its passengers: Welcome ceremony for the first foreign passengers at Zadar Airport, 1969 » The youngest passengers on board the JAT Convair » A view of Dubrovnik and Belgrade Airport » Avram Avramović, the oldest living Serbian and Yugoslav pilot, who is 101 years old, posing in front of the plane » Departure of the Olympic Water Polo team of Yugoslavia from Rome, 1960 » Yugoslav basketball team that won a gold medal at the Mediterranean Games in Beirut, 1959 » Ivo Andrić onboard the Convair on his way to Stockholm via Frankfurt accept his Nobel Prize, 1961 »

JAT Convair and its passengers: Disembarking at Dubrovnik » Greek Secretary of State Stephanos Stephanopoulos steps off a JAT Convair » President Tito steps off a JAT Convair at Rangoon » Captain Rodja Milovanović and Yugoslav Ambassador Vladimir Velebit after the first flight to London » The former French Prime Minister Piere Mendes-France » The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arrived in Belgrade onboard a special JAT flight »

If two Convairs hadn't been lost in accidents, it's foreseen that the aircraft’s time as part of JAT’s fleet would have had an even greater impact. Due to poor visibility in October 1955, during an ILS approach at Vienna Airport, YU-ADC crashed, killing seven crew members and passengers. Regretfully, less than a year later, another JAT Convair (YU-ADA) descended below the required altitude on its final approach at Munich Airport, and hit the ground, presumably as a result of severe weather conditions. The primary reason for the accident in both cases was the flight crews' insufficient training for operating an advanced aircraft like the Convair. Furthermore, the investigation found that just one-third of JAT's pilots had the necessary skills to operate this type of aircraft. Following the lead of the biggest corporations in the world, JAT established a training centre for the first time, among other steps made to improve the standard of flying. This made the impact of Convair's fleet entry into JAT’s fleet even more significant.

JAT introduced two new Convairs (YU-ADD and ADK), a modernised version of the Convair 440 Metropolitan, as a replacement for the two lost aircraft. The main features of the modernisation were the addition of a weather radar and a quieter cabin, and JAT later retrofitted all Convairs with the weather radars. It's interesting to note that the second Convair CV-340 in JAT’s fleet (YU-ADB) was later upgraded to the CV-440 model. The cancelation of flights to Beirut and the postponement of previously announced new international flights to Moscow, Rome, and other Eastern European destinations were caused by a shortage of aircraft. Unexpectedly, suggestions emerged that the US Air Force should transfer one aircraft from its order to JAT because its own aircraft had been scheduled for delivery in June 1956. Since it was anticipated that JAT would use the new aircraft to open a route to Moscow, this was seen as a propaganda success as well as advantageous for US-Yugoslav ties generally. In the end, JAT consented to postpone the delivery until 1957. It didn't start operating the Moscow route until 1965, using the Caravelle jet. However, it did deploy its Convairs for flights to Eastern Bloc capitals including Prague in 1958 and East Berlin in 1960.

Flying with style » Unloading lugagge at Zadar Airport » JAT Convair 440 Metropolitan during the opening of the new airport in Dubrovnik, 1963 » JAT Convair 440 YU-ADD at Amsterdam Schiphol, 1967 (photo Adriaan Elligens) » Passengers boarding the first JAT Convair flight from Prague, 1958 » After the flight, Belgrade Airport late 1960s »

In 1954, JAT "went for more shopping" in the West in addition to acquiring Convairs. JAT purchased four Regals, model Mark IV, from the UK bus manufacturer AEC. As reported by “The Commercial Motor” magazine (pictured below), these were the first British passenger buses made specifically for Yugoslavia. The buses were run by JAT on airport feeder service. One bus, with 39 seats, served airports that were not frequently used, while the other three buses had 49 seats.

The Commercial Motor magazine cover with the JAT bus, 1954

JAT's fleet consisted of eleven Convair 340/440 aircraft. Out of that total, five were brand-new acquisitions, and JAT purchased three aircraft from Alitalia in 1960 and three more from Lufthansa in 1969. If the Yugoslavian government hadn't purchased the Soviet-built Ilyushin Il-14 aircraft without JAT's participation, the fleet's size most likely would have been considerably bigger. Additionally, the Convair started to operate on both domestic and international flights with fewer passengers once the Caravelle was added to the fleet in 1963. Apart from JAT, Pan Adria Airways was another airline based in Yugoslavia that operated four Convair aircraft. JAT's fleet, also included Convairs with jet engines. Prior to introducing its own metal, the Boeing 707, JAT wet-leased the Convair Coronado 880 for several charter flights from Belgrade to New York, in a rather common arrangement today.

JAT Convairs: Belgrade, Zadar, Split, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Tivat, Zagreb

For JAT, the introduction of the Convair planes marked a significant turning point since it was inevitable that all services would need to be modernised. At the old Belgrade Airport, a sizable hangar housing Convairs was constructed in 1956. When the hangar and workshop at the new Surčin Airport were completed, JAT Maintenance Service was regarded as one of the top European businesses. All maintenance was performed on the engines and devices of the Convair aircraft, and the US Civil Aviation Administration (FAA) certified the workshops' equipment and quality in 1969. The significant repairs on Convair YU-ADM aircraft best showed the quality of technical support provided. This Convair crashed into a pile of frozen snow after landing sideways on the partially frozen runway at the new Belgrade Airport in 1963. The nose sank into the hard snow, the landing gear's front leg broke off and the hull cracked near the front door. No one was hurt. Since Surčin did not yet have a hangar constructed, the front portion of the fuselage containing the cockpit, which was supported by a small portion of the formwork, was chopped off with axes, placed onto a truck, and transported to the hangar at Zemun. After being repaired, the aircraft was used for regular flights again.

JAT Convair 440, YU-ADB, taxing at London Heathrow, 1962 » JAT Convair 440 YU-ADK, automatic stairs deploying, first flight over the US, at Vienna Airport » JAT Convair taxing at Zadar Airport » Maintenance in progress »

The first aircraft to land at Sarajevo's newly built airport was a JAT Convair in 1969. The first Yugoslav jet-engine aircraft, the Caravelle, was supposed to open the airport, but due the bad weather conditions, low clouds, and rain caused the airport's original inauguration to be delayed. High-ranking Belgrade officials were flown in a holding pattern onboard JAT’s Caravelle. Subsequently, according to the daily “Politika”, the JAT Convair on the Zagreb - Sarajevo route appeared out of nowhere as it flew through the clouds and touched down on Butmir Airport's runway. The Caravelle landed shortly after the Convair, marking the official opening of the airport. The Convair was the first aircraft to land in Zadar too with foreign passengers that year. Zadar was also the first airport with two runways in the fprmer Yugoslavia (also utilised for military purposes). This year marks the 55th year of operation for the airports in Sarajevo and Zadar. A year later, Convair also opened the renovated Pristina Airport. Afterward, JAT began operating Convair 440s in place of DC-3s on the Belgrade-Pristina service, which were then extended to Tirana the following year.

JAT Convair 440 YU-ADK, at Munich Airport, 1961 (Photo zoggavia) » JAT Convair at Sarajevo Airport, 1969 » Refuelling at Zadar Airport, 1971 » Second JAT Convair YU-ADB, at Vienna Airport just arrived as JU 310 from Zagreb, 1969 »

June 21, 1974, marked the aircraft's final flight for JAT, twenty years after it had first been put into service. It is noteworthy that Convair would be operational on JU flights through the end of 1976, given that Pan Adria operated some JAT flights (Belgrade-Niš-Skopje, Niš-Split, Zagreb-Vienna, Belgrade-Mostar, Niš-Tivat, etc.). The Aeronautical Museum in Belgrade is home to the only preserved Convair-type aircraft in the world, YU-ADO, which has four engines. Two more engines were mocked up to serve as Eisenhower's US presidential jet, the VC-54, in a movie about Marshall Tito. An interesting fact is that YU-ADK, a Convair that JAT acquired new in 1957, was still in service and operated as a freighter until the middle of the 2010s, in the United States.

JAT Convair YU-ADD at Dubrovnik Airport, 1969 » Pan Adria Convair YU-ADU at Dubrovnik Airport » JAT Convair YU-ADB at Paris Orly Airport, after its flight from Belgrade »

The well-known Boeing 727-200 advanced joined the JAT fleet just ten days before the final Convair flight. As a result, EX-YU aviation, also this year, celebrates 50 years since the Boeing 727 with the YU registration made its first flight. A world fleet of Boeing 727s has carried over one billion passengers, making it the first commercial passenger jet to surpass the 1.000-unit production milestone.

The first flight of the first JAT Boeing 727 YU-AKA over the US coast » 1974

On June 10, a festive welcome was organised at Belgrade Airport upon the arrival of the first Boeing 727 YU-AKA. The aircraft departed from Boeing's Seattle facility two days prior, flying via Montreal and Iceland before touching down in London. Since the jet took off with a full cargo compartment of spare parts, the installation of the seats was the cause of the holdup in London. The seats had to be installed in London in order for the plane to cross the Atlantic. Four days later, the second Boeing 727, YU-AKG, arrived at Zagreb Airport. The second half of June saw JAT's Boeing 727 enter regular service, configured with 137 seats in economy class and 14 in business class, with destinations including Paris, London, Frankfurt (via Ljubljana), Moscow, Athens, Cairo, and Copenhagen. There were nine aircraft of this type in JAT’s fleet, while two more Boeing 727-100s were wet-leased on a short-term basis from Hapag-Lloyd. In addition to JAT, charter carrier Aviogenex also had five Boeing 727s in its fleet.

Welcome ceremony for the first Boeing 727 at Belgrade Airport, 1974 » First JAT Boeing 727 on production line » Flight deck »

Second JAT Boeing 727 YU-AKB, welcome ceremony at Zagreb Airport » Handover of the first JAT Boeing 727 in Seattle » JAT employees and the citizens of Belgrade expecting the arrival of the Boeing 727 » The crew which operated the delivery flight » The first JAT Boeing 727 YU-AKA, few seconds before the first touch-down on the runway at Belgrade Airport » A group of Yugoslav journalists who visited Boeing » JAT CEO Vladimir Krunić and Boeing vice-president Joe Sutter, the “father of the Boeing 747”, who also has worked on Boeing 707, 727 and 737 projects and originates from Slovenia » June 1974

The Boeing 727 was also used as a presidential jet, where Tito's more unusual flights were accounted for, such as Belgrade-Moscow-Irkutsk-Pyongyang-Beijing, Belgrade-Lisbon-Bermuda-Mexico-Caracas, or Belgrade-London-Grenada-Washington. JAT eventually used Boeing 727 (YU-AKI) in a special configuration to Dayton (Ohio, US), as a presidential aircraft, in the mid-1990s. In 1998, the B727 was deployed on an intercontinental route to Beijing as a replacement for the DC-10, with fuel stops in Moscow and Novosibirsk and on the return leg, Krasnoyarsk and Kazan. The Boeing 727 operated its last flight in 2005, while one member of the fleet, YU-AKF, was donated to the Museum in 2003, but it is currently stored at Jat Tehnika and awaiting to be relocated to the Museum.

JAT crew in front of the Boeing 72, 1970s

JAT Boeing 727 preparing for departure to London Heathrow as JU210, Belgrade Airport, 2000s


· Launching a Nonaligned Airline: JAT Yugoslav Airways between East, West, and South, 1947–1962, Phil Tiemeyer
· The CONVAIRLINERS Story, J.Michael G. Gradidge
· Convair Twins - Piston Convair-liners, Prop-jet turbo-liners, Nicholas A. Veronico and William T. Larkins,
· There was once a JAT, Simišić Jovo, 2022
· JAT inflight magazine: JAT Review and JAT New Review
· JAT: The story of Yugoslav airlines, Čedomir Janić, Grizelj Jug, Lukač Sergije, 1987
· JAT: A seventy years-long flight, Kovač Lidija, Simišić, Jovo, Janić, Čedomir, Pršić Milutin, 1997
· JAT: More Than Flying: eight decades of Aeroput and JAT, Simišić Jovo, Janić Čedomir, 2007


  1. Anonymous09:10

    Very nice review! Thank you.

    1. Anonymous09:54

      Really EXCELLENT article
      Thank you

    2. Anonymous11:19


    3. One of the better articles I have read in a long time. Well written.

  2. Great article!!!
    Thank you sooo much!

  3. Anonymous09:27

    "Convair 340 was the first in JAT's fleet to offer both hot and cold meal options, comfortable seating, tasteful decor, modern equipment, spacious lavatories" and today we can only dream about all this stuff

    1. Anonymous10:39

      Are you ready to pay what they were paying back then?

    2. Anonymous09:36

      It was all business class configuration :) You can book business class today for even less money than back then.

  4. Anonymous09:30

    Excellent article, thank you immensely. I hope that a well detailed 727 article will follow.

  5. Anonymous09:56

    Should have been posted at April 1.

    1. Anonymous09:57

      But today is the 70th anniversary of the Convair entering the fleet.

    2. Anonymous20:06

      09:56 Do you mean by that, that the CV-340/440s weren't gamechanger aircraft, have you even read the article at all? And also, like 09:57 Said, Today is the anniversety of the CV-340/440 aircraft entering the JU fleet.

  6. Anonymous10:38

    'At the time, JAT aimed to develop its own Orient Express route, which would connect the east and west via Belgrade, by transforming Belgrade Airport into a global aerial crossroads.'

    Actually just a small correction, this was a continuation of what its predecessor (the Serbian) AeroPut did . However due to technological limitations it could not cover destinations which were outside of Europe. Initially they focused on offering transfers from places like Graz, Vienna, Budapest, Prague to the port city of Thessaloniki. In 1937 AeroPut had an impressive fleet of 14 aircraft.
    AeroPut was restarted by its board of trustees in 1947 after which Communists nationalized the airline and all of its employees were employed by JAT.

    That said, nice report.

  7. Anonymous11:03

    Fantastic history throw back, when flying was so prestigious and glamorous. Thank you ex yu for sharing. Pics are truly outstanding.
    Look at this lady with the puppy 😍😍❤❤❤

    1. Anonymous18:01

      Yeah, I would say flying with the style and smile

  8. Anonymous11:32

    Quite a lot of symbolism. You published an article on the anniversary of Convair while Getjet's LY-WIZ A320 is arriving from MAD to BEG and will stay with JU until the end of the summer.

    One the same day when they got the Convair they are also receiving an A320!

    1. Anonymous11:33

      To add, another wet-least A320 LY-MAL of the same operator is flying MAD-BEG as JU571.

      Both are taxing to the runway for take off.

    2. Anonymous12:25

      Interesting correlation you got :)

  9. Anonymous12:12

    DC3 YU-ACA and ACC and Convair ADC, that's why there is no C in registration till today

  10. Anonymous14:04

    Great article!!! Thanks!

  11. Anonymous18:01

    Bravo, marketing posters are ahead of their time with interesting spelling of Beirut, Beyrouth

    1. Vlad01:00

      Beyrouth is the French spelling.

  12. Anonymous19:31

    Big like for the post!

  13. Anonymous20:20

    Love this. Reminds me any news on when the aviation museum by the airport will reopen?

  14. Anonymous00:32

    Awesome piece of history, enjoyed reading it. Thank you!

  15. Anonymous16:42

    Thanks for the article!


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