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Channel Airways Comets

Old 7th Aug 2022, 22:08
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Whatever the aircraft was, Channel packed them in !
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Old 8th Aug 2022, 05:51
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Originally Posted by WHBM View Post
I believe the DC4 seated 88, a challenge in itself; over 100 would have been a step too far ! Mainly used on Southend to Ostend, where it held two coachloads of the typical 44-seaters of the era for Continental touring holidays, I guess fuel load was therefore minimal to keep within MTOW. The Air Ferry DC4 that crashed at Perpignan in 1967 had 83 passengers; one less seat row.
Max landing weight would have been the restriction on SEN-OST
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Old 8th Aug 2022, 06:05
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Channel were also very adept at hiring pilots who had been fired by other airlines.
The pilot who was flying the DC3 which crashed fatally on the Isle of Wight in 1962 had been fired by BKS earlier that year. He was observed on a base check by the ministry which he failed. Guess what when he re took the base check a week later without an inspector on board he passed
Information about the base check contained in the AIB files on the accident at the National Archives.
Info on the Captain being fired by BKS from Captain Arthur Whotlocks book. Behind the cockpit door
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Old 8th Aug 2022, 06:21
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I was in the Channel office at Guernsey Airport & saw a young woman & her two very young children check in for the fateful ZB flight. Later on I heard that they had died in the crash. The memory still brings a lump to my throat. Didn’t know about the pilot, though.
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Old 8th Aug 2022, 08:54
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Many thanks to you all for the extra stories - A time that really was the pivotal days of Package Holidays and their airlines - I joined the business in 1972.

I think another in-house Channel Holiday Brochure was Golden Jet Holidays >? Have a hazy memory of that one.
Their Comets though, were truly wrecks - Never went on one but saw them at various airports including LGW and LTN - News of their long delays often made the Press.
Another Comet was purchased in 1971 solely for spares - G-APDR, and G-ARDI was early retired in 1971 also for spares.

I never got to know for sure if their 99 seat 1-11's actually had 6 abreast seating;
Was it kept as 5 abreast, so with the removal of the rear galley and toilet to enable the extra 2 seat rows?
Can anyone concur>?
I only went on Channel's first 1-11 G-AVGP which was a standard 89 seats.

On 5th September 1966 Channel Airways Ltd announced an order for four Series BAC 1-11 408EFs with an option on two more.
Only three aircraft were eventually delivered, the first being in an 89 seat configuration and the second two in a high density 99 seat configuration.
This last seating plan necessitated a modification with two over-wing emergency exits each side (the only short fuselage One-Elevens to be so modified).
The first aircraft was returned to the manufacturer on receipt of the second in 1968.
G-AWEJ was due in 1968along with G-AWGG but GG was deferred, NTU and went on lease in 1968 to Bavaria Flug, who then bought it in 1969 as D-ALLI.
Bavaria Flug also then leased G-AVGP for summer 1968 just after it had left Channel.

BUA leased for 6 months in summer 1969 the almost brand new G-AWKJ Channel's 3rd aircraft (of the 99 seaters) delivered from BAC to Channel in FEB 1969.
BUA had lost ''JJ'' in the snow at Milan Linate.
I flew on holiday to Tunis via Djerba on WKJ that summer with BUA - the extra exit was deactivated and seating was 84 IIRC.

I flew on the Channel 139 seat Trident from Stansted to Majorca and back (Was Stansted ZSD in those days?) with my parents and my pal in a ''4 seater'' at the front,
and I can say it was seemingly more comfortable than the Air Spain DC-8, or a new BA A321Neo today LOL.
I was about 13 or14 and we were both big lads. The 7 across was only in the front cabin.
BKS Tridents had 123 seats versus 139.
It was a fine flight very fast, and we had the usual cold meal of ham salad etc.

Channel always had free airport open days on a Sunday afternoon at ZSD and SEN where you could go on-board to sit on their planes that you maybe going on holiday on.
I went on their new 1-11 G-AVGP at a SEN open day in 1967, and then on a Trident a couple of years later at Stansted.
There is a photo showing a ''small me'' standing under VGP's nose on the web.
We lived in Essex so Channel Airways was our local airline, and we often went to the Southend airport on a FRI or SAT summer evening to ''watch the planes''
They had a very nice waiter table service restaurant where Dad would treat us to a posh meal then go and see the many Viscounts lined up on the ramp that went off on night flights down
to Ostend France Rotterdam Austria and Spain.
Air/Coach Holidays were really popular back then as WHBM says - and they were much cheaper than Air Holidays.
Global Overland, Everyman Blue Sky and Cosmos were all big players, as well as Lyons of course.
Many folk liked them as they had never flown before and it was a shorter flying option.
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Old 8th Aug 2022, 09:50
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Originally Posted by rog747 View Post
I flew on the Channel 139 seat Trident from Stansted to Majorca and back (Was Stansted ZSD in those days?) with my parents and my pal in a ''4 seater'' at the front,
and I can say it was seemingly more comfortable than the Air Spain DC-8, or a new BA A321Neo today LOL
A picture I've seen a few times now, including on here, is this interior shot of a Channel Trident, with the 4+3 seating in the forward cabin, and the 3+3 in the rear one :

Channel-Airways-Trident-1E-140-Seven-Abreast-Cabin-Seating-Neil-Lomax-Collection.jpg (353×267) (travelupdate.com)

I'm trying to make out, the resolution is not quite good enough though, whether the individual seats were the same, just that in the conventional 3+3 cabin they were spaced apart by armrests, and in the 4+3 they were hard up against the next one. If nothing it would have been a manufacturing and spares nuisance to have the cushions etc different. I believe that the idea was families with children were seated forward, and one would not seat four adults together.

This picture appeared here on PPRuNe a while ago, and a long-ago Channel FO responded that he suddenly realised the nearest FA in the picture was his onetime girlfriend

It also reminds me of the last transatlantic flight I took, days before the Lockdown, in a BA 787 returning overnight from Washington DC to London, where walking back through the Premium Economy cabin and looking through to the Economy section, the seating width differential looked very apparent, and in a flash reminded me of this old Channel photograph.

This sort of differential seat arrangement for children was done in a couple of odd places elsewhere, Martinair of Netherlands with their DC-10s initially had them 9-across, 3+4+2, and then inserted a smaller additional seat in the middle, making 3+5+2, intended to be allocated to children. Of course, pax loads do not present themselves perfectly balanced like this, handling agents overseas could not get to grips with it and put adults in the centre half-seat (where they did not physically fit), and subcharters and short-term leases to scheduled airlines, which Martinair did quite a bit of, found it bizarre, and in the end refused to have them, which was the end.
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Old 8th Aug 2022, 11:46
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The 3 + 4 seat rows in the front cabin are narrower seats than the 3 + 3's in the larger back cabin.
28'' pitch was said to be the case down the back with 2 extra rows, but not so up the front 30''.
There were no armrests on the 4 seaters - and looking at the pic it is probable the 3's on the other side are the same as they too are squashed up against each other.

The 1968 HS Trident 2E sales brochure shows a 149 seat version using 7 abreast seats down all of one side except for the last 4 rear cabin rows.

It also mentions that for the latest Trident 3B series that by adopting quadruple seating (first 7 rows of the rear cabin) then 171 passengers can be accommodated.
This configuration would necessitate an extra Type 2 door added on the port side aft of the wing.
149 passengers was the Trident 3B maximum without this extra door (so it says)
Thus the high density 3B would have 4 doors forward of the wing (2 on each side) - 2 larger overwing exits, 1 on each side, and 2 doors at the rear
(1 on each side)

I have just read that it was a DH salesman at Hatfield that thought up the 7 abreast seating for the Tridents - He (the article says) went on to work for AC Buses.

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Old 8th Aug 2022, 15:15
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Originally Posted by rog747 View Post
I have just read that it was a DH salesman at Hatfield that thought up the 7 abreast seating for the Tridents - He (the article says) went on to work for AC Buses.
Probably the same one who thought up 6-abreast for the 146/RJ.
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Old 9th Aug 2022, 19:04
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I was told that Stansted was indeed ZSD, a code invented by African Safari Airways. Their commercial section was one Robin Someone, George Short and possibly Markham Jackson. They used a Britannia in black and white stripes, but how ZSD came about I do not know. I chartered them regularly for Carreras Rothmans flights to Middle East. All long ago.
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Old 9th Aug 2022, 20:45
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My sister came out to Nairobi unaccompanied on an ASA Britannia from Stansted aged about 12 in 1971 - I would have been 7 and when we met her at Embakasi she claimed it was held together by sticky tape and string. I'm quite sure that was a slanderous statement... I remember it on the ramp at Embakasi with the zebra-striped fin.
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Old 11th Aug 2022, 21:02
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Originally Posted by casadave View Post
Rog747 - add to your reading list 'Fly me, I'm Freddie' - Roger Eglin & Berry Ritchie, (both Sunday Times journalists so no sycophantic swooning !!) which I seem to have bought sometime in the '80's. Must be available somewhere - good luck !!
Sorry to keep this offtopic bit going, but 'Fly me, I'm Freddie', although a very readable and not very biased biography, was published in 1980, when Freddie was at the top of his game. The two newer books published recently cover the collapse of Laker in 1982 and the drawn out proceedings that followed. You're missing out on those interesting bits if you stick to the 1980 book, although, on the other hand, you can't really go wrong
at the prices for a secondhand copy on Amazon at the prices for a secondhand copy on Amazon
. Back to Comets...
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Old 13th Aug 2022, 17:23
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Does anybody know if Channel operated their Comets and Tridents with Three pilots or did they have the benefit of a Flight engineer?
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Old 13th Aug 2022, 18:47
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Along with their operations from somewhat-remote Southend and Stansted, Channel started up a quite substantial road coach operation, based in Southend, to take passengers to and from London, where they had the "Channel Coach Terminal", which appears to have been a bus stop pole in a back street near Kings Cross station, an interesting place to start your holiday from. When they went under in early 1972 the coach operation, which had picked up various other contract work along the way, was sold to its management and kept going, as Channel Coachways, still with black and gold livery (maybe they had picked up the airline habit of never repainting anything). Part of the dowry from the receiver was the vehicle decals, with Channel Coachways in the font of Continental Airlines that came with the Viscount 800 fleet purchase, and the oval eagle logo from the same source. They carried on like this for quite a while, unconnected with aviation. I last saw one of their vehicles on the road in London in the mid-1980s, still with the same badging, and a huge oval eagle on the side, which looked for all the world as if it had originated in the Continental Viscount stores, as it was the size of their nose decals !

It's a bit challenging now to find evidence of all this, but here is an old photo of some new-1967 road coaches of theirs, in the Southend airport car park, with a recognisable style of badging :

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Old 18th Aug 2022, 09:55
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Looking at the Summer 1971 editions of the Birmingham Airport monthly timetable (available from the airport shop for 2.5p!!) it seems the Comet fleet operated a 4 day programme for Lyons Tours between Friday and Tuesday, service GRO and PMI. The aircraft must have positioned in on Friday afternoon / evening, and positioning out on Tuesday morning. I imagine it operated a Tues to Friday series from another airport, can anyone recall which that might have been?

Interestingly said timetable was showing flight number with prefix "LY" which is clearly nonsense since that was and is the IATA code for El-Al. I cannot recall what was shown on the airport departures board, but surely it couldn't have been LY, and I would have though it ought to have been CW. I'd be interested to know whether LY was actually used, and how that could have been. LY was obviously a reference to the tour operator LYons.
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Old 18th Aug 2022, 10:56
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Originally Posted by ATNotts View Post
Looking at the Summer 1971 editions of the Birmingham Airport monthly timetable (available from the airport shop for 2.5p!!) it seems the Comet fleet operated a 4 day programme for Lyons Tours between Friday and Tuesday, service GRO and PMI. The aircraft must have positioned in on Friday afternoon / evening, and positioning out on Tuesday morning. I imagine it operated a Tues to Friday series from another airport, can anyone recall which that might have been?

Interestingly said timetable was showing flight number with prefix "LY" which is clearly nonsense since that was and is the IATA code for El-Al. I cannot recall what was shown on the airport departures board, but surely it couldn't have been LY, and I would have though it ought to have been CW. I'd be interested to know whether LY was actually used, and how that could have been. LY was obviously a reference to the tour operator LYons.
It's purely the holiday code. Tickets and boarding passes would undoubtedly have been issiued with CW codes
Use of the word timetable would have been illegal in 1971
These were classified as non sheduled fligjts
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Old 18th Aug 2022, 17:37
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I would imagine the Birmingham Comet might do little/nothing between Tuesday and Friday, and depending on maintenance requirements may have positioned back to Stansted, their operating base, or just been parked at Birmingham. Things were less tightly scheduled in those times, although summer weekends would often have three rotations (Court Line at Luton sometimes managed four, on the shortest Mediterranean hops) out and back. I wonder how often the Channel Comet was still catching up its weekend work on Tuesday afternoons.
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Old 21st Aug 2022, 15:26
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Fascinating read! I was a teenager in 1970 when we flew in a Channel Comet from Stansted to Milan Malpensa. Stansted was a long journey from our home and arrival was late afternoon. I vividly recall the noisy and smoky departure of an Overseas National DC-8. The Channel flight was an evening flight and I don't think it was much delayed. We were sat in the back of the plane and the acceleration was impressive but I had nothing to compare it with anyway. My previous flights had been in DC-3 Dakotas! Arrival in Malpensa was late evening parking alongside a BEA Airtours Comet
The trip was a Lyons Holidays tour of Italy which lasted for about 11 days. The return flight was in the same plane, probably G-APYD, with arrival back at Stansted in the early hours. Again I don't think we were seriously delayed. The drive back was lengthy as the road network to/from Stansted had not been improved.
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Old 22nd Aug 2022, 08:23
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We reflect that the Channel Comets were acquired in 1969 for the huge Lyons Tours IT contract for at least 3 seasons from 1970.

I never saw any reference to the CW Comets being used shown in their own in-house Tour Operators brochures (Golden Jet, Mediterranean, and Trident Holidays) but I have read that all of the CW Jets would step in from time to time.

I do sort of recall seeing the CW Comets listed as flying in a couple of other Tours Company brochures - possibly Pontinental was one>?


Re the comments about flight code LY being used (rather than CW) in the BHX airport timetable (LY being Lyons Tours) I have also seen ''MH'' used for Channel's Trident flights - MH being Mediterranean Holidays, this prefix also appeared printed on their charter flight tickets, rather than CW.

We have no idea what actually appeared on the flight departures board, or the May-Fly.



In the early spring of 1970, the Comets were immediately deployed on the lucrative Clarksons Holidays contract for bulb fields tours flights to Rotterdam from many UK departure points.

Channel had this contract since 1967 with Clarksons.

In the summer, the Comets flew the extended holiday schedule from Birmingham, Bristol, Teeside, East Midlands, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted to the south of Europe.

With the arrival of the Comet, the Viscount fleet was further reduced.



Channels' Inclusive Tour flying had rapidly increased in 1967-68.

The new 1-11 started flying from SEN in 1967 to PMI RMI GRO IBZ AGP and Tangiers, and in 1968 the first Trident One-E 140 began flying from ZSD to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.

Channel had also won the Hourmont Travel IT contracts from from Cambrian AW (who still only had Viscounts) and started a large program flying from BRS and CWL,

as well as from MME CDD and NCL for Mediterranean and Trident Holidays.


No CW 1-11 jet flights were to be operated out of Southend for 1968 due to the many noise complaints received in 1967 - The fleet was moved to Stansted.

The runway length at SEN was also a limiting factor for the new Jets.
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Old 22nd Aug 2022, 10:53
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Originally Posted by rog747 View Post

In the early spring of 1970, the Comets were immediately deployed on the lucrative Clarksons Holidays contract for bulb fields tours flights to Rotterdam from many UK departure points.
I'd be surprised if they were "lucrative". The Clarksons bulbfields day return flights, a strange market niche, only ran for about 6-8 weeks each Spring, before the main IT season started. They were notably low priced, which included the day's coach tour. The destination was sufficiently close that it didn't suit jets at all, which probably couldn't even get up to cruising altitude before starting the descent. The aircraft used to do an early morning departure, sit at Rotterdam all day, return in the evening, and then commonly position empty on to a different departure point for the next day's trip. I think they used to use a range of prop aircraft, which at the time normally meant Viscounts, from quite a range of operators.
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Old 22nd Aug 2022, 13:07
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Originally Posted by WHBM View Post
I'd be surprised if they were "lucrative". The Clarksons bulbfields day return flights, a strange market niche, only ran for about 6-8 weeks each Spring, before the main IT season started. They were notably low priced, which included the day's coach tour. The destination was sufficiently close that it didn't suit jets at all, which probably couldn't even get up to cruising altitude before starting the descent. The aircraft used to do an early morning departure, sit at Rotterdam all day, return in the evening, and then commonly position empty on to a different departure point for the next day's trip. I think they used to use a range of prop aircraft, which at the time normally meant Viscounts, from quite a range of operators.
I think they must have been ££££making - as from the very early 60's almost every charter airline under the sun sent their aircraft there on these trips -

With a strong Pound, which was worth a lot in mainland Europe, the English were given the opportunity to leave the mainland for a day in the early 1960s.
The spark quickly spread to a day of bulb watching at Keukenhof. Tour operators such as Clarkson Holidays, Lyon tours and Hourmont Travel quickly responded.
Hopping across the North Sea was immediately filled in by the air charter companies who equipped their aircraft for these relatively short flights in a "high density" version with often two or three extra rows of seats that were added.
Keukenhof always opens in the last week of March, the bulb season always ran from the end of March to the second/third week of May.
With an average of about 25 flights per day with the main arrivals between 09.30 and 11.30 am and departures between 16.30 and 18.30.
Aircraft used were 2 and 4 engine DC- types, Vikings, Ambassadors, Heralds, Viscounts, HS748, and Britannias were all very prevalent.

Channel Airways had the Clarksons deal from 1967 but flew them many years before for other firms too.
Invicta Airways was seen almost daily. In the bulb era, the company would operate more than 200 flights.
It flew a fleet of three DC-4 Skymasters, and two Vickers V.745 Viscounts. These series 700 Viscounts were equipped with 65 seats. It flew from Manston, Cardiff and Coventry.
Air Ferry also flew the Bulb flights. The connection with Leroy Tours resulted in the involvement in the bulb flights immediately after the start of the company until 1968.
The largest Viscount user during the bulb flights was Channel Airways. The entire Vickers Viscount fleet, 700 series and 800 series Viscounts were deployed. The series 800 Viscounts were provided with 82 seats. Almost daily, five or six different Channel Viscounts could be seen on the field. The 1-11 was used too.
The bulk of the flights were flown from Southend and Cardiff. In addition, there were flights from Newcastle, Teesside.
British Midland also flew an extensive bulb flights programme with Argonaut and Viscounts.
It flew from Manston, Luton, Birmingham, Coventry, Glasgow and London-Gatwick. BMA started the flights in early April and flew them until mid-May.
British United Island Airways where the fleet of 5 HP Heralds were deployed with flights from London-Gatwick.
Britannia Airways was also a major carrier. A total of no less than 75-80 flights would be carried out with the Britannia fleet deployed on flights from Luton Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.
No fewer than 75 flights were operated by Lloyd International Britannias in 1971 used on the Clarkson Tours bulb program from Cardiff and Bristol.
A year later the Lloyd Britannias were also used by Clarksons and this time with a wider program with day flights from Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham and Newcastle.
In the period 25 March to 14 May a total of 85 flights were carried out by their Britannias.
Caledonian Airways, BKS, BUA, Transglobe, and Donaldson also all used the Britannia for the Bulb flights deployed on a program of flights from London and elsewhere.
Once no CA Britannia was available and so on Wednesday 9 April 1969 the BAC 1-11 G-AWWX was deployed, which was parked from 11.35 am to 6.05 pm.

Northeast (was BKS) was first seen at Rotterdam in 1971 with the arrival of two Viscounts used for the bulb program with to London/Heathrow.
The aircraft was equipped with the new yellow Northeast colours or still in BKS livery.
From London/Heathrow that year Northeast flew a modest bulb program carried out by, in addition to the Viscounts a surprise was the deployment of Britannia G-ANBK.
In 1973 the V.806 Viscounts were used again in the bulb program. This year the program was flown in conjunction with British Midland so the Viscounts were deployed from different locations from Cardiff, Bristol, Southend, and Leeds/Bradford and London/Heathrow.

Not sure why the 'Bulb boom' ended -- guess habits change and Clarksons went under in 1974.
Newmarket Holidays still do them by air, and some coach tour firms offer short breaks.
photo -
RTM bulb day 1960's

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