Transmeridian

CL44 G-AZKJ

Operated from Oct 1962 to Aug 1979

Main Bases – Luton then Cambridge and later Stansted

Founder/Director – Viscount Long, Capt A.H. Benson, Mr R. Huggins and later Thomas ‘Mike’ Keegan

With as many as 9 ex-Flying Tiger and Seaboard World aircraft at its disposal during its halcyon years, Transmeridian Air Cargo eventually became one of Europe’s largest and most successful cargo airlines, operating deep into Africa and Asia. However, it was back in October 1962 that Trans Meridian would first appear, initially leasing one C-54 and then a number of other aircraft from Keegan’s Trans World Leasing, which included another C-54 and DC-7 equipment. Indeed, it wasn’t long before the C-54s arrived at SEN for maintenance, although it would rest with DC-7 G-ATAB to start Trans Meridian’s relationship with SEN, arriving there in December 1964 where she received a degree of attention inside the hangar of Aviation Traders. During the summer of 1965, she would go on to fly an assortment of long distance freight and passenger charters from Southend.

During these early days, ‘Mike’ Keegan had provided financial backing for the airline, while Keegan Aviation would also initially provide its technical services, although in November 1967, he purchased the airline outright, later turning it into a success story with its ‘Impala’ and ‘Genghis Khan’ routes, where anything from fruit to valuable livestock would be carried by its huge Canadair CL-44 aircraft. Its Impala route penetrated deep into West Africa from Stansted to Lagos and Kano, while the Genghis Khan route would take in a multitude of countries flying from Stansted to Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei, plus a number of airports in Japan and Australia. However, a small number of its aircraft could still be converted between a passenger and cargo configuration and on purchasing the airline, Keegan had initially planned to offer ‘fun flights’ with these dual configuration aircraft, that would, among many other wacky ideas, have operated on board casinos.

With Keegan’s purchase of BAF in 1971, he looked for ways to further develop the airline, part of which involved replacing its tired and ageing, piston engined equipment with more modern, turboprop aircraft. So, in 1972, two of Transmeridian’s CL-44s (G-ATZI and G-AZIN) were transferred to BAF in attempts to increase the airline’s lifting capacity out of Southend. Zulu India would remain with BAF for only a few months, while India November would stay for almost two years, although ultimately, they would prove to be unsuitable for the mostly short hop routes that BAF were currently operating. However, while based at SEN, one CL-44 would set a passenger lift record from Southend which it achieved on its inaugural flight to Ostend on May 28th 1972. This record of 170 pax + 9 crew still stands to this very day.

Eventually, a management shake up would see BAF’s and Transmeridian’s Board of Directors merged into one, although operations would be confined almost exclusively to their bases at Southend and Stansted respectively. That said, the huge CL-44s adorned with large K’s painted on their vertical stabilisers, would still venture into Southend on a multitude of occasions, although these flights were solely for engineering or positioning purposes. Transmeridian continued operating under Keegan’s stewardship until June 1977 when he finally sold this wing of the operation to Cunard. As such, the airline’s relationship with Southend came to an end and by August 1979, it had merged with IAS Cargo to become British Cargo Airlines, which in turn, later became T-MAC that went on to form the T-MAC/Heavylift partnership in 1981.

 

Transmeridian Fleet from 1962 to 1979

De Havilland Dove

G-AOFI – 6/69 to 6/70

Sold to Pressed Steel Ltd

G-ANVU – 1/74 to 7/77

TFR to T.D ‘Mike’ Keegan

Douglas C-47 Dakota

G-AJRY – 6/70 to 4/74

VIP aircraft – Sold to United Air Services as ZS-PTG

Douglas C-54

G-APID – 7/63 to 1/65

Leased from Trans World

G-ARXJ – 11/62 to 1/65

Leased from Trans World

Douglas DC-7

G-ATAB – 12/64 to 3/66

Leased from Trans World

G-ATMF – 1/66 to 3/72

Leased from Trans World

G-ATOB – 2/66 to 12/67

Leased from Trans World

G-AVXH – 11/67 to 4/69

Leased from Trans World

G-AWBI – 1/68 to 4/69

Leased from Trans World

Canadair CL-44

G-ATZH – 1/72 to 9/77

Crashed due to engine fire after take off from Hong Kong 2/9/77

G-ATZI – 4/70 to 3/74

Sold to Transvalair as HB-IEN

G-AWWB – 12/68 to 8/79

TFR to British Cargo Airlines

G-AXAA – 2/69 to 8/79

TFR to British Cargo Airlines

G-AXUL – 12/69 to 8/79

TFR to British Cargo Airlines

G-AZIN – 11/71 to 8/79

TFR to British Cargo Airlines

G-AZKJ – 12/71 to 8/79

TFR to British Cargo Airlines

G-AZML – 1/72 to 8/79

TFR to British Cargo Airlines

Conroy CL-44 ‘Skymonster’

N447T – 7/70 to 8/79

TFR to British Cargo Airlines

 

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Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.