Prestwick - UK Airfield Guide

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Prestwick





PRESTWICK: Originally a civil aerodrome, later military aerodrome in WW2. Later still became a major civil regional airport especially for trans- Atlantic operators in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (Also HMS GANNET)

Postcard with Prestwick views
Postcard with Prestwick views

Note: This lovely evocative sepia tinted postcard has a postal stamp - 27 Feb 1955. It was addressed to a lady in San Francisco and has the message, "Wish you were here. Just stop a long way 3 more hours to go." This was in the days when trans-Atlantic airliners following pretty much a 'Great Circle' route, had to make at least two stops to refuel when crossing the Atlantic, even when eastbound.

It is tempting to think that "the 3 more hours to go" suggests that London Airport (now HEATHROW) was the final destination, but it could have been anywhere in Europe of a similar distance.
 

These are the only images I have found of PRESTWICK in those days, and how charming the set-up appears. All this changed completely when the 'new' terminal opened in 1964. Also, being tad pedantic, I don't think the "BEA Dakota" picture relates to this period at all, as I think by then all BEA 'Dakotas' had the corporate livery applied. Or indeed if it really was a BEA 'Dakota'. Can anybody kindly offer advice?

The comment above was of course made before Mike Charlton added his astonishing selection. See his 'Galleries' below.
 

In 2005 known as GLASGOW PRESTWICK AIRPORT



PRESTWICK PICTURES
Note: Pictures by the author unless specified.

A 747 touching down   Picture source unknown?
A 747 touching down   Picture source unknown?
Aerial view in 1992   Picture by Austin J Brown
Aerial view in 1992   Picture by Austin J Brown
G-WACL on the main apron in 1992
G-WACL on the main apron in 1992
Prestwick sign
Prestwick sign












 

ICAO code: EGPK             IATA code: PIK
 

Civil user: 1936 to 1939: Scottish Aviation
12 E&RFTS (Tiger Moths, Harts, Ansons, Battles),      No 3 Radio School (Ansons), No.1 Air Observer and Navigation School (Ansons). Without doubt Scottish Aviation operated 12 EFTS, but, did they also operate the other two schools? It seems doubtful to me that they did, and so, if not, probably the airfield was jointly used by Scottish Aviation and the RAF?

 

Military users: Between the wars:

RAFVR  [RAF Volunteer Reserve]     (DH Tiger Moths, Hawker Harts & Hinds)


A MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY ONE
These pictures from postcards have been kindly sent from Mike Charlton who has an amazing collection. See,  www.aviationpostcard.co.uk

An early view
An early view
The Scottish Aviation facility
The Scottish Aviation facility
PRESTWICK circa 1930s
PRESTWICK circa 1930s
The Bristol 142 Britain First K7557
The Bristol 142 Britain First K7557

Tiger Moths on the apron
Tiger Moths on the apron
More Tiger Moths
More Tiger Moths
PRESTWICK in WW2?
PRESTWICK in WW2?
             Aerial view - but when?
             Aerial view - but when?










 

First picture: The de Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-ACUO, seen in this picture, was registered to a private owner and based at HATFIELD (HERTFORDSHIRE) from the 24th November 1937 until the 23rd July 1940. When presumably it was impressed into military service?

Fourth picture: This picture shows, in the foreground the Bristol 142 Britain First K7557. Commissioned by Lord Rothermere of the Daily Mail, and designed by Frank Barnwell, it was intended to be a very fast personal transport type. It turned out to be much faster than the RAF fighter types then operated, so Lord Rothermere dedicated it to the nation for further development. It then became the model for the Bristol Blenheim light bomber, which of course, as it turned out, was one of the most ineffectual RAF types in WW2 in so many ways.  

Fifth picture: The de Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth G-ADVY served with Scottish Aviation from the 9th December 1935 until the 12th October 1940. When, I assume, it was impressed into the RAF?

Sixth picture: As with G-ADVY above, the Tiger Moths G-ADWA, G-ADWJ and G-ADWO were all registered with Scottish Aviation on exactly the same dates. Two survived WW2 it appears - G-ADWO was registered to Mr T H Marshall at CHRISTCHURCH (HAMPSHIRE) from the 6th March 1951 until the 15th September 1958 - when it was declared a being destroyed. However, by 2014 at least, it seems that G-ADWJ was, and hopefully is, probably still flying.

Eighth picture: Not at all sure about this, but, most of the aircraft look to me to be Douglas C-47s? So, could these be examples waiting to be 'civilianised' by Scottish Aviation in the late 1940s to early 1950s? Advice will be most welcome.


WW2: RAF Fighter Command

1 Sqdn [RCAF] & 615 Sqdns   (Hawker Hurricanes)      

141 Sqdn   (Boulton-Paul Defiants)

600 Sqdn   (Bristol Beaufighters)      

602 & 610 Sqdns    (Vickers-Supermarine Spitfires)        
 

RAF Coastal Command:             

No.1  (Coastal)

OTU [Operational Training Unit]    (Blackburn Bothas & Armstrong-Whitworth Whitleys)

102 Sqdn  (Whitleys)*
 

RAF Transport Command           44 Group

116 Wing: 1527 BAT Flight   (Airspeed Oxfords)

RAF Ferry Command ATFERO   (Atlantic Ferry Organisation)

RAF        41 Group

No.4 ATA Ferry Pool



THE MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY TWO

The Prestwick Airport Hotel
The Prestwick Airport Hotel
The Scottish Airlines Liberator G-AHZR
The Scottish Airlines Liberator G-AHZR
Main entrance view
Main entrance view
What a view!
What a view!

The KLM Lockheed Super Constellation PH-LKX
The KLM Lockheed Super Constellation PH-LKX
The airport terminal and control tower, circa early 1950s?
The airport terminal and control tower, circa early 1950s?
An apron view
An apron view
A terminal interior scene
A terminal interior scene













 

First picture: I cannot seem to find any information about when this hotel was built. Perhaps when passenger facilities were introduced in 1938, but it seems a rather grand building considering the limited commercial activity in that era. I imagine it was built just after WW2 when trans-Atlantic flights commenced to New York in 1945?

Second picture. It appears that Scottish Airlines were a subsidiary of Scottish Aviation to which this Consolidated LB30 Liberator MK11, G-AHZR, was registered from the 19th July 1946 until the 9th December 1949. Then being sold abroad. It might seem astonishing to youngsters today, but, until the American airliners became available; initially converted WW2 bomber types formed the backbone of British long-haul fleets. This example, I suspect, was used mainly for trans-Atlantic operations? And they were certainly very uncomfortable to travel in. Very noisy and un-pressurised, they flew through the worst weather across the Atlantic.

Then again, even when the pressurised American piston-engined types arrived, they still couldn't get above the worst of the weather. The arrival of jet airlners improved that situation without any doubt, but, it was still many years before jet airliners were developed to fly above most of the worst weather. 

Fourth picture: What a great view - a classic picture. With a BOAC Boeing Stratocruiser featured.

Fifth picture: Possibly a rare picture? As can be seen this KLM Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation, (PH-LKX). is clearly signed as the 'De Vliegende Hollander'. Surely this translates as "The Flying Dutchman"?. Which seems to indicate that this was a 'trading name' used by KLM for a period relating to their long haul operations in the early 1950s? Or just good humour?

Sixth picture: As the pictures in these Mike Charlton galleries show; over the years until the new terminal was built and opened in 1964, this original site was considerably expanded.

Seventh picture: In the foreground (left) is an U.S.Navy Douglas R5D, the Navy version of the DC-4/C-54. The Airspeed AS65 Consul, (G-AJXH - ex HN719 - with the RAF?), to the right, was registered to the Ministry of Civil Transport and Aviation from the 13th June 1947 until the 30th January 1956. However, I suspect this picture might have been taken when it was registered to Eagle Aircraft Services from the 21st February 1956 until the 28th January 1957? It was then sold to Spain as EC-ANL. Beyond is a RAF Handley Page Hastings taxying out.
 

 

Post 1945:

'V' Bomber dispersal airfield

RNAS 819 Squadron

1970s/80s: 819 & 824 Sqdns  (Westland Sea Kings)

USAF

 

Operated by: 1936: Scottish Aviation

1961: Ministry of Aviation

1975: BAA (British Airports Authority)

1990: Prestwick Airport Ltd (BAA)

2000: Glasgow Prestwick International Airport Ltd (BAA)
 

Activities: Post 1945: Airline, air freight, charter and GA business, private, pleasure flights


THE MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY THREE

 A TCA Canadair North Star
A TCA Canadair North Star
The formal gardens of the airport hotel
The formal gardens of the airport hotel
The BOAC Lockheed Constellation G-AHEM
The BOAC Lockheed Constellation G-AHEM
Another view of the hotel and control tower
Another view of the hotel and control tower

The reception hall circa early1950s
The reception hall circa early1950s
Another great apron view, circa 1950s
Another great apron view, circa 1950s
Airport hotel, terminal and control tower
Airport hotel, terminal and control tower
The American Overseas Airlines Stratocruiser
The American Overseas Airlines Stratocruiser
 






 






 

First picture: What a lovely picture - a Trans-Canada Air Lines North Star on the apron. The Canadair North Star was a development of the Douglas DC-4/C-54 with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines which increased the cruising speed from 227mph to 325mph. But it was noisy for passengers. First flown in July 1946, BOAC acquired a fleet and called them 'Argonauts'. The drawback being that the TBO, (Time Before Overhaul), of the Merlin engines was roughly half that of the American radial engines.

Third picture: The BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) Lockheed L-049 Constellation G-AHEM was registered to BOAC from the 6th April 1946 until the 11th October 1954. Then being sold to Capitol Airlines in the USA. G-AHEM was one of a batch - G-AHEJ to G-AHEN registered to BOAC on the 6th April 1946, and, they all had previous US registrations - NC90602 to NC90606. 

Eighth picture: Probably just an 'age thing' but this picture fills me with joy - what a beauty. Without any doubt in that era the Boeing 377 Sratocruiser, with its 'below decks' lounge and bar, really was the 'Queen' of all the airliners. American Overseas Airlines later became American Airlines as we know it today.



Air Ambulance: Post 1945: Bond Helicopters
 

British airline users: WW2 (Possibly pre WW2?): Railway Air Services
 

Post 1945: Airwork, British Airways, British Caledonian Airways, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC),  Brymon Airways, Gill Aviation, Overseas Aviation (C.I.), Scottish Airlines

Note: In the 1957 'The Aeroplane' directory, Scottish Airlines (Prestwick) Ltd, are listed as a Scheduled Airline Operator with three Avro Yorks and one Douglas C-47 Dakota. They also had an office at STANSTED. Can anybody kindly provide advice on the destinations this airline served?
 

Foreign airline users: Post 1945: Air Canada, Air France, Canadian Pacific Airlines, COBETA, Hellenic Airlines, Icelandic Airlines, KLM, Loftleider, Lufthansa, Luxembourg Airlines, AOA (Airlines of America? Later Pan American World Airways /PAA/Pan Am), Ryanair (from 2017), Scaninavian Airlines System (SAS), Trans Canada Air Lines (TCA), Trans World Airways (TWA), Wizz Air
 

Air cargo: Post 1945: Air France Cargo, Cargolux Airlines, Cargolux Italia, Federal Express, Polar Air Cargo, Seaboard World Airlines, TNT, Volga-Dnepr Airlines.
 

Charter, air taxi: Post 1945: Air Taxi (Cumberland), Airwork, Britannia Airways, British Midland Airways, Directflight
Note: In 1957, although with their registered office being in Carlisle, it appears that Air Taxi (Cumberland) had one de Havilland DH89A Dragon Rapide based here.
 

Flying club/schools: Post 1945: Northside Flying Club, Prestwick Flying Club, Prestwick Flight Centre
 

Pleasure flights: Post 1945: Air Taxi
 

Pollution control: Post 1945: Harvest-Air (see SOUTHEND for a fuller history)
 

Maintenance: Pre 1939: Scottish Aviation (Tiger Moths, Harts, Battles, Wellesleys, Skuas & Rocs)
 

Manufacturing: Post 1945: British Aerospace, Scottish Aviation




THE MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY FOUR

Another view of the hotel, terminal and control tower
Another view of the hotel, terminal and control tower
The spectators enclosure
The spectators enclosure
Another scene in the early terminal
Another scene in the early terminal
A BOAC Stratocruiser
A BOAC Stratocruiser

The 'old' main entrance
The 'old' main entrance
Another scene from the spectators area
Another scene from the spectators area
The old airport hotel and control tower
The old airport hotel and control tower
Apron view with a SAS Douglas DC-4
Apron view with a SAS Douglas DC-4














 

Second picture: The Douglas C-47 Dakota G-AMPP, seen in this picture, was registered to Scottish Aviation (Prestwick) from the 4th March 1952 until the 28th October 1954. Was it used or did it just sit there? From the 28th October 1954, and as seen here, it served with Scottish Airlines until the 4th March 1961. It then went to Dan-Air from the 30th March 1961 until the 1st November 1973 and declared PWFU (Permanently Withdrawn From Use), which normally means it was scrapped.

However, in the background, outside the Scottish Aviation works, there looks to me to be some Boeing B-29 Stratofortress'. From March 1950 the RAF were equipped with eighty-seven B-29s which they named 'Washington'. So, I assume, these were some awaiting work for the RAF?

Fourth picture: Yet another real treat for me, and hopefully for many others visiting this 'Guide'. A great view of a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser - in this case G-ANTZ operated by BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation). BOAC operated G-ANTZ from the 16th December 1954 until the 14th April 1959. It was then sold to the USA.

Sixth picture: Another treat, for me at least. A Royal Canadian Air Force, Canadair North Star. And a BOAC Lockheed Constellation beyond.



THE MIKE CHARLTON 'BIG PROPS ERA' BONUS GALLERY
Mike very kindly sent me a large selection of 'Big Props' pictures to make a choice from, knowing full well that I still go soppy over these classics. I did actually consider not including them, for at least a second or two, (what took me so long!), and I do sincerely hope that you will agree with my decision to include this additional selection is well worth while. I will readily admit there are a couple of pictures which don't exactly fit the 'Big Props' agenda, but so what - I like smaller props too..  

The BOAC Stratocruiser 'Canopus'
The BOAC Stratocruiser 'Canopus'
Another apron view
Another apron view
An Air Canada Lockheed Super Constellation
An Air Canada Lockheed Super Constellation
Yet another great apron view
Yet another great apron view

A BOAC Lockeed Constellation taxying in, in 1954
A BOAC Lockeed Constellation taxying in, in 1954
The BOAC Boeing 377 Stratocruiser G-ANTY
The BOAC Boeing 377 Stratocruiser G-ANTY
Passengers disembarking from a BOAC Bristol Britannia
Passengers disembarking from a BOAC Bristol Britannia
A TCA Canadair North Star
A TCA Canadair North Star

 













First picture: The BOAC Boeing 377 Stratocruiser G-AKGK, presumably named Canopus in memory of Imperial Airways Short 'Empire Class' flying boat bearing the same name, served with BOAC from the 7th February 1950 until the 12th March 1959, when it was sold to Transocean Air Lines as N104Q.

Second picture: In the foreground the DH89A Dragon Rapide G-ALPK and without much doubt a Scottish Airlines Douglas C-47 Dakota. The ownership of the Dragon Rapide I cannot define. It was registered to the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation from the 3rd May 1949 until the 9th September 1957. Then to Air Taxi (Cumberland) in Carlisle, presumably based at CROSBY-on-EDEN (CARLISLE), from the 22nd of October 1957 until the 13th April 1961. It then went to Tyne Tees Airways at WOOLSINGTON, now NEWCASTLE AIRPORT from the 18th April 1961 until the 20th of July 1964.

So, presumably, in this picture, it might have been serving any of these operators? Any advice will be most welcome. After being registered with a private owner, G-ALPK ended its days with the Parachute Regiment Free Fall Club, based in Aldershot, who declared it PWFU (Permanently Withdrawn From Use).

Third picture: Trans Canada introduced the Lockheed Super Constellation in 1954 to supercede their Canadair North Stars on long haul routes. They had a fleet of fourteen which included the L-1049C, L-1049E, L-1049G and L-1049H variants. The Super Constellation was withdrawn from service in or around 1963.  

Fourth picture: A great picture of course, but well beyond my capabilities to caption the aircraft pictured. If anybody can kindly offer advice, this will be much appreciated.

Fifth picture: A BOAC Lockheed L-049 Constellation was a major part of early HEATHROW and PRESTWICK operations for the trans-Atlantic route, and, it also expanded their routes to the Far East. It appears BOAC had a fleet of twenty-five Constellations, including one which was a converted C-69C from the USAF, or possibly the USAAF?

The sixth picture: This picture has a tale to tell if you look into it. G-ANTY was one of a batch of six purchased in the USA, and registered to BOAC during 1954 through to 1955. G-ANTX, G-ANTY, G-ANTZ, G-ANUA, G-ANUB and G-ANUC. What is not usually realised today, is that despite being awarded a 'gong' for being on the winning side, WW2 had bankrupted the UK. Very much part of US goverment policy of course to put an end to the British Empire and open up US domination in global affairs.

To such an extent that our premier global airline, BOAC, was reduced to buying second-hand aircraft from the USA. And US dollars were in very short supply in the UK. It amuses me when certain people today say we have a 'special relationship' with USA. We certainly do! I cannot think of any other nation that actually celebrates being utterly trashed by another nation, and, this being regarded as a huge benefit. Roll on BREXIT!

And this provides a striking example. All this batch had previously been operated by United Airlines from 1949. Registered N31225 to N31231, although N31230 seems missing. G-ANTY was registered to BOAC on the 27th October 1954 and served until the 31st July 1959, being sold back to the USA as N108Q. 

Without any doubt the Lend-Lease agreement with the USA to supply military equipment, was an essential component in the UK being able to further WW2. The final payment was made on the 29th December 2006 - six years late, as the UK had reneged six times to honour the annual repayments. As this 'Guide' is a celebration of our aviation history, which is so well deserved, it has to be said that for a very long time, ever since travelling abroad really, I have mostly felt ashamed of being British. And yet, on a one-to-one basis, most people have been so kind, helpful and often generous. I like to think they are intelligent enough to differentiate between the British people and the British government.    

Eighth picture:  Wrongly captioned as a TCA Skymaster, CF-TEL was in fact a Canadair DC-4M1 North Star. It crashed and was destroyed on short finals landing at Sydney airport Nova Scotia on the 12th August 1948 whilst on a flight from Montreal to PRESTWICK. Fortunately everybody on board survived - but isn't this interesting? There were six crew but just eleven passengers. As I understand things, this was not at all untypical in those days, flying the Atlantic, or for that matter almost anywhere, really was for the very rich or top echelon military or goverment officials.

I think that the crew probably consisted of four 'up front' - two pilots, a flight engineer and a navigator/radio operater. And two cabin crew, almost certainly 'stewardesses', just to look after eleven passengers. How things have changed. 

 

Location: E of A79, S of B739, NE of Prestwick, 3nm NNE of Ayr

Period of operation: 1936 to present day. Some say PRESTWICK opened in 1935


prestwick in 1993
prestwick in 1993
Prestwick in 2000
Prestwick in 2000
   
Notes: These maps are reproduced with the kind permission of Pooleys Flight Equipment Ltd: Copyright Robert Pooley 2014.










Runways: 1936: Grass airfield (all-over?)

WW2: 13/31   2012x46   hard           07/25   1372x46   hard

1990: 13/31    2987x46    hard          03/21   696x45   hard

2000: 13/31   2987x46   hard            03/21   1829x45   hard




THE MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY FIVE - THE JET AGE ARRIVES
I had imagined that the arrival of the first jet airliners at PRESTWICK must surely have coincided with the opening of the new terminal in 1964. But as these pictures prove, they had arrived before. Probably up to four years before the new terminal opened.

A KLM Douglas DC-8 and a SAS Douglas DC-8 on the apron
A KLM Douglas DC-8 and a SAS Douglas DC-8 on the apron
A colour picture of the hotel, terminal and control tower
A colour picture of the hotel, terminal and control tower
A BOAC Bristol Britannia
A BOAC Bristol Britannia
The terminal, hotel and control tower
The terminal, hotel and control tower

The KLM Douglas DC-8 PH-DCG
The KLM Douglas DC-8 PH-DCG
A TCA Douglas DC-8
A TCA Douglas DC-8
Gardens and main entrance
Gardens and main entrance
The SAS Douglas DC-8-32 OY-KTA
The SAS Douglas DC-8-32 OY-KTA
  



First picture: It appears that KLM acquired seven Douglas DC-8-30 in 1960, and also in 1960, SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems) acquired seven Douglas DC-8-33. So this dates this picture being taken between 1960 and 1964.

Third picture: This Bristol Type 175 Britannia 102 (G-ANDB) was operated by BOAC from the 31st December 1955 until the 26th April 1970 when it was declared PWFU (Permanently Withdrawn From Use), which normally means it was scrapped.  The 'blue tail' colour scheme was used by BOAC from 1955 until 1965, but I suppose it is possible it was originally painted with the 'white tail' scheme?

Perhaps younger visitors to the 'Guide' might be wondering why an airliner with propellers features in the 'Jet Age' section? The answer being that the Bristol Proteus engine was a turbo-prop - basically a jet engine configured to drive a propeller although the large 'jet' exhaust also provided a significant amount of thrust. The result was amazingly quiet, earning the Britannia the nickname -  "The Whispering Giant."

Looking at the picture I cannot make my mind up if the Britannia is on the 'old' terminal apron, (which I think it is), or the 'new' terminal apron. Advice will be most welcome.

Fourth picture: I could well be mistaken of course, but my guess is that the single-storey buildings were added to cope with the increase in demand for terminal space before the 'new' terminal was opened in 1964.

Sixrh picture: Tans Canada Air Lines, (renamed Air Canada in 1965), operated a fleet of eight Douglas DC-8-40 and DC-8-50 types between1960 and 1983. 

Seventh picture. I will readily admit to be utterly confused. Another picture shown earlier is captioned the hotel. Can anybody kindly explain where this hotel was? 

Eighth picture: Some sources say this example (OY-KTA) was a Douglas DC-8-32, others claim it was a DC-8-33. It doesn't much matter of course, and it appears it served SAS from 1960 to 1971. 


 

NOTES: It appears that the formation of PRESTWICK owes much to the Duke of Hamilton and Gp. Capt. McIntyre, the first men to fly over Mount Everest in 1933. No 12 E&RFTS was operated by Scottish Aviation using civil registered Tiger Moths and this serves well to illustrate how hopeless my quest to simplify matters often is, as enterprises like this stubbornly refusing to be classified as either civil or military. This said, as their primary purpose was to train pilots for military duties and I trust you’ll agree that putting them under military activities is largely justified.

* 102 Sqdn were ‘loaned’ by Bomber Command to Coastal Command and flew across from DRIFFIELD (YORKSHIRE) to spend just six weeks here. PRESTWICK became one of the largest RAFVR training centres in the UK.

 

A FASCINATING DETAIL?
It appears that early in WW2 the RAF used three Fokker airliners here, (purchased from KLM – two F.22s an a F.36), as flying classrooms, before they were transferred to ABBOTSINCH.


GOING TRANS-ATLANTIC
In April 1941 BOAC started operating Liberators across the Atlantic on the Return Ferry Service from SQUIRES GATE, Blackpool but this operation was later transferred to PRESTWICK. A move which seemed to secure this airport as the primary UK trans- Atlantic departure point for at least two decades.

The ATFERO trans-Atlantic ferry operations must surely be one of the most ignored but fascinating aspects of WW2? This was invariably arduous and often very dangerous work and the experience of these crews laid down the guiding principles for post-war commercial trans-Atlantic operations. PRESTWICK handled 37,000 movements of this nature. The main types arriving were Hudsons, Liberators, Fortresses, Dakotas and Canadian-built Lancasters and Mosquitos. These aircraft were destined for both the RAF and the U.S. Eighth Air Force.


A MOST SINGULAR FLIGHT
July 1943: The only glider crossing of the Atlantic, made by the RAF. A CG-4A Hadrian glider was, it seems, towed across by a Dakota! A full account of this remarkable story is given, (I discovered in Dec 2011), in the Museum of Army Aviation at MIDDLE WALLOP in HAMPSHIRE and this is a highly recommended venue to visit. The story goes the WACO built Hadrian glider, (named Voo-Doo). was fully-loaded and they took-off initially from Montreal. The pilot was Sqdn. Ldr Richard Seys, and the co-pilot Sqdn. Ldr. F M Gobell. (Both not exactly glider fanatics, more Beaufighter pilots), and they took-off from Montreal with stops in Labrador, Greenland and Iceland. The 3,500 mile flight took 28 hours and 3 mins it seems, most of which would have been whilst being towed obviously, so therefore surely breaking several World Record aero-tow records along the way? Now comes the good bit; This test flight was intended to prove the feasibility of ‘Glider-trains’ being towed across the Atlantic.

Today I suppose we can look upon this concept as utterly ridiculous, a non-starter. But we must remember that convoy shipping losses due to German U-boat attacks was reaching a crisis level. Many merchant ships had been equipped with catapaults to launch Hurricane fighters to combat aerial attack, the pilots having to parachute into the sea after fending off an attack. The crews of both the Dakota and the Hadrian proved it was indeed possible. But, just how demanding it must have been, especially for the Hadrian crew is surely veryhard to imagine today? Needless to say, the idea was quickly dropped.


ANOTHER INTERESTING STATISTIC?
In late 1944 there was an interesting ratio regarding RAF and WAAF personnel on station here. It appears that 551 RAF personnel were on station together with 316 WAAFs. I can only conclude this must have been one of the happiest stations to be posted to late in WW2?



A RECORD BREAKING FLIGHT
In 1945 (date ?) a trans-Atlantic record breaking flight landed here from Gander using a RAF Mosquito of No.45 Group. Is more info known?
 

MRS RICHARDA MORROW-TAIT
In August 1949 the first woman to fly around the world, a British pilot, Mrs Richarda Morrow-Tait landed here to clear Customs before flying on to CROYDON. See CAMBRIDGE for further info.


MORE SIGNIFICANT ARRIVALS

October 1949: First USAF trans-Atlantic ferry flight by two Thunderjets.

July 1951: First helicopter crossing of the Atlantic by two USAF Sikorsky H-19As.

 

After WW2 and at least until the 1960s many USAF aircraft transitted to their UK and European bases via PRESTWICK and the list of types makes very interesting reading I’d say, as they weren’t all long distance transport types. (F-84, F-86, T-33, C-82, C-119 and C-123 types were frequent visitors). Civilian US types like the twin-engined Convair airliners and many light US twin-engined types where to be seen too. Going the other way Viscounts and even DH Doves were spotted.


THE HEY-DAY PERIOD
The late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were the hey-day period for PRESTWICK. It really was an astonishing place. Alongside all the commercial trans-Atlantic airliners, ferry flights and US military movements Scottish Aviation were producing small numbers of two exceptional designs, their Pioneer and Twin Pioneer aircraft. But this was only one part of their operation; they also specialised in Dakota conversions for airlines spread across the world and overhauled for the RAF, Mosquitos, Meteors, Lincolns, Washingtons and Neptunes, (Yes, Neptunes!) – plus Avengers and Skyraiders for the Royal Navy and - North American Sabres for the USAF. Later CF-100s and Silver Stars.

In this period of early commercial trans-Atlantic flights typically you’d have seen Boeing Stratocruisers, Douulas DC-4s, DC-6s and DC-7s and Lockheed variants of the Constellation through to the Starliner. Later BOAC Bristol Britannias marked a short period before the US built jets dominated, the Boeing 707 especially and the DC-8. Aer Lingus made a charter flight in Jan ’66 with a BAC 1-11 carrying the Celtic football team to Tbilisi in Russia assisted by two Russian navigators.



THE MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY SIX - THE 'NEW' TERMINAL
By the mid to late 1950s it was obvious that the significant increase in passenger numbers across the Atlantic could not be handled by the existing facilities, and a much larger and more modern terminal was needed. Even the latest jet airliners couldn't make New York, and PRESTWICK, along with SHANNON in Ireland, were the preferred staging posts. It was decided to make PRESTWICK into the best choice for airlines, and in 1964 a most impressive terminal facility was opened. Certainly equal to anything HEATHROW or GATWICK had to offer.

A view of the terminal building
A view of the terminal building
A Pan American Douglas DC-8
A Pan American Douglas DC-8
The terminal check-in area
The terminal check-in area
A BOAC Boeing 707
A BOAC Boeing 707

An apron view circa 1965
An apron view circa 1965
 The check-in and lounge area
The check-in and lounge area
A Pan American Boeing 707 taking off
A Pan American Boeing 707 taking off
The arrivals and Customs Hall
The arrivals and Customs Hall










 

Second picture: This Pan American Douglas DC-8-33, N806PA, appears to have served with Pan Am from May 1960 until September 1968. It then went on to serve with thirteen more airlines until being scrapped in 1992. It is quite possible, and I suspect it is the case, that this picture of N806PA was taken on the 'old' terminal apron. 

Fourth picture:  Although this picture was, without any doubt, taken on the 'old' terminal apron, this BOAC Boeing 707-436 would certainly have visited the 'new' terminal. In 1957 BOAC ordered a fleet of fifteen Boeing 707-436 and it appears they entered service in 1960 and probably, most of them at least, served until the late 1970s. The registrations ran in sequence from G-APFB to G-APFP, and it appears that G-APFK crashed here on the 17th March 1977. 

Fifth picture. What feast! In the foreground are a Cessna 310, two DH104 Doves, a DH114 Heron (possibly BEA?) and a Percival Prince. Without much doubt the Dove and Prince painted in a distinctive red, black and white scheme belonged to CAFU, the Civil Aviation Flying Unit. It appears that CAFU operated, over the years, fourty-nine aircraft ranging from the DH82A Tiger Moth, Avro Anson, Airspeed Consul, DH104 Dove, Percival Prince, HS748 and HS125.

Beyond are two airliners, a BOAC Boeing 707-436 and a SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) Sud Aviation Caravelle, the latter being of special interest. Could it be that the runway at RENFREW was too short for the Caravelle? If so, it is easy to date this picture as the new terminal opened in 1964 and the new GLASGOW airport at ABBOTSINCH opened in 1966.    


A KLM Douglas DC-8
A KLM Douglas DC-8
The new terminal and car park
The new terminal and car park
An Air Canada DC-8
An Air Canada DC-8
The transit lounge
The transit lounge

An aerial view of the new terminal apron
An aerial view of the new terminal apron
Another view of the terminal and car park
Another view of the terminal and car park
Another view of the check-in area
Another view of the check-in area
An United Sud Aviation Caravelle
An United Sud Aviation Caravelle














Ninth picture: I was astonished to discover, looking into the history behind this picture, that KLM operated thirty-seven DC-8s from around 1960. The first batch of seven DC-8-30s were registered PH-DCA to PH-DCG and I suspect this is a picture of one of them? The second main batch of fifteen DC-8-50s were registered PH-DCH to PH-DCZ, and the third batch of eleven DC-8-60/70s were registered PH-DEA to PH-DEM, (no PH-DEJ) for some reason.  

In addition and interspersed were two DC-8-50s PH-ADA and PH-MAS plus two registered in the Philipines, PI-C803 and RP-C804. I suppose the main reason I had no idea about the size of this fleet is simply because, apart from visits to PRESTWICK in the early days, they were rarely if ever seen in the UK? Plus can anybody identify the aircraft seen beyond?

Tenth picture: I would imagine that anybody interested in cars will find this picture fascinating?

Eleventh picture: This picture was, without any doubt, taken on the 'old' terminal building apron, fairly shortly after TCA (Trans Canada Air Lines) became reborn as Air Canada, in it seems 1965 according to the Wiki-this and Wiki-that and other stuff on the interweb. And yet, the 'new' terminal opened in 1964. Obviously a bit more research is needed.

I thought I was being quite useful in adding the KLM DC-8 fleet with a bit of additional information. Then I looked into the history behind this picture and Air Canada operated a fleet of forty-three DC-8s! As you get older, I suppose, you need to know when to give in. And, let's face it, all this info is freely available on the inter-web anyway.

Twelth picture. The transit lounge. Oh dear, hardly packed out is it.

Thirteenth picture; The only aircraft I can identify here is the Northwest Orient Boeing 747-200 N623US. It appears that Northwest Orient, founded in 1934 and lasting until October 1986 only operated this single example from May 1976 until October 1986. But, in the later stages they had quite a large fleet in the USA comprising five Douglas DC-8-30 and seventeen Boeing 757-200 types.

But, can anybody kindly identify the two DC-8s also seen in this picture? I do hope so. From my PPL point of view the packed GA apron is very interesting too.

Sixteenth picture: Last but most certainly not least. Seen on the 'old' terminal apron this United Airlines Sud Aviation Caravelle VI-R was almost certainly on its delivery flight to the USA. It appears that one example conducted a promotional flight, mostly for travel agents whilst at PRESTWICK. United ordered twenty, registered N1001U to N1020U and deliveries commenced from May 1961 until February 1962. The type being retired by around 1973.

Aircraft destined for both North and South America have used PRESTWICK since WW2, and it appears, they still do.

 
 

BOAC VICKERS VISCOUNTS
In the 1960s and 70s (possibly even 1950s?), BOAC (later British Airways) had a fleet of Viscounts (initially 700 Series later 813s) serving a shuttle service connecting their trans-Atlantic services from PRESTWICK with Aberdeen, Belfast, Carlisle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. When the 700 Series were replaced six British Airways crews attended the Viscount 813 course run by British Midland Airways at EAST MIDLANDS. I mention this to help illustrate that as airliners, and airlines for that matter, became ever more complex (and therefore expensive to operate) the global airline industry found they had to co-operate in all sorts of ways. A concept that, just a few decades before, was unthinkable to most airline operators. Indeed, for example, the reason the Isle of Wight had five ‘airports’ in the 1930s was because operators could not bear the thought of co-operating with each other.



A MAJOR FACE-LIFT 
A major £3m refurbishment programme was undertaken in the early 2000s so it appears this once very famous airport in the 1950s and 60s still has a viable future. When Aussie Brown and I flew in during 1992 as part of our UK airport tour in a Cessna 172 it was a somewhat sad experience to walk through the almost deserted terminal which once thronged with passengers who had just arrived or were due to embark on those early trans-Atlantic flights in classic piston airliners like Boeing Stratocruisers, Douglas DC-7s and Lockheed Super Constellations. Even in those days the writing was on the wall for the UK aviation industry who, almost to a man, had singularly failed to design a suitable and practical long-distance airliner. The talent and ability was certainly there - so what went so badly wrong? For an answer you might consider reading Empire of the Clouds by James Hamilton-Paterson which I can highly recommend – it’s a great read.

 

 


 
 

Bill Kerr

This comment was written on: 2016-08-10 21:58:45
 
Type your text here....Wonder if you can confirm/not that scheduled trans Atlantic flights flew out of Prestwick in the 50's/60's? I say there was but my friend says these were all charter flights...! I can certainly remember Stratocruisers and super connies but were they regular or not ?????? Site most interesting and enjoyable.Thanks !

 
Reply from Dick Flute:
Hi Bill, You are quite correct. Most if not all of the trans-Atlantic airline flights from Prestwick in that era were indeed scheduled flights. This said, the degree of reliability in maintaining a schedule was nothing like we expect today. Weather was a major issue as was mechanical reliability. Nevertheless, these services were popular for those who could afford them, as the alternative was a four day crossing, at best, by sea. Regards, Dick
 

 
 

John Milbank

This comment was written on: 2018-12-25 10:04:47
 
My father took me to the airport during to 50's. I saw a small jet (Vampire ?) doing touch and goes and a very noisy 4 engine piston propeller plane taking off.

 
 

Michael Elcock

This comment was written on: 2019-03-24 00:25:00
 
Thanks for your work on this. Fascinating stuff! I flew out of Prestwick on an Air Canada DC-8 on January 17, 1966 - emigrating to Vancouver, Canada. I was just 21. I never thought I'd return to Scotland - but I did, and flew into Prestwick for several years until it was more or less eclipsed by Abbotsinch/Glasgow Airport. (Except for some of the charter operators like Wardair.) It was nice too, to see Canopus among your photographs. I flew out to Accra from LHR in 1960 on Canopus. Several re-fuelling stops along the way - Rome, Kano, maybe Lagos as well. My stepfather was a Prof at the University of Ghana. Willie Boyd, the writer, same age as me, flew that route as well in those days as his father worked out there too at that time. Anyway, I can still remember being invited up to the flight deck as we flew (slowly) south across the Sahara. It was night and every star in the sky was as clear as clear can be. We'd have been about 18-20,000 feet I think. The BOAC Captain, who knew my (real) father, pointed out some of the important navigational stars to me. Unforgettable. Thanks again.

 
Reply from Dick Flute:
Dear Michael, Many thanks indeed for such lovely memories. This 'Guide' is of course dedicated to both listing UK flying sites, but also recording memories such as yours. My best regards, Dick
 

 
 

Richard Bradbear

This comment was written on: 2019-06-21 17:13:28
 
first flew to PIK in a TCA North Star 1949 return on dad's pass was delayed due fog. landed in Oct 58 CF TEU or TEV from Toronto cleared customs allowed me 200cigs & cigars for dad!!
 

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