HEATHROW (Aka LONDON AIRPORT)
Note: In 2016 when I was 68 years old, this picture was discovered - which I have no recollection of - showing me aged about fifteen with my younger sister, with our bikes, in the central area of LAP (London Airport). I can only imagine that I was trying to demonstrate that the study of airliners was pretty much the most worthwhile ambition anybody could aspire to - or something similar. Please note the security fencing deemed neccessary in those days!
Note: This first picture from Google Earth © also shows the proximity of other famous aerodromes / airports.
The second and third pictures from postcards were kindly sent by Mike Charlton, and shows the iconic control tower at London Airport, presumably taken shortly after the central area opened. The small amount of movements on the 'board' in the third picture seems to indicate that this picture was taken during this period. Mike Charlton has an amazing collection. See; www.aviationpostcard.co.uk
Note:This very poor picture, a low res scan of a low-res scan, shows the first area of LONDON AIRPORT (now HEATHROW) to become operational. The original picture was published in The Aeroplane magazine on the 8th August 1947. The main reason for including it is simply because of the fascinating caption. If only HEATHROW had a similar facility today!
The airliners seen are the BOAC Douglas C-47 Dakota 3 G-AGNO, then two Avro Yorks operated by BOAC and a Lockheed Constellation - possibly also BOAC.
Note: I now have no idea when and where I obtained this picture, and it has no information on it. However, a bit of research shows that PAA (Pan American World Airways) operated this DC-6B from 1953 to 1961. Clearly it is on the north apron at LONDON AIRPORT, taken before the 'Oceanic Terminal' in the central area opened in November 1961 - later to be renamed Terminal 3 in 1968.
Being a bit mischievous, and as everybody interested in the subject knows (?), the north apron was solely for use by long-haul flights. And yet, the camera cannot lie, here we have proof of a Vickers Viking on the apron. See the information under 'THE FIRST EUROPEAN FLIGHTS FROM THE NEW CENTRAL BUILDING' in the text below. Plus, the Pan American World Airways DC-3 in the 'Mike Charlton Gallery No.1' below.
As always in researching the content for this 'Guide' for over twenty years, invariably the further you look, the picture becomes more complex. However, this said I do hope you will enjoy reading my simple offering, and the pictures. All advice and information will be most welcome.
THE FIRST BEGINNINGS
This airport was being built over the original GREAT WEST AERODROME operated by Fairey Aviation - see seperate entry.
The construction of this airport, then un-named, started during WW2 and the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was most unhappy to learn that 3,000 men were at work here, rather than assisting Operation Overlord - for the D-Day landings. The official opening was on the 25th March 1946 by the then Minister of Aviation Lord Winstor.
The first aircraft to use the airport, which initially only had the top E/W runway open, was the BSAA (British South American Airways) Avro Lancastrian G-AGWG 'Star Light' with the renowned D C T Bennett in command. BSAA was his airline incidentally, and this was a proving flight to South America.
It appears that the first foreign aircraft to land here was a Panair do Brazil Lockheed 049 Constellation, arriving from Rio de Janeiro in South America, on the 16th April 1946. And that flight was most certainly not non-stop! Even so, it appears that the airport, by then known as LONDON AIRPORT, did not become 'fully operational' until the 31st May 1946. This said, (more info below in the text), one can only wonder at the utterly pathetic image of this country the first foreign passengers must have had. It must have been obvious that we most certainly had not won, in any shape or form, a major role in a global World War
The best this then bankrupt little island could offer, for its 'flagship' global international airport, serving its capital city, were a number of tents connected by duckboards! This said, we still seemed to have almost limitless funds for miltary developments, especially in aviation.
THE FAIREY ROTORDYNE
Looking back this aircraft was, without any doubt, the most spectacular example of any future airliner development at the time. And really does illustrate how inventive and imagnative so many people were in aircraft manufacturing. And, it appears, the inception came from a requirement from BEA (British European Airways) who were then very interested in the potential for rotorcraft.
The main reason for including it here is to show how the concept might have developed. In the end only one was built, XE521 as illustrated. Ironically, it was intended for mainly city centre to city centre operations, but of course with LONDON AIR PORT then the major emerging international airport, clearly onward transit from here had to be taken into account. The first flight was on the 6th November 1957 and subsequent testing showed it could carry 40 passengers, cruising at 185mph up to 450nm.
Indeed, it soon set a world speed record for 'convertiplanes' of 190.9mph over a 60 mile closed circuit. A large amount of interest was shown around the world for a regional airliner capable of vertical take-off and landing in city centres. In the end, it all came to nothing. BEA declined to order any, and the British government lost interest in supporting the project. But, it must be mentioned, in the form seen here, the noise created by the rotor-tip 'jets' was truly horrendous when taking-off and landing.
A JIM ELEY GALLERY
These four pictures were kindly sent by Jim Eley (in July 2019) who was flying Avro Lancasters at the end of WW2 with 514 Squadron. After leaving the RAF he went on to fly with Skyways, Britavia and Tradewinds.
First picture: The Avro 685 York C.1 G-AHEY led an interesting career, including one account which states it was on trooping operations as WW506 until 1952. The official records show a rather different picture as it appears that after being registered as G-AHEY (20.03.46) it was in the charge of the Ministry of Supply at YEADON until the 4th July 1946. It was then acquired by British South American Airways on the 4th July who operated it until the 3rd September 1949 and was presumably a regular visitor at LAP (London Airport).
BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) acquired 'Echo Yankee' on the 3rd Sepember 1949 and operated it until the 4th April 1952 when it went to Lancashire Aircraft Corporation from the 8th April 1952 until the 28th February 1955. Skyways of London, in whose colours it is seen here, operated G-AHEY from the 28th February 1955 until the 8th June 1956, during which time Skyways moved its operating base from London Airport to LUTON (BEDFORDSHIRE).
On the 8th June 1956 it was then registered in Jordan as JY-ABZ. Presumably the deal fell through as it was returned to the U.K. register three weeks later on the 29th June. I suspect it never left our shores? It appears Skyways continued operating it until the 5th November 1964 when it was declared PWFU (Permanently Withdrawn From Use) and scrapped at LUTON.
Second picture: The Handley Page HP.81 Hermes 4A G-ALDR led a much simpler career. Registered to BOAC on the 27th October 1949 they operated it until the 12th April 1955. Skyways then acquired it and possibly operated 'Delta Romeo' until the 15th August 1962. It being declared PWFU on the 31st May 1963. I say "possibly" because one record states it ended operations in 1959. Both accounts agree it was scrapped at STANSTED (ESSEX).
I could well be mistaken, but it looks to me that this picture was taken on the southern apron at LAP (London Airport). Can anybody kindly offer advice? And what about the C-47s/DC-3s seen in the background?
Third picture: The Lockheed L-749A Constellation G-ANUR started life with QANTAS in Australia as VH-EAB. BOAC registered it on the 26th February 1955 and operated it until the 2nd July 1962. Skyways at LUTON then operated 'Uniform Romeo' from the 2nd July 1962 until the 17th February 1967. And, LUTON in those days had a grass runway - no problem for a 'Connie'. It appears it was sold to the USA on the 23rd February 1967 as N1949.
Fourth picture: This picture is of the pilots section of the flight deck in G-ANBH. First registered on the 18th January 1956 this Bristol 175 Britannia 102 flew with BOAC from the 26th August 1957 until the 24th April 1970. (See below).The Britannia was popularly know as 'The Whispering Giant' due to its, for those days, astonishing low noise even when taking off.
Oddly perhaps, 'November Hotel' was not placed on the second-hand market. It being broken up at SOUTHEND, it appears, in September 1969. I have often noticed that a time lag, as in this case, can occur between an event such as the scrapping of an aircraft, and official records being updated. But of course, those working in the 'back offices' of administration only rarely have a relationship with reality.
Note: All pictures by the author unless specified.
HEATHROW is of course, today the major British Airways base and the majority of the short to medium haul fleet are now Airbus aircraft, the backbone of the fleet being the Airbus A320 family. For long haul Boeing types still rule the roost with the recent exception of the Airbus A380, (introduced in 2015), also pictured here.
Being a tad pedantic, the Boeing 767 fleet were confined to short and medium haul duties before being retired and I belive the furthest destination was Cyprus. BA also have their major flight simulator facility nearby as well as a very large maintenance base.
SOME PICTURES IN 2017
These pictures were taken from a British Airways Boeing 767 taxying out to take off from Terminal 5 to Cyprus in March 2017. At that time I was told, only six or seven 767s were still being operated by BA, this type being relegated to short and medium haul operations - Cyprus being one of, if not the longest route.
Originally encompassing the GREAT WEST AERODROME, previously owned and operated by Fairey Aviation. When construction started for the Heathrow project, (originally with nine runways!), it utterly swamped and obliterated the old GREAT WEST AERODROME site. Except for one small detail it seems; as I am told that the original Fairey hangar served, in the Central Area, as the base for the airport fire services for many years.
There are so many stories, (possibly just fables and rumours of course), as to how HEATHROW actually came about. Some say it was intended to be, during late WW2 as a military aerodrome; in effect a terminal for trans-Atlantic passengers, mostly of military status (?) sorting out the aftermath of WW2. It was never operational as a military base.
Others claim that 'clear thinking people' realised that, even during WW2, London needed an entirely new airport to cater for the predicted upsurge in demand for international air travel. Obviously CROYDON was by now a 'no-hoper', and, although sites to the east of London had been quite aggressively promoted, some bright spark realised that London has mostly prevailing westerly winds. So, given the frequent London 'smog' conditions, (a combination of coal fired smoke and fog which quite often reduced visilibity to a few yards - or metres), a site to the west of London obviously made much more sense.
However, or so the story seems to go, these far-sighted people realised that the project could not progress, under 'War' conditions, as a civil airport. So they decided to progress the project under the pretence of it being a major 'miltary' airport, very much required. Either way, the project eventually succeeded, but it took many years to become fully devoped. See the 'Notes' listed below.
As this section of an Ordnance Survey Aviation Map published in 1935 clearly shows, the aerodrome on this location was offically known as HEATHROW, perhaps before it became generally known as the 'Great West Aerodrome'?
THE MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY No.1 (London Airport North)
These fabulous pictures from postcards were kindly sent by Mike Charlton who has an amazing collection. See, www.aviationpostcard.co.uk
As mentioned elsewhere, all passenger operations were initially based on the north side of the new airport. Mostly, but not all, services being long-haul. Or so the 'legend' persists. These pictures show an entirely different picture, with short to medium haul services being much in evidence.
First picture: Until I saw this picture I would have dismissed the idea of 'Pan-Am' having a Douglas DC-3 serving London Airport during this period as being a total nonsense. Quite ridiculous. But here's the proof. Attempts to find what it was doing and destinations served have come to nothing. If anybody can kindly offer advice, this will be most welcome.
My guess is that it was used to provide a 'through' link to West Germany. In those days the American Army and Air Force had a truly massive presence there. Plus, U.S. industrial and commercial interests were taking shape such as the Ford car plant in Köln (Cologne) and the Saar region, (which may have been later?), and the Opel (General Motors) factories at Bochum and Rüsselsheim-am-Main.
Some research shows that Pan Am, as it later became, appears to have served serveral European destinations from HEATHROW, mostly to West Germany. And indeed come to think of it, about forty years ago (from 2018) I once caught a Pan Am Boeing 727 from HEATHROW to West Germany - Frankfurt probably.
Beyond is a BOAC Lockheed Constellation. I have no idea which variant this is as BOAC operated the L-049, L-749 and L-749A. I suspect it is a L-049? I cannot make out the identity of the DC-4 beyond.
Second picture: This shows the nose of a BOAC Boeing 377 Stratocruiser and, beyond, an EL AL Douglas DC-4. In 1949 the Isreali government decided they needed to have their own national airline, and two ex-American Airlines DC-4s were purchased, 4X-ACC 'Rechoroth' and 4X-ACD 'Herzl'. Having no crews of their own these were, according to the EL AL history web-site, mainly sourced from the U.S.A., England (My note: Not the U.K.), and South Africa. A few years later EL AL decided to purchase two brand new Bristol Britannias.
Third picture: This is the Avro 691 Lancastrian C.Mk.3 airliner, (G-AGWI), operated by British South American Airways from the 25th January 1946 until the 16th August 1948. It later served with Flight Refuelling, possibly at TARRANT RUSHTON in DORSET? But, what we need to remember is that BSAA were operating a pretty basic conversion of the WW2 Avro Lancaster bomber to carry passengers across the Atlantic in far from comfortable conditions.
It appears that BOAC had a fleet of thirty Lancastrians in 1945, used on services as far as New Zealand. The seats for about nine VIPs were placed sideways, didn't recline, and baggage lockers were placed overhead. Incredible though it might seem, these aircraft were, in their own way from a British point of view in those days, the forerunners of the long range executive jets we have today. Speed and range counted for everything, and the Avro Lancastrian, the best of British, delivered.
Except that the Americans had the Douglas DC-4 and Lockheed Constellation, with similar speeds and range and far, far more comfort, carrying many more passengers too! So, hardly surprising, BOAC soon decided they needed Constellations to compete in the global market. The British aviation industry had nothing comparable, and of course the medium range jet de Havilland DH106 Comet was an utter disaster for the UK aviation industry. From which, with the singular exception of the Vickers Viscount, it never recovered.
Fifth picture: The original passenger 'terminal' at HEATHROW consisted of tents. But this is later and sign outside the marquee's says, " Display Tent". Was this perhaps an event staged by the RAeC (Royal Aero Club) or SBAC (Society of British Aircraft Constructors) or a similar notable organisation? Or was it just a small exhibition? Any advice will be most welcome.
Sixth picture: What a fascinating view this is. Note all the airliners parked around all over the place. Mostly, away from the 'terminal' apron, BOAC and BEA types I would assume? Also, it appears that only the E/W northern runway was being used.
Seventh picture: The Convair 240 entered service with SABENA in 1949. However, the DC-4 on the left, is of Scandinavian Airlines System, which was formed in 1951. The history of this latter airline is I think, of considerable interest because, as far as I know, it is the first example of airlines from different countries collaborating to their mutual benefit. It appears that as early as 1946, Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrakik (Sweden), Det Norske Luftfartselskap (Norway) and Det Danske Luftfartselskab (Denmark) joined forces to pool their resources for a trans-Atlantic operation.
Two years later, following the success of this collaboration, services to Europe and even domestic were included and in 1951 SAS was formed. So, this picture dates from at least 1951.
Eighth picture: Without any doubt whatsoever, the series of 'Constellation' designs by Lockheed are the most beautiful of airliners. G-AKCE was a fairly early example, a L-049E, operated by BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) from the 12th August 1947 until the 27th June 1955. It was then sold to the U.S.A. It is I think interesting to find that although U.S. dollar funds were made available for BOAC to purchase five new Lockheed Constellations, and later six new Boeing Stratocruisers, the remainder of the fleet were second-hand.
Ninth picture; This BOAC Constellation 'Balmoral' was G-AHEM, another L-049E. It was registered to BOAC from the 6th April 1946 untl the 11th October 1954, when it went to Capitol Airlines in the USA, where, within a year or so they crashed it. The safety record of airlines in the USA, especially in those years, and earlier, was truly abysmal. Mind you, it wasn't too good even on this side of the pond.
Tenth picture: What a corker! This Consolidated LB30 Liberator MKII, G-AHYG, was configured to carry eighteen passengers and BOAC operated it from the 29th August 1946 until the 6th April 1951. It was based at Montreal in Canada. The Liberator had very 'long legs' which made it ideal for trans-Atlantic services. Seen behind, (also in several of the pictures in this gallery), is the old 'Fairey' hangar, built when they operated the GREAT WEST AERODROME (see seperate listing), which LONDON AIR PORT consumed. When the central area was built, this became the base for the airport fire service, and served as such for many years.
Eleventh picture: A view from the public enclosure. Seen behind from left to right, are three C-47/DC-3s, a Lockheed Constellation (but whose?), an Avro York sticking its nose out (BOAC or BSAA?), an Avro Lancastrian (probably BSAA by this time?), and a Convair 240 of KLM I think.
Twelth picture: Here is something to think about. This postcard, posted on the 26th July 1949, is captioned, "British South American Airways - Tudor IV - London Airport". BSAA certainly operated their Avro Tudors from LAP, but I don't think this picture was taken here. I would suggest it was taken at the BSAA maintenance base at LANGLEY aerodrome, just NW of LAP. Perhaps the postcard company asked BSAA for a picture of a Tudor without specifying that it had to be at LAP? Who knows?
Thirteenth picture: In this view a SAS Douglas DC-4 is on the left and a KLM Convair 240 is in the centre.
Fourteenth picture: The Avro 685 York C1, G-AHFE, was registered to BSAA from the 27th September 1946 until the 3rd September 1949. It then went, perhaps a surprise (?) to BOAC until the 3rd August 1951. Then it went to Lancashire Aircraft until the 28th of February 1955. I wonder what duties it performed with them?
Fifteenth picture: As LONDON AIR PORT developed an extraordinary amount of single-storey buildings were erected, many pre-fabricated, all around the site. And many still served until at least the 1980s? Some possibly longer?
Seventeeth picture: Another view with a SAS Douglas DC-4 on the left and an Air India Lockheed Constellation to the right of it.
Eighteenth picture: I cannot get enough of 'Connies'. This splendid example is one the Pan American World Airways fleet. The registration is, I think, NC88846? If so the fleet name is Clipper Great Republic and is a Lockheed L-049 Constellation. Delivered to PAA on the 29th February 1946 it crashed in Liberia on the 22nd June 1951.
Nineteenth picture: Seen beyond from left to right are four C-47/DC-3, an American Overseas Airlines Lockheed L-049 Constellation, an Avro Lancastrian - (presumably of BSAA?) - and a KLM Convair CH240.
Twentieth picture: The Handley Page HP.81 Hermes 4A operated with BOAC from the 27th October 1949 until the 23rd June 1954. It then went to Britavia until the 6th December 1962 when it became PWFU (Permanently Withdrawn From Use). The scene beyond clearly shows that construction of the Central area had barely been started, so presumably this dates the picture to circa 1949/50?
So many accounts concerning ‘LONDON’ airports in between WW1 and WW2 tends to create confusion. When you consider all the so called ‘LONDON’ airports in this period such as CRICKLEWOOD, CROYDON, HESTON, HOUNSLOW, MAYLANDS and STAPLEFORD small wonder confusion sets in. However, when it opened after WW2 and for many years later, this was LONDON AIRPORT (LAP).
I expect in another sixty or seventy years anybody in my position will also be spending hours scratching their heads trying to make sense of it all trying to separate records stating ‘LONDON’ between LONDON (CITY), LONDON (GATWICK), LONDON (HEATHROW), LONDON (LUTON), LONDON (SOUTHEND) and LONDON (STANSTED). If only people could be persuaded to call all flying sites by their ‘proper’ name wouldn’t life be made so much easier?
Note: The rather poor and damaged picture (providence unknown?) of a BEA Vanguard, probably taken in the early 1970s (?) is of special interest. It clearly shows (top left) the 'Fairey' hangar which had survived from the GREAT WEST AERODROME days in the 1930s, and was apparently used after operations started to house the airport fire service.
VERY SOON, A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Almost from when it started operations, London Airport became the major UK airport for long-haul international flights, connecting by air pretty much all of the known world. European destinations were being served by NORTHOLT, a few miles to the north. It appears it was originally known as HEATHROW until March 25th 1946. Then officially decreed as ‘LONDON AIRPORT’ or LAP. It took quite a long time before it became one the worlds largest international 'hubs', and of course, it most definitely still is.
The 'second' LONDON HEATHROW designation probably came about in or around 1962 when GATWICK was being developed? There seems to be some debate about the exact chronology? Later of course other sites such as ‘LONDON’ LUTON and ‘LONDON’ STANSTED came into being.
Do you agree that prefixing these airports with 'London' is very pretentious and, potentially, confusing to passengers booking flights? What is so wrong with being proud and pronouncing to the world, "We are LUTON, or we are STANSTED? I am quite proud of my old 'home' airport deciding to call itself simply 'HEATHROW', and long may it continue being known as such.
ICAO code: EGLL IATA code: LHR
Military users: None known, but this site was originally intended to be, towards the end of WW2, a RAF Transport Command Terminal
Operated by: 1946: Ministry of Aviation
1990: Heathrow Airport Ltd
2000: BAA London (Heathrow) Airport
Activities: Airline, air freight, charter. Heavy aircraft and business aircraft maintenance. GA charter/air taxi, business. Even private and pleasure flights in the early days
A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL 'CROSSROADS'.
Note: Picture by the author.
It must be remembered that apart from being a major international hub on the ground, HEATHROW is also a major crossing point for designated airways in the UK. At an intermediate level aircraft arriving at NORTHOLT, LUTON and STANSTEAD cross through HEATHROW airspace, and on a clear day, airliners leave their contrails across the sky above HEATHROW heading who knows where on their flights around the world.
When Terminal Four was officially opened on the Ist April 1986, it was in many ways a radical concept. Built on the south side of HEATHROW, south of runway 09R/27L, it was quite independent of the central area terminals and mostly devoted to British Airways long-haul operations, especially in the early days. A few other airlines did use this terminal before Terminal 5 opened. Since then of course used by a large variety of airlines, many for long-haul operations once traffic through Terminal 3 exceeded its capacity to cope.
Note: All three pictures taken, by the author, in July 2016.
British airline users: Note: Click on any airline underlined for a picture of an airliner.
Air UK, Airwork*, BKS, British Air Services, British Airways (BA), British Eagle, British European Airways (BEA), British Mediterranean Airways, British Midland Airways, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), British South American Airways (BSAA), British United Airways, British Westpoint Airlines, Brymon Airways, Cambrian Airways, Cunard Eagle, Dan-Air, Flybe G.B. Airways, Hunting Clan Air Transport**, Manx Airlines, Northeast, Virgin Atlantic Virgin AtlanticVirgin Airbus A330-343 G-AGEM in June 2018 In the 1957 edition of 'The Aeroplane' directory, Airwork are listed as a Scheduled Airline Operator. Their two main bases being BLACKBUSHE and LONDON AIRPORT. The fleet in 1957 consisted of four Handley Page Hermes, seven Vickers Vikings, three Bristol Freighters, three Douglas Dakotas, eleven DH.104 Doves, fourteen DH89A Dragon Rapides, one Airspeed Consul, one Auster Autocrat and two Avro Ansons. Without much doubt a lot of this fleet was based abroad.
Could anybody kindly advise on what exactly Airwork were engaged in at LONDON AIRPORT? And especially, were they engaged in any scheduled services?
**Also in the 1957 edition of 'The Aeroplane' directory, Hunting Clan Air Transport, based here, were listed as a Scheduled Airline Operator. The fleet was five Vickers Viscounts, nine Vickers Vikings, four Avro Yorks, four Douglas Dakotas and they had three Bristol Britannias on order.
NOTE: In November 2010 only three UK airlines were operating scheduled passenger flights from Heathrow: BA (British Airways), bmi (British Midland International), and Virgin. Regarding the BEA Viscount picture above, (click on BEA Viscount underlined), when I first started aircraft spotting as a spotty teenager, these BEA Viscounts were as common us muck and we barely noticed them. Today of course, seeing this example at Duxford, brings back so many happy memories.
In 2017 I noticed that Flybe had commenced services. I would appreciate advice if any other British airline has commenced operations since 2010.
BRITISH AIRWAYS AIRLINER PICTURES IN 2018
Despite all the problems and much adverse publicity in recent years, and the deliberate policy by the management to make BA a very much 'second class' airline in the global market, the fact remained that the majority of airliners using HEATHROW in 2018 were operated by British Airways. Living under a departure route from HEATHROW the ratio, at a guess, was one in three at least.
So, for the purposes of this 'Guide' it seems fitting to include some pictures of their airliners departing from HEATHROW in mid 2018.
Foreign airline users:
(Including cargo only carriers)
If you would like to see a picture of an airliner operated by any of these airlines, and the entry is underlined, just click on it. All pictures by the author unless specified.
ON SHORT FINALS TO LAND
NOTE: In November 2010 the following international airlines were operating scheduled passenger services from LHR (HEATHROW). (Included are the IATA pre-fix flight number codes)
(AH) Air Algerie
(KC) Air Astana
(AC) Air Canada
(CA) Air China
(AI) Air India
(KM) Air Malta
(MK) Air Mauritius
(NZ) Air New Zealand
(HM) Air Seychelles
(TS) Air Transat
(AA) American Airlines
(W3) Arik Air
(J2) Azerbaijan Airlines
(BG) Biman Bangladesh*(1)
(KF) Blue 1
(SN) Brussels Airlines
(FB) Bulgaria Air
(CX) Cathay Pacific
(CI) China Airlines
(MU) China Eastern
(OU) Croatia Airlines
(CY) Cyprus Airways
(MS) Egypt Air
(LY) EL AL
(ET) Ethiopian Airlines
(EY) Etihad Airways
(BR) EVA Air
(GF) Gulf Air
(IR) Iran Air
(JL) Japan Airlines
(JU) Jat Airways
(9W) Jet Airways
(KQ) Kenya Airways
(YK) Kibris Turkish Airlines
(IT) Kingfisher Airlines)
(KL) KLM* (2)
(KE) Korean Air
(KU) Kuwait Airways
(LN) Libyan Airlines
(LO) LOT Polish Airlines
(MH) Malaysia Airlines
(OA) Olympic Air
(WY) Oman Air
(PK) Pakistan International* (3)
(QR) Qatar Airways
(AT) Royal Air Maroc
(BI) Royal Brunei Airlines
(RJ) Royal Jordanian
(SK) SAS * (4)
(SV) Saudi Arabian Airlines
(SQ) Singapore Airlines
(SA) South African Airways
(UL) Sri Lankan Airlines
(LX) Swiss * (5)
(TP) TAP Portugal
(TG) Thai Airways
(TK) Turkish Airlines
(TS) Turkmenistan Airlines
(UA) United Airlines
(US) US Airways
(HY) Uzbekistan Airways
* (1) Biman Bangladesh Airlines
* (2) KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines
* (3) Pakistan International Airlines
* (4) SAS – Scandinavian Airlines (Was once Scandinavian Airlines System)
* (5) Swiss International Air Lines (Successor to Swissair)
The above listing serving to prove the largest diversity of international carriers at any UK airport, and without too much doubt the most cosmopolitan mix of nations served by any airport within the EU?
JUST A THOUGHT
I do hope this will provide some amusement? Over the years I have been much entertained by how people in the airline industry never cease to invent new acronyms based on the abbreviated initials of various airlines, so I have included a few here. Without any doubt some of these very clever ideas were invented by aircrew, on the flight-deck, bored stiff whilst crossing oceans and continents? Before the days of the concept of 'Political Correctness' being invented.
Alitalia. "Always Late In Taking-off, Always Late In Arriving."
British Airways - BA. "By Rights I Think I Should Have An Intimate Relationship With A Young Stewardess,"
British European Airways - BEA. "Back Every Afternoon" (Presumably invented by BOAC crews?)
British Overseas Airline Corporation - BOAC. "Boys Overseas After Crumpet" (Presumably invented by BEA crews?)
Lufthansa. "Let Us F**k The Hostess And Not Say Anything"
Pakistan International Airways - PIA. "Perhaps I Arrive" and "Please Inform Allah."
Qantas. "Queers And Nancies Training As Stewards."
Sabena. "Such A Bloody Experience Never Again."
Trans World Airlines - TWA. "Two-hundred Wet Americans."
Right then, this seems to have insulted just about everybody - anybody feeling left out?
I reckon there is perhaps a very serious point hidden away here. Despite the continuous pressure of the job, being an airline pilot, (if they mostly came up with these?), especially with all the reports to be made out after every flight and the twice a year 'sim checks' etc, etc, it does seem that maintaining a robust sense of humour and disregarding superficial transitory 'social' concepts such as 'political correctness' must surely be a great aid to remaining sane in this incredibly high pressure environment?
Air freight: Many mainly passenger carriers have used HEATHROW for freight services by using trucks to carry their air freight to both UK internal and especially European UK destinations. (But the customer still paid air freight rates!) Originally this was largely because transporting air freight by road was much quicker, as the Customs formalities for trucks was far more streamlined and effecient.
However, the situation is always changing, and as this picture taken in 1999 shows, freight such as lightweight postal items has often been loaded into the holds of passenger flights into Europe. For destinations outside Europe, since larger types such as Boeing 747 appeared, freight as well as post is invariably loaded onto passenger flights.
Note: In 2017, after the 'Brexit' vote, nobody knows what the ramifications might be - but without too much doubt they will be next to catastrophic? Simply because the UK cannot change international laws regarding pre-agreed Customs formalities, just as Norway and Switzerland have to abide by. Open borders in these countries, a condition applied by the EU to enable them to trade in the EU, do not apply to trucks. And, with around seven thousand trucks using Dover alone every day, (and most airfreight carriers use Dover), who knows what the consequences might be?
A PERSONAL MEMORY
Many years ago an exhibition stand customer of ours announced that a major client had screwed up the dates for the delivery of their stand to Munich, and therefore they where sending the stand by air. They were astonished when I said we could get it there much quicker by road and for a fraction of the cost, and anyway, it was almost certain the airline would be using trucks.
We, as per usual, would load the exhibition stand, pretty much unpacked, from their factory and set off immediately, reaching Munich almost certainly before they had packed everything into crates suitable for air freight, (at huge expense), and also paying to have it delivered to Heathrow. Where it then had to go through the air freight handling system. In those days Customs procedures at Heathrow were renowned for being a law unto themselves, and very often considerable delays resulted. Plus of course they would lose control of the schedule and how the items were being handled. Needless to say, we got the job and delivered it exactly on time. (Actually arriving about twelve hours early).
I will leave it up to you to decide on the 'morality' of airlines operating such a system, but I think it stinks.
Charter, air taxi: Aer Turas, Air Condor, Air Enterprises, Airgo, Air Gregory, Air Pegasus, Airwork,Alidair, Britannia Airways, Cabair, Cunard Eagle, Humber Airways, Hunting Clan, Skyways
Pleasure flights: Birkett Air Service, Island Air Services
This picture from a postcard was also kindly sent by Mike Charlton. As can clearly be seen, at this point in time the pleasure flights were being operated from the northern part of the Central area.
The history of G-AGUF is rather interesting. Ex NR779, it was first registered on the 18th October 1945 to the Ministry of Civil Aviation at SPEKE. It next went to BEA (British Eurpean Airways Corporation) from the 1st January 1947 until the 25th May 1948. From then on, (from the 2nd June 1948 until the 15th October 1953), the ownership record appears rather complex - but does include Monique Agazarian, an ex ATA pilot and major exponent of Island Air Services.
Oddly perhaps, this aircraft was never registered to Island Air Services, this being just a trading name? From the 4th February 1954 until the 9th August 1957 it was registered to Mrs Monique Marie Rendall and Mr R Rendall. Monique Agazarian married Ray Rendall in April 1949. G-AGUF crashed at RAMSGATE airport on the 29th June 1957 and was WFU (Withdrawn From Use).
Monique Agazarian went on to become an iconic figure in the history of UK aviation, and her career is well worth looking up. A quite extraordinary person.
In the 1957 The Aeroplane directory, Island Air Services are listed as operating three DH89A Dragon Rapides.
PICTURES OF THE MAINTENANCE FACILITIES
Note: In the "reconstruction" picture the BOAC facility erected in the 1960s, (possibly a tad earlier?), can be seen during demolition.
*This picture, taken by me probably in the late 1970s (?) is of the Sudan Airways Boeing 707-3J8C (ST-AFB) undergoing a major overhaul in one of the BOAC hangars.
Note: This picture, taken by Brian Stainer, presumably in the 1960s (?), is of the Panair DC-7C undergoing attention in the 'Pan Am' hangar on the south side of LAP (LONDON AIRPORT). As an aside, when I was 'reggie spotting' some sixty years ago at LAP, Brian Stainer was an almost mythological figure - seeming to have access to take pictures anywhere around the airport.
In 1956 he started Aviation Photo News, and as a lad he seemed to have his pictures published in all the main aviation magazines, LAP being a major item of course. Sadly I learnt that he passed away in November 2009. So, in a very small way, this picture serves to extend the memory of this remarkable man.
Maintenance: British Airways (BA), British European Airways (BEA), British Midland, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), Cunard Eagle, Field Aviation, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am)
Location: S of A4, N of A30, 1nm S of junction 4 (M4), 3nm NE of Staines, 12nm W of London
Period of operation: Civil operations from 1946 to -
Runways: The very first plans for HEATHROW had nine runways drawn up. Six within the present day site, and three more to the north of the A4 Bath Road. Although construction started on all six runways, three of them soon became taxiways and then part of the apron areas. I now wonder if these three runways were ever used? Indeed, whilst under construction I have seen a picture showing 05R/23L being used for parking aircraft.
1946: 05R/23L 1829x92 hard 10L/28R 2743x92 hard
15R/33L 1829x92 hard
1959: 05L/23R 2357x92 hard 10L/28R 2838x92 hard
15R/33L 2332x92 hard 05R/23L 1906x92 hard
10R/28L 2919x92 hard
1990: 09L/27R 3902x45 hard 09R/27L 3658x45 hard
05/23 2357x45 hard
2000: 09L/27R 3902x45 hard 09R/27L 3658x45 hard
23 1966x45 hard
2000: A Helicopter Aiming Point located at eastern end of Block 111
NOTES: 14th May 1939: Venue for the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Garden Party at the GREAT WEST AERODROME. The pre-war Fairey Company owned the aerodrome which was totally consumed by the HEATHROW project. This serves to prove how difficult it can sometimes be to separate after several decades the difference between the names attached to various sites and their exact geographical locations. Quite often two, three or more ‘place’ names are/were used to identify a site in more or less the same place. In 1954, when HEATHROW was operational, the Royal Aeronautical Society held another Garden Party here.
According to plans issued in about 1945, (although it is noted the aerodrome was still under construction), the original concept was for a full 'double' triangular layout with exceptionally wide runways, also very long too by the standards of the day. Also, see the plan with nine runways provided! It was Peter Marson who sent this plan to me and it certainly puts another unwelcome slant against those who quite rightly in my opinion oppose a third runway at HEATHROW, because the top three runways were planned to the north of the A4 Bath Road!
When it came to the decision to use this site for the new London Airport I reckon the person, (please, please don’t tell me it was designed by a committee!), who came up with the idea of superimposing another “inverted ‘A’ frame” runway layout over this conventional layout should surely be regarded as a genius. Unless of course the idea was copied from elsewhere, any ideas? We do of course need to remember that the very reason for devising this layout was when all British designed airliners were still 'tail-draggers'.
It was of course the Americans who pioneered the concept of airliners having a tricycle undercarriage, but for military transport purposes initially, with the Douglas C-54 (DC-4) and the amazing Lockheed Constellation which was under consideration before WW2. During WW2 the miltary designation for the 'Constellation' was the C-69, but when Lockheed started producing civilian versions, they had a 'L' prefix such as the L-749.
Note: The third picture, the rather battered postcard, was lent for me to scan by my good friend Peter Hart. It was sent to him by his father and is postmarked 6th October 1957. I could not resist including it, despite its tatty condition, because the images, especially the centre image of the Alcock and Brown memorial and the interior of the terminal, still retain a certain magic - redolent of the era.
THE BEGINNINGS OF HEATHROW
I think I should start by being very forthright in my opinion: Can there now be any doubt that the people responsible for operating the site decided that Heathrow Airport should be the place to utterly humiliate the British nation in the eyes of the world? To show to the world that far from being a victorious nation after WW2, the British were in fact heavily debt ridden and impoverished.
Which was of course the case. It might seem unbelievable today, but it is a fact that most of the initial long-haul passenger facilities at HEATHROW, (on the northern side), were processed through tented third-world ‘refugee’, or at best, ‘Army camp’ accommodation. It didn’t get much better when some very basic pre-fabricated buildings were installed.
It is claimed that in those very early years, there were no facilities for passengers getting something to eat and drink, and, not even one public telephone was provided. Can this really be true? So, this was how passengers embarking from London, (or arriving of course), on the longest international sectors, for destinations around almost the entire world, were treated.
Passengers to and from London for European destinations fared somewhat better as they were using, from the start, pre-fabricated buildings, rather than tents, from NORTHOLT. I am prepared to be corrected on this – were some tents initially used at NORTHOLT?
THE MARSHALL PLAN
When the USA emerged as the main victorious nation from WW2, (in the 'Western world' of course), they arranged the ‘Marshall Plan’ to help Germany and the UK rebuild their nations. The U.S. government being quite satisfied that during WW2 the British Empire was done for and the USA was now the dominant world power. And guess who made the most of these quite substantial funds - the Germans of course. It is still a moot point, in the UK, as to exactly where all the money went.
The end of the British Empire was indeed in sight, and looking back it only took a couple of decades for most of it to fragment. There was huge amounts of euphoria within these countries gaining independence - but look at the state of most of them now. However, what I find of interest, is that despite the often parlous state of their finances, they nearly all still seem able to operate an international airline - most of whom operate into HEATHROW - hardly the cheapest place to operate from.
It seems utterly bizarre, would you agree (?), that despite having millions living in poverty, or worse, that these governments nevertheless insist of having a 'flag carrier' airline to boost their ego.
Note: I now have no idea when and where I obtained this wonderfully evocative photograph of the Pan American World Airways Stratocruiser N1034V 'Clipper Westward Ho!' Seen on the rainswept apron on the north side of LONDON AIRPORT which served all long-haul flights until the 'Oceanic Terminal' , in the central area, was opened in November 1961. This terminal was renamed Terminal 3 in 1968.
The photograph has no information at all on it, but clearly shows how busy this relatively small apron area was at times. Seen just beyond the Stratocruiser is an Air India Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.
THE STRATOCRUISER RULED SUPREME?
I don't think many would argue against the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser being regarded as being the most luxurious piston-powered post-WW2 airliner - for first class passengers of course. Basically because it was unique in offering a lounge and bar situated seperately in an area below the main passenger deck. Is it not odd how such a simple addition appeals so much to those of wealth, fame and authority?
I find it interesting that of the finest piston-powered airliners, all American needless to say, the Stratocruiser was the first to fly, in July 1947. Pan American World Airlines (Pan-Am) intoduced the type in April 1949. The faster Douglas DC-7C first flew in 1956 as did the Lockheed L-1649 Starliner - nine years later. It appears that the first BOAC Stratocruisers, six initially, arrived in 1949 and BOAC eventually operated seventeen, the last being retired in 1959. It appears that the first BOAC Stratocruisers were based at FILTON for crew training purposes.
When the de Havilland Comet proved to be a disasterous enterprise, BOAC ordered second-hand Stratocruisers from United Airlines in the USA to 'plug the gap'. And, when the intoduction of the turbo-prop Bristol Britannia turned out to be yet another fiasco, Douglas DC-7Cs were ordered. But, the 'Strat' still remained, amongst the airliners propelled by propellers and piston engines, the top of the list in terms of luxury.
SOME INTERESTING 'FACTS'?
It appears that a first class one-way ticket on a BOAC 'Strat' was, in 1955, $400 - roughly $3,576 in 2016 - and 50 seats were allocated. A 'tourist' class one-way ticket was $290 - roughly $2,593 in 2016. A dramatic illustration of how far air fares for the general public have reduced over the intervening years since the introduction of wide-bodied jets.
A SMALL NOTE
I now have no idea where and when I purchased this postcard, (see above), but it reveals another two items of interest. The Ghana stamp on the front, showing a 'BOAC' Stratocruiser has the inscription; "Inauguration of Ghana Airways July 1958". Typically, being an African endeavour it failed eventually, ceasing operations in December 2015.
However, and most intriguing, on the reverse of this postcard is a rough 'rubber stamp' stating over four lines: "FLOWN ON AIR U,K,. FLT, No.223 LHR-GUERSEY 04 MAY 1995
A/c F.50 TEGN. G-UKTE CAPT. HORTON FLT.TIME 46 MIN
Presumably Air UK were offering, in those days, surplus or gash postcards purchased for next to nothing, as souvenirs on their flights, hastily stamped by the cabin crew.
And, there is another aspect worth mentioning. The aircraft type was a Fokker F50, a development of the Fokker F27 Friendship which first flew in 1955 and the type did not change much in appearance. The F50 first flew in 1985 and the production stopped in 1997. And indeed, unless I am very much mistaken, I still see the type operating from HEATHROW in 2017. This is an astonishing achievement for an airliner type - sixty two years and counting!
THE COLD WAR ERA
Whilst the British Empire was disintegrating, the Americans and Russians had other deas which resulted in arguably the most ineffectual, expensive and ridiculous ‘non-conflict’ ever – the so called ‘Cold War’. The whole idea was a non-starter from the beginning, as wholesale nuclear war has no winner. But, the whole charade went on for at least four decades.
In the UK we were being subjected to massive amounts of mostly US led propaganda, and indeed the RAF had their V-bomber fleet at constant readiness, usually armed with American nuclear weapons. As a lad, living next door to LAP (LONDON AIRPORT), I couldn't quite square this with Aeroflot flying their Tupolev Tu-104s in on a daily basis, and an uncle of mine regularly flying to Moscow for BEA in Comet 4Bs.
The reason for mentioning this is to illustrate that it was during the years of austerity, severe rationing and so on, with the priority being the military response to the ‘Cold War’, the planners of HEATHROW had to contend with this and plan for the future. A future which had never been envisaged before and with aircraft becoming available which rewrote the rule book.
The pospect of turboprops and jet airliners, soon to arrive, had to be planned for well in advance. It is perhaps something not generally appreciated, that the facilities to handle a new type of aircraft have to be in place before the new type arrives. So airport managers need to be well ahead of the game. Arguably the largest single project HEATHROW faced was coping with the arrival of the first Boeing 747 (Jumbo jets), but, in more recent years, the arrival of the Airbus A380 must have caused a fairly large amount of planning and investment in new infrastructure.
As passengers we tend to take all this for granted of course, but just imagine the technical issues involved in now having to provide four airbridge facilities for an airliner having two decks!
When the initial passengers were being progressed through tents on the ‘North Side’ other people were planning a suitable terminal, and control tower facility, in the central area. This terminal became the ‘Queen’s Building/Terminal later to become, more or less, part of Terminal 2. Initially only European services were served by this terminal, and, astonishing though it might seem, the long haul passengers still had to go through the very basic facilities on ‘North-side’. In recent years of course the original Terminal 2 has been demolished and a truly staggering terminal of immense size has replaced it.
I have the greatest respect for all those involved in the design and planning for such a project. Let's face it, it would be daunting enough as a 'stand-alone' civil engineering exercise. But these people had to devise methods of completely constructing a much bigger terminal, whilst at the same time making certain that the business of the old facility continued as per normal.
ONE ASPECT OF THE EVOLUTION OF THE AIRLINES
The story of the evolution of Heathrow is of course fascinating; always reflecting the need to continuously adapt to changing circumstances in the airline business. Because HEATHROW has, for several reasons, found itself in a fairly unusual if not unique position regarding the exact nature of it’s huge range of traffic mix, I reckon the BAA have done a very good job. I’d certainly never ever wished to have a job in their ‘forward planning’ department, and I’m talking as a regular user.
It is claimed, despite so many 'experts' insisting the UK has pretty much been in an economic recession since the end of the 'Thatcher' regime, that since the mid-1990s, when 120 miilion UK passengers flew, by 2013 it now appears, some 230 million were being flown to a wide variety of destinations. Some experts claim that most people in the UK are suffering, in recent years, financially for a whole host of reasons.
Clearly this is not the case by and large. In very broad terms, given that the population of the UK is around 70 million, it is clearly obvious that the majority can afford to fly, and not just once each year. This said, it has to recognised that, along with most UK airports, people travelling on business represent a considerable proportion of regular passengers; but, they are still in the minority. The trend for those flying to foreign holiday destinations, and for family reasons etc, is growing substantially year on year. (Written in 2016)
FINDING YOUR WAY TO THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE
I have been so impressed, over the years, to discover that the people engaged in designing how the terminals work, (as building work always progresses), have people so utterly brilliant in terminal design, that they have arranged matters to make certain that nine out of ten flights I’m booked on to depart, and/or arrive on, are at the furthermost point possible in all five terminals! How and why does this invariably happen? But I jest of course, it only seems this is the case.
On a more serious note, having flown from most major European airports, and several more as far afield as New Zealand, I have found generally speaking, that Heathrow invariably compares really quite favourably. Quite an accomplishment I'd say, considering the monumental task involved.
Aircrews have been known to joke that Heathrow has been, for the last fifty years, one of the biggest and ongoing building sites in the world, "Which actually has its own airport!"
THE CLASS DIVIDE
It appears that in around 2016, (and probably long before?), more First Class passengers used flights from HEATHROW than any other airport in the world. Perhaps not surprising as HEATHROW is still the major hub in the global air passenger transport system.
In early 2016 I was astonished, (but I am easily astonished - especially if a bus arrives on time), when flying to Australia with a ticket booked with QANTAS but actually flying with Emirates, (almost strap-hanging in baggage class I should add), that the entire upper deck on the Airbus A380 was reserved for First Class and Business Class.
As an aside, I was most impressed with this first flight on a A380 - what a performer. It took us higher than I have ever been, to 41,000 feet at one stage. But, talking to the cabin crew they much preferred flying in Boeing aircraft. This I also know applies to the 'drivers' up front. Broadly speaking, whereas Boeing consult the serfs and minions who work in their products, (which I believe is still the case?), the designers at Airbus would never consider stooping so low as to consult the workers.
WHO WAS IN CHARGE?
As already pointed out, when HEATHROW first opened the passenger ‘terminals’ and admin offices were, (unbelievable isn’t it?), in tents, and not even public telephones or a cafe was provided. Can we today only imagine the type of utterly incompetent and useless buffoons employed to start operations? Or, perhaps more likely, were they only acting on instructions from above where the real idiots were to be found in those days. I must point out that this is not just my opinion, several people far more capable than I have pointed this out - I'm just a learner.
Then again, and without too much doubt, it is quite likely a grossly unfair comment; as these people were very probably starved of resources? And, it must of course be remembered that because of that major inconvience to the development of civil airline operations, World War Two, the military had, for obvious reasons, demanded that they had a priority claim to the limited resources available.
Then again, the term 'limited resources' has to be qualified.They might have only been able to afford tents at HEATHROW, but it must be remembered, the British government authorised the design and construction of not just one, but three 'V' bombers! As it happens, which is most unusual in aviation given the same starting point in time; all three were first class designs - the Valiant, Vulcan and Victor.
If you think you've heard that the Valiant was not a success, this was simply a case of unsuitable materials being foisted onto Vickers against their better judgement, but more especially the ignorant 'Top Brass' clowns in the War Department and RAF deliberately deciding to use it in a role it was most definitely never designed for. Low level flying. The battering a fast flying aircraft suffers at low level is substantially worse than anything normally experienced at high levels.
To put this into context, would you use your car as a farm tractor? Or your biro as a screwdriver? I trust the answer is an emphatic "No way!" But that's what those clods did to the Valiant. And, can you believe it, Vickers had not only designed, but had actually built and had flying, a variant specifically designed for this role.
Also, it is a happy coincidence that, with jet airliners, they not only generally fly above the worst of the weather, they are far, far more fuel efficient at high altitudes.
THE OFFICIAL OPENING
It appears that HEATHROW officially opened on May 30th 1946 when a BOAC Avro Lancaster ‘airliner’, (presumably actually a Lancastrian), arrived from Sydney, Australia, two hours ahead of schedule having completed the sector in just sixty three hours!
The tents were fairly quickly replaced by temporary single story ‘pre-fab’ affairs many of which survived in use for a very long time, finally serving the air freight side of operations.
I think I’m correct in stating the last were cleared away in the 1980s but it could have been later. Memory can be a tricky “Johnny” if you’re not making notes at the time. Arthur Ord-Hume makes the point that HEATHROW has been pretty much a permanent building site since it started and relates that one wag once erected a sign, “Alterations as normal during business hours”.
Note: Picture copyright not known but credit asked for the John Stroud Collection and The Aviation Picture Library.
THE FIRST EUROPEAN FLIGHTS FROM THE NEW CENTRAL TERMINAL
Although still mainly based at NORTHOLT it appears the first BEA flight from HEATHROW was a scheduled twice-daily service to Paris, commencing on the 16th April 1950 using Vickers Vikings. However, the picture illustrated taken from the viewing terrace on top of the Queen's Building is captioned; "London Airport Central. A.M. Sunday 17 April 1955. 1st day of operation. Viscount G-AMNZ at left was first arrival."
Getting a bit 'anoraky' in my old age, I now wonder where, at HEATHROW, these operations were taking place? Presumably on the north side, alongside the long-haul operations? And indeed, when digging out pictures I have collected over the years, in 2017 I found the proof. See the third picture at the beginning of this listing.
What I cannot quite square is that the 'Eastern Apex Building' was, it seems, officially opened by the Queen in 1953, soon after to be renamed 'The Queen's Building'. And yet it would seem that it would not become operational for another two years?
According to Charles Woodley in his History of British European Airways it appears; “During 1950 only 21,000 BEA passengers passed through London Airport, compared with 542,000 through Northolt.”
When fully open it seems that the viewing gallery was a huge success, apparently attracting more visitors than Windsor Castle, Madam Tussauds and the Tower of London. In 2013 this iconic building was demolished to make way for the new Terminal Two which now handles both European and long-haul services.
THE MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY No.2. The Central Area
Second picture: Possibly a most unusual picture? Here are three BEA (British European Airways) Airspeed AS.57 Ambassadors, known as the 'Elizabethan Class'. BEA ordered twenty and they served from 1952 until 1958.
Third picture: The Queens Building had a dual function purpose. Primarily housing the administration for the airport and and airlines, it also provided a splendid viewing area for the public. Such a shame that this idea was later scrapped in the urge to cram ever greater numbers of passengers through the terminals. But, I suppose, how many people today would visit HEATHROW just to see the airliners? Not many?
Fourth picture. Visiting HEATHROW today it might well seem incredible that originally, when the Central area opened, it had just one terminal to serve European destinations. This was No.1 Building Europa.
Sixth picture; This view shows the airport in the mid 1950s. A Swissair Douglas DC-4 is taxying in, and the 'Daks' and Viscounts appear to be all BEA aircraft. The 'Fairey' hangar from the old GREAT WEST AERODROME stands out in the mid-distance.
Seventh picture: With the expansion plans to have three terminals in the central area, No.1 Building Europa became Terminal 2.
Ninth picture: A view taken in the mid 1950s. BEA types in the foreground, (plus a Swissair Convair), and note the gaggle of BOAC Constellations in the background.
Twelth picture: Three BEA 700 Series Viscounts surrounding an Air France Viscount.
Fourteenth picture: A pretty typical picture in the late 1950s. Three BEA 'Daks', six BEA 700 Series Viscounts, and an Aer Lingus Fokker F27 Friendship taxying in. It appears that Aer Lingus operated the F27 Friendship from 1958 until 1966.
Sixteenth picture: In the foreground a BEA Comet 4B in the new colours, and behind a BEA Viscount in the old colours and to its right a Lufthansa Viscount. Looking beyond Terminal 3 is being built. This would seem to put this picture in the early 1960s.
AN UNLIKELY EVENT?
For me certainly, and I trust at least a bit for you, the compiling of this ‘Guide’ has been a voyage of almost endless discovery. Very often just a small detail causes me some amazement. For example, here at HEATHROW I was astonished to discover that in 1949 a Grumman Mallard crashed here killing all on board. A Grumman Mallard landing at HEATHROW in those days? How unlikely is that?
A VISIT BY THE BRISTOL Type 167 BRABAZON
On June 15th 1950 it appears the Bristol Brabazon visited HEATHROW making it’s first landing away from FILTON. It is difficult if not impossible to draw accurate comparisons but it seems fairly certain more people gathered to see the Brabazon arrive in 1950 than the first arrival of the Airbus A380 in 2006. The Brabazon was the biggest landplane ever built in the UK, having a wingspan of 230ft (70m) and a length of 177ft (54m). The Airbus A380 by comparison has a span of 262ft (80m) and is 240ft (73m) long.
Other comparisons make for interesting reading. The first Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser, the Pan American Airways Clipper Flying Cloud landed here in either April or June 1949 (?). The Brabazon didn’t fly until September, (from FILTON). The Stratocruiser could carry 63 to 84 passengers at a speed of 340mph over a range of 4200 miles. The Brabazon could carry 100 passengers with a commendable range of 5,500 miles but with a cruising speed of just 250mph despite having eight engines developing 20,000hp to power it, (the Stratocruiser had four engines giving a total of 14,000 hp). It seems pretty obvious this leviathan was obsolete before the first metal was cut - so why was it built?
It seems hard to believe today,but after opening the central area, pleasure flights were operated from Heathrow using (mainly?) Dragon Rapides. A flight around the airport cost ten shillings, and a flight over central London was one pound, and for one pound fifteen shillings you got to fly most of the way to the North Sea up the Thames esturary.
It is often alledged that the pilot of one Rapide, G-ALBB, approached to land too close behind a departing Boeing Stratocruiser in the evening of the 1st August 1952. Encountering the wake turbulence, (then claimed to be a virtually unknown, or should I say, an un-named hazard), it tumbled to the ground. Incredibly with no loss of life, but eight passengers and the pilot were injured. It is reported that ten year old Avril Roberta Cobb was found standing unharmed, “In the middle of the wreckage”.
This accident marked the cessation of pleasure flights from HEATHROW. According to an article in Aeroplane Monthly, November 1987, the pilots of Island Air Services were very aware of the dangers of wake turbulence and had very specific procedures to avoid it. It seems to be mostly back luck, (perhaps an unknown decrease in the crosswind component for runway 23L?), that resulted in this accident?
BEA and BOAC, later merged to become BRITISH AIRWAYS
It now seems incredible to me, (doesn't time fly), but the formation of the modern British Airways, (there was another prior to WW2), formed by amalgamating BEA and BOAC took place on the 31st March 1974. Can it really be that long ago? These days (written in 2017)
In the early days HEATHROW will always be associated with the two main national operators, BEA and BOAC. I expect that BOAC (British Overseas Airline Corporation) in those days, (1945 to the 1960s), will always be associated with operating Boeing Stratocruisers, the Bristol Britannia, Canadair Argonauts, Douglas DC-7Cs and Lockheed Constellations – then the first British jet airliner, the ill-fated de Havilland early Comets of course. The purchase of American Boeing 707s caused a considerable amout of controversy.
It came as quite a surprise to learn, (even though I knew they operated some), that BOAC and their associated companies operated some ninety Dakotas in the early years after WW2. In fact it appears their first Dakotas, (called in civilian terms DC-3s to be very proper and pedantic), were five KLM machines flown across from The Netherlands in advance of the German invasion in WW2. (Operated from WHITCHURCH possibly?)
With BEA (British European Airways) they started with Douglas DC-3s, then Vickers Vikings and Airspeed Ambassadors. These were followed by the world beating Vickers Viscount and the far less successful Vickers Vanguard. When the jets arrived, the Comet 4B and the Trident, they enabled BEA to offer non-stop flights as far afield as Moscow.
Terminal 5 is of course the latest to be built and is situated at the far west side of the airport, sandwiched between the western ends of the two runways. It is also unique in that it now serves just one airline - the International Aiirlines Group - which is mainly British Airways but with co-owned Iberia services also. Prior to 2012 T.5 was used exclusively by BA.
Opened in 2008 it took twenty years from its conception to completion, and that it appears included the longest public enquiry in UK history. It is also claimed that the main terminal building is the largest free-standing structure in the UK. In 2017 T.5 was also claimed to be the busiest terminal. However, I now wonder if this is still the case since the new Terminal 2 complex came on line?
It certainly serves to illustrate the phenomenal economic boom that has been affecting so much of the world, including the UK, in the last twenty plus years, and showing no signs of abating. (At the time of writing - 2017 - the effects of 'Brexit' are simply unknown). However, designed to handle 35 million passengers, by 2015 it had handled 33.1 million carried on 215,716 flights. This represented 44.6% of passengers at LHR and 46.6% of the airports movements.
Within the annuls of British aviation history is the vexed problem of how women fitted in. In the 1930s many women pilots became global heroines, and in WW2 the ATA female pilots were invaluable and equally professional to their male counterparts, perhaps a tad more so actually. In the early 1940s during WW2 Pauline Gower was the first ever woman to be appointed to the board of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, then based at WHITCHURCH in SOMERSET. When WW2 ended she become the first operator to use HEATHROW, running the pleasure flight or 'joy-ride' operation.
it was almost twenty years later when Mrs Alison Munro was elected to the British European Airways board. Obviously we’ve progressed a lot since, so, can you list all the female members now on the board of British Airways? In 2017 it appears there were three, including two Baronesses.
THE LONDON TO NEW ZEALAND AIR RACE
One high point in the early years at HEATHROW was it being the starting point for the Daily Mail LONDON to NEW ZEALAND (Christchurch) Air Race, commencing in the October 1953. ( Reports vary giving departure times between the 8th and 10th October). The winner was an RAF English Electric PR.3 Canberra, (Apparently WE139 now exhibited in the RAF Musuem at HENDON. Piloted by Flt Lt Don Gannon with Flt Lt Burton as navigator. The time was 23hrs 51mins.
The Australians also fielded a Canberra and I think the RAF won by just forty minutes? (It appears five Canberra’s from the RAF and RAAF competed?) The RNZAF put a Handley Page Hastings into the race? Perhaps a tad more interesting was KLM entering a DC-6A which logged 49 hrs 57 mins. A de Havilland Mosquito VH-KLG ditched, having ran out of fuel.
Perhaps what interests me most is the joint project between Vickers and BEA to enter the Viscount G-AMAV, it being the third prototype 700 series (later to become a 703) and loaned by Vickers to BEA to take part in the race, with number 23 painted on the tail. During the race it operated at 17,000lbs (7711 kg, let’s call it seven and a half tonnes) above maximum design weight. To put this into perspective the MTOW for a Viscount 700 Series was 58,500lb.
Despite this the Viscount, flown by Capt. W Baillie, set a class record from London to Melbourne, (Essendon Airport in those days), of 293.6mph in 35hrs 47 mins. Could a better illustration of the astonishing advances in aviation during the era of the 1930s to 1950s be asked? In 1934 the purpose built piston-powered DH.88 Comet winning racer G-ACSS set a time of 71 hours. In 1953, just less than twenty years later, an airliner with jet-turbine engines halved that time.
It also goes to illustrate that, after four decades at least, the military had finally managed, after WW2, to order aircraft capable of flying much faster than civilian types?.The Viscount landed at Christchurch logging 40hrs 41mins. Pretty much double the time required by a RAF Canberra.
THE VULCAN CRASH AT HEATHROW
A bleak episode in the early years of LAP involved the first in service Avro Vulcan crashing here in spurious circumstances on the 1st Oct 1956. Were the causes ever fully discovered? (See my comment below). They were certainly trying to land in very marginal weather conditions. As ever the history seems confused, a contemporary news report stating the outbound flight took off for Australia from SCAMPTON but it does seem this aircraft was based at WADDINGTON, as were most of the crew. Some reports state they made it to Richmond in Australia in 20hrs and 3 mins with air-to-air refuelling.
My first thoughts were that after a look at contemporary films, this air-to-air refuelling claim is questionable, as I believed this aircraft wasn’t then equipped for air-to-air refuelling and the type wouldn’t be equipped for this until several years later. After looking into this in greater detail, I discovered that In fact the first Vickers Valiant tankers, the only RAF type capable of air-to-air refuelling, were introduced by 214 Squadron at RAF MARHAM (NORFOLK) in 1958.
Further investigation appears to reveal that they landed in Aden and Singapore, but even so averaged 575mph over the route. After landing in Richmond (Australia) they then flew to New Zealand before attempting a 26,000 mile round trip.
This incident does call in question the really quite appalling attitude the designers had to crew survivability in the Avro organisation. (They were not alone of course). In this case they at least reckoned it was okay to save the pilots, who had ejector seats, the rest of the crew were expendable. To be fair, the Vickers Valiant and the Handley Page Victor also only had ejector seats for the two pilots. Graphically illustrated in this crash, the two pilots ejected, the other four were burnt to death, possibly still alive? A pattern repeated again in several Vulcan crashes later.
For many years I was the main UK expert in marketing a rain repellent, developed in the USA, for aircraft windscreens. The benefit being that it eliminated refraction distortion which, on a wet windscreen gives the pilot, relying solely on visual cues, the impression of being much higher on short finals to land than they actually are. Something very difficult to cope with, especially when being very tired after a long and very demanding flight - as this was.
The problem being, with a large aircraft, is that by the time you realise you are too low on the approach, it is then invariably too late to recover the situation. Once radio altimeters came into use, with voice 'call-outs' of the height along the approach path, this problem was resolved and pilots learnt not to trust their eyesight in rain.
I could of course be mistaken, but this accident has all the classic hallmarks of very many similar serious accidents. Which is why of course, the USAF put out a demand for a product which could eliminate the problem. In effect, after this product being applied, and although soaked in heavy rain - albiet with the rain droplets being rapidly dispersed, the windscreen itself was behaving as if it was dry!
A FEMALE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER.
Just as an aside it appears that LAP (HEATHROW) employed a female Air Traffic Controller, Judiff Chisholm, during the 1960s. Possibly the first major UK airport to do so?
Looking back we spotters were bored rigid by the incessant stream of Viscounts, mainly BEA of course. I now realise we were witnessing the only British civil airliner type to make a major impact on the global market. This must have alarmed the Americans no end as several internal carriers in the USA had ordered the type. One might well imagine the conversations at board level in Boeing, Convair and Douglas – “How the hell did those Limey’s, who mostly now have only cabbage and turnip soup to eat after WW2, design something this effing good?”
The BAC One-Eleven, (also basically a Vickers design), did reasonably well, but nothing like the heyday of the Viscount. However, as I recently discovered, the BAC One-Eleven, (few of which were ever seen at HEATHROW), did have the most amazing engines. Without any doubt it seems, from a pilot who flew them, for an airliner they had the most efficient means of converting pound notes into noise!
HEATHROW OPERATIONS IN 1959
In 1959 it is reported that LONDON AIRPORT was being used by thirty-six overseas airlines*, plus BEA and BOAC of course and, “….British independent airlines and a host of foreign non-scheduled operators.” More than 130,000 movements a year were being recorded and over 3.5 million passengers were passing through. But little or possibly no air-freight in those days although a dedicated freight facility was mooted?
In 2009 over 90 airlines were using HEATHROW, and the passenger throughput was 67 million. The maximum amount of aircraft movements was capped at 480,000. This does certainly indicate the progress civil aviation has made over some 50 years. The number of different airlines has kept pace in proportion to the movements to some extent, but the passenger throughput has increased roughly by a whopping nineteenfold.
*FROM MEMORY LANE
When I took this picture, with my first SLR camera, I was delighted and thought it brilliant. Oddly enough, looking at it in 2015, although way below the standard I would aim for today, it seems to have a 'period' charm which I now find alluring. Do you agree?
I wonder if it might be possible to determine if these memories I have of major foreign airlines operating into Heathrow in 1959 are correct? From my memory, as an incipient ‘spotter’ aged about twelve years old, at LAP in 1959, the main foreign passenger operators numbered just nineteen airlines? And, in those days serving just their 'home' countries.
(1) Aeroflot – Soviet Union (2) Aer Lingus - Republic of Ireland (3) Air France - France
(4) Air India – India (5) Alitalia - Italy ; (6) Austrian Airlines – Austria
(7) Finnair - Finland (8) Iberia - Spain ; (9) KLM – The Netherlands
(10) Loftleidir - Iceland (11) Olympic - Greece (12) Pan-Am - USA
(13) PIA - Pakistan International Airways (14) Qantas – Australia
(15) Sabena – Belgium (16) SAS – Denmark, Sweden & Norway
(17) Swissair – Switzerland (18) TAP – Portugal (19) TWA – USA
20) Varig - Brazil
Is this list correct? This was of course, now over fifty years ago, and this was before the ‘jet-age’ had fully arrived. Most of the airliners I was 'reggie spotting' were still piston powered. And indeed, I can recall seeing most of the first arrivals, (more or less), of the first jet airliners arriving as the airlines acquired them, For example the first arrival of an Air India Boeing 707, or Swissair Convair 990 Coronado, had us lads posted outside the perimeter fence and very excited.
LIGHT AIRCRAFT AT HEATHROW
There was a time during the late 1960s or early 70s when light aircraft on private flights could use this airport. I well remember seeing one of the first, (possibly the first of these visits?), when a ‘Follow Me’ van escorted a Piper PA-22 Tri-Pacer to the end of runway 27L, when it then took off using what seemed to us spotters a ridiculously small amount of runway.
Later on when private flights were strictly prohibited the odd exception occurred. I have heard it said, (but I doubt it is correct?), that the De Havilland DHC.1 Chipmunk G-BCPU gained an exemption to visit in 19(?), and I’m proud to say I have also flown in that splendid aeroplane - but not into Heathrow unfortunately. Can anybody verify this?
An Auster I happened to see at GAMSTON in 2005 apparently also took off from Heathrow in somewhat dubious circumstances - or so I was told. As per usual in reseaching this 'Guide' myth and legend abound.
One of my very best friends, a senior BA captain, (I will protect his name to avoid any possible consequences), has heard tales of an Andreasson Super BA4B, allegedly owned by Mike Carlton and probably registered as G-AYFW flying into LHR in or around 1977? Mike Carlton, he tells me, was killed when flying a friend's Republican Seabee in South Africa when the engine failed.
Plus, it was this man who formed 'Jet Heritage' at Bournemouth (Hurn), which has operated Hawker Hunters, de Havilland Vampires and the like. Plus, I think I'm correct (?), a de Havilland Sea Vixen. It now appears that, although owned by Mike Carlton (?) G-AYFW was registered to the Parham Gliding Club, and often used, (can you believe it?), as a glider tug!
He also told me there was a story around that time, late 1970s), of a Denham based Chippie, (DHC.1 Chipmunk G-BCRX?), appearing mysteriously overnight at LHR and left parked by the runway. Low and behold, a couple of days later, (in 2014), he sent me a cutting from the Daily Express; quoted in full and I trust you will enjoy this tale as much as I did. "Authorities at Heathrow airport, London, yesterday started an internal inquiry into how a single-engined light aircraft, apparently stolen from an airfield at Denham, Buckinghamshire, was able to land undetected at Heathrow under the noses of air traffic control and in contravention of several air navigation regulations."
"The red and white two-seater Chipmink disappeared from Denham at about midnight on Saturday and is thought to have landed at Heathrow less than four hours later after reportedly flying within a few feet of buildings in north-west London and "buzzing" traffic on the M4."
There is, it seems to me, one cardinal rule for being a newspaper reporter. Talk bollocks, get the story mostly wrong and never do any basic research. The standard DHC-1 Chipmunk has an endurance of around two and a half hours and I strongly suspect this was the case for G-BCRX? Anyway, back to the story: "Its arrival at the airport was not picked up by radar or recorded by air traffic control, and there was no trace of its pilot or any passengers. It was spotted by an airport weatherman early yesterday on an isolated patch of grass beside a runway."
"The aircraft is well known to readers of the Daily Express as "William Hickey's ancient flying machine". Ancient? The prototype Chipmunk first flew in May 1946 and this example was obviously younger. But, as said, no self-respecting press reporter will allow facts to get in the way of a good story. "It is owned jointly by Mr Peter Tory, editor of the Hickey column, and Mr Peter Hunt, a London businessman who yesterday flew it back to Denham."
Did he refuel it at Heathrow? "Several prize-winning Hickey readers have flown in it. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, it is illegal for a light aircraft to land at Heathrow except in an emergency." Here again, not correct, as you can, and a few have legally done so over the years, request a clearance to land here even today.
Invariably the request will be denied of course - but you can, quite correctly, make the request. Indeed, when the Icelandic volcanic ash 'scare' grounded airliners a few years ago, several light aircraft pilots requested, and were granted, permission to land at Gatwick. Did any succeeed in getting permission to land at Heathrow? No problem really, especially if flying a light twin-engine type.
"Police, who have also begun an inquiry, added that the pilot could face a string of charges, including infringing a control zone, unauthorized landing and flying low over property "There is quite a lot to look at", a spokesman said." Once again, not entirely, strictly speaking correct. The basic rule is that, (if my memory serves correctly?), "You must not fly closer to any person, vessel or structure within 500 feet.
(My note: Not just only above as many pilots believe - although this appears to have been changed under recent EASA regulations). Unless authorised for landing or taking off." I have no idea if it is still allowed, but until the 1990s, there was a low level route you could fly, at 500 feet, in a single-engine aircraft, across the Heathrow control zone to the west of the airport, if ATC permission was granted once airborne. I know because I did it, flying out of Wycombe Air Park to Fairoaks, via Maidenhead and Ascot.
"The authority said that the Chipmunk's arrival was not recorded because the runway near where it landed was closed and no traffic was expected." Yet again this reporter is talking utter bollocks, and obviously this appears to be his main 'professional' attribute. What on earth does he think he means by saying, "the runway near where it landed." I'll bet a million pounds that this Chipmunk landed on the runway. To try and land at night on the grass beside a runway at Heathrow, with all the 'furnitiure' of the signs etc is utter folly. And, whoever he was, that pilot knew exactly what he was about. "It would not have reprented a danger because there were no other movements in the area." Here again, proof I'd say, that the pilot was well on top of the job.
In closing this story I love this: "Mr Story thought the aircraft had been stolen by a "competent lunatic". Chipmunks, he said, were not easy aircraft to fly. "We were very worried that whoever stole it might have been drunk and might land the plane rather heavily, but it appears to be in reasonable shape", he added." As for being drunk, maybe that could be true?
In those days, as I can well remember, people often boasted that they drove their cars better when drunk! And of course it has been well recorded that military pilots in both WW1 and WW2 got 'slaughtered' into the early hours, knowing full well they'd be flying a few hours later. It was the 'culture' of the times and quite acceptable behaviour.
On the same tack, and being very anoraky - as has become my wont whilst compiling this Guide - can anybody provide details of other privately owned light aircraft flying into LHR?
BUT PERHAPS THE MOST EXTRAORDINAY EVENT?
On the 14th of December 1994 it was arranged for an entire fleet of twenty six microlight aircraft to depart from HEATHROW (from the cargo area on the south side), to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first passenger flight across the English Channel.
You can watch a video of this extraordinary event at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNTz0Gi1AwI (Part 1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqWJYobnB4s (Part 2)
THE FIRST 'AUTOMATIC' LANDING AT HEATHROW
The first truly fully-automatic landing on a commercial service took place here on the 10th June 1965 by Trident G-ARPR. However, the system was first used in ‘anger’ with zero visibility, (in thick fog), by Trident G-ARPB on the 4th November 1966 arriving from Paris.
Tales are told that after landing it was a devil of a job to reach the terminal! It seems the driver of the ‘Follow-Me’ vehicle took ages to find the Trident on the runway let alone lead it to the terminal. It seems John Cunningham was in command and never handled the controls, but surely he was a test pilot for Hawker Siddeley in those days, so what was he doing in command of a BEA commercial flight?
Does this indicate that final testing of the Autoland system was taking place on normal scheduled services in those days? Is this sort of procedure still allowed today? This is not to say I doubt Mr Cunningham’s abilities, those passengers probably couldn’t have had a better pilot in command of their flight. I just find the very idea of conducting test flying on regular scheduled services somewhat novel. Since raising this point I have learnt it was once common practise for company test pilots to also gain airline training Captain status to comply with the airline AOC, (Air Operators Certificate), requirements. It makes sense too doesn’t it? How else were the airline training Captains taught to fly new types?
However, some time before this happening, the introduction of the ILS (Instrument Landing System) had been proven to be a major safety aid. In effect enabling aircrews to fly along a 'glide-path' to the runway when they couldn't see it until very close on short finals for the actual landing. I am not at all sure that LONDON AIRPORT was the first to install an ILS in the UK, but they certainly didn't lag behind. This said, I do believe LAP was the first to use an ILS for use by commercial aircraft.
This picture certainly shows the rather ad-hoc arrangement, with a collection of old military trucks employed, (all of WW2 vintage?), for the initial ILS installation at HEATHROW/LONDON AIRPORT. A tad difficult to date, but possibly around the early or mid 1950s? When my parents moved to Bedfont, basically still a village just south of London Airport in 1954, I can still recall for some reason, when at the junior school on Hatton Lane during the break time in the playground, seeing BOAC Stratocruisers on short finals to runway 27L. This was before I became an avid spotter and I have no idea why the image still remains.
AN AIR TAXI SERVICE FROM HEATHROW
In the late 1960s and early 1970s it appears that Cabair ran an air taxi service based at Heathrow. Can anybody now supply information about the aircraft types operated?
MY FIRST FLIGHT IN AN AIRLINER
I also have my own incredibly minor claim to fame here as my mother worked for Hunting Clan and won an ‘in-house’ raffle for our family to fly in one of their Bristol Britannias to visit, and later perform a low fly-past before departing back to LONDON AIRPORT at the Biggin Hill Air Show in about 1960. I have always been interested by the fact that this aircraft was a troop-carrying version, so had all the seats reversed for very sensible safety reasons. It is difficult to remember the exact details today, but the immense privilege I felt at the time still endures and it was definitely a highlight of my early years.Perhaps somebody still knows when this was, the registration and other details?
THE HUNTING CLAN FLEET
In 1959 the Hunting Clan Air Transport fleet comprised:
Bristol 317 Britannia G-APNA & G-APNB (I wish I knew which one I flew in?)
Douglas Dakota G-AMSJ
Douglas DC-6A G-APNO & G-APNP
Vickers Viking G-AGRV, G-AGRW, G-AHPB, G-AHPC, G-AHPJ, G-AMBG & G-AMNK
Vickers 732 Viscount G-ANRR, G-ANRS & G-ANRT
Vickers 833 Viscount G-APTB, G-APTC & G-APTD
I now suspect that very few of these aircraft even visited, or operated from HEATHROW?
HEATHROW in 1967
The extended caption for this photograph makes for interesting reading. "On April 1 the British Airports Authority takes over four British international airports from the Ministry of Aviation - Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Prestwick. A new aerial view of Heathrow Airport from the South, showing the Central Area and, at the top, the motorway link from the M.4. On the left of the picture can be seen construction work on the pier system of No.3 Oceanic passenger terminal, and on the top right hand side of the Central Area is the site of the N0.4 passenger terminal due to be completed in 1968. The two large multi-storey car parks are a conspicuous feature."
On reading this I was surprised to see that Terminal 1, (it has been known as T.1 for a very long time), was then referred to as Terminal 4. Which begs the question, where were Terminals 1 and 2? Thinking about it, I suppose that what later became Terminal 2 was then Terminal 1; as that was the original, and only terminal in the Central Area when it opened in 1955. In those days (1955) long haul flights still departed from the original 'terminal' area on the north side and when that closed it became the cargo handling area. However, it still begs the question - where was terminal 2?
A look at the picture seems to suggest it was just beyond the northern multi-story car park? For some rather odd reason, my memory is now a complete blank regarding that part of the Central Area. Doubly so as I was a plane spotter living just to the south of Heathrow (in Bedfont) until I went to Art College in 1963. A few years later when on a Diploma course at St Martins in central London, for my film project I took a 16mm three-lense cine camera and tripod to Heathrow, and spent most of my time filming in the Central Area. Pretty much in the same period this photograph was taken.
The odd thing is that I can remember, fairly clearly, all the locations I used for making that film except for that particular area. Naturally of course, it doesn't really matter, but in producing this Guide I have tried to get as much of the information as correct as possible. Typically then, I shall pose the question as 'open' and perhaps somebody, with the knowledge, can post it onto the forum?
A TEENAGE MEMORY
Having wangled a invitation to see inside a Pan Am 707 at Heathrow, arriving at the Pan Am hangar on our bicycles, we were ordered to discard our shoes and wear fresh ‘bootees’ provided by the ground staff. It really was like walking on hallowed turf inside that passenger cabin. And, can you even imagine such generosity being allowed today? Another revelation was that the engines hung on horizontal 'H' section carrier beams and could be pushed from side to side with one hand. The bolts holding the engine in place looked woefully inadequate, until it was explained that these only resisted reverse thrust. The forward thrust was contained by a substantial solid block of metal mounted on the front of the 'H' section beams. All incredibly simple and a graphic illustration of the best design and engineering being put into practise.
THE 'JUMBO' JET ERA
The black & white picture of a TWA 747 has no information attached. I imagine it must have been taken in the very early 1970s? Possibly taken when the first TWA 747 landed at Heathrow? As you can see it dwarfed all the other 'big' airliners at that time, and what a wonderful mix of types these are for 'old timers' such as myself for rekindling memories.
Is it not, and I trust you will agree, now (in 2014 for example), quite astonishing to think back and remember that the first arrival of a Boeing 747 'Jumbo Jet' at Heathrow occurred on the 22nd January 1970. On a Pan Am service from New York and creating a sensation. As I understand it, the creation of the 747 was quite simply the ambition of three remarkable men, Joe Sutter and Malcolm T Stamper of Boeing, and Juan Trippe of Pan American Airways.
Three men who really did want to stamp their mark on future airliner development towards the end of their long careers in aviation. Arguably no other other civil aeroplane has made such a huge impact on the airline industry? The 747 rewrote the rulebook by a magnitude of at least three, and has transformed international travel ever since, opening it up to the majority of populations globally. Or at least, those that can afford it of course, which then suddenly included millions of people, not just the rich and famous as before.
Possibly not too much remembered today is that the 747 design was originally born out from a military freighter requirement from the USAF requiring 'straight-through' loading. Hence the need to place the flight deck above the main cabin, just as Bristol had devised for their 170 Freighter just after WW2 had ended.
MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE 747
I can well remember my impressions on boarding a JAL (Japanese Airlines) 747 at Heathrow to visit my wifes sister and husband then residing in Bangkok, Thailand. I was going out on my own, a week early, so I could see something of Thailand as my wife had previously spent some time previously staying with them.
Boarding the 747 was a revelation, (I was familiar with the previous generation of jet airliners), and it was like boarding something akin to a cross-Channel ferry, it seemed so huge. I was quite aware that something this large could obviously fly, but, nevertheless, it staggered my imagination. Sitting in it, feeling the immense surge of power as we commenced the take-off run, really was something to behold. It seemed quite incredble that something this big could accelerate so quickly.
MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY No.3
This gallery is a selection of lovely pictures from postcards kindly sent by Mike Charlton and depicts a cross-section of views taken around LONDON AIRPORT / HEATHROW. His website, www.aviationpostcard.co.uk is well worthy of a visit for many, getting on a bit, especially if you desire a momento for the 'family album' of a flight taken many years ago.
Seventeenth picture: The Hawker Siddeley DH121 Trident Series 1, (G-ARPE) was operated by BEA (British European Airways Corporation) from the 13th April 1961 until the 1st April 1974. It then passed to BA (British Airways) who operated it until the 1st April 1976 when it was PWFU (Permanently Withdrawn From Use).
Eighteenth picture: For many of us of a 'certain age' this picture is iconic - at the very heart of of the airport. And, clock that BEA articulated bus!
Nineteenth picture: On the apron appears to be an Air France Douglas DC-4, the type entering service in 1946. Beyond is a BEA Vickers Vanguard which entered service in 1960, as did the Swissair Sud Aviation Caravelle seen to the left. This seems to date the picture? Beyond, perhaps (?) is what looks to me to be a BEA Armstrong-Whitworth AW.660 Argosy freighter taxying in.
Twentieth picture. Note how many BEA Tridents appear in this picture, and, the BEA double-decker bus with a baggage trailer! It appears these BEA colour schemes were only applied from 1971 to 1974.
Twenty-second picture. In many ways an iconic picture. A BEA 700 Series Viscount on short finals to land on runway 27 Left, with the BEA Engineering base beyond.
Twenty-third picture This I think is very interesting. Clearly Terminal One is now operational, but it seems possible that some long-haul services were also being catered for before Termnal 3 opened? Hence the BOAC VC.10?
A SHORT HISTORY LESSON
These postcards were produced by BAA to celebrate the 60th anniversary of HEATHROW.
First picture: And yes, at the very begining the first passenger 'terminal' was in a series of tents!
Third picture: BA Concorde operations commenced on the 21st January 1976.
Fourth picture. The Airbus A380 first flew into HEATHROW on the 18th May 2006.
First picture: This fabulous night shot is of a BEA (British European Airways) Airspeed AS.57 'Elizabethan Class' Ambassador. BEA had a fleet of twenty operated between 1952 and 1958. The 'Class' name stuck, and as 'reggie spotting kids' these aircraft were always known as 'Elizabethans'.
Second picture: It appears that BOAC received its first 747 on the 22nd April 1970, eleven being ordered. However, it seems that they didn't enter service until a year later, on the 14th April 1971 due to wrangles with BALPA (British Airlines Pilots Association) regarding crewing and pay rates. It is probably fair to say that widespread senior management failures in both BEA and BOAC led to both the airlines being in effect closed down, and a new merged regime, BA (British Airways), being created to solve the unhappy mess.
Third picture: I suspect this picture was taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s. On the apron (foreground) is a BEA Hawker Siddeley DH121 Trident, an Alitalia Douglas DC-8 and a SABENA Sud-Aviation Caravelle.
Fourth picture: This aerial view with Tridents galore at Terminal One probably dates from the later half of the 1970s. As can be seen, the transfer of BEA to BA colours to the Tridents is only half completed, and the presence of a BA Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star supports this. It could in fact, I think, even be a scene in the early 1980s. Note the two GA types in the bottom left hand corner. Used for executive transports probably?
Fifth picture: It makes me wonder why this was considered a saleable postcard picture? A London Transport single-decker bus is seen emerging from the tunnel into the central area with a BOAC Vickers VC.10 beyond. Probably early 1970s?
Sixth picture: How nostalgic! A scene at the BEA Engineering Base. Probably mid 1950s?
Seventh picture. Why, I wonder, cannot we have something similar at HEATHROW today? Clearly today the idea of anybody wanting to view the operations is dismissed. Here we can see an Air France Boeing 727, introduced in 1968, but whose 737 can we see taxying out? Possibly a Luxair example?
Ninth picture; Note the cocooned Vickers Vikings on the apron. The Viking was first ordered by BOAC, who wanted nineteen, but when BEA was formed in 1946 these were transferred to BEA who called them the 'Admiral Class'. It appears BEA operated them until 1954. So this dates this picture probably 1955? It is often claimed that civilianised Douglas C-47s comprised the back-bone of the independent British Airlines in the 1950s, but this is incorrect. When the ex-BEA Vikings came onto the market, they were snapped up. Without any doubt more expensive to operate, they offered an extra degree of 'luxury' to passengers.
Tenth picture: Terminal 5 opened in March 2008, so this picture was taken some time before - presumably early 2000s?
Twelth picture: To my shame perhaps, and thinking I know HEATHROW really well, I have been unaware of the existence of this interdenominational chapel. Although the original control tower and admin building has been demolished, it seems this chapel survived. I wonder how many people use it?
Fourteenth picture: BEA aircraft wore this colour scheme from 1950 to 1959 and the Vickers 700 Series Viscount was introduced in 1953. So presumably this lovely night picture dates from mid 1950s.
BRITISH MIDLAND AIRWAYS at HEATHROW
On the 24th March 1973 British Midland Airways achieved another first – to quote Capt B G Cramp from his book British Midland Airways: “Another first for B.M.A. occurred on 24th March when His Excellency President Gaafar Mohamed Numeri, (My note; of Sudan), accompanied by Mrs. Numeri, arrived at London Heathrow for a State Visit. He flew in a B.M.A. 707 and the aircraft, commanded by Captain John Blackman, 707 Fleet Captain, taxied to a halt at the stand reserved for the Royal Family and Visiting Heads of State and Dignitaries, thus becoming the first British independent carrier to use the stand.”
It is probably difficult if not impossible today to convey the prestige B.M.A. must have felt at that time. In a way it was a ‘coming of age’ for all British independent airlines – one of their ilk had entered the big time. For the more cynical, including me, it doesn’t seem very much of an achievement – a minor Head of State from an impoverished third rate country doesn’t make much of splashin global affairs. But – in those days things were altogether different and the perception of status, and by arriving on the ‘Royal’ stand, was a highly prized achievement.
In 1975 British Midland Airways flew one of their 707s on a much publicised flight to Saigon to collect eighty Vietnamese orphans. Having made this very sparse note many years ago I later (in 2012) came across a full account of the flight, also in Capt B G Cramp’s book British Midland Airways and I hope you will agree that this account deserves to be told in this GUIDE. If for no other reason that I believe that HEATHROW has, apart from this instance, ever been involved in anything similar? “The exceedingly vicious war which had raged in Vietnam for many years finally came to a somewhat dramatic end in 1975.
Not unnaturally there were many South Vietnamese who wished to escape the Communists, but additionally there were many orphan children in danger in the country. In an endeavour to airlift 150 such children out to the United Kingdom the Daily Mail newspaper chartered a Company 707 – G-AYVE on 4th April 1975, on behalf of Project Vietnam Orphans and the Ockenden Venture, both charitable organisations. Fuel was provided free by B.P. and the aircraft was flown by an all-male crew, it being thought unwise to ask anyair hostess to operate into war-torn Saigon.” Regarding the latter, isn’t it great to see howattitudes have since changed?
“The crew, commanded by Captain “Freddie” Burkett, were Senior First Officer Harry Reed, Senior Engineering Officer Ted Baker, Navigating Officer Pete Wighton, Stewards Lionel Roberts, Mike Davis, George Guy and “Patch” Partridge, and ground engineer Roy Pawson, left London on a normal British Airways flight to Bombay, to await the aircraft being flown by Captain John Blackman. Also on board the outbound flight were the editor of the Daily Mail, Mr. David English, plus a train of doctors and nurses.” Another sign as to how things were regarded in those days, the names of the doctors and nurses weren’t listed, which I think is a great pity.
“In Saigon about 100 children had been brought to the airport in buses, but outside the perimeter they were stopped as Vietnamese authorities claimed that the 150 quota of orphans permitted to emigrate had already been filled. More telephone calls followed between the airport authorities and the Ministry of the Interior. All this time the children were waiting in the buses in which the temperature was more than 100° F.
Finally the Ministry over-ruled the airport emigration control and the childrenwere free to board, but still the buses remained at a standstill because emigration insisted that last minute checks be made on all of the 17 Doctors and Nurses who were attending the children on thebuses.” If nothing else this clearly illustrates, even at this stage, the sort of inhumane and barbaric regime the USA had tried to defend! But read on please, it gets even worse.
“Another hour passed and still the paper-work went on at a snails pace. All the time people were pleading for speed. The distress of the children in the buses was becoming a severe medical problem. One spastic girl had to be rushed into the airport building to be doused with water because of heat exhaustion. Finally, after three hours of waiting, permission was given and the buses were allowed through to ‘VE’. The on-board doctors and nurses were waiting to greet them. Up in the forward part of the cabin a miniature operating theatre had been set up just in case.
Intravenous drips were tied up for cases of dehydration. Dressings, drugs, baby foods, nappy pads – all contributed by well-wishers in Britain – were set out throughout the aircraft. Swiftly the nursing team settled the babies into position and began giving them water to overcome the effect of dehydration. Finally Mr. English agreed to sign five forms some of which were then countersigned by Mr. Hunt of the British Embassy who had himself been arguing for some six hours non-stop.”
“Mr. English was told he would have to stay in Saigon, but after officials had radioed the tower that BD757 was authorised to take-off, he re-boarded the aircraft in the general confusion. Captain Burkett gunned the engines, swung onto the runway and made an immediate take-off. Once the aircraft gained altitude and the air-conditioning began to work, the children began to settle down and the nurses started changing them and putting on fresh clothing.
Doctors began their medical checks and on-the-spot diagnoses. The doctor in charge, Dr. Griffin, of Chislehurst, Kent said that the general condition of the babies was not good. There was one baby who looked as if it might not survive. It certainly would have died that day if it had been left in Saigon. The Sister who was looking after it, Elizabeth Lamb, was absolutely brilliant.”
I have to admit I was very close to tears writing this out, and probably would have been if it wasn’t for a very fierce sense of anger. How can such evil people, the officials in the South Vietnamese administration – sleep at night – after performing such barbaric acts? But such people do, in every country, and appear to have no problem with it. “Dr. Griffin continued, “It’s really remarkable. My own view is that at least six of these children would have died in the next 60 hours if they had been left in Saigon. The Cabin crew of this aircraft have performed in a manner that can only be described as magnificent.
Because of the danger, no stewardesses were on the last leg into Saigon. The four male stewards worked non-stop with the medical teams, changing nappies cuddling screaming children and feeding them. They have behaved fantastically – it has been the equivalent of having four extra nurses aboard this aircraft. By the time the aircraft landed at Heathrow these four stewards had been on duty 29 hours, for they volunteered to continue to work even after the relief crew came aboard at Bombay on the return flight.”
Quite rightly Captain Cramp makes a boast on their behalf. “Once again the staff of British Midland had risen to the challenge and had endeared themselves to the people they served. So also had the medical team on board. The nurses finished the trip dead on their feet, absolutely exhausted and burnt out. In point of fact the flight turned out to be the only British aircraft to rescue children and was in fact the last aircraft of any nation to rescue orphans before the war in Vietnam finished.”
WHERE, OR WITH WHOM, DOES RESPONSIBILTY FOR THIS LIE?
I could of course make this point at so many airfields elsewhere, but given the above it seems apposite to make these remarks here. In the research for this GUIDE it has quickly appeared that a conundrum exists. On the one hand British people have departed from our airfields to perform quite exceptional acts of humanitarian generosity (both military and civil), and yet, exactly the same sort of well meaning people seem to happily support really quite evil regimes, and of course, support illegal wars – like in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
It has been a subject that has exercised my small brain many a time over the years. For example should airline pilots be involved in making value judgements about where their airline flies to? I suppose the obvious answer is ‘No’. They are employed to just do their job as directed. And I would imagine in most companies, refusal to do so on the grounds of "having a conscience" probably results in instant dismissal usually?
Which seems to defeat, at the first step, any idea of a true democracy? Such as we British are lead to believe is a state of affairs we enjoy in life. But, in reality, how many of us can really exercise, in our quest to earn a living, any meaningful contribution, however small, to how our countries are behaving in both internal and international affairs?
MORE FACTS & FIGURES
In 1975 it was recorded that HEATHROW was being used by more than fifty international airlines. Passenger volumes continued to rise at pretty much all airports in the UK. It now appears that in the 1990s, 120 million passengers were flown out of airports in the UK and by 2014 this figure has risen to 230 million.
Proof indeed, if proof is needed, that despite the 'experts' talking about a 'reccession' since most of the banks 'collapsed' in 2008, it has not affected the majority of the population in the UK. In fact, counter-intuative though it might seem, exactly the opposite happened. And very soon afterwards in many parts of the UK, a 'boom' period has occurred, the likes of which have never been seen before. And indeed, in 2014 it was reported that Heathrow and Gatwick reported record passenger volumes. I think it is interesting to learn that in 2008 HEATHROW handled 67.8 million passengers, an average of nearly 186,000 per day.
Compare this to barely less than a century ago. In the five years between April 1919 and April 1923, when Imperial Airways was formed at CROYDON, when the four British international airlines merged to form Imperial Airways, they had carried just over 34,600 passengers between them. But, even during these early airline operations, only five passengers plus six aircrew were killed. So, almost from the start, airline travel had proved itself, by far, to be the safest way to proceed on a long journey. And yet, even today, many people are very anxious, even scared, about the prospect of boarding an airliner. Why? It defies all logic and reason.
Perhaps the most significant period in the recent history of this major international airport occurred on the 15th April 2010, when NATS stopped all commercial flying in the UK due to the ‘fall-out’ from a volcano that was erupting in Iceland, the prevailing winds bringing the ash clouds over some of the UK and parts of northern Europe. It was really quite eerie living close to HEATHROW, not only with no airliners arriving or departing but day after day seeing clear skies with no contrails.
In December 2010 HEATHROW became the laughing stock of the world, utterly unable to cope with a few inches of snow, the calamity lasting for four days with very severe disruption of services. It wasn’t an equipment problem, (or so it seems?), LHR had equivalent machinery to Charles de Gaulle (PARIS) and Frankfurt in Germany, (both airports of similar size/status). So, what really went wrong?
Note: I apologise for the unsightly smear in this picture. This was because, as I was framing the picture, the BA 767 I was travelling in to take-off, turned and the left side of the fuselage was suddenly exposed to the sun. I have waited years to get this picture, so who knows if I will get another chance. This aircraft made its final flight back from New York on the 15th August 2000.
THE CONCORDE ERA
Without any doubt HEATHROW will always be associated with Concorde. Conducting supersonic flights on both scheduled routes and a large variety of charter flights. A huge amount of information regarding the history of Concorde can be found of course, but I can certainly recommend 'Concorde - The Inside Story' by Brian Trubshaw, the principal British test pilot. Needless to say the first flight of Concorde was an immense matter of national pride, so needless to say the superior French won the day.
However, in perhaps an attempt to mollify the by then very obviously inferior English, (Note that: Not British), and AIrbus was by then gaining great ground in the global airliner market, the first commercial services of Concorde were with a sychronised depature on the 21st January 1976. The Air France Concorde flying from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, (nearly all supersonic) and the BA Concorde flying a somewhat 'cobbled together' and entirely unsatisfactority 'proof of concept' flight to Bahrain.
Even the eastbound routes from Bahrain, initially envisaged as a major marker for BA operated Concordes, soon encountered severe problems due to sonic boom. And, within a fairly short period, the viabliiy of supersonic flights to Australia foundered.
Basically the entire world was opposed to flight by supersonic passenger transport long before the project gained speed. The world had changed and, to bugger the whole thing up entirely, the Middle East States had decided to hold most of the world to ransom by escalating raw oil prices to a degree none of the rest of the world had ever envisaged possible. But they did. And everybody stood by like rabbits caught in headlights.
ALSO IN EARLY 1996
Although Concorde was by then mostly a forgotten issue - the concept of supersonic passenger flight - being relegated to the past - and a non-runner in every aspect comercially. Nevertheless the superb team of dedicated people, in BA at least dedicated to keeping Concorde flying , were actively seeking - bless all these enthusiasts - to still keep breaking records. On the 7th Feburary 1996 a BA Concorde set a new transatlantic east-west record of 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
Only because, I suspect with some very strong tail winds. But, and here we must learn to respect, the aircrew were so on top on their job,that they had calculated that, with the agreement of Air Traffic Control, they could beat the existing record by over a minute!
Think about it, you might, just might, when boarding a typical bloated 'air ferry' at minimal cost, to travel over half way round the world, have somebody 'up-front' who really is brilliant at the job. Chances are you won't though, being flown by pilots wiith little interest in flying aeroplanes, but far more focused on a career in 'Systems management' techniques. There are a few exceptions though.
The plain fact of the matter is that the average pasenger cannot decide if the basic flight plan is safe. We all sit there fat, dumb and happy by and large even when taking off into conditons I was taught would kill me when learning to fly, and which is now part and parcel of everyday airline operations today, and the pilots think nothing of it. Only very rarely does it all go pear-shaped.
THE 50th ANNIVERSARY FLY-PAST 1996
Note: It really was such a shame that the weather could not have been much worse - utterly dismal to celebrate the 50th anniversary of HEATHROW opening. But, the event took place. Other pictures, when I find them, will be added.
THE BA TAIL DESIGN DEBATE
The decision to adorn BA aircraft with radical ethnic designs on the tails of their airliners is probably, depending on your point of view, either the bravest or most stupid decision probably ever made in the history of commercial aviation. I for one still cannot make my mind up about this. It was almost certainly a massive mistake and not well liked by and large, but, I did admire the decision to 'give it a go'. It is only my opinion, but I do think the people behind this idea really did not appreciate the history and legacy behind British Airways - they probably knew nothing of this.
What was probably desired by most was a colour scheme reflecting the tradition and global status of this much respected airline - not a sudden snazzy departure befitting new entries into the market and industry.
WHO WERE THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THIS DECISION?
Call me cynical but why the hell was the decision made to sell the operating company of HEATHROW to a Spanish company? One which in 2010 was alleged to be facing bankruptcy issues? (Can that really be true?) Whatever the truth behind this, would any other government condone selling off the management of their principal national airport to a foreign company? Plus, can we please remember this, in the later years of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st century LHR has more international passengers than any other airport in the world. I do realise that the aims of Communism and Capitalism both have the same result in the end, with a small and very powerful elite having total control of the populations they administer, and always subjecting the 'workers' to minimum earnings as a point of principal.
Politics is of course very much part and parcel of this. History will perhaps sort it out but right from the start it was obvious the regime of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown was dedicated towards the eventual destruction of the UK as a credible entity in major international affairs. Indeed, a large part of their objective was to try and destroy the principal elements within English society such as the education system and National Health Service, the legal system, immigration, plus waging war on farming communities, etc, etc. A quite extraordinary campaign. It didn’t take many years before virtually every ‘bright’ initiative drawn up by this regime came apart at the seams. This is not just my opinion of course and indeed I am often surprised at the sheer anger still felt towards that regime by wealthy people, often running successful businesses.
THE NOISE PROBLEM
Without any doubt whatsover, this really is a complex problem with many issues to be understood and addressed. In the early days as HEATHROW was being developed, there was no official regulation whatsover. And, as far as I can see, nobody thought about the subject in those days.
Aircraft noise, by and large in WW2 was part and parcel of winning the war, and, to large extent, this mindset prevailed in the later years. And, lets not forget this, the early piston-engine airliners with limited performance were bloody noisy when passing over - they certainly shook our house at all times of day and night - and as a lad I loved it. But, we were not living beneath a main runway constantly used.
A DEGREE OF TOLERANCE
There seems no debate that in the earlier years, even after the introduction of jet airliners, the majority of people living near a major airport, accepted this as part and parcel of where they had decided to live. In later years, with the gentrification of some areas, (such as Richmond for example), there appeared a certain type of middle class person who were, and are, both incredibly stupid and selfish. Generally speaking more than happy to use airliners for both business and pleasure from HEATHROW, but happily objecting to aircraft noise!
My wife and I have lived in Ealing directly under a major take-off departure route, and have no objections, especially today when the performance of most airliners means they are the 'cruise-climb' stage when passing over. And, because we have, and often still do, use these airline services - how can we possibly object to the noise created? Which, of course, has been decreased no end in recent years.
Another aspect of modern commercial aviation probably not generally appreciated, is that modern airliners when comng in to land, are on the 'Back of the drag curve' and therefore require a fair bit of power to maintain their approach to the airport. Needless to say, this creates quite a lot of noise from the engines. In many if not most cases, ironically, crating more low level noise than when taking-off, given the performance of certainly short-haul types.
THE THIRD RUNWAY DEBATE (A POSSIBLE SOLUTION?)
Since the 1990s the ‘elephant in the room’ regarding Heathrow has been the third runway issue. I have listened to years of debate and one theme always comes up to justify the third runway – “Heathrow is full”. This refers to landing slots of course and to date (2012) I have not heard one expert propose a (to me) very simple solution. Take EU capital cities for example; each day of the week a vast fleet of medium sized airliners queue up at airport runways flying to the same destination. So, why doesn’t the European Parliament insist on major destinations and airline operators being forced to have common carrier/shared operations maximum capacity aircraft?
Boeing and Airbus could be invited to provide maximum seating short-haul variants of their largest aircraft. Business class could still be provided, albeit a tad more compacted. A search of the web shows an Airbus A380 can take up to 853 single class passengers. That is over four times the maximum seating plan for Airbus 320 Srs or Boeing 737-900. Indeed, fuselage lengths could probably be increased by up to 30% because of the much, much smaller fuel load required. So passenger volumes exceeding 1000 are a distinct possibility. Heh presto, three landing slots or more opened up from just one destination within each hour or so.
For example, instead of shopping around for hours examining different airlines options, you simply buy a one price ticket to Paris, or Amsterdam or Frankfurt etc – business or economy. On arrival at the airport you simply follow the signs to your ‘Special Category’ destination, enter a ‘straight-through’ embarkation process and take your designated seat. Nobody needs much in the way of sustenance on a flight up to two hours duration so the nonsense of in-flight catering can be dispensed with. Those wanting a drink or snack can carry it with them.
ONE POTENTIAL PROBLEM?
On reflection I suppose that those with mental disabilities and of restricted intellect, typically status sodden business class passengers for example, (no bias there then?), could still get a spoon fed service, but even so I reckon the concept ‘holds water’. Customer choice of carrier is as outmoded as the scullery girl in a 19th century middle class household. Let’s face reality, 99% of passengers have no idea, or any interest in, who built the airliner they are flying in. Even on long haul flights from my experience it does not matter a lot about how you are treated, (in economy), regarding seat spacing etc. But, on short-haul surely it really doesn’t matter and a system that makes it so much quicker and easier surely must be the answer?
One thing does appear very certain, and this is that the vast majority of passengers appear to have no awareness, even when looking walking down the 'jetway' when boarding, (when bothered which is rarely), to inspect the airliner to see if it has the colour scheme of the airline they have booked their ticket with. And, generally speaking, even in the boarding lounge when the airliner is usually clearly visible, the vast majority of people choose to ignore looking at it. One thing that has never happened is a passenger objecting on the grounds of, "Hold on, this aeroplane isn't being operated by the airline I have booked my ticket with". They really do not care, it seems, and, if the truth by told, the level of service once on board is very 'samey' by and large. Except, I am pleased to say, that British Airways cabin service is always better, often by quite a large degree on European flights.
Oddly enough, albeit with very limited long-haul experience in recent years, I have found seat spacing on most short-haul flights to be superior to long haul flights – which seems a very strange situation indeed. In fact the worst long-haul flight in recent years was with Emirates from Melbourne to Dubai, (14 hours), with the economy cabin configured for maximum short-haul “pilgrim” flights within the middle-east to Jeddah for example. The cabin crew did admit they were getting a lot of complaints, but hadn’t realised the seating didn’t match the positioning of the overhead facilities, such as air vents and reading lights. Being massively tall, standing six foot high in my socks, (and yes I most certainly am being sarcastic), I had to stand in the back for most of this flight. My wife and I have used this service several times over the years and it is very noticeable that the best sector, by far, is always the sector from Heathrow to Dubai.
THE 'GAME' IS CHANGING
I do suspect the main European carriers, with whom I mostly fly with, have realised to some extent they are competing in an era when the high-speed train has become a very attractive alternative on many routes. Having ridden on some I would be very interested to learn what the total ‘energy’ consumption is, per seat mile, compared to a modern maximum capacity airliner over the same route. And don’t forget, the energy used in establishing (building) and maintaining a high-speed rail route also
needs to be taken into account. In the UK (and I doubt it is much different elsewhere), one of the biggest vehicle fleets (military, postal, energy providers etc), is dedicated to keeping the railways running. And, the energy required to produce just one vehicle is quite astonishing.
ANOTHER ASPECT OF THE THIRD RUNWAY DEBATE
This excites considerable controversy despite the original plans for HEATHROW having nine runways. Three of which were in the area proposed for the ‘third’ runway. But, common sense surely dictates a third runway is not needed, and will not be for decades. To explain: As said before, very few passengers today (if ever?) have any interest in what aircraft or carrier they are flying with, despite the airlines trying very hard to promote their ‘individual’ brand. Indeed, safety is very
low on the list of passengers concerns – something to be taken for granted for the vast majority in recent decades.
So, it is an utter nonsense to have so many medium sized airliners from different carriers serving the same destination on almost an hourly basis. What we need in Europe, to the main destinations still served from HEATHROW, (and other London airports), are joint enterprises equipped with short-haul, maximum capacity versions of the B.747 and Airbus A.380. This would free about 25% (probably more?) of the slots at HEATHROW at a stroke. You just go to the terminal serving the city and go on board.
For example, in 2014, despite the Eurostar train serving Paris a quick search of the internet revealed British Airways having eleven flights a day, Air France eight a day, Air Berlin three and Iberia two. Plus EasyJet had two a day from Luton and three from Gatwick. All in all about thirty flights from the London area to Paris (I expect there are more?) all using medium sized airliners carrying between 132 and 220 passengers in a single class configuration. Less of course if a ‘business class’ compartment is incorporated. A Boeing 747-400 in single class, can carry 660 passengers, and the Airbus A-380 853 passengers.
Carrying these amounts of passengers, (there could easily be many more on short-haul versions), although making complete sense and being eco-friendly cannot be realised of course as things stand. Surely any rational person might well ask: “Who needs anything else for a flight lasting just over an hour?” Unfortunately, as pointed out earlier, there are tens of thousands who, lacking intellect and a sense of social responsibility, and having such a high opinion of themselves, will desire to be segregated into a
‘Posh’ compartment. And of course the airlines insist they need to obtain their extra revenue. Having seen this at first hand, I am not entirely convinced of the ‘cost- benefit’ equation being matched here, and especially so on short haul operations.
Even so, it is clearly obvious that one very large aeroplane can easily carry about three times more than the medium sized alternatives. Using less than half the fuel or aircrew and cabin crew etc, etc. Having worked and flown around Europe for a long time, (about forty years) nigh on hourly departures are definitely not required. Just three a day, early morning, mid-day and early evening are all that is needed? On these grounds I rest my case.
Having lived in West Ealing and Hanwell for over forty years, and being a pilot - albiet only a lowly PPL, I usually cannot resist the allure of an airliner passing overhead - and looking up. In July 2016, when taking a few pictures of departing airliners for this web-site, I noticed something never before seen.
I could be mistaken of course, but when I first saw it, the right-hand main undercarriage appeared 'stuck-up'. Looking at the picture later, whilst concentrating on trying to keep the aircraft centered in the frame for the camera as it passed overhead at the time, I then saw that all three undercarriage legs were now down. As said, something never seen before. Without much doubt the situation witnessed will later appear in a report in the AAIB Bulletin.
This is not the first 'incident' to occur to this aircraft. But what interests me is that the whole project seems bedevilled with problems - not least because the apparently utterly non-sensical decision to combine Boeing with McDonnell Douglas resulted in huge production problems. Experienced Boeing engineers have, it seems, predicted huge potential problems for the 787 Dreamliner. And indeed, being seen as a 'lash-up' of huge proportions, many resigned; although it appears the powers that be in the USA have tried very hard to play this down.
An emerging story, and will we ever know something like the truth of it? Highly doubtful.
HEATHROW PICTURE GALLERY AND MEMORIES
In the early 1990s I was booked on a flight from Heathrow to Hanover in Germany for the close of the CEBIT exhibition. Due to the huge demand BA had put a 747 on the service, the largest airliner to land at Hanover and large crowds turned out to witness our arrival. With a small fuel load and just a 737 load of passengers, the take-off and initial climb rate from Heathrow was spectacular, it even took the cabin crew by surprise, and I suspect the pilots were thoroughly enjoying showing off this immense aircrafts capabilities at that weight. The second picture is proof of this.
AND SOME MORE PICTURES
PICTURES OF BRITISH AIRWAYS AIRCRAFT
Here are a few pictures given to me by my very good friend James Roland who is a Senior Captain with British Airways. As he explained they had been acquired over many years and he cannot remember who gave them to him, although some he took himself. But, aren't they fantastic, and clearly show the amazing sights airline pilots often see. If anybody recognises these pictures as their own I would be delighted to attribute them.
The picture of a BA 747 turning finals into the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong is small and blurred but nevertheless the best picture to date. The red and white chequer-board was the location of the ILS. When in operation this airport was, arguably, the most astonishing experience to fly into - in the world. I once had the privilege of being invited onto the flight-deck of a Cathay Pacific 747 for the landing on a crystal clear night - a fondly treasured memory.
JaycoThis comment was written on: 2015-07-23 20:47:15
Can these pictures be used elsewhere? Do you know who the copyright holder is?
Reply from Dick Flute:
There are a lot of pictures on this listing. Could you kindly list those you are interested in? This said you might like to look at my article on copyright as hopefully this might answer your questions. ATB, Dick
anneThis comment was written on: 2015-08-03 12:20:24
Well done. Fantastic contributioin to aviation.
Reply from Dick Flute:
Many thanks indeed. regards, Dick
Peter MaddisonThis comment was written on: 2020-11-13 22:53:44
The reason why T1 was called T4 prior to opening was that No 1 pax bld (Europa) had a separate building called Britanic attached which would become T2 and Pax Bld 3 (Oceanic) would become T3 therefore the new T1 would logically be T4
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