Dan-Air had entered the jet age early adding second-hand Comet 4s from late 1966. As we have already seen the Comet fleet would grow handsomely during the 1960s and 1970s however Dan-Air didn't limit itself to just Comets and it also added newer BAC One-Elevens and later on Boeing 727-100s to the mix.
By the end of 1968 Dan-Air was flying around 250,000 passengers annually with a front line IT Charter fleet of 4 Airspeed Ambassadors and 4 Comets 4s flying mainly from London Gatwick. Alan Snudden had recently been appointed managing director and the airline was poised for massive growth. This partly came from the first contracts for flying charters from Berlin through Neckermann und Reisen, but also because Dan-Air could benefit from the failure of one of its largest competitors.
That competitor was British Eagle, which folded in November 1968. Dan-Air picked up Eagle's charter agreements with Lunn Poly and Everyman Travel for the 1969 season. This necessitated new equipment and a new base. The former took the shape of a pair of almost new BAC One-Elevens that had been originally delivered to American Airlines only in late 1966. N5041 and N5044 became G-AXCP and ACXK respectively when they joined Dan-Air in March 1969. They were to operate not from Gatwick but from Luton.
These new fleet additions and contracts saw that 1969 was a record year for Dan-Air, which carried 509,025 passengers that year. Unlike the Comet 4s however the One-Elevens no doubt commanded a much higher purchase price on the seconds market and Dan-Air only added to the fleet occasionally. The next two One-Elevens were both ex-British Eagle machines, series 301AGs, and arrived in October 1969 and March 1970. A fifth machine was added in late 1971 this time one that had seen service in Germany with Bavaria. It is likely she saw usage on the German charter contract routes to the Mediterranean.
Dan-Air benefited again from a competitors failure when Court-Line folded in late 1974. Accordingly another pair of ex-British Eagle One-Elevens, series 207AJs this time, joined the fleet. Both aircraft had seen interesting service in the meantime operating in Africa with Zambia Airways. G-ATPP had additionally been leased to Air Malawi whilst G-ATVH had operated briefly with Swissair in 1968. Dan-Air continued to grow and by 1978, when it celebrated its silver anniversary, was the UK's largest charter airline carrying over 3.5 million passengers. The fleet stood at 50 aircraft consisting of Comets, One-Elevens, 707s and 727s in the IT side of things. One-Elevens and HS-748s flew on the scheduled network, which itself carried 500,000 passengers per annum.
The late 70s were Dan-Air's zenith. The airline had operating bases at Gatwick, Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, teeside, Bournemouth, Lydd and still West Berlin. The 1980s would be more challenging as the airline was impacted by concerns about its safety, following 3 incidents from 1978-81, and the increasing control the tour operators wanted over the airline's flying their customers. Dan-Air branched more into scheduled operations and purchased new British Aerospace 146s. These and 737-200s began to replace some of the short One-Elevens though in the short term the fleet actually increased as two 'new' aircraft were operated for a season each in 1983 and 1984.
Indeed in 1985 another aircraft was added and this one remained in the fleet for 6 years. She was G-ATPK, yet another ex-British Eagle aircraft that had also flown with Laker. The last aircraft to be added was G-BPNX, which flew for a single season in 1988. Despite their age and obsolescence the short One-Elevens could be heard thundering down the runways of Gatwick and other UK airports until nearly Dan-Air's demise. The last aircraft in the fleet was G-ATVH, which had operated for the carrier for over 16 years when she was retired in November 1991.
Dan-Air: Where the Secret Was the Service. Airliners issue 35
Dan Air's Comet Graveyard. Airliner World Feb 2012
West, C. Dan-Air Remembered. Airliner World May 2013
Dan-Air fleet. RZjets.net
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: