The return of a Conservative government in 1951 and its survival for 13 years was not necessarily the boon for private airline operators that it first appeared, however eventually the government realised that the independent airlines needed strengthening. Several mergers were enabled (including the formation of BUA) and the 1960 Civil Aviation Licensing Act tightened up safety standards and created the Air Transport Licensing Board (ATLB). Theoretically this body had more independence to give out route awards but that never really eventuated. What the 1960 act did do was help kill off eleven charter airlines which could no longer meet the more stringent financial and safety requirements. On the flipside this decrease in capacity meant there were new opportunities for start-ups and one of the most important of these was the new Caledonian Airways.
Caledonian was started by the former Fleet Air Arm pilot Adam Thomson and began operations in 1961 with a pair of Douglas DC-7Cs. Its livery and personality was distinctly Scottish, partly due to its many Scottish investors, with a Golden lion rampant on the tail. The airline was the first charter carrier to successfully receive permission to operate charters across the Atlantic. These Affinity Group charters began in September 1964 and by the end of the year the airline was strong enough to upgrade its fleet with Bristol Britannias. Three were acquired from BOAC and a further three from Canadian Pacific with the first arriving in December 1964. G-ATNZ had been originally delivered to Canadian Pacific in May 1958 as CF-CZD. They were briefly the flagships of the Canadian airline's fleet before the arrival of DC-8s. With Caledonian she was renamed ‘County of Inverness’.
Caledonian built an enviable reputation for profitability and in fact in the ten years of its existence it never posted a loss. The primary business was North-Atlantic charters but the airline also undertook trooping contracts from 1962 and Mediterranean charters. The airline built a fine reputation, not only due to its modern equipment, but also due to higher levels of service than other charter airlines. Though another pair of Britannias were acquired after the collapse of British Eagle in 1968 they were almost immediately leased out to Tellair. The future of the fleet instead sat with modern jets and Caledonian flush with cash wanted 707-320s. It fought tooth and nail to get them as the British government wanted it to take Super VC10s but eventually got its way.
Caledonian picked up two new 707s from Boeing. The first 707 in the fleet was new build 707-399C G-AVKA on July 13, 1967 followed by G-AVTW, on December 29, 1967. The wrangling about their operation with the government meant Caledonian had to initially lease out its first aircraft until mid-1968. A pair of ex-Flying Tigers 707-349Cs became G-AWTK and G-AWWD from late 1968 and early 1969 respectively. Additional second-hand 707s would be purchased in 1969 and 1970 and would carry through the airline's long-haul operations until its takeover of BUA in 1970 and beyond. The trusty Brits would continue in service until May 1971 and as with before in the combined Caledonian/BUA fleet it was the 707 which would reign supreme, not the VC10, well into the late 1970s.
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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: