Channel Airways was a pioneer of cheap low-cost air travel in the UK. It became famous for its thriftiness and high density seating. Along with older aircraft and an intensive schedule these factors helped Channel achieve its aims of making travel no more expensive than by boat. The airline even went so far as to not bother repainting its aircraft fully and in the mid-60s effectively stole the livery of Continental Airlines whom it had purchased second-hand Viscounts from!
The Viscount is undoubtedly the most successful British aircraft of the postwar years and formed the backbone of BEA's fleet well into the 1960s. Interestingly originally the type was to be called the 'Viceroy' but the indepedence of India in 1947 rendered that name obsolete and Viscount was the chosen replacement.
The original V630 flow for the first time on July 16, 1948 and quickly proved its superiority over the piston engined Airspeed Ambassador. It was this early version that entered service with BEA on July 29, 1950 - though only as a test. After 25 days of airline service G-AHRF was returned to Vickers for inspection. By then BEA was a signed up fan of the type and in August 1950 ordered 20 aircraft - though all of these would be the stretched Viscount 700. Only two Viscount 600s were manufactured.
For the updated version of this article see the following blogpost:
An interesting sight at Gatwick in the 1980s was a rather unusually coloured Viscount wearing the red of the new thorn in BA's side: Virgin Atlantic. Several short-haul aircraft have operated in Virgin mainline colours over the years from 737-400s to A320s (always leased from or operated by other airlines), however the Viscount is clearly my favourite.
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: