During my childhood in the 80s, on the rare occasion I could get my dad to drive me up to Heathrow (Gatwick was my local and my dad was not a spotter) I was always thrilled by the variety of airlines on show.
Africa was an especially exciting location for interesting airlines. With Britain's colonial ties and business centre most English speaking African nations could be seen at Heathrow. Some of the more affluent airline's could afford new equipment so for example Ghana Airways, Air Zaire and Nigeria flew DC-10s, SAA 747s and Egyptair A300s, but well into the 90s most African flag carriers based their fleet around what they could afford. Near universally these were second-hand Boeing 707s.
Between 1958 and 1961 there was short-lived political union of Egypt and Syria (see United Arab Republic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) leading to the Egyptian national airline Misrair becoming United Arab Airlines (UAA). The union was more a takeover of Syria by Egypt partly as a way of crushing Communism in Syria but also as a stepping stone to a possible pan-arabic state. The union of the two countries collapsed on September 28, 1961, however Egypt remained officially known as the United Arab Republic until 1971 so UAA also kept its name.
Five 747-200Bs were delivered to SAA from October 1971, but it was the 747SP that was ideally suited for SAA's requirements. Its extreme range capabilities were ideal when SAA and South Africa were still pariahs. They took over the Hong Kong service and enabled the start of a Taipei route (lonely South Africa was one of the few states to recognise Taiwan).
South African Airways was formed in February 1934, when the government of South Africa tookover Union Airways. Prewar equipment was largely German but postwar Avro Yorks gave way quickly to DC-4s.
In 1950 four Constellations arrived and only two years later SAA was using jets when it leased a pair of Comet 1s from BOAC. The Comet's failure saw a fallback to DC-7Bs in 1956, but at least these had the range to operate from Johannesburg to London with only one stop (in Khartoum). Fortnightly service to Perth (via the Cocos and Mauritius) began in late 1957. Viscounts took up short-range routes and the real jet age arrived in July 1960 with 3 707-320s.
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: