By 1963 Britain's long-haul international airline BOAC was in serious trouble, following years of sloppy management, government meddling and a rapidly depreciating fleet of Britannias, DC-7Cs and Comets which it didn't want. Eventually in 1964 the airline was bailed out and given a new chairman, Sir Giles Guthrie. He immediately misread the government's typically muddied intentions, as though he was told to act within his own 'commercial judgement' a proclamation that he wanted to cancel all BOAC's VC10 orders and stop its loss making South American routes wasn't exactly what the government had had in mind!
BUA's first new VC10, G-ASIW, had arrived at the end of September and was joined by G-ASIX at the end of October. BUA's first livery, seen above, was quite spartan and sadly has not been made on a VC10 in 1:400. Their first regular flight to South America left Gatwick on November 4 and after some initial difficulties permission was granted by January for a twice weekly service. BUA was able to use its shipping company backers, Blue Star and the Royal Mail Line, to assist with ticket sales at the South American end but the profitability of the service in BUA hands rested upon something else altogether.
In late 1965 Freddie Laker left BUA and the airline began to reorganise itself. In 1966 a new aqua and sandstone livery was introduced to the fleet and that is the scheme that Gemini Jets have depicted G-ASIX in.
BUA's parent organisation was a sprawling one made up of multiple subsidiaries controlled by different individuals. In addition the trooping contracts that had in 1963 been two thirds of the airline's business greatly diminished as the RAF acquired its own VC10s. BUA had failed to aggressively move into the charter market and government ambivalence had seen to it that its international scheduled operations remained restricted. Losses had begun in 1965 and steadily accrued.
In April 1968 the BUA component of the Air Holdings Group was acquired by British & Commonwealth Shipping. The airline had a stay of execution and the airline's new managing director Alan Bristow decided to get out of the remaining trooping contracts in favour of increasing scheduled frequencies and getting into more charter work. Accordingly the VC10s began to be used on North American Affinity Charter services. At the same time the airline moved towards operating an all jet fleet and that gave the VC10 fleet a chance to grow further. In part 2 we'll look at the VC10s as they took up the tartan!
All timetable images are from the excellent http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/br.htm
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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: