Globe Air was formed by Kurt Rüdin to operate charter services from Basle, Switzerland in line with the Bernese Oberland tourism authorities wish to gain a larger share of Switzerland's tourist market. It was sometime before services could begin however and it wasn't until January 1961 that IT charters to Spain, Madeira and the UK began. These utilised the first of 3 Airspeed Ambassadors.
Only 23 Bristol Centaurus piston powered Ambassadors were produced and all 20 production aircraft went to BEA where they were called Elizabethans. They served faithfully between 1951 and 1958 when they were replaced by Viscounts. Two aircraft were lost in that time, including the aircraft involved in the infamous Munich air disaster where the Manchester United first team was devastated. Anyway Globe Air became one of only two airlines outside of the UK to operate the Ambassador. It looks like four aircraft had HB regos assigned but only 3 were put into service - the first being HB-IEK. The first colourscheme used blue striping but this was replaced by the more familiar black cheatline with the bird logo white inside a red rectangle under the cockpit. All three Ambassadors were named after Swiss folklore characters with IEL named 'Lälläkeenig' for example.
The airline began to operate inbound charter flights during the Winter 1966/67 season from Denmark, the UK, West Germany, France and Sweden using the Heralds for these ski charters. In only a few years Globe Air had secured 50% of the Swiss charter market with its annual passenger load raising from 35,879 in 1963 to 100,000 in 1964.
This success in regional charters opened Globe's eyes to longer haul fare and the airline secured a pair of ex-EL AL Bristol Britannia 313s. 4X-AGA became HB-ITB and began services from Basel on April 4, 1964. Co-operating with the tour operator Hotelplan in that year the airline served 20 European destinations. The arrival of 4X-AGD as HB-ITC, in March 1965, allowed long haul flights to begin to Colombo, Lourenço Marques (now Maputo in Mozambique), San Juan (in Puerto Rico) and Montego Bay.
The future looked bright for the airline, which even considered purchasing Comet 4s from BOAC, however one event would bring the good times to an end. On April 20, 1967 the Britannia HB-ITB was operating the return leg of a multi-stop service from Bangkok via Colombo, Bombay and Cairo to Basel. Aboard were 120 passengers and 10 crew. Bad weather at Cairo forced a diversion to Nicosia in Cyprus, where the weather wasn't much better. Inside a violent thunderstorm the first two landing attempts failed. Attempting a third landing ended in disaster when the aircraft struck a hill near the village of Lakatamia. There were only 4 survivors, three of whom were seriously injured. It remains the worst crash involving a Bristol Britannia. Both pilots had exceeded their duty time by a three hours and one had less than 50 hours on the type. I suspect these were not major contributory factors however the resulting negative press had a massive impact on the airline.
Operations were suspended on October 17, 1967 when the airline's operating license was withdrawn and bankruptcy was filed for two days later. The collapse of Globe Air opened up opportunities for others. Some were less than successful (Tellair) whilst others (African Safari and SATA) had greater longevity. Nevertheless it was Globe Air that showed that Balair could be competed against and good money made in the Swiss charter market.
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: