Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mk32 – c/n 13256

With CAB/BUAF/BAF from Feb 1959 to Mar 1971

Given Name – ‘Versatile’ and ‘City of Edinburgh’

While this aircraft may have been the last of its kind to be delivered to Air Charter, Bristol 170 G-APAU would ultimately retain the distinction of being the longest serving of the type with the CAB/BUAF/BAF succession of companies, until finally being disposed of in the spring of 1971. She was officially transferred to Channel Air Bridge in February 1959, having previously served as part of Air Charter’s car ferry wing which was initially known as ‘Air Bridge’ although the word ‘Channel’ was also later added, some time during 1955. She would for the most, fly the three popular routes between Southend and Ostend/Calais/Rotterdam until the end of 1959, when she would go off on lease for 1-1/2 years, although this lease would still require her to use SEN on a daily basis.

With flights between Ostend and Southend reaching their peak during the late ’50s and early ’60s, Belgian airline Sabena decided to get in on the act and as a consequence, from June 1957, they began to lease a single, Bristol 170 which was subsequently painted up in their livery, although the aircraft itself would continue to be flown, serviced and maintained by ACL and later CAB crew and staff. While G-AOUV would be the first aircraft to fly this service, in November 1959, it was the turn of G-APAU to take up the baton and for the most, she was restricted to this route until May 1962, when she was finally replaced by the last aircraft to fly this service, namely G-AOUV. On her return she was given a new lick of paint and put into service with CAB, once more flying on the Channel routes.

However, in 1962, CAB’s owner BUA  purchased Silver City, CAB’s only real competitor where the popular, airborne car-ferry services were concerned and during 1962 (and no doubt as a precursor of things to come), Silver City Bristol 170s (G-AIMH and G-ANWN) began appearing on CAB routes at Southend, while G-APAU was despatched to Lydd for the rest of the year, where she would fly on Silver City’s services. Come the beginning of 1963, the decision was finally taken to merge the two airlines with British United Air Ferries emerging as a result of this. As far as Alpha Uniform was concerned, by the beginning of 1963, she was back at Southend, resplendent in her new British United livery, although for some unknown reason, she would retain her ‘City of…’ name which was generally indicative of all Lydd based aircraft. Needless to say, for the most part, she resumed flying the car-ferry services.

Another change of came came about during October 1967 with all former BUAF aircraft gradually being repainted in the new colours of British Air Ferries. By this time, most of the dwindling car ferry services were being maintained by the much larger and more capable Carvairs and as a result, the remaining Bristol 170s would have less and less to do, being mostly confined to making freight runs. By 1969, APAU was back at Lydd once more hauling cars across the Channel and remained there until returning to Southend at the end of 1970 where she was temporarily stored over the winter before finally being sold to Midland Air Cargo in March 1971 and in the process, bringing more than 20 years of Bristol 170 operations at Southend, to an end.


History of G-APAU

6/57 to 2/59

Air Charter Ltd (lease)

2/59 to 1/63

TFR to Channel Air Bridge (purchased 7/61)

1/63 to 10/67

TFR to British United Air Ferries

10/67 to 3/71

TFR to British Air Ferries

3/71 to 5/75

Sold to Midland Air Cargo


WFU Lasham during 1973 and B/U 5/75


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Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.