Carlisle to finally regain its London air link ?

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  AMcWhirter 13 Mar 2018
at 20:12

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  • AMcWhirter

    Carlisle must be the most isolated English city concerning commercial aviation. Many years ago there was an air link to London Heathrow but there has been nothing since.

    Residents of Carlisle wishing to take a domestic or international flight must normally travel north to Glasgow, south to Manchester or east to Newcastle.

    Now comes news that Stobart Group (the owner of Carlise airport) plans to restart flights next year to London, Belfast and Dublin.

    But with “London” don’t get too excited. It’s likely to be London Southend which is also owned by Stobart (unless slots can be obtained at LHR/LGW/STN etc) and routes would be assisted by government funding.

    Long-haul connections would be available through Dublin and Belfast BFS/BHD (for Norwegian/Icelandair).

    There was also an interview given by Stobart’s CEO, Andrew Tinkler, to ITV News a few months ago.


    Remember in the 70s….Dundee-Carlisle-Luton on the Dart Herald!


    DanAir had a service using 748s called ‘LinkCity’ which operated a milkrun something like SOU BRS CWL BHX CAX GLA NCL MAN SOU.

    I also seem to remember flying JER CAX.


    Having lived in Carlisle for several years (& family for even more, now back across the border in Lockerbie) none of us ever wished there had been a decent air link anywhere from Carlisle airport. And when there was one, we knew of nobody who used it.

    Perhaps being on the M6 & WCML with excellent connections north, north-east, south & east means Carlisle doesn’t *need* an air link anywhere.


    In the mid to late 80s I worked for Euroair Transport who operated the BAE (HS)748 service LHR-CAX-DND and return. Although I was the Operations Superintendent for the airline, a few ground staff like me were checked out as cabin crew to give the airline flexibility. The main thrust of the airline was ad-hoc pax and freight services on Viscounts, HS748, E110 and latterly Heralds. However a venture was made into the world of scheduled services. The trouble with the airline is that it had no real direction, it was a case of ‘hey there is a quick buck lets go after it’ which seemed the ethos of most 3rd level carriers in the UK at the time. With work we could have become another Eastern Airlines or Business AIR, but the owners Alexandra Towing had no interest in expansion. So when Air Eccosse pulled of the route with the Shorts 360, Euroair found there was a lucrative subsidy to operate the service. Enter the HS748 Mk1A, recently obtained from Venture airways, this aircraft was originally fitted with a larger galley / ovens and fitted in 30 ‘C’ seats 2×1 configuration, Euroair refitted it with 44 2×2 seats. A second HS748 was acquired this time a series 2B. The master plan, now forgive me if I lose you here, was to operate 2 x return trips a MON-FRI DND-CAX-LHR-CAX-DND followed by a night mail freighter service.

    Aircraft 1 would operate DND-CAX-DND x 2 during the day- on arrival at DND in the evening the aircraft would ferry to GLA to have the seats stripped out and trucked to EDI, the aircraft would continue GLA -LTN. – I hope you are all still with me.
    Aircraft 2 would operate a night mail service LTN-EMA-EDI, ending up in EDI in the early hours, seats would be fitted and aircraft cleaned and positioned to DND at opening ready for the morning southbound service, meanwhile aircraft 1 had operated GLA southbound mail ending up in LTN to then repeat the northbound schedule the next night.
    Now when it worked it was a dream but ohhh but when it went wrong it was an unmitigated disaster, leading to cancellations, seats in the wrong place, Heralds substituting for the HS748 and one day the truck company forgetting the aircraft carpets. We did get praise for the catering which was locally produced in DND and the service on board was aimed a little higher than standard Y. But as crew we were embarrassed with the aircraft at times, and the high utilization soon meant the aircraft were shabby. Sadly the Viscounts were sold to BAF, the scheduled service subsidy finished so the management decided no subsidy no service, very soon the business model changed to leasing the HS 748, E110 and Heralds rather than operating and Euroair was closed down to become BAC leasing. The staff dispersed and I joined a great carrier with Lions on the tail, sadly a few years later we closed and I came back into the safe world of ATC. To me it was an opportunity lost, our loads were good, a lot of passengers were connecting to long haul and we were appreciated. Many customers from DND used the connection but very few boarded / deplaned at CAX preferring the BA 757 service to NCL. The only real regular we had was the local Carlisle MP who maintained that it was his god given right to sit in the last row as there was more legroom – not the case all seats were equally spaced. And if he did not get row 11 he was like a bear with a sore head.

    A couple of light hearted anecdotes as I remember, Taxiing in at CAX was like going over a farm track, by far the roughest taxiway I have ever experienced and that includes West Africa, and a long taxi – much longer than our longest turnaround at CAX (scheduled for 5 minutes) with one engine running. Second the old dear who deplaned from the aircraft in DND – sweet old thing, she was regular as son paid for a monthly trip down south, one day her small carrier bag broke and out fell all the rotable dishes from the meal service. These were quite an expense for the airline, asked why did she have them the reply was I save all the dishes from my trip as they are great for my cactus collection, dumbfounded I let her continue with her ill-gotten gains.

    So dear readers – my memories of the DND-CAX-LHR route in the 80’s – sorry if I have bored you witless.


    Absolutely brilliant, Inthesandpit, thank you!!


    Autair used to fly to fly Luton to Carlisle with cozy wee Dart Heralds with big windows. I remember having to fly up on a business trip as very young man. I seem to remember there was an North London air terminal up by Finchly Road somewhere from where coaches to Luton left. The return flight was by Blackpool where the plane touched down for about five minutes before chugging off again for Luton. I have a hazy recollection you got a cup of coffee and a packet of biscuits. The engines were the same as the Viscount and had a very distinctive whine as they revved up. Sigh, flying was fun in those days. No security. Just a check-in and then a stroll to the departure gates. No crowds either – well not on that flight! Good Luck to Stobart and Carlisle. I hope they do well.


    No-one should feel negative about any flight for London landing in Southend. I recently came back from Prague on a FlyBE service flown by a plane on a wet lease from Stobart. The airport was small and efficient and I was on the train to London in minutes after landing.

    Leaving Prague at 10.05, I sat down to lunch in central London at 12.30.

    Alex McWhirter

    With the news that Stobart is considering an offer for Flybe there is speculation that commercial flights from Cardiff will be starting in June 2018.

    Stobart currently owns Southend airport. It leases Carlisle airport.


    Flights will start on June 4.

    Loganair will be serving London Southend, Dublin and Belfast Harbour.

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