Famously described as "a toy for people with more money than sense", the Convair Superstream I was the first of a line of Convair business jets based on the RB-58 bomber. It set the pattern for all subsequent supersonic business jets although it must be admitted that few of those later aircraft were less practical than the Superstream I
The Superstream I was essentially a minimum impact conversion of the original B-58A and featured the shorter fuselage of that aircraft. The fuselage topline was changed to provide a straight run back from the cockpit to the tail. This provided sufficient room for a single row of eight seats which were positioned down the starboard side of the fuselage. An aisle ran down the port side, allowing access to those seats. The mid-wing layout of the B-58A was retained which meant that the passenger cabin was divided into three sections separated by a waist-high barrier. The only practical way over this was to sit on it and swing one's legs over into the next section. This led to the habit of stewardesses working on Superstream Is wearing pantsuits rather than skirts. The cabin itself was very cramped and had little room for luggage. The Superstream I had a crew of two, a pilot and a navigator, the third crew member position on the B-58A being eliminated. The bombing radar in the nose of the B-58A was, of course, replaced by a navigational and storm avoidance radar. The Superstream I retained the ability to carry a belly pod although they usually flew without one. Convair produced a special "civilian model" pod for Superstreams Is that contained fuel and a compartment for luggage. These were also compatible with RB-58s and some were procured by the Air Force to support RB-58s on TDY deployment.
Depsite its manifest limitations, the Superstream I proved a successful development. Over 200 were sold to the civilian market over a ten year period with most going to private owners. A small number were purchased by Federal Express and UPS and were used to carry organs intended for transplantation. They proved very successful in this role. The greatest claim to fame of the Superstream I was the number of owners who were arrested after painting fake SAC bands on the nose of their aircraft.
With the development of the Superstream II and Superstream III the Superstream I lost its novelty value and quickly found its way on to the second-hand market where they proved to have a very low resale value indeed. Many of these aircraft were snapped up by a variety of airforces and were used either as fast transports or high-speed reconnaissance aircraft. Fitted with cameras and sidescan radars they proved successful in that role and it turned out they had a much longer life in their second line military roles than they did as business jets.
Specification of Convair Superstream I
Powerplants: Four General Electric J79-GE-5A/5B axial flow turbojets, each rated at 9700 lb.s.t. normal power, 10,300 lb.s.t. military power, and 15,600 lb.s.t. maximum afterburner. Performance: Maximum speed: Mach 2.2 at 40,000 feet, Mach 0.91 at sea level. Cruising speed 521 knots. Takeoff ground roll 7850 feet at 160,000 pounds. Landing ground roll 2615 feet at 63,100 pounds. Maximum initial climb rate 38,650 feet per minute at sea level. An altitude of 30,000 feet could be attained in 11.2 minutes. Normal cruise altitude 38,450 feet. Maximum ferry range 4100 nautical miles. Weights: 64,650 pounds empty. Maximum gross weight 176,890 pounds (in flight). 73,100 pounds landing weight. Dimensions: Wingspan 56 feet 9.9 inches, length 96 feet 9.4 inches, height 29 feet 11 inches, wing area 1364.69 square feet. Crew 2, maximum of eight passengers.