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Connies at RAF Northolt. Anybody know ?

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Connies at RAF Northolt. Anybody know ?

Old 20th Aug 2008, 07:40
  #21 (permalink)  
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Flew in to Northolt a number of time in the '60's and recall often seeing the Indian Connie there. I see that the one pictured in Liffy's post is the one involved in the Heathrow near miss.
Been a long time but I seem to remember that the gasholders were eventually identified with letters. NH and LHR?
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Old 20th Aug 2008, 09:02
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I seem to recall a Air India connie landed at Northolt in error whilst aiming for Heathrow
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Old 20th Aug 2008, 17:34
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Northolt & Heathrow Mixups

This Northolt thread was started by SpringHeeledJack as a follow on to a thread in the Spectators Balcony Forum about runway 23 at Heathrow.

There is a lot of cross over information between the two threads - if you haven't read the other one it may be worth a visit - http://www.pprune.org/spectators-bal...-rw23-lhr.html
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Old 20th Aug 2008, 19:40
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My first-ever trip on an aircraft was in VT-DJX, Rani of Madurai, which later became BG-579.

The trip was behind a tug, from the Air India hangar on the south side, to the then 'Passnger Terminal' on the north side at LHR, courtesy of the AI Station Engineer. Must have been late '59 or early '60.

A small step for mankind, but as much of a thrill to an eleven-year-old as a flight round the world!
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Old 21st Aug 2008, 19:09
  #25 (permalink)  
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Just to say thankyou to the many contributors for recounting their memories of these old ladies back in the day, especially those that included the sound of the landing aircraft. Now that I think of it they were equipped with freight doors so it would only be logical that the main purpose would have been to deliver/collect spares for the British built aircraft in the IAF at that time, rather than 'people' diplomatic flights that I had imagined.

Just out of interest, how did the Indian govt re-supply their embassies and UN mission in New York ? Did the old connies go across the pond from Northolt or would that have been better covered by Air India ? Also why were there so many 'errors' by the IAF connie pilots coming into/out of London ? I would've thought then as now that the quality of the training within the IAF would have been of a decent standard.


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Old 22nd Aug 2008, 02:45
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The IAF Super Connies definatly could not get to NY from Northolt. Runway length being one good reason, and the take off roll of a heavy 1049 the other.

They only came and went to the East while I was there. Usually oly.

Speedbird 48.
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Old 22nd Aug 2008, 02:50
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The IAF Super Connies definatly could not get to NY from Northolt. Runway length being one good reason, and the take off roll of a heavy 1049 the other.

They only came and went to the East while I was there. Usually Orly.

They were not the greatest IFR airmen hence the problems in the London FIR from time to time. (and probably other FIR's as well) Good stick and rudder guys as was witnessed when one of their C-119's lost and engine on rotate, eastbound and landed on the runway that starts at the Polish war memorial. I was sunning myself on the grass outside the crewroom when they did that one. Great bit of flying with a very unforgiving airplane when heavy and on one engine.

Speedbird 48.
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Old 22nd Aug 2008, 07:32
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There is a substantial article about the Indian AF Connies in Propliner magazine No 21 (early 1984), the last issue edited by Stephen Piercey before his untimely death. He went to India and rode the aircraft in literally their last hours of service.
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Old 22nd Aug 2008, 07:37
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The IAF Super Connies definatly could not get to NY from Northolt. Runway length being one good reason, and the take off roll of a heavy 1049 the other.
But what if they were staging through Keflavik ? Thanks for the recollection of the C-119 episode, they must have indeed been good stick and rudder men


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Old 24th Aug 2008, 15:30
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The fickle gasholder is not there now. It was at South Harrow and as I remember it had a large NO painted on it.
The incident with the Connie happened shortly after I moved to harrow and I remember the local paper reporting that it had disappeared off the radar in the shadow of Harrow Hill. After Northholt turned the plane they told Heathrow what they had done using a field telephone. I believe the enquiry suggested that communication between the airfields could be improved
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Old 27th Aug 2008, 22:31
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Sorry SHJ and Panop, but you are both incorrect regarding your sighting of Pakistan Air Force Connies at Northolt as the PAF never operated them! It was PIA that had them and flew into LHR during the '60s and may possibly have taken one into NHT.

The last visit by an Indian Air Force Super Connie was made by BG583 on 3 August 1973 not to Northolt, but to RAF Lyneham where I photographed her making her final UK departure. After that, all IAF flights were made to Lyneham with An-12s, which had greater capacity to collect spares for Indian Hunters and Sea Kings.
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Old 28th Aug 2008, 20:12
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Amos K ... absolutely OUTSTANDING photo!!

BG583 was also in Northolt the same day (3rd August '73), but whether it was 'before' Lyneham or 'after' I cannot say.

However ...
Northolt, Sept '73
7th - BG583/G
11th - BG583/G
and in between it went to ATL at Stansted for checks.

Northolt, Nov '73
9th - BG579/D
21st - BG579/D

and as far as I know these were the last Indian AF Connie's in Northolt. In fact, they were almost the last Connies in Northolt ... one more, a USN EC-121M visited in January 1974. I can't recollect any more since then.
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Old 28th Aug 2008, 20:42
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Amos Keeto, Supurb photo (second time I have said that tonight) ! I would hazard a guess that the brakes were squealing like mad as that photo was taken ? Just one of my, very old, memories of constallation operations at Stansted in the 60's. Thank you. Keith.
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Old 30th Aug 2008, 00:58
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IAF Connies to Northolt

Sorry for not replying earlier. Super Connies (they were never called only Connies in the Indian AF) are kind of my speciality. The page pointed to earlier was written by me over 10 years ago, when I wasn't that much of a aviation writer! (I am only a little bit better now)

My father was the last IAF flight commander of a complete Super Connie flight of 9 aircraft. The aircraft were handed over to the Indian Navy just as he got his Wing Commander rank in 1976. Otherwise he would have commanded 6 Squadron as his next assignment (he went on to become OC Flying of Pune AFB, which had MiG-21s and Canberras besides the Super Connies). He was also one of the last QFIs and examiners on the Super Connie, often having to travel to Pune to train and examine pilots for the last two freighter Super Connies, even as a Gp Capt.

The two freighter Super Connies were converted by Seaboard Airlines for Air India before they were handed over to the IAF. The transfer of the Super Connies was gradual, taking over a year to complete before all the Air India aircraft were handed over. This happened over 1960-1961 period. Air India was responsible for all maintenance except line maintenance till the end (1984 for both the Navy and AF) and held all its spares. Pune is only a 100 miles from Santa Cruz airport where the Air India maintenance facility for Super Connies was.

At first they were all passenger and freight aircraft and during this period they all did what were called "UK couriers" to pick up priority cargo. They flew from Bombay-Djibouti-Cairo-Rome-Orly-Northolt mostly though I think Aden was used before the troubles there got out of hand. At the peak, there was a monthly courier run. (Later only the freighters did UK couriers)

The Super Connies were earlier painted in a standard IAF transport scheme with white top half of fuselage and silver bottom half without the blue stripe running the length of the fuselage. The pictures of them here have mostly been acquired by me from various sources.

Then HAL transformed 7 of them into MR aircraft with retractable dustbin ASV-21 radome fitted into the forward baggage bay (and thus not affecting pressurization). The trials were done by Air Marshal Prithi Singh, an ETPS trained test pilot who had also flight tested the Vulcan when in the UK.

My father had completed his EO (Engr Offr) training in an experimental program where pilots were cross trained in that capacity, and was coming back to flying after a couple of years hiatus. He went to see his friend and colleague on a social visit at Air HQ and that gentleman told him he was being posted to An-12s. My dad asked him for a Super Connie appointment instead. His friend was surprised and said to him "Surely you know that the An-12s are replacing the Connie on the Courier route?" (It was a big deal to be travelling abroad in India in those times). My father said he had seen the tri-tailed aircraft as a young Pilot Officer and thought they were the most beautiful aircraft - and didn't care if he had to remain in the circuit flying them! Also it would be infinitely more exciting to fly them in a Maritime Recce role (which he termed as more "operational") than day to day cargo hauling. Probably not a great career move but he has no regrets about that.

When he arrived at the station (as Engr Offr on Migs!) he checked into training them with 6 Sqn. He encountered a great deal of hostility from the crews there. This was because all the pilots wanted to fly the 2 freighters on UK couriers (the few that remained before the An-12s took over completely) and ignored the MR conversions, and didn't want competition from a senior Mastergreen QFI on those routes! This emphasis on route flying was confirmed by no less an entity than Air Mshl PC Lal, the IAF chief responsible for the great 71 war performance of the IAF. He said that number 6 Sqn was an MR and Transport squadron with all it's emphasis on the transport role! (Since he wrote about this in 1971 and the period I am talking about is 1972, the quote is very relevant).

He had support from an amazing CO Wg Cdr Sadatullah who let him convert while working days at the MiG-21 servicing organization. The matter reached then Air Cdre Dilbagh Singh the Station Master (later Chief of Staff) who roared "I can't stop a keen flyer from flying - if he can do both jobs, bloody well let him!". Wg Cdr Sadatullah was a highly experienced pilot on Packets (C-119s) and had done so many UK couriers he had lost count.

The Northolt incident had happened in the tenure of the previous CO. The pilot in command of that flight was a well regarded acquaintance of my father and had hosted my mother for close to a month at his residence when my dad was hospitalized due to a road accident. So he was a perfect gentleman. (I always knew when my father was being nice - there was more to the story!)

He was a very smooth flyer and was very experienced on Liberators (6 Sqn). In fact he converted the ex-USAF and ex-RCAF crews that came to collect Liberators when they were taken out of service. But his instrument flying under actual conditions was "limited", shall we say.

That Northolt incident nothwithstanding, this gentleman became the CO of the squadron. My father shortly after became the OC of A Flight. The CO was also distracted by "other" matters and the best thing about him was that he let my father run the squadron as he pleased!

That Northolt incident still rankles my father because it makes IAF pilots seem incompetent. He feels that IAF transport pilots have to be trained to far higher standards than most, because they were then flying old aircraft with almost no nav aids in very difficult conditions and then also had to deal with being in sophisticated radar environments around the bigger cities. He himself cut his teeth flying C-47s in the same region as the Hump pilots, supplying Indian troops facing China. Flying instruments was second nature due to the violent weather in that part of the world. Which other Air Force in the world flew routinely where the average peak height was 20000 ft, in un-supercharged Dakotas?

Anyway, to cut a long story short my father started emphasizing the MR role a lot more, and took part in many exercises. He thought the Super Connie was the best aircraft he flew - whether at 50 ft searching for ships or on long X-countries.

However, constant vigilance is the price of competence. I showed him Stephen Piercey's article in Propliner and he remarked that most of the pilots shown there were converted to the Super Connie by him. And one of them had to be examined by him for upgrading to Captain. He was shocked to find that this person could not find out what radial he was on, let alone track one. Suffice it to say this person did not get upgraded.

BTW, I seem to remember that the last UK courier by a Super Connie was sometime in 1974. Can someone confirm that? (My father was supposed to be the third pilot on it, but a directive came down that a supernumery pilot was not required).
Thanks for the trip down memory lane - I can still remember these huge aircraft flying over the residential quarters. Amazing sight and sounds!

Last edited by Worf; 30th Aug 2008 at 01:25. Reason: Correcting typos/fix broken links
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Old 30th Aug 2008, 12:31
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Thanks to all the posters, especially Mr Mosquito for the great photo and Worf for his inside knowledge.

Perhaps Worf your father could answer my curiosity about how the Indian embassy and UN mission in New York and others in the USA/Australasia were re-supplied ? I could imagine Air India carrying passengers and small diplomatic cargo, but what about larger items or even for that matter parts for said Super Connies and C-119s ? I can't imagine that shipping would have been fast enough then for realistic use when perhaps time sensitive cargos were needing transportation.


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Old 30th Aug 2008, 15:16
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India's relationship with the USA was "frosty" during the 60s thru the 80s and only started thawing in the 90s. Air India had a huge spares holding of Super Connie spares and thats what was used by the IAF and IN.

Even the C-119 shared an engine with the Super Connie (Wright 3350s).
Since these were also not combat aircraft (India has not had a US made combat aircraft since the Vultee Vengeance in WWII), their spares availability was not as critical.

Since the major combat aircraft were all either British (Hunter/Canberra/Sea King/Sea Hawk) or French (Mystere/Alize) a courier to the UK would satisfy those needs. An-12s always did the couriers to Russia (Mig-21/Su-7/Mi-8 spares).

As far as I know, there have never been any couriers run by the IAF to the US. Commercial air (Air India) was probably used, Air India had a number of 707 and DC-8 freighters.
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Old 30th Aug 2008, 18:03
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Thanks for the explanation Worf, I hadn't considered that geo-political concerns would play a role, but of course they would in reality. I imagine that it was India's development of atomic weapons and flirtation with the then USSR that had Uncle Sam giving them the cold shoulder and of course there weren't too many immigrants of Indian heritage back then to be served by the Indian government.

The French aircraft in the IAF would explain the stop in Paris (ORY).... that did have me wondering when one of the earlier posters revealed the routing from Pune to London. Was every stop on the courier flight for a purpose (outside of refueling and oil for those thirsty Wright engines!) ?


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Old 30th Aug 2008, 19:33
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Pakistan AF

Sorry SHJ and Panop, but you are both incorrect regarding your sighting of Pakistan Air Force Connies at Northolt as the PAF never operated them! It was PIA that had them and flew into LHR during the '60s and may possibly have taken one into NHT.
Fair enough - on reflection I'm not sure what the Pakistan AF aircraft that visited Northolt in the early 70s were. Can anyone remember?

I do recall a PIA Super Connie at LHR around 1967 or so - it was parked up for a while at BOAC Maintenance if my grey matter recalls correctly.
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Old 31st Aug 2008, 13:38
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PIA bought 5 Super Connies in 1954-58. By their 1962 timetable they had been supplanted on International services by Boeing 720s, and just two aircraft were scheduled for services between East and West Pakistan, having to fly the long way round south of India. Further Boeing deliveries shortly afterwards ended their scheduled operation, yet they were still in fleet use in 1967, and it was not until 1969 that they were disposed of, to the Indonesian Air Force, apparently "donated". Presumably Connies could only be given away by then !

So all through the 1960s PIA had a spare fleet of Connies, which were presumably doing something. I would guess Hadj charters would be a bit of it, and hired to the Air Force could well be another source of utilisation.
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Old 1st Sep 2008, 21:35
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The Indian Air Force took 9 L1049G s from Air India between Oct 61 and
June 62
c/n 4614 BG575
c/n 4666 BG576
c/n 4615 BG577
c/n 4687 BG579
c/n 4547 BG581
c/n 4548 BG582
c/n 4686 BG583
c/n 4613 BG580
c/n 4646 BG578
BG579 lasted until Mar 84 in Air Force Service and with BG583 until
Dec 83 These were the only two to regularly visit UK as they had
freight doors.
Five were transferred to the Indian Navy in Nov 76
c/n 4614 BG575 became IN315
c/n 4666 BG576 became IN316
c/n 4613 BG580 became IN317
c/n 4547 BG581 became IN318
c/n 4548 BG582 became IN319
Last one retired IN317 in December 1983.
As far as I can work out none of the Navy aircraft visited UK whilst
in Navy service.
Hope it helps
Be lucky
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