The Edwards Report, published in May 1969, would have a major impact on BUA. It recognised the need for financially stable airlines in order to ensure high safety standards and to enable Britain's airlines to excel on the world stage. Most importantly it sought a 'second force' airline as a private enterprise counterpoint to BEA and BOAC which as well as offering competition would also benefit from concessions of corporation territory. The two airlines it identified as potentials for this where BUA and Caledonian.
There followed a period of intense speculation and negotiation, much of it not very amicable. BUA and Caledonian held some early merger talks with the former keen on route swaps with BOAC and competing against it on transatlantic routes. BUA had actually made a profit in 1969 of GBP1.9 million but the majority shareholder British & Commonwealth Shipping was disillusioned by the Labour Government of the day going against the essence of the Edwards Report and effectively ruling out any breaking of BOAC's monopoly. They changed tack and instead started merger talks with BOAC!
A deal was actually agreed with BOAC for GBP8.8 million in 1970 but when this became public in March the resulting hullabaloo saw BUA's independence restored, for the moment at least, as a bitter Caledonian fought a rearguard action. Just as it looked like Caledonian would fail an election was called and Labour lost moving the private enterprise friendly Conservatives into power. Suddenly the BUA/Caledonian merger was back on and much to BOAC's disgust so were route transfers.
Finally on October 20, 1970 Caledonian was able to announce the takeover of BUA which included acquiring BOAC's West African routes. The deal was worth GBP6.9 million and the combined airline was known for a year as Caledonian / BUA before adopting British Caledonian. An earlier suggestion that the new airline be known as Air Britain was firmly rejected!
British Caledonian took up Caledonian's golden lion livery and its Scottish overtones. The VC10s were named after Lochs with G-ARTA being named Loch Ness and G-ASIX being Loch Maree. Sadly G-ARTA didn’t survive that long as she was damaged beyond repair in a hard landing at Gatwick in January 1972. The details of the crash and the aircraft's career can be found at the excellent British Caledonian website here.
Indeed the VC10 would only have a short career with the new airline. 1974 was a most difficult year for the industry with an economic recession, the oil crisis and unhelpful political events in the Mediterranean affecting tourism. BCal struggled with all these events as well as the costs of its merger and new routes. With the VC10 programme ended the type was an obvious choice when the fleet needed to be reduced and all three remaining aircraft were sold in 1974.
G-ASIX was sold to the Sultan of Oman’s Royal flight as A4O-AB. After 13 years of service the aircraft was donated to the Brooklands Air Museum where she is currently preserved. British Caledonian would continue its precarious existence never able to truly shake off the limitations put upon it by the various government's of the day, but it provided a strong second force well into the 1980s nonetheless.
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: