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Heathrow - Gatwick Helicopter Link

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Heathrow - Gatwick Helicopter Link

Old 29th Nov 2002, 14:18
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Question Heathrow - Gatwick Helicopter Link

I was once told that there was a helicopter shuttle service between Heathrow and Gatwick in the 70's.

Can anyone confirm this and if there was in fact a service. I would be interested in any other information anyone may have either as a passenger or Crew, such as aircraft type, route, cost, reason for cancellation etc.


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Old 29th Nov 2002, 15:07
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I believe they were yellow S76s. They stopped flying when the M25 opened all the way round from LHR to the M23 junction, thus eroding their time advantage. I have no idea how much they cost but I recall that it was seen as expensive. The locals didn't like the noise either, and I recall that the service was seen as a stop gap.

When I were a lad there was a service from LAP to Battersea by S55, but it was little more than a token, and faded out.
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Old 29th Nov 2002, 17:12
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Viva - just to add to Unwell`s info, it was operated by I think British Caledonian Helicopters and its registration was G-LINK (what else). I thought it was an SK61 but not sure about that.

It cost 12 for a single fare when the service started. Its operating certificate from the outset was planned to expire when the M25 between the M23 and the M4 was completed.

Its route within the London Control Zone was from Oxshott station northbound along heli-route H9 and it had a dedicated landing/departure strip just south of the runway 05 threshold.

When Terminal 4 was built the strip disappeared and the helicopter had to land on the southern runway and park on stand H38.

It used the Decca navigator system and so could operate in IMC and if my memory serves me correctly it was also capable of carrying out a CAT III ILS approach if necessary.

When inbound to Heathrow it would be cleared for a Standard Decca 28 or Decca 10 arrival ( depending on the runway in use), this was in the days of 28 Left and 10 Right of course, and enter the London Zone at 2400 feet.

Noise was a problem and so we used to try to keep it as high as possible for as long as possible both inbound and outbound.

I had a free trip on it once and it was ....well.... very noisy and uncomfortable but didn`t take long.

Hope this is of interest.

Last edited by Duke of Burgundy; 29th Nov 2002 at 21:26.
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Old 29th Nov 2002, 17:33
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Thanks for the replies so far.

Perhaps now the M25 is mostly a car park the service could be resumed.
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Old 29th Nov 2002, 17:35
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Not that I'd know for sure, as it was before my time, but always thought it was a Sk61. I don't think the S76 was around in those days either.

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Old 29th Nov 2002, 18:35
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Talking The answers always out there!

As if by magic, heres a photo........

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Old 29th Nov 2002, 20:44
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Also see:

British Caledonian S-61 LHR-LGW link


British Airways S-61
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Old 29th Nov 2002, 21:49
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The service was terminated by the then Tory government giving in to a few noise objectors along the route. ( A few Tory marginal seats at that time...........think the chief tw#t involved was Nicolas Ridley)

Funny thing was that the noise objectors still used to phone in and complain about the noise months after the flights were terminated.................perhas they could not distinguish between a civilian S61 and military Chinooks .

Anyway it was all part of the plot to drive BCAL down , and into the clutches of the just privatised (and consequently cash rich) BA.
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Old 29th Nov 2002, 22:09
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I remember using the service a few times ...... the thing that sticks in my mind is all the swimming pools you could see during the trip!!!

cheers .....
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Old 2nd Dec 2002, 07:24
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Ahhhh, those were the days...

If I remember correctly, there were two different services. One was provided by British Caledonian and the other by British Airways.

I got the chance to travel on the British Caledonian Airlink once as a combined Christmas and Birthday present from my Aunt. I think it must have been 1979 because I was about six years old. It was my first flight and we flew from Gatwick to Heathrow. My Aunt travelled with me, and my parents drove from Gatwick to pick us up at Heathrow. Needless to say, we arrived much sooner than they did!

I don't remember it being uncomfortable, but I do remember it was noisy and it was wonderful! The flight was over before I knew it, but I got to go on the flight deck, meet the crew and even got given a (very battered) safety card as a souvenir. (I still have it, and some photos somewhere)
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Old 2nd Dec 2002, 09:29
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I used it several times and it was not at all uncomfortable or noisy (if you were used to military helos anyway). Took about 15min and was certainly better than fighting your way round the M25 to LHR (I live near LGW). Should re-instate it, they'd make a fivetune.
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Old 2nd Dec 2002, 11:01
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As the photos show, the service was operated by SK61s. Callsign Northbound was 'Link1' and Southbound 'Link2'. British Airways Helicopters had a base at Gatwick, near to the old 'Beehive' terminal. The service connecting G'wick and H'row was still running in the early 80s. I believe that for passengers interlining between the two Airports, the air fares were inclusive of the helo transfer.
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Old 2nd Dec 2002, 11:45
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I don't believe BAH was involved in this route at all. It was only British Caledonian Helicopters
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Old 2nd Dec 2002, 14:38
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Maybe it was a joint BCH/BAH service? Certainly some of the pilots that flew the 'Airlink' route were employed by BAH - I knew two of them. I'm also pretty sure (subject to ageing memory!) that the helicopter hangar (where the S61s were serviced) near to the Beehive at Gatwick, sported a 'British Airways' sign above its entrance.
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Old 2nd Dec 2002, 18:13
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LGW - LHR Shuttle

The service was provided by a joint venture. The aircraft, G-LINK, a normal North Sea fit S61N Mk2, was owned by the British Airport Authority. British Caledonian mainline provided the check-in and air stewardesses and British Airways Helicopters provided the flight deck and engineers. Later, when manning level either fell or more North Sea contracts had been won - I can't remember which - BCal Helicopters provided the flight deck and engineers.
The girls who were full time on the link were issued with a slim line skirt, but those who were attached for short periods wore the normal kilt. If they forgot to gather all the lose material in the kilt before leaving the disk area, some unscrupulous flight deck members would pull a little pitch and tilt the disk slightly, thereby showing the world what the Callie hosties wore under their kilts

By the way, AlanM,

I have it on very good authority that the S61 in British Airways livery, G-BCEA, shown on the second on your hyperlinks, is hard at work in the Falkland Islands, along with one other. It is operated by British International on a military support contract.

ramsrc, there was only the one service

I know this because the wife of a friend worked for British Caledonian mainline at the time, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to one or two Link parties
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Old 2nd Dec 2002, 20:45
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I can confirm Attila's message as being spot on. The constructor's number of the helicopter was 61806, registration G-LINK.

The reason why it ceased operating was due to the terms of the route licence. The licence was only valid until such time as the M25 connected up Gatwick with Heathrow. The principle objectors to continuation of the licence beyond that point were the bus companies, not the owners of the swimming pools beneath.

The swimming pool owners in fact had the operating times restricted in order to give themselves peace and quite during the afternoons. Hence the service did not run between about 1:30 and 4:00 pm. Ironic really since the money used to pay for those swimming pools was no doubt earned from business ventures that probaly blighted other peoples lives. Tower blocks, etc??

Last edited by Frisky Bunny; 23rd Dec 2002 at 09:34.
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Old 17th Apr 2006, 23:09
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As a resident of Horley, without a swimming pool, I remember well the familiar rattle of G-LINK in and out of Gatwick. And if you were on the spectator's terrace at Gatwick you would be treated to the sight of it heading straight for you from the West, then banking at the last moment and landing in front of the terminal. Occasionally other S-61s would be substituted, but G-LINK was the key machine used. A few pictures can be found on my website:


Whatever the background of the operator, the markings were always British Caledonian blue and yellow/gold.

Michael Hooker
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Old 18th Apr 2006, 23:06
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BAH never had anything to do with the shuttle. G-LINK was operated by BCalH. It was not in being in 1979 because as speechless 2 rightly says, BCalHs first S61 was a dry lease from KLM Helicopters and the crews received their groundschool training in Holland in 1980. The interior was not the standard North Sea fit S61. Even after the service was terminated due to noise protesters, noise complaints continued to be received. 'Bishop' Bill Ashpole wasBCal's man on the job when it was running.
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Old 19th Apr 2006, 05:50
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Mama Mangrove I'm afraid you're wrong. I was in BAH when the Link started and we provided the pilots and engineers at that stage, it may well have gone to BCal later. Maybe Soggy Boxers will remember.
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Old 19th Apr 2006, 07:47
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Late in the day, they tried moving the route between the two control zones to the west to try to placate the nimbys, exiting the LL CTR near Fairoaks then turning east to route just east of OCK. This resulted in a few close shaves with Farnborough PAR traffic and Fairoaks departures which those people who planned the route didn't take into account as it was open FIR; their brief was just to deconflict the routes when inside controlled airspace and as far as they were concerned, this airspace was 'empty' of (IFR) conflictions!!
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