By 1958 Berlin had been served by the airlines of the victorious Western powers for a decade. Operations had settled down to a routine whereby Pan Am, BEA and Air France could compete against each other normally even though the political situation surrounding Berlin was just as volatile as ever. Pan Am had the edge with its Douglas DC-6Bs but that would all change in 1958 as BEA upped the competitive pressure with its own prop-jets.
The carving up of Germany after the end of World War Two led to the unfortunate scenario whereby the nation was permanently partitioned, as the Western allies and Soviets became protagonists in the immediate postwar era. This was especially challenging for the former capital city of Berlin, which although itself split into zones, allotted to the victorious powers, was as a whole deeply situated within the Soviet zone. As a result, it would become the front-line of the Cold War and also have its own unique civil aviation arrangements.
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.
Aeroclassics has recently released a bevy of new Viscounts - mainly the longer 800 series. Interestingly many Viscounts saw roughly similar career paths, with a large number of the type starting their service with British European Airways. In this way they are similar to Northwest's DC-9 fleet many of which largely operated along a familiar pathway: through the fleets of Bonanza/West Coast to Air West to Hughes Airwest or North Central / Southern and then onto Republic to Northwest and then even some to Delta.
Anyway back to the Viscounts, and in this and the next few posts I want to look at the history of Aeroclassics recent releases and trace this shared path so many took.
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: