Before its merger with Douglas, the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was best known for producing the F-4 Phantom II, a jet-age fighter that sold over 5,000 units. However, it also dabbled in other areas, and attempted to enter the business jet market with its Model 119 aircraft. However, this venture proved unsuccessful.

How the McDonnell 119 came to be

The aircraft was a product of the 1950s, and came about as a result of McDonnell’s interest in winning the USAF’s UCX (Utility-Cargo Experimental) contract. This saw it come up against the (ultimately more successful) Lockheed JetStar. McDonnell hoped that the contract, which was ultimately dropped due to budget cuts, would result not just in work with the USAF, but also in commercial sales.

The company had initially wanted to equip the Model 119 with Fairchild J83 turbojet engines. However, the termination of this design’s development in November 1958 meant that, when the aircraft eventually made its (delayed) first flight in February 1959, it was powered instead by Westinghouse J34 turbojets.

McDonnell’s commercial angle on the Model 119 became even more pronounced when it lost the UCX contract to the Lockheed JetStar. The USAF reportedly opted against the aircraft due to concerns regarding its low-mounted engines. Specifically, there were worries about this design’s potential for foreign object damage.

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McDonnell 119

McDonnell renamed the aircraft to celebrate two decades of business. Photo: ausdew via Flickr

Performance and specifications

According to Aviastar, the McDonnell 119 clocked in at 20.27 meters long, and had a wingspan that stretched to a width of 17.55 meters. In terms of the area of these wings, this figure came to 51.1 square meters. Meanwhile, as far as height was concerned, the aircraft was 7.21 meters tall. All of these measurements are slightly larger (less than two meters) than those of the Lockheed JetStar.

Business jets are often known for their high-cruise abilities, and the McDonnell 119 certainly conformed to this trend. Indeed, its service ceiling was an impressive 44,900 feet. Its typical cruise speed was 837 km/h (452 knots), with the absolute maximum being 901 km/h (487 knots). Meanwhile, with a range of 3,765 km (2,033 NM), US transcontinental flights would have been just out of reach.

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El Paso Airport

The business jet that never was

When McDonnell increased its commercial focus on the Model 119, it changed the design’s name to the Model 220. This coincided with the 20th year since the company’s foundation, in 1939. It marketed two configurations for the aircraft, with business jet versions having a luxurious 10-seat cabin. Alternatively, Plane & Pilot notes that three-abreast seating saw its capacity rise to 29.

Having opted to power production models with Pratt & Whitney JT12 or General Electric CF700 engines, McDonnell achieved a key milestone in 1960, when the aircraft received FAA certification. Aviastar notes that the Model 119/220 was the ‘first business, non-airline-type jet aircraft’ to hold a Class I provisional type certificate. However, it ultimately never reached commercial production.

A key aspect in this was McDonnell’s failure to close a deal that would have seen Pan Am lease 170 examples. However, the carrier instead opted for the Dassault-Breguet Mystère 20, and McDonnell gave up on commercial production. While McDonnell used the prototype as a transport aircraft until the mid-1960s, it was later sold to the Flight Safety Foundation, before ending up in storage.

What do you make of the McDonnell 119? Did you know about this aircraft’s story? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Sources: Aviastar, Plane & Pilot


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