Fellow Oldies – Any Fascinating Travel Stories from Aviation's Golden AgeBack to Forum
Thanks to everyone who’s jogged my memory (again!) by mentioning airlines/aircraft that no longer exist.
Wardair used to operate BHX-YYZ in summer. At the old terminal, the only place 747 could park was on the large apron outside the main building. Spent many afternoons watching elderly ladies negotiating the steps, no doubt en route to visit children/grandchildren. Once door was closed, then moved to outside viewing area for taxi and take off.
BEA Vanguard – don’t remember the red wings but can recall first and second row seats faced each other, with a fixed table between.
Also remember the “nominate your bags” system at Zagreb, Zadar and Pula. Of course, one passenger very angry on arrival in Zadar to find one of her bags missing. By tone of discussion with holiday company rep, it obviously didn’t apply to her!
Most bizarre experience was the old Athens Airport. Going through security, if the “arch” bleeped they waved you through. No bleep, that’s when you got frisked! Then up a corner was a family around a primus stove waiting for coffee/tea to heat through…..
And finally. An ex-boss was travelling BHX-ORK via DUB. Aer Lingus strike announced but company travel agent couldn’t advise which flights were operating, so suggested he take a chance. On arrival at DUB, went to check in for ORK, only to be advised there were no flights. Cue Aer Lingus aircraft taking to the air. When questioned, check-in agent advised “ah, that’s going to Lourdes”.30 Jan 2020
BEA Vanguards – Huge windows with, if my memory serves me well, red painted wings ?
Yes I recall those red wings. The Vanguard was my introduction to UK domestic flying in the late 1960s.
To be honest it was a noisy aircraft with lots of vibration when seated over the wings.
Little wonder BEA assigned first class (yes there was domestic first class in those days) to the rear cabin.30 Jan 2020
Dan Air did indeed operate from LHR from 1983 they operated LHR to INV (Inverness) 3 times daily & LGW to INV twice daily using a BAC 111 & sometimes B737, until Dan Air was bought over by British Airways when they took over the route again although BA later transferred the route to LGW – INV only.
BA have now reintroduced the LHR – INV route.30 Jan 2020
The Vickers Vanguard has an interesting history. Large, fast and powerful, with a good range, only about 45 were built, originally for BEA and Trans Canada Airlines (a predecessor of Air Canada). Depending on the version and configuration they carried 100-140 people. From an airline economic point of view they were a success, passengers hated them because they were noisy and vibrated a lot, mainly due to the four powerful RR Tyne engines.
Its smaller predecessor, the Viscount, was beautifully smooth and quiet as it had RR Dart turboprop engines with no reciprocating parts, these engines had a distinctive ‘whistle’ sound on take-off and while taxiing. Britain’s most successful commercial aircraft, 444 were built.
I can remember flying into airports such as Gibraltar, Innsbruck, and Edinburgh on Vanguards. If you had fillings at the beginning of the fight, they’d usually vibrated out by the end. Some of the passenger versions were sold on to other airlines and about 10 were converted to freighters, known as the Merchantman, for which they were ideal.
I am not sure how many intact airframes still exist. I suspect that Merchantman G-APEP on display and open to the public, at Brooklands Museum in Surrey may be the only one. It first flew from Brooklands in 1961 and landed there in 1996, I believe it was the last large aircraft to land there. The type was probably in service for less than 20 years, compared to the Viscount of which different versions were in service for over 40 years.
1 user thanked author for this post.30 Jan 2020
Back in the late 60s/early 70s, we flew to Israel with my parents. El Al didn’t have a large enough fleet so they’d wet-leased from other airlines. We went out on a 727 from Laker and returned on an Aer Lingus 707 (might have got the aircraft types the wrong way round!). Hijacking first became a ‘thing’ and I remember at Heathrow we had police out-riders by each wing tip, accompanying us all the way to the main runway.1 Feb 2020
I don’t think I’ve replied to this yet!
Laker Airways. Turn up, check luggage (free) board and pay £50 on board. I don’t even think there was any security then.
Flying ex Rotterdam in the 80’s, with an airline I no longer recall or the aircraft type, except it had the most spacious lavatories I’d ever come across.
I’ll think of some more later.4 Feb 2020
capetonianm has jogged my memory with his mention of the Vickers Viscount. We flew on one when I was quite young to – if I remember correctly – Guernsey, and I remember thinking what a lovely quiet, smooth aeroplane it was.
I also recall now my early trips between London and Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, which were on TriStars. Ghastly aircraft, I remember very distinctly water pouring from the air conditioning vents and the whole ceiling assembly shaking violently from side to side during take-off and landing – I always thought it was going to fall off.
I also have vague memories of travelling on Tridents, although I honestly can’t remember the route or even the airline, but I did take the trouble to work out my own way of telling Tridents and TriStars apart – the traditional trident (think Poseidon) of course was most notable for its raised arrowheads at the top, and similarly the Tridents had a T-tail with the horizontal stabilisers at the top of the tailfin, while the Trident had the more conventional placement. It would probably have been easier to focus on the fact that the Trident was a short-haul narrowbody and the TriStar was a medium/long-haul widebody, but in my early before-I-became-an-aviation-geek days that was how I told them apart!
I am also reminded of early trips on DanAir, all of which were ghastly. What a terrible airline. Although my most vivid memory was, in fairness, perfectly normal SOP. I don’t recall the aircraft but I was sitting in a window seat just behind the wing. As we touched down the pilots deployed an airbrake, which also happened to be the top part of the engine nacelle. To my young mind a fairly large part of the engine had flipped out of position and was likely, I thought, to fall off. I damn nearly crapped myself.4 Feb 2020
Before the M4 was completed, I once flew on Morton Airways from Gatwick to Cardiff, with the return from Swansea in thunder and lightning. The aircraft were a Dove and a Heron, but can’t remember which one flew which flight.4 Feb 2020
Alex mentioned Cathay first flight to London the exact date was 16th July 1980.
In those days there used to be a stop in Bahrain as the 747-100 could not make the the distance.
The first non-stop CX flight was July the second 1983 in 12 hours 28 minutes and 23 seconds. A world record at the time. I took my first of many CX to London the following month and recall at the time that Cathay offered a free limo service for a radius of 30 miles from LHR -those were the days !
Cathay had fought the (at the time) protectionist british government for years for rights on the route and were granted them after an acrimonious court battle with the said government.
I used to fly the route prior but always with British Caledonian (the girls were really nice) as on principal I would not fly the british government owned BOAC who were keeping free enterprise Cathay off of the route.
At the time Cathay were one of the few airlines to offer free booze in economy – the Brits did not and the Cathay flights were an instant success.
You must be logged in to access attached files.6 Feb 2020
I agree cwordwarde.
With Hong Kong being a Colony at that time it was considered a cabotage route and only UK airlines could operate direct from the UK.
That route must have been a real money-spinner for BA in those days. BA did not provide enough capacity to meet demand (fewer seats mean higher fares)which led to waiting lists at bust times, service standards were not the best (why should BA try harder when it held a monopoly ?) and that caused so many complaints from the people in Hong Kong that the local authority had to act and allow Cathay Pacific.
Back in the 1970s I worked in the travel trade and I remember ticketing some business people (who wished to visit Hong Kong only) through to Taipei (via Hong Kong) because the fare would be less. (Back then before the days of sophisticated booking systems it was possible to remove unwanted coupons from your ticket)
As Hong Kong was cabotage (ie domestic) BA was free to charge what it liked whereas UK-Taipei fares would be determined by IATA.6 Feb 2020
The first years, Cathay’s flights were all from Gatwick…
Indeed. I attended the launch at LGW.
At that time most newcomers started at LGW before transferring to LHR.
How many of you can remember the days when NZ, DL, NW, GA, PR, CO and so on started at LGW ?6 Feb 2020