Pakistan gained its independence on August 14, 1947 in the chaos that resulted from the end of the British Raj and the partition of India into two. Up to 2 million people were killed and tens of thousands of others, mostly woman, had atrocities commited against them whilst the largest mass movement in human history took place. The result was the formation of Muslim majority Pakistan encompassing the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, West Punjab, Sindh and the North-West frontier.
The new country was keen to create a national airline and already the private Orient Airways was in operation using a fleet of 3 DC-3s. Orient Airways continued to expand its domestic services but was losing money and it was agreed that it should merge with the government owned airline - Pakistan International. PIA was a paper airline at the time, although the Pakistani government had ordered 3 Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellations in May 25 1951. The aircraft weren't delivered until 1954 and the first Constellation service connected Karachi and Dacca (then a domestic route as Bangladesh was not independent) on June 7, 1954.
The 3 L-1049Cs were registered as AP-AFQ-S. PIA was the first mainland Asian country and first Muslim country to put the Super Constellation into service. On February 1, 1955 the first international service took off between Karachi and London, via Cairo and Rome. The formal merger of Orient Airways took place on March 11, 1955 and introduced a proper domestic fleet (DC-3s and a few CV-240s) allowing the Super Connies to operate on international routes full time.
On July 19, 1957 the London service was increased to twice weekly, routing via Bahrain and Rome rather than Cairo, with one of the services also stopping at Geneva. Tehran and Damascus were added as further intermediate stops in 1958.
PIA was renowned for the expertise and quality of its staff and excellent cabin service. In 1956 3 Vickers Viscount 815s were ordered and also, to enable the increase in frequency and stops on the long haul routes, a further pair of Super Connies. These were the upgraded L-1049H Super Constellation equipped with radar noses and weren't delivered until February and March 1958. The L-1049Hs were also fitted with a rear main deck cargo door allowing the aircraft to operate either passenger or freight services. In 1959 Air Marshal Nur Khan was appointed as the managing director and he helped begin a golden age for the airline.
The first Viscount 815s initiated PIA's first turbine service on January 31, 1959, between Karachi and Delhi. A further pair of Viscounts was added in August and September with new Fokker 27s ordered to finally relieve the remaining DC-3s on the Eastern network from 1961.
In March 7, 1960 PIA joined the jet age by leasing a Pan Am Boeing 707 - N723PA 'Clipper Viking'. The 707 enabled extension of the London service onto New York from June 17, 1961. She augmented the Super Connies until December 1962 by which time the airlines first owned jets were in service. These were in the form of a trio of Boeing 720-040Bs (a fourth would join in 1965 to replace AP-AMH, which crashed on May 20). The arrival of pure jets signalled the beginning of the end for the Connies. They were reassigned to fly all tourist class high density domestic services, with AP-AFQ withdrawn in 1964 and cannibalised. Interestingly her fuselage was salvaged and she was used as a cabin trainer until the early 1980s. The remaining Connies saw service on the challenging Himalayan services from Rawalpindi to Skardu and Gilgit in Kashmir. Due to the mountainous terrain and difficult approaches this route could only be flown in VFR conditions.
Another of the original trio of L-1049Cs, AP-AFS, was broken up in 1967, however the remaining 3 aircraft all soldiered on into 1969 and when withdrawn found a further career. All three were donated to the Indonesia Air Force and they became T-1041-43. Their careers in Indonesia were relatively short and all appear to have been withdrawn by 1973.
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: