The nation of Ghana came into existence on March 6, 1957 when a the Gold Coast declared itself independent of British rule under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah as Prime Minister. Up until Ghanaian independence airline service to the Gold Coast had been provided by West African Airways Corporation which also served Sierra Leone, Nigeria and The Gambia. As these countries gained independence they setup their own airlines and Ghana Airways came into being on July 4, 1958 as a joint venture between BOAC and the new Ghana government. Initial operations continued to use WAAC equipment (a Stratocruiser operating the usual pooled service to London) but this agreement ended on September 30. Ghana Airways first locally registered aircraft was a de Havilland Heron which was followed by a second and a DC-3.
Flights to London initially used a wet-leased BOAC Bristol Britannia (G-ANBC) from April 1959 which gradually replaced the remaining Stratocruiser's by August. Ghana Airways ordered a pair of their own Britannia's with the first 9G-AAG arriving on July 27, 1960 followed by 9G-AAH on November 8, 1960. The Britannia's took over full responsibility for the London route in December and in February 1961 BOAC's share of the airline was bought out by the government for GBP160,000. Despite this the pool agreement with BOAC remained in place on the Accra-London route. From June 1961 the Brits started the first nonstop Accra-London service.
Ghana Airways new livery prominently featured the new colours of the national flag red (for bloodshed), green (for beauty, abundance and agriculture), yellow (for mineral wealth) and a black star (to represent African freedom). This attractive combination of colours would be worn by Ghana Airways fleet in a variety of different variations until its final demise in 2005.
Nkrumah, now President (Ghana became a republic in 1960), was a left leaning politician (he even called himself a Marxist) who believed in Pan-Africanism and nationalisation of industry. His socialist and anti-colonialist bent provided a natural alignment with the Soviet Union and though he preferred Ghana to remain non-aligned he was feted in the Eastern Bloc. A decision to purchase three Vickers Viscounts in April 1960 opened Nkrumah up to criticism for being pro-British and later in the year Ghana airways ordered six Ilyushin IL-18s.
The IL-18s (eventually eight were bought) were not a very wise purchase. They arrived first in December 1960 and were registered 9G-AAI-N and 9G-AAX-Y but could only be serviced and flown by Soviet personnel. They were used to operate regional African services to destinations such as Dakar, Lagos and Nairobi, however many of these regional routes were not economic - for example in three months in 1963 IL-18s carried only 12 passengers between Accra and Khartoum! The airline which had made a profit in 1960 lost $600,000 in 1961 and the problems only got worse. Half the under-utilised IL-18s were returned to the USSR from June 1963. The Viscounts (9G-AAU-W) fared little better and were also sold in the mid-60s.
For pictures of Ghana Airways Viscounts please visit the excellent http://www.vickersviscount.net
In part 2 we'll look at Ghana's break with BOAC and their first steps into the jet-age.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: