G-ATUE

Viscount G-ATUE

Vickers 812 Viscount – c/n 357

With Channel from Apr 1966 to Feb 1972

This Viscount was officially handed over on April 29th 1966 and would as such become the first and the longest serving of the 11 – 812 series aircraft that joined Channel as part of a deal with Continental Airlines in the U.S. These aircraft were particularly suited to Channel’s routes, being high density aircraft with an extra, four-seat ‘lounge’ at the rear of the plane, a fact made evident by the inclusion of two extra windows to the rear of the aft cabin doors, while most also had air-stairs fitted to their front cabin doors. The mysterious Continental livery that had been in use with Channel since 1963 was also retained with the addition of its new owner’s titles, logos and an extra red stripe that is.

Naturally, being the first of her kind, she had an extremely busy opening month making her first test flight on the May 9th, followed by crew training the day after. Then, no doubt wishing to show off their latest acquisition and resplendent in her ‘new’ livery, Channel dispatched Uniform Echo to the 1966 Biggin Hill Air Show for three days. She would also take the accolade of being the very first of the 812 Viscounts to visit Ostend on the 12th and later Rotterdam on the 24th. Yet, still not satisfied with all the limelight, she would also fly the first I.T. charters to Palma, Barcelona, Valencia and Tangiers during the last days of May, while the 29th would witness the first of many visits to the Channel Islands.

Later, during the high summer months, she returned to the Channel Islands and was seen at Berlin and on the Canaries flying I.T. charters, although one such flight to Palma on September 10th would end somewhat abruptly with a nose gear collapse which would put her out of service until the end of November; returning to service with a flight to Ostend on the 28th. As the end of the year approached, most of Channel’s aircraft left SEN and went off on lease to a variety of other airlines and while Uniform Echo was destined for a winter with Treffield International, due to financial reasons, the lease never actually happened.

During the spring of 1967, UE resumed flights to the Continent, being seen both at Le Touquet and Ostend in April and May respectively. May 1st would see her inaugurating the first service to Milan and later, on the 19th, she would fly the first SEN-Basle service of the year. However, it was at this very airport that on August 15th 1967, she would be called upon to help another stricken Viscount (G-AVJL) which had suffered its own undercarriage issues and as a result, flew to Basle to retrieve, what one can only imagine to be, its rather shaken up passengers. Otherwise, she would continue operating on a multitude of Channel I.T routes throughout the high seasons of 1967 and 1968. With Channel’s shifting of its I.T operations from Southend to Stansted during the latter year, she would start flying these charters from this airport, flying the very first of them between STN and Gerona on May 5th 1968.

Nineteen sixty nine would see Uniform Echo starting the season on the annual bulb charters which continued throughout April 1969, while May would see her starting flights between Birmingham and Ostend. This aircraft also became a somewhat irregular visitor to Edinburgh where at times, she was employed as a replacement for G-AVHK on the ‘Scottish Flyer’ bus stop routes. As with all Viscounts that flew this route, the cabin would have been fitted with 69 seats and internal luggage racks so that both passengers and bags could be quickly herded on and off of the plane which would stop at each airport along its route for only 5-10 minutes!

However, by the beginning of 1970, the Scottish Flyer route had been officially abandoned, although the end of March would still bring plenty of work with much of the remaining Channel fleet (including UE) being tasked with returning hordes of British holiday makers who were stuck on the Continent, thanks to a ferry strike. By this time, most of the I.T charters had ceased flying from SEN and as a result, Uniform Echo spent the rest of 1970 flying to Ostend, Rotterdam and the Channel Islands, while the sole remaining charter route from SEN to Dusseldorf was at times, flown by UE too. She would also increasingly make flights from several other airports and during the summer, operated a number of services on the Stansted-Channel Islands and Bournemouth-Dusseldorf routes.

Her final year with Channel saw her once again, commence flying with bulb charters although a few trips to Beauvais would be made during this period too. In June, she would fly to Reims both on the 7th and the 16th, while the bulk of her summer operations still comprised of the old ‘quick-hop’ favourites. Some freight work came Channel’s way during August and UE flew between Tegel and SEN with a load of car parts. However, with passenger numbers dropping further still, Channel began to run services from Stansted to Southend before heading off to their cross-Channel destinations and while most of the remaining aircraft would be withdrawn permanently by the end of 1971, G-ATUE (and G-AVIW) soldiered on through the winter months on these very routes, with the Christmas period temporarily, boosting services slightly.

While many Viscounts had already been stored or even dismantled for spares, Uniform Echo continued to fly with Channel right up until the company’s demise, its final flight taking place on the penultimate day of services which saw her returning to Southend from Jersey. What remained of the fleet was temporarily withdrawn from service until the bankruptcy administrators could find a buyer and as such, more or less all of Channel’s remaining Viscount assets would eventually go to Alidair, UE being only one of three Viscounts that would leave Southend by air. However, unlike G-AVIW and G-AVJL, (the only other airworthy Viscounts) she was immediately removed from service on her arrival at East Midlands and reduced to spares.

 

History of G-ATUE

6/58 – 4/66

Continental Air Lines

4/66 – 2/72

Channel Airways

Fate

Sold to Alidair but immediately WFU – 5/72. Later B/U at East Midlands Airport

 

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