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Channel Airways Comets

Old 3rd Aug 2022, 16:10
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Channel Airways Comets

Following on from Dan Air's ex BOAC Comet 4 Ops post, the story of poor old Channel Airways' Comet fleet is here -

Channel Airways – Comets Operated
G-APMB 6422
G-APYC 6437
G-APYD 6438
G-APZM 6440
G-ARDI 6447
G-APDR 6418 Bought for spares only

Channel Airways won a lucrative IT contract in April 1969 to provide holiday charter services for Lyon Tours (Colne) for the 1970, 71 and 72 holiday seasons.
The airline urgently needed additional aircraft – Indeed it was a condition of the charterers contract that Jet aircraft be made available.

Channel Airways' inability to raise sufficient funds to pay for the outstanding BAC One-Eleven (1 of) and Trident (3 of) orders that were placed with the aircraft's manufacturers during the second half of the 1960s left it with no spare capacity to take on additional charter contracts during the peak summer season, such as the award of the major new 1970 Lyons Tours contract.
The only way the airline was able to fulfil its contractual obligations towards Lyons under these circumstances was to acquire five ex-BEA Comet 4B series and this resulted in a significant increase in its charter capacity bought at a low cost.
Coincidentally both BEA and Olympic Airways were at this time in the process of phasing out their Comet 4Bs.
Of Olympics' aircraft – SX-DAK and SX-DAL had been wholly owned by the Greek carrier and SX-DAN and SX-DAO had been on long term lease from BEA.
All had been sold or returned to BEA pending their disposal and they were stored for many months at Cambridge.
Channel Airways bought five 4Bs – the 4 aircraft used by Olympic, and the ex-BEA G-APMB.
It was reported that Channel paid under £2 million for the 5 – a price that included spares and initial technical assistance.

So as to be ready for the 1970 season the first two Comets were delivered to Channel on 26th January 1970.
These ex-Olympic aircraft were re-registered with their original registrations G-APYC and G-APYD respectively.
The ex-BEA owned aircraft G-ARDI (once SX-DAO) was delivered in April and G-APZM (once SX-DAN) was delivered in May.
All the Comets were converted to seat 109 passengers but were otherwise little different from their BEA days.

Channel even retained the basic livery of British European – only adding the Channel Airways titles and painting out the Corporations red squares!
With the ex-Olympic aircraft even less was done – the aircraft had the dark blue fin around Olympic Rings painted out in black.
Channel planned to phase out the Comets after the 1972 season and for their third season of the contract to change their trading title to Air England.
The original contract, however was not renewed and no Comets were ever to carry the Air England title or livery.

The Comets operated mainly from STN BHX MAN and also from both of the West Berlin Airports.

In September 1970, a consortium of three West German tour operators awarded Channel Airways lucrative contracts to carry holidaymakers from West Berlin to the Mediterranean. These were worth £11 million per annum and resulted in the opening of a base at the Tegel Airport, where two aircraft – a Trident and a One-Eleven were stationed from March 1971 to operate more than 50 weekly round-trips during the peak summer season.
Following the induction of the Comet into Channel Airways' fleet, the airline began using Comets and Tridents from Tempelhof Airport as the airport's runways had been extended to about 7,000'. These flights were additional to Channel's flying programme from its West Berlin base at Tegel.

By 1971 there were further problems with spare parts to support the growing jet fleet.
Lack of spares for Comets and Tridents had caused major disruptions and huge delays to the 1971 summer charter programme.
To ensure adequate access to spares to continue flying its Comets, Channel Airways acquired a Comet 4 G-APDR.
The airline's inability to pay for a sufficient spares inventory to keep all its aircraft flying during the peak summer season in 1971 also resulted in one of its two Tridents having its engines removed to keep the other one flying; this aircraft sat idly on the ground at Stansted for much of the summer season to enable its Tegel-based sister aircraft to continue flying German holidaymakers until the end of the season.
Channel Airways many problems of 1971 continued with maintenance and in obtaining spares that caused insurmountable loss in both money and Contracts.

During the first week of December 1971, Channel Airways sold both of its 139 seat Trident 1Es to BEA to counter the increase in unit costs resulting from low utilisation of these aircraft. The aircraft was leased to BEA's Newcastle-based regional subsidiary Northeast Airlines, who already flew 2 of the cancelled original order of 5 for Channel Airways.

In early 1972, former Channel Airways director Captain Peter Lockwood acquired a pair of ex-American Airlines BAC One-Eleven 400s for his new charter company, Orientair, to take over Channel's lucrative German charter contracts.
When Orientair's plan to assume Channel Airways' position in Berlin ran into difficulties, Dan-Air took over these contracts, resulting in an expansion of that airline's Berlin operation.

So apart from buying ex-BOAC Comet 4 – G-APDR – which was only used for spares, Channel retired early the Comet 4B G-ARDI in September 1971, then sold to Dan Air for spares, and was broken up at Southend during 1972 - the only Comet ever to fly in to SEN.

Channel ran into more severe financial difficulties and in 1972 the Stansted maintenance base was closed.
Channel passed into the hands of the receiver in Feb 1972.
The Channel Comet fleet were sold to Dan Air London.
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 00:32
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Originally Posted by rog747 View Post
Following on from Dan Air's ex BOAC Comet 4 Ops post, the story of poor old Channel Airways' Comet fleet is here -

Channel Airways – Comets Operated
G-APMB 6422
G-APYC 6437
G-APYD 6438
G-APZM 6440
G-ARDI 6447
G-APDR 6418 Bought for spares only

Channel Airways won a lucrative IT contract in April 1969 to provide holiday charter services for Lyon Tours (Colne) for the 1970, 71 and 72 holiday seasons.
The airline urgently needed additional aircraft – Indeed it was a condition of the charterers contract that Jet aircraft be made available.

Channel Airways' inability to raise sufficient funds to pay for the outstanding BAC One-Eleven (1 of) and Trident (3 of) orders that were placed with the aircraft's manufacturers during the second half of the 1960s left it with no spare capacity to take on additional charter contracts during the peak summer season, such as the award of the major new 1970 Lyons Tours contract.
The only way the airline was able to fulfil its contractual obligations towards Lyons under these circumstances was to acquire five ex-BEA Comet 4B series and this resulted in a significant increase in its charter capacity bought at a low cost.
Coincidentally both BEA and Olympic Airways were at this time in the process of phasing out their Comet 4Bs.
Of Olympics' aircraft – SX-DAK and SX-DAL had been wholly owned by the Greek carrier and SX-DAN and SX-DAO had been on long term lease from BEA.
All had been sold or returned to BEA pending their disposal and they were stored for many months at Cambridge.
Channel Airways bought five 4Bs – the 4 aircraft used by Olympic, and the ex-BEA G-APMB.
It was reported that Channel paid under £2 million for the 5 – a price that included spares and initial technical assistance.

So as to be ready for the 1970 season the first two Comets were delivered to Channel on 26th January 1970.
These ex-Olympic aircraft were re-registered with their original registrations G-APYC and G-APYD respectively.
The ex-BEA owned aircraft G-ARDI (once SX-DAO) was delivered in April and G-APZM (once SX-DAN) was delivered in May.
All the Comets were converted to seat 109 passengers but were otherwise little different from their BEA days.

Channel even retained the basic livery of British European – only adding the Channel Airways titles and painting out the Corporations red squares!
With the ex-Olympic aircraft even less was done – the aircraft had the dark blue fin around Olympic Rings painted out in black.
Channel planned to phase out the Comets after the 1972 season and for their third season of the contract to change their trading title to Air England.
The original contract, however was not renewed and no Comets were ever to carry the Air England title or livery.

The Comets operated mainly from STN BHX MAN and also from both of the West Berlin Airports.

In September 1970, a consortium of three West German tour operators awarded Channel Airways lucrative contracts to carry holidaymakers from West Berlin to the Mediterranean. These were worth £11 million per annum and resulted in the opening of a base at the Tegel Airport, where two aircraft – a Trident and a One-Eleven were stationed from March 1971 to operate more than 50 weekly round-trips during the peak summer season.
Following the induction of the Comet into Channel Airways' fleet, the airline began using Comets and Tridents from Tempelhof Airport as the airport's runways had been extended to about 7,000'. These flights were additional to Channel's flying programme from its West Berlin base at Tegel.

By 1971 there were further problems with spare parts to support the growing jet fleet.
Lack of spares for Comets and Tridents had caused major disruptions and huge delays to the 1971 summer charter programme.
To ensure adequate access to spares to continue flying its Comets, Channel Airways acquired a Comet 4 G-APDR.
The airline's inability to pay for a sufficient spares inventory to keep all its aircraft flying during the peak summer season in 1971 also resulted in one of its two Tridents having its engines removed to keep the other one flying; this aircraft sat idly on the ground at Stansted for much of the summer season to enable its Tegel-based sister aircraft to continue flying German holidaymakers until the end of the season.
Channel Airways many problems of 1971 continued with maintenance and in obtaining spares that caused insurmountable loss in both money and Contracts.

During the first week of December 1971, Channel Airways sold both of its 139 seat Trident 1Es to BEA to counter the increase in unit costs resulting from low utilisation of these aircraft. The aircraft was leased to BEA's Newcastle-based regional subsidiary Northeast Airlines, who already flew 2 of the cancelled original order of 5 for Channel Airways.

In early 1972, former Channel Airways director Captain Peter Lockwood acquired a pair of ex-American Airlines BAC One-Eleven 400s for his new charter company, Orientair, to take over Channel's lucrative German charter contracts.
When Orientair's plan to assume Channel Airways' position in Berlin ran into difficulties, Dan-Air took over these contracts, resulting in an expansion of that airline's Berlin operation.

So apart from buying ex-BOAC Comet 4 – G-APDR – which was only used for spares, Channel retired early the Comet 4B G-ARDI in September 1971, then sold to Dan Air for spares, and was broken up at Southend during 1972 - the only Comet ever to fly in to SEN.

Channel ran into more severe financial difficulties and in 1972 the Stansted maintenance base was closed.
Channel passed into the hands of the receiver in Feb 1972.
The Channel Comet fleet were sold to Dan Air London.
​​​​​​A very informative post Rog and although I was aware of most of what you have written one thing that I wasn't aware of was the fact that Channel Airways intended to change their name to Air England.
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 09:20
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Originally Posted by Sotonsean View Post
​​​​​​A very informative post Rog and although I was aware of most of what you have written one thing that I wasn't aware of was the fact that Channel Airways intended to change their name to Air England.

Nor was I! It may have done the rounds in the local Essex Press and possibly the Flight Intl Mag,
I was just starting my Aviation career in 1971/72 and both SEN and STN were close to my home, but I never recall hearing about the new name....

I do recall Channel wanting Transatlantic Licences (which I think they got from the B of T) and they were in talks with CO in the USA to obtain some of their secondhand 707's but the Company folded soon after.
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 12:29
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Originally Posted by rog747 View Post
Nor was I! It may have done the rounds in the local Essex Press and possibly the Flight Intl Mag,
I was just starting my Aviation career in 1971/72 and both SEN and STN were close to my home, but I never recall hearing about the new name....

I do recall Channel wanting Transatlantic Licences (which I think they got from the B of T) and they were in talks with CO in the USA to obtain some of their secondhand 707's but the Company folded soon after.
They never got transatlantic licenses from ATLB because they were such a financial basket case. Consistently making commitments to aircraft they couldn't afford. British Eagle were refused licences at the same hearing because of ATLB concerned about their lack of Capital resources. Good recent reads for me have been Alan Bristows autobiography and a detailed biography of Freddie Laker.
Laker resigned as MD of BUA because the chairman, Sir Myles Wyatt entered negotiations with Channel behind his back.
Laker and Bristows views on Channel are contained in the books. BASKET CASE
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 12:42
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Originally Posted by bean View Post
and a detailed biography of Freddie Laker.
Got the Bristow one, be interested in Laker's bio. There seem to be several, which one do you have please and is it an enjoyable read?
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 12:43
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Wasn’t one of their Herons painted with Air England titles just before the airline ceased trading ? Memory very vague; could have been G-ANNO.
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 13:11
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G-APKW in Air England scheme:

https://imgproc.airliners.net/photos...0473.jpg?v=v40
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 13:31
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Originally Posted by treadigraph View Post
Got the Bristow one, be interested in Laker's bio. There seem to be several, which one do you have please and is it an enjoyable read?
Laker. The glory years of Sir Freddie Laker.
It gets very complicated from 1979 onwards, but, worth a read
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 13:44
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bean Thanks, purchased!
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 16:50
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As mentioned, the Laker story gets complicated at some point and 'Laker' only covers the bit until the collapse. Part two, 'Freddie', continues the tale: https://amzn.to/3vB36QE I enjoyed both of them, but at 600 pages each they'll keep you entertained for a while.

By the way, the Heron in Air England colours is here: https://www.airliners.net/photo/Air-...1B-C/2260473/L Treadi's link doesn't want to play along.
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 17:48
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Yeah, I bought both! Reading order of newly acquired books, Billy Connolly, John Cleese, Freddie Laker... Dunno who said the most...

Thanks for doing the link, mine works for me but maybe that "imgproc" bit stymies others...
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Old 4th Aug 2022, 18:21
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Originally Posted by bean View Post
They never got transatlantic licenses from ATLB because they were such a financial basket case. Consistently making commitments to aircraft they couldn't afford. British Eagle were refused licences at the same hearing because of ATLB concerned about their lack of Capital resources. Good recent reads for me have been Alan Bristows autobiography and a detailed biography of Freddie Laker.
Laker resigned as MD of BUA because the chairman, Sir Myles Wyatt entered negotiations with Channel behind his back.
Laker and Bristows views on Channel are contained in the books. BASKET CASE

Thank you! I'll try the Laker Bio too.
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 06:51
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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 !!
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 10:11
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Originally Posted by rog747 View Post
Nor was I! It may have done the rounds in the local Essex Press and possibly the Flight Intl Mag,
I was just starting my Aviation career in 1971/72 and both SEN and STN were close to my home, but I never recall hearing about the new name....

I do recall Channel wanting Transatlantic Licences (which I think they got from the B of T) and they were in talks with CO in the USA to obtain some of their secondhand 707's but the Company folded soon after.
I have a hazy recollection that the original idea was to re-brand as Air Britain (which would have been more "inclusive"), but the well known aviation historical society objected.
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 13:15
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I recall having the Lyons 1971 brochure; I used to collect these from travel agents as the only source of holiday flights. The Comet schedule was on a separate white paper insert to the main colour brochure, must have been arranged very late. As I recall there were separate departure points for each of the airworthy aircraft, in the traditional 'all to the same place on the same day' format - was Gatwick another base ? Must have been very challenging to introduce such a new fleet and crews, let alone one per base, and I wonder how much BEA helped them to facilitate the sale. Hadn't heard a Channel Comet operated from Berlin, this being the Trident territory, and not the Lyons contract. I believe the second Trident being robbed for spares at Stansted all season was because they could get no credit from either Hawker Siddeley or Rolls-Royce, and it was cash with order - possibly the Comet spares were sourced through BEA as part of the initial support package.

I did vaguely see something subsequently that one of the two remaining to the end Channel One-Elevens were somehow in use on this Lyons work as well. Was this from Gatwick ?

I have written before that August 1971 we were departing from Manchester (Wardair 707 to Vancouver, if interested). On the next stand was a Channel Comet for Palma, with the most dilapidated paint scheme on a service aircraft I ever saw. The old Olympic scheme had been roughly (possibly hand) overpainted with the minimum of paint, not in quite the right shades of blue and white, so the old scheme could be made out, then the Channel name in their ex-Continental font put over the top of everything. There was further patchwork as needed all around.

Did BEA ever actually get all their money for the aircraft ?
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 13:32
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Quoting from Tony Merton Jones's British Independent Airlines 1946 to 1976 and taking the bits relevant to the Comet discussion:

In April 1969, a five million pound contract was awarded by Lyons Tours to operate their inclusive tour flights from 1970 until the end of 1972. With the award of this large contract, Channel was required to buy further jet aircraft but the lack of finance caused the selection to be a fleet of former B.E.A. and Olympic Airways Comet 4Bs. The contract for the purchase of these aircraft was signed on August 27 1969, and the price paid was a figure a little under two million pounds.

Throughout 1969, in addition to its inclusive tour flights from Southend and Stansted, Channel Airways also flew jet inclusive tours from Edinburgh and Teesside to Alicante, Gerona, Ibiza, Palma and Venice. The first of the Comets to be delivered (G-APYC) arrived at Stansted on January 26 1970, and fitted out with 109 seats, these aircraft flew services from Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted to Alicante, Basle, Gerona, Milan, Palma, Rimini, Tangier and Trieste. In addition, further jet inclusive tour charters were flown from Bournemouth, East Midlands and Teesside on behalf of other tour operators including Mediterranean Holidays and Trident Holidays (both subsidiary companies of Channel Airways). A weekly Viscount service was also flown from Birmingham to Ostend and from Manchester, the 1-11s flew inclusive tour charter flights to Basle, Gerona, Ibiza, Malaga, Milan, Palma, Rimini, Valencia and Venice.

One of the Comets (G-APYC) flew Channel's first Comet inclusive tour service from East Midlands Airport on May 17 1970, when it carried a party of holidaymakers from Castle Donington to Palma. This service was flown weekly throughout the summer, and most of Channel's Comet services for Lyons Tours also started in May 1970.

In September 1970, the airline announced another large inclusive tour charter contract, worth £11 million, which required the airline to operate flights from West Berlin to Southern Europe and North Africa. These flights were operated on behalf of three West German tour operators G.U.T., Neckerman and Stolle, and over fifty flights a week were operated to Greece, Italy, Romania, Tunisia and Yugoslavia. These services started in March 1971 and during the summer, they almost fully utilised one Trident and one BAC 1-11.


The book was a re-publication in 2000 by The Aviation Hobby Shop of the original four-volume series published in 1976 (pleased to have both) and a go-to volume for anyone with an interest in this type of thing!
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 15:59
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My memories of Channel are of a “no expense made” outfit. Real “seat of the pants” stuff. Their colour scheme seemingly varied according to which airline they had purchased their latest aircraft from. Also, they “modified” their aircraft to increase the capacity; hence DC3s with 42 seats & , I seem to remember, Vikings with 54. When they got their DC4 we were expecting 120 plus ! Those were the days !
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 18:15
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Originally Posted by kcockayne View Post
Also, they “modified” their aircraft to increase the capacity; hence DC3s with 42 seats & , I seem to remember, Vikings with 54. When they got their DC4 we were expecting 120 plus !
Not forgetting the 7-abreast Trident ...
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 19:45
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Originally Posted by kcockayne View Post
When they got their DC4 we were expecting 120 plus ! Those were the days !
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.
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 20:34
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
Not forgetting the 7-abreast Trident ...
And 99 pax in a 400srs BAC1-11. 6 abreast seating. People were thinner back then.
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