BOAC in the 50s Pt1: Back to Props
During the late 1940s BOAC had already been forced to purchase Constellations and Stratocruisers, using scarce American dollars, and had then had to fall back on Canadair's improved license production DC-4/DC-6 cross: the C4 Argonaut. With the Comet gone BOAC cast around for extra aircraft and was able to purchase more Strats and Connies as stopgaps, but buying up secondhand aircraft was hardly the way to keep up with the competition, from Pan Am in particular.
This reluctantly led BOAC back towards the US marketplace where Douglas and Lockheed were busy pumping out technologically advanced (if hardly reliable) piston liners. The June 1956 entry into service by Pan Am of DC-7Cs and delays to service entry of its new Britannias forced BOAC to order 10 of its own DC-7Cs. The DC-7Cs began arriving in October 1956 and enabled BOAC to operate non-stop westbound services from London and Manchester to New York and other East Coast destinations for the first time. Their ascendency was however short lived. Britannia’s began operating in late 1957 and pure jets only a few years later making the Seven Seas obsolete. BOAC converted most to freighters from 1960.
G-AOIA was the first aircraft into service. She was sold to Saturn Airways in 1964 as N90803 she stayed with them until 1968. From 1970 she joined Ports of Call Denver and became N6354C. From March 1979 she joined Belize Air Cargo but was seized by the Columbian Air Force and put into FAC service as FAC923 from 1981.
The first, turboprop powered, Britannia flew as early as 1952 but engine issues led to a lengthy gestation and an AOC wasn’t granted until 1955 with BOAC’s first two short series 100s (G-ANBC and BD) arriving in December. Even then full scheduled services didn’t begin until February 1957, with the first flight to Johannesburg, and the type was plagued with teething problems. By August all 15 of the 90 seat series 102s had been delivered to BOAC. Unfortunately the short Britannias also only saw short careers with their first operator. By the early 60s BOAC was swimming in new jets and debt to go with it. It wanted rid of the uneconomic props including the Britannias. Many of the early series 100s saw service with Malayan Airways in the early 60s and most joined either BKS, Britannia or Laker. G-ANBD joined the former in November 1965 after retirement in 1963 on a hire/purchase agreement. She remained in service, including a lease to Britannia in 1968/69, until broken up in May 1970.
In hindsight it is easy to see that the Britannia, if it had been available for service in 1953-54 would have been a major success for the British. As it was both the Brits and the DC-7Cs, bought to make up for their delay, were merely stopgaps for BOAC. Unfortunately the baggage that the British manufacturers carried by the late 1950s and the ideological need for BOAC to buy British hamstrung the flag carrier well into the jet-age.
12/12/2015 01:05:09 am
BOAC is one of my favourites, but wonder why the Britannia features in Part 1? Surely the Argonaut, Stratocruiser and Constellation should be featured in Part 1 of BOAC in the '50s, unless of course they are not in your collection?
12/12/2015 02:12:51 am
They are in the collection but I'm not writing the entire history of BOAC here. The catalyst for this piece was actually another on European DC-7Cs. That spawned these two parts on BOAC so think yourself lucky! I'm sure you know this stuff blindfolded anyway. Besides the Strats, Connies and Argonauts arrived in the 1940s.
16/12/2015 12:22:48 pm
The video of your BOAC models is fantastic and also your information on the company history. I've just brought myself a Christmas present which is an old book I had when I was a child around 1958, it has a picture of a BEA Viscount flying over Heathrow. As I said the other day I record airline liveries, 130 of them but I had an operation couple of years ago that made me uncomfortable sitting down for long so fell behind I'm up to date as far as Ryanair, the S to Vs are 3 years behind. I'm telling you this so you can understand why my BOAC & BEA were inaccurate until your post in October and now my BA needs updating following your detailed history of BA last week. Therefore some of the BOAC dates you quoted from me yesterday have changed since October, if you would like an update just let me know. Finally thank you for quoting me yesterday I never ever thought my hobby would be of use to anyone.
14/7/2022 08:14:41 am
The Brittania was a massive airframe. You had to walk underneath one to realize how large it was. I saw the preserved Monarch Bristol Britannia on a visit to the Duxford Air Museum March 1998.
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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: