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Britannia Airways begins Leeds Bradford operations

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Britannia Airways begins Leeds Bradford operations

Old 23rd Nov 2020, 16:10
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Britannia Airways begins Leeds Bradford operations

This was back in 1976 - not sure if it was for the summer season or winter 1976-77 - but it marked the beginning of regular IT flights to the Mediterranean from LBA operated by jets. Up until this time, IT flights were to destinations closer to home and usually flown by Viscounts and similar-sized propliners, although there were occasional Caravelles from Transavia and 737s from Mey Air and Braathens. Then, the Britannia 737s came along flying to the likes of Palma and Alicante.

What, or who, motivated Britannia (and Thomson Holidays) to come to LBA in the first place ? I expect the acquisition of the Advanced 737 was partly responsible given the 5400 ft runway back then. Was it just an ordinary business deal, was Thomson looking to expand its number of departure points? At the time, Air Europe and Orion weren't around to provide competition and none of the Dan-Air or Monarch fleets were suitable for what Britannia was doing.

Thankyou.

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Old 23rd Nov 2020, 16:18
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Originally Posted by Mooncrest View Post
This was back in 1976 - not sure if it was for the summer season or winter 1976-77 - but it marked the beginning of regular IT flights to the Mediterranean from LBA operated by jets. Up until this time, IT flights were to destinations closer to home and usually flown by Viscounts and similar-sized propliners, although there were occasional Caravelles from Transavia and 737s from Mey Air and Braathens. Then, the Britannia 737s came along flying to the likes of Palma and Alicante.

What, or who, motivated Britannia (and Thomson Holidays) to come to LBA in the first place ? I expect the acquisition of the Advanced 737 was partly responsible given the 5400 ft runway back then. Was it just an ordinary business deal, was Thomson looking to expand its number of departure points? At the time, Air Europe and Orion weren't around to provide competition and none of the Dan-Air or Monarch fleets were suitable for what Britannia doing.

Thankyou.
Perhaps you have effectively answered your own question. Britannia weren't the motivator, that was the Thomson tour operation that could see a niche that they could fill and steal a march on the competition, who as you quite rightly say hadn't got access to the equipment that could offer jet service out of LBA. As a result i suspect they could charge a premium for direct LBA jet flights provided by the inhouse airline, Britannia.

I'm sure Rog747 can, and probably will provide a more in depth insight. Over to you!!
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Old 24th Nov 2020, 08:14
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Thankyou AT. In retrospect it seems like a bold move from Britannia, taking their newest Boeings to an airport with occasional poor weather and a limiting runway. But it worked for LBA - Air Europe was next on the scene in 1979, followed by Monarch and Orion, all using the Advanced 732. I guess Britannia was something of a trailblazer.
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 08:49
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Really back in the package holiday heydays it was the Tour Operators who saw & called the demand as more and more regional airports were being added from the 1960's onwards and LBA certainly saw decent IT holiday work mainly using BKS Viscounts, and mainly to Majorca.

I cannot say when the first jet flights started at LBA but I think these were flown in first by Spanish based airlines.
Thomson holidays by the mid 1970's were gaining a huge foothold from almost every UK airport and the 737 was the ultimate machine in terms of size and the better performance that came along after offered more destinations over the 'norm' of Majorca.
I think they Thomsons, using BY flew from over 20 UK airports.

The NE region's original main Tour Operator was Airways Holidays and BKS was their biggest customer with flights on their Britannias and Tridents from NCL and MME.
LBA and MME could also fill a holiday flight season, even though the nearby airports of NCL & MAN saw most of the IT traffic.
Of course back then it was always Majorca and also the Costa Brava that were the main destinations flown from UK Regionals.
Holiday Companies recognised that regional holidays could sell, and we would see many smaller local ones spring up to offer regular departures from the likes of the then tiny SEN & STN selling alongside LTN and LGW.
BRS, CWL, NCL, BHX and even CDD also had a good choice of departures.

All destinations were seasonal; most holidays were sold then as 2 weekers, and the charter flights season was quite short, flown mainly at weekends.
There was no or not much winter flying then from the smaller regionals.
That would open up in later years.

At the beginning Tour Operators tended to concentrate their main departures from either where they, or where their in-house airline was based.
To example a snapshot of the early few majors =

LTN
Skytours/Thomsons/Riviera = Britannia
Clarksons = Autair/Court Line
Cosmos = Monarch
Lunn Poly/Everyman = Dan Air (new 1-11 base began 1969 after British Eagle went bust at LHR)

CWL/BRS
Hourmont Travel = Cambrian (Cambrian had an IT series from LPL base)

SEN/STN
Mediterranean Holidays
Lyons Tours } = Channel Airways

BHX/CDD
Jetway/Mato/Ellerman/Horizon Midlands = BMA

MAN/LPL
Arrowsmith Holidays = Laker and Cambrian
Global = Caledonian and Cambrian

LGW
Horizon and Wings = BUA
Global = Caledonian
Lord Bros = Laker
Enterprise/Flair/Hickie Borman/Martin Rooks/Sovereign = BEA Airtours
Thomas Cook = BEA Airtours

NCL/LBA/MME
Airways Holidays = BKS

Obviously many Tour Operators also used Dan Air, plus the likes of Spantax Aviaco Air Spain and Transeuropa Etc...
Clarksons used Dan Air for their LGW and MAN programmes, and their Comets from LTN for longer flights.
Court Line flew the BHX, NCL, GLA, CWL, and BRS departures for Clarksons.
This was way before the likes of Intasun or Horizon started up their own in-house airlines much later in 1979.

Yugotours was one operator in particular that flew from almost every UK airport to Pula, Dubrovnik and Split.
Balkan Holidays was another one who flew to Bulgaria's beaches through Varna & Bourgas from many UK regionals.
Both using its own countries charter airlines.

One chap Fred Pontin started building his own holiday club resort hotels for his new venture Pontinental - the first in 1964 at Cala Mesquida Majorca, then more holiday villages sprang up in Spain, Majorca, Sardinia, Ibiza, Greece, Morocco and Yugoslavia.
The Hotel Pontinental in Torremolinos was built by Pontins in 1970 and five years later it was expanded by building a second similar hotel next door.
The buildings were known as Pontinental I and II.

He offered his own flights from all over the UK using OU, BY, KT, MON, BR, DA, AO/IB and BX filling dozens of flights each week. (Didn't do LBA though)


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Old 25th Nov 2020, 09:25
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Rog747

Love your reference to CDD! Takes me back, and made me think, when did Castle Donington airport get it's IATA 3 letter code changed from CDD to EMA, and what was the history behind the code CDD? Was it extant before the new airport opened when the field was RAF Castle Donington?

Reading your summary, the BHX operations of MATO I believe in the early days were on Spanish DC6s and DC7s, but after 15/33 was extended big news was the arrival of Spantax with their Coronados which, again, if I recall correctly were advertised as doing BHX/PMI in something like 1hr50mins. MATO was the forerunner of MATO Jetway which evolved, I believe through acquisition into Ellerman Sunflight.
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 09:33
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I think CDD was for Castle Donington Derby - when did it change to EMA>?

Well EMA was officially opened and called as that, for summer 1965 - but I recall seeing CDD on bag tags at Palma long after that into the 1970's

I will ask on our BMA FB group...
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 10:07
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And then in the Noughties someone decided to change it to Nottingham for a while. I know it caused some confusion for UPS crews, (think Tollerton).
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 10:25
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Originally Posted by dixi188 View Post
And then in the Noughties someone decided to change it to Nottingham for a while. I know it caused some confusion for UPS crews, (think Tollerton).
Nottingham East Midlands Airport (NEMA) which thoroughly pee'd off the good burghers of Leicester and Derby who were instrumental in getting Castle Donington airport operational in the first place. Lots of thread drift here - my fault, sorry!
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 16:02
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Still called CastleDon by BMI pilots and ATC to the very 'end'
I gather...

A BMA Ops Traffic guy has just told me we used the SITA code CDDKKBD until the late 70s.

But when I joined I am sure it was EMA on SITA by then.
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Old 25th Nov 2020, 17:29
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Perhaps Jeffrey Sellars (Airport Director) was pals with Derek Davison (Britannia chief). Might have helped.
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Old 28th Nov 2020, 18:27
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Back to the original theme..........It was quite a day when the ADV737 operation from LBA to the Med was advertised by Britannia Airways. The destinations also included Monastir and the vast majority of flights were full. What the profits were is a different question but I guess the logevity of the service speaks for itself. The locals weren't bothered about the location of the destination....provided they could fly from LBA to the sun!

The flights were operated on the 'W' pattern using Manchester based aircraft and crews, the flight deck 'white hatters' gave LBA their best shot bearing in mind the weather reputation [and record], the lack of an ILS on the then Runway 15 and the restricted runway dimensions. White Cappers were very good at flying the half-mile SRAs on to runway 15. [The ATCOs were also pretty good.......lots of practice!] The 'W' pattern resulted in an early afternoon arrival and departure at LBA. The countless number of times that timing enabled the operation was almost unbelievable. Particularly in the winter half of the year LBA would be shrouded in low cloud, the cloud base being down at Apperley Bridge and the former Murgatroyds chimney [now a fish shop] would have been nowhere in sight! Nevertheless by 1300, as the time of maximum heating approached, the visibility both horizontal amd vertical would start to improve and by ETA an approach would be legal and a landing accomplished. Departures, whenever at all possible, took advantage of the greater take-off distance on runway 15, sometimes accepting up to around 15kt tail winds. No sooner had they departed than the cloud base would return to the deck and visibilty to 'not a lot'. Not unusual for the Britannia movements to be among the very few in the day!

Those were the days!!

Last edited by Helen49; 28th Nov 2020 at 18:31. Reason: spelling
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Old 28th Nov 2020, 20:30
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Ah, H49, I was hoping you would have something to contribute to this thread! The Britannia 737 ops must have been on the marginal, but obviously legal, side before the runway was extended. But, Britannia proved the runway was useable; evidently, Air Europe, Monarch, Orion and Dan-Air all agreed as they came along with their own Advanced 737s prior to November 1984. Before all this, Aer Lingus was a regular user with its standard 737s but these were flying a much shorter distance with perhaps fewer passengers so landing and takeoff performances would have been less of an issue.

Speaking of Monarch, I wonder how their 1-11 500s and Boeing 720Bs would have coped with the pre-extension LBA runway ? The 1-11 500 was no stranger to LBA but usually only on occasional charters or British Airways diversions from Manchester. Being a rather heavy and underpowered beast, I doubt if a fully-laden 1-11 would have even been able to reach Palma without a refuelling stop en route. The 720B, I don't know. Only one example has ever visited, pre-extension and from and to Paris so not significantly heavy. Hardly any passengers either. Academic anyway as standard parking might have proved tricky with only six stands available, all self-manouevering.

As well as the afternoon ops that H49 references above, it was common for both Monarch and Britannia to schedule late evening rotations through LBA in the summer months. Typically, either airline would schedule an LBA arrival at 2035, a one hour turnaround and departure at 2135. I believe this was to facilitate as late a departure as possible, allow for up to 10 minutes grace on the STD for ATC slots and another 15 minutes up to the airfield closing time of 2200. I don't remember any of these being beaten by the curfew.



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Old 29th Nov 2020, 08:44
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Originally Posted by Mooncrest View Post
Ah, H49, I was hoping you would have something to contribute to this thread! The Britannia 737 ops must have been on the marginal, but obviously legal, side before the runway was extended. But, Britannia proved the runway was useable; evidently, Air Europe, Monarch, Orion and Dan-Air all agreed as they came along with their own Advanced 737s prior to November 1984. Before all this, Aer Lingus was a regular user with its standard 737s but these were flying a much shorter distance with perhaps fewer passengers so landing and takeoff performances would have been less of an issue.

Speaking of Monarch, I wonder how their 1-11 500s and Boeing 720Bs would have coped with the pre-extension LBA runway ? The 1-11 500 was no stranger to LBA but usually only on occasional charters or British Airways diversions from Manchester. Being a rather heavy and underpowered beast, I doubt if a fully-laden 1-11 would have even been able to reach Palma without a refuelling stop en route. The 720B, I don't know. Only one example has ever visited, pre-extension and from and to Paris so not significantly heavy. Hardly any passengers either. Academic anyway as standard parking might have proved tricky with only six stands available, all self-manouevering.

As well as the afternoon ops that H49 references above, it was common for both Monarch and Britannia to schedule late evening rotations through LBA in the summer months. Typically, either airline would schedule an LBA arrival at 2035, a one hour turnaround and departure at 2135. I believe this was to facilitate as late a departure as possible, allow for up to 10 minutes grace on the STD for ATC slots and another 15 minutes up to the airfield closing time of 2200. I don't remember any of these being beaten by the curfew.
Probably very easy for Aer Lingus to carry a full payload from LBA to DUB nowhere near as much fuel required as for an it charter
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Old 29th Nov 2020, 08:58
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Mooncrest i come from Jersey where the take off run available is 5597 feet. Aer Lingus 1-11s used to struggle on hot days even operating JER-DUB. They would sometimes request runway 27 for departure even with a slight tailwind due to the longer take off distancr availablr
BA 1-11 500s did'n't have water injection and 0n hot days would sometimes have to drop in to Cardiff for fuel on the way to Manchester. Better to do thay then to offload pax
For the same reason, BMA 1-11 500s had to tech stop at Nantes on France when operating JER-PMI on a charter series in 1970

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Old 29th Nov 2020, 10:02
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The 111s were fairly restricted at LBA although as you say BA did on occasions use LBA as a diversion fro Manchester. The secret of that was of course that the autumn and spring radiation fogs usually affected all the north of England airfields, whereas LBA at 680ft AMSL was usually sitting out, indeed VMC on top! Having diverted in, the BA aircraft would sometimes operate an outbound flight to Europe direct. However, such flights were usually part loads, from my observations. Probably half the pax cancelled rather than endure a two-hour coach ride from Manchester! I donít recall Aer Lingus having any problems with either the 111 or the 737s to Dublin, of course a 30-minute sector. As with 27 at Jersey, the 15 take-off distance at LBA offered scope for longer flights/higher loads; sadly 14 departures could not be guaranteed.

I canít say much about the Boeing 720s but in their executive Ďfitsí they probably had a pretty good range. Monarch did on at least one occasion use a 757 to the Med [direct] substituting for the usual 737. The departure was in the 33 direction and left a lot of unused runway!

As for the summer late evening flights to the sun, I do believe that temperature was a factor, the later the departure the lower the temperature. A technique not unusual at airfields with field length limitations
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Old 29th Nov 2020, 10:40
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Thankyou, bean and H49. To think that the 1-11 500 was the aircraft that Sir George Edwards was trying very hard to persuade Britannia to buy; they were having none of it and the rest is history. A wise decision too.

Aer Lingus used early turbojet 720s on Shannon - New York and Monarch used the fan version on Caribbean trips, albeit with a quick splash and dash in the Azores. Neither variant was a transatlantic machine but Mediterranean trips from the UK and Ireland were proven quickly. Again, departure runway length and takeoff distance and run etc. were highly significant. Bristol Airport had a slightly longer runway than LBA prior to 1984 and 720s and Monarch 1-11s weren't unknown there. Jersey, I understand, has a cliff at one end of its runway. Nice!

I didn't realise that lower air temperatures were a deciding factor in scheduling jet departures from limiting runways in the summer. Makes sense now. I know the Viscounts used to struggle sometimes, even just going to the Channel islands. The 757 never had this problem, even off a short runway. I well remember that first visit from a Monarch 757 - a very capable aeroplane.

I forgot to mention Air Malta in my earlier posts. They too operated their new Advanced 737s to and from LBA in the early 1980s, usually in the winter evenings IIRC. Quite a distance to Malta launching off a short runway, further proof of the A737's superiority. I'm reasonably certain LBA never hosted an Air Malta Boeing 720B.
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Old 29th Nov 2020, 11:10
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Gosh, all this nostalgia is turning me into an emotional wreck given that I am severely weakened by lock-down, unlock, night curfew , complete mask on-mask off confusion etc etc , but HELEN, your ref to "White hatters" nearly gave me heart failure. Dinner conversation, last night, on the inevitable Corvid debate had one discussion drifting very deep into 'alternative & conspiracy' theories where mention of the "White hats" was made. Had no idea that they were Britannia pilots !

Steering back on thread though, my first aircrew position was at LBA on the Northeast Viscounts. Of course, all domestic. But, around the time you chaps are discussing, one time, my roster showed LBA-TRN-LBA. Early start, late finish. Had no idea where TRN was, day stop obviously, Edinburgh Turnhouse maybe (?), gave up & had to ask Crew Control who said it was a one-off Turin. As was the case on those days, Captains hogged the pole but it really was pure joy to be, at last, an international airline pilot going overseas, from LBA, in a Viscount. Everyone asked how I managed to pull the lucky straw and I will leave you to imagine the leg-pulls I had to suffer but it was fabbo just asking ATC "Request start for Turin" !

Oh stop it you lot...........pass the tissues.............







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Old 29th Nov 2020, 11:30
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Jet2 had a stab at Turin from LBA a year or two ago. It's not available now so I guess it didn't work. I reckon it must have taken the best part of four hours in a Viscount - ok if the prop sync is working!
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Old 29th Nov 2020, 12:23
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. . . mention of the "White hats" was made. Had no idea that they were Britannia pilots!
The less respectful types would call out, "Two pints today, milkman!" as we wandered by.

An event of minor significance on 12/09/94: B757 'AK (operating BHX-IBZ-LBA) performed Britannia's first autoland on R33. Our briefing included a detailed analysis of likely aircraft behaviour, including statistical likelihood of various anomalies due to the runway's peculiar topography.

In the event the aircraft floated some distance before touchdown and it looked like a go-around would be required. Then it sank abruptly onto the runway. We had a high autobrake setting selected and 'AK screeched to a halt impressively quickly.

Based on my report the management decided no further autolands would be sanctioned at LBA for the B757. I can't remember if this restriction was later rescinded.

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Old 29th Nov 2020, 15:41
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Mooncrest, the cliff at the end of runway 27 at Jersey was what enabled the increased available take off distance. There is nothing but flatland and sea beyond.
I must congratulate you on the consistantly intelligent questions which you ask which always elicit responses from some of the most knowledgible people on PPRuNe
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