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"Two minds were better than one - even if one of them had to be French!"

(comment attributed to a senior member of the British production team)


Well, I ask you - can there ever have been (and will there ever be again) such a beautiful aircraft as the CONCORDE?


This was a case of a pioneering concept overtaken by economic forces and, for the time, some rather spurious environmental arguments, but it nevertheless created a 30-year niche for itself to earn its rightful place in the hearts of all Britons, and no doubt a lot of others too. The big fat ugly American in the background deservedly won the day by playing a pivotal role in enabling the masses to afford to fly. Since they're still being rolled out more or less weekly at Everett Field it may be another two decades or more before the last 747 is grounded, but I somehow don't think they'll be missed in quite the same way. When this finally comes it'll be more likely as a result of the influence of the even bigger Airbus A380, though it is hard to imagine this racking up anything like the sales record of the 'jumbo'. Boeing's current major project, the 787 'Dreamliner' is a lot smaller and aimed at a very diffferent market. 









He's at it again I hear you say.......................


Well, the BAC 1-11 was marketed as 'The Bus Stop Jet' and now we have a wide range of different 'Airbus' models knocking spots off the American domination of the aircraft manufacturing industry. 

That's my excuse for adding this page to show off some of my colour shots, mostly of pre-Airbus era civil airliners that were around, some with long gone airlines, from the late sixties until the early eighties.

Remember, too, the days before the current security scares, when you could climb to the roof of the Queens Building at Heathrow and unchallenged and for free to the top decks of adjacent car parks. In the company of all ages shapes and sizes of gricers you could pass the time watching the comings and goings of all kinds of jet age and earlier wonders. Recall, too with fondness how the air around you always smelled so strongly of kerosene and how it always found a way to impart its flavour into your sandwiches, sausage rolls and crisps - happy days! This little lot and more were there to be seen at Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton and a few other places.....................................


Ambassadors, Comets, Viscounts, Vanguards, Britannias, 748s, Heralds, VC10s, BAC 1-11s, Tridents, 707s, 720s, 727s, 737s DC8s, DC9s, DC10s, Coronados, IL-18s, IL-62s, TU-104s, TU134s TU154s, Tristars, Caravelles and, if you ventured to Southend Airport, 'Fat Albert' ( pictured further down the page in case you were wondering what he (it!) was) and maybe a DC3 or two as well!





Those were the days! - Quite a long time ago this one, about 1961 or 1962 I think.  With the very necessary security worries nowadays it beggars belief that then you could take photos like this at Britain's main airport - then known as London Airport - the 'Heathrow' tag came later - by just leaning across a four-foot chain link fence!. The Boeing 707 had capitalised on the misfortunes of the British De Havilland Comet and was then the wonder of the age, set to become an indespensible tool of most international airlines.






The great hope for Rolls Royce in the early seventies was the L1011 Tristar which its US maker Lockheed  had designed around the company's advanced  RB-211 turbofan. As with its American counterparts this early big fan engine had its troubles and financially strained its maker but came out Ok in the end. Sales of the aircraft were however disappointing, most orders in this category being won over time, despite one of the greatest scandals of all time aviation history over design fault that cost hundreds of lives, by the rival, and distinctly less attractive looking McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Seen here going through its paces at a 1970s Farnborough Airshow is an early Tristar delivery for Pacific Southwest Airlines




Another Farnborough oddity of the seventies was the VFW614, this small German airliner which I think was conceived by the post-war incarnation of the Focke-Wulf company. I may be wrong here but I believe it was a commercial failure and not many were built. Powerplants mounted on top of the wings was perhaps something that the airline industry was not ready for




British Airways was, perhaps naturally, an early customer for the Tristar



The ubiquitous Boeing 737, one of the most successful airliners ever. Here an early small version of Algerian airways at Heathrow about 1980










I'm starting this section off with a shot of Vickers Viscount G-AMOG seen at Ronaldsway IOM. This is the first aircraft that I ever flew in, in 1969 when I went to the Isle of Man from Liverpool (Speke) now known as John Lennon Airport. She looked just like this when I went on her but later sported an orange white & grey scheme before changing again to full dark blue/white BOAC international livery when it was used on connecting flights for the national carrier. I believe the her fuselage at least still exists in Scotland somewhere. Unfortunately I could not get a shot of her myself so have resorted to a 40+ year old commercial postcard. If anyone still owns the copyright I will remove this file immediately on request.


Here's some other Viscounts ....................



This was the later Cambrian scheme referred to above



On Channel Islands services this Viscount retained the main BEA livery



BEA subsidiary Northeast operated this one on short haul services within UK. I flew on it in 1972 to Leeds/Bradford from Heathrow. A couple of Tridents were also operated,usually on charter flights, in this livery.


Not a good photo admittedly, but an unusual sighting as late as 1983 This was at Newcastle Airport. Perhaps thankfully this old DC3 was relegated to the carriage of cargo only by then.










Ilyushin IL-18. These Russian built jet-props were in use by most of the eastern-bloc national airlines at this time. this one was operated by LOT Polish Airlines



In about 1968-69 you could book at Moscow weekend 3days/2nights including a guided tour for just £29!. A silly amount now but still quite a lot in those days. I thought it a bit expensive (my net salary was perhaps only £65 pm then) so resisted the temptation which would also have enabled me to fly in one of these Tupolev TU-104s seen here getting ready to leave Gatwick. How silly I was - I never went subsequently and won't get there now.



Tupolev TU-134 of Aviogenex at Gatwick c.1968. This was basically I think the charter arm of JAT the then Yugoslav national airline. Its similarity of design to the successful adjacent British BAC 1-11 'pocket rocket' can be seen.



At rest at a somewhat under-developed Luton, a Vickers Vanguard of Invicta International. I was able to go with a friend on the last flight by one of these by BEA from Heathrow to Edinburgh in about 1972, although the weather was so bad we were diverted to Glasgow! A safe return was made the following day on a brand new Trident 3B



Back to Gatwick in 1970 for a view of this Airspeed Ambassador then operated by London charter airline Dan Air. It looks to be from another era and in truth, with the rapid post-war advances in aircraft design, really was by the end of the sixties. New to BEA in mid-1952 it had a spell with the Royal Jordanioan Airforce in the early 1960s. Dan-Air operated the type from the middle of the decade, mostly on Chanel Islands services, finally phasing the type out in 1971.  I saw this taxi in with sheets of flame belching from its piston engines (Bristol Centaurus?) Seeing my alarm a more knowledgable enthusiast next to me said "don't worry - they always do that"!

Great news - By chance only just found out that G-ALZO still exists and is undergoing a thorough restoration at Duxford - don't think it is intended that it flies again though. I now believe also that G-ALZO operated the very last flight by the type for Dan Air



Well lined up for a safe landing at Heathrow was this Boeing 720 in the attractive colours of Air Malta



Also on final approach at Heathrow - a Boeing 727 of Air France



Boeing 707 of Wardair, a Canadian mainly charter airline that was a regular visitor to Gatwick in the sixties and seventies



Because they just had to be different France developed its own Jet liner in the shape of the Caravelle using engines mounted on the rear of the fuselage. I'm not too sure of this but I think its initial fuselage/avionics design owed much to the DH Comet and initially Rolls Royce Avon engines were employed. This is an example of those bought by the Italian national airline Alitalia.


After its initial disasters thge DH Comet, the world's first commercial jet transport could never regain ground lost to the American Boeing 707 but a few late versions of Mk4 and Mk 4B carried on well into the late 1960s with BEA Airtours and Dan Air. The graceful lines of this aircraft are somewhat obscured by the clutter of the background here



One American design that did not find favour was the Convair Coronado. Swissair was the only airline I remember seeing operate these into GB. I do believe that one of these has now been installed as an exhibit at the major transport museum in Lucerne



I always wondered what glue they used to stick that engine on the tail! The Douglas DC-10, initial tragic difficulties overcome, was obviously a very competent aircraft but one which I always regarded as decidedly ugly. The famous Freddie Laker bought or leased some for his 'Skytrain' service to USA and, along with a couple of hundred other enthusiasts, I went on a sampling flight from Gatwick over the Channel Islands and Bay of Biscay for about 45 minutes on one of these prior to the services getting under way. The cost was £7 if memory serves me correctly, so maybe say £1500 was raised in fares. I guess that it costs much more than that nowadays just to get a large aircraft off the ground! 



 Douglas DC9 of Austrian Airlines



BAC1-11 of charter airline Court Line which was famous for its attractively coloured aircraft. Examples in blue, green and yellow were also operated before they graduated to leased Lockheed Tristars in similar hues. One claim to fame they had in the early 1970s was that they employed the first female captain flying these aircraft.



Early series BAC 1-11 of Romainian national carrier Tarom. In the early 1980s an agreement was concluded with BAC for these planes to be manufactured under licence in Romania. High hopes were held for significant sales to the communist bloc, China and others of their trading partners but the state factory could not get geared up and eventually only nine were built



The Hawker Siddeley Trident was a remarkable aircraft and it is a mystery to me why it never attracted more than a small handful of export sales.  British European Airways was by far the largest customer. Here we see G-ARPH at Paris Orly in 1971.



















They looked good in the air too!  - Here we see one on 'finals' at Heathrow

A small number did however get sold to China and here one of them ready for delivery on show at a Hatfield open-day in the early seventies. These lasted



Boeing 707 of BOAC. Can someone please explain why on these planes the outer engines had different shaped mountings to the inner.

My grateful thanks to 'Dave', a former BOAC 707 pilot who states that compressors were fitted to three of the four engines on the 707 and this necessitated a more bulbous shaped mount. Thanks too to Dave for telling me that this is a Pratt & Whitney  powered example, not Rolls Royce Conway as originally stated



Undoubtedly the outright winner in the good looks category the attractive design of the Vickers VC-10 should have guaranteed it a greater following that it achieved. A Russian copy the Ilyushin IL-62 was also frequently seen at Heathrow




I saw this a few months ago at Dunsfold aerodrome in Surrey. At first I thought I was seeing things and the first question I asked myself was 'how on earth did they get it down there safely? the runway is quite long but I could not imagine it was long enough for this brute. Then I noticed the peculiar engine mountings, each wing pair being fixed together rather than spaced out. There was nobody in sight I could ask.

More was revealed when I researched at home - It is a B747-236B (the registration N88892 is false) and the engines are only mock-ups. The plane was apparently used in the James Bond film Casino Royale.........but I still don't know how it was landed - perhaps the runway is longer than I thought! I don't suppose it'll ever take off again- can anyone comment or offer any information?



At Sywell Aerodrome Northamptonshire






             Bristol Britannia Freighter at Stansted in the early 1970s


















                            A DC3 at Newcastle - 1983

  ......and here's 'Fat Albert' on approach to Southend in the late sixties. One of a few,'Carvair. conversions to car ferries of old DC4 airliners for British Air Ferries, an early venture of Freddie Laker.






       ITS SUPERB BI-ANNUAL          AIRSHOW        

 Sywell, Northamptonshire

  A taste of the 2012  event

  A superb mix of military and civilian aircraft put through their paces. An amazing spectacular








Everyone's favourite, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster






Not the usual accompanying Spitfire but one restored as an unarmed reconnaissance machine



A post-war Spanish built trainer masquerading as WWII Luftwaffe!



Rather them than me!



Beautifully restored Catalina



DH Dragon Rapide?



The ubiquitous DC3/C54 with D Day stripes



The amazing Rolls Royce Merlin powered Mustang. It came to prominence later in the war but in its uprated form was probably the best fighter of the whole conflict



The 'Sally B' B17 Flying Fortress - An interesting viewpoint that shows just how small the bomb load capacity was compared to the RAF Lancaster




.......................and the Red Arrows never disappoint as they bring a fitting closure to the show