Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mk32 – c/n 13252

With Air Charter from Apr 1955 to Feb 1959

Given Name – ‘Vigilant’

This Mk32 Bristol 170 flew to her new home base of SEN on April 5th 1955 and after two weeks of preparation work, she operated her first flight for CAB to Calais on the 19th. Her summer would continue in much the same way with a typical, peak season flight witnessing average loads of 3 cars and 9-10 passengers on this single route. However, Victor Sierra would also become involved in freight work on behalf of Air Charter, an example of which saw G-ANVS and two other B170 aircraft flying newspapers from Blackbushe to Yorkshire on the night of May 28th. The year 1955 would also see another new route emerge for CAB, namely Ostend, which Victor Sierra would inaugurate on October 17th 1955, with Freddie Laker, the Mayor of Southend and various other dignitaries aboard. The Mayor’s car was also transported across the Channel and this would later convey him to an official engagement with the Mayor of Ostend. The day was ultimately considered to be a great success and revenue services commenced six days later on the 23rd.

However, with services already dwindling due to the onset of winter, they would soon be closed for the season. Confirmation of this came at the end of October when November Sierra in particular, was carrying such loads as a single car and a solitary scooter, a flight that would have been far from profitable and which more than likely cost the airline money. As such, flights were instead committed to the movement of cargo between Amsterdam and Southend, while other operations would often see the odd Bristol 170 supporting its German contract with flights to Wilderath. As 1956 dawned, Lille would also begin to see a number of CAB’s B170s coming and going, although with March approaching, it would soon be time for these aircraft to return to their main remit, that of flying vehicles across the Channel.

Victor Sierra and her stable mate Victor Romeo were at the time, the only Mk32s in the fleet and thus, the only two aircraft that could operate efficiently due to their larger lifting capacity of three cars compared to the two that the shorter, Mk31s could accommodate. Needless to say, their return to car ferry services was of the utmost importance and it wasn’t long until they were again, gracing Calais and Ostend with their presence. Summer services would test VS and her crews to the limit and on the busiest days, the five B170s combined would make as many as 54 return trips to Calais and 7 to Ostend in a single, 24 hour period, operating at an average of more than 12 round trips per day. As if this wasn’t enough, yet another new route would be opened to Rotterdam on October 1st 1956, with November Sierra once again, opening the batting for the ‘Air Bridge’. She was the first of three ACL B170s to land here, although she had been pipped to the post by Channel Airways’ Doves which had landed there earlier that morning.

However, unlike the previous two routes, the Rotterdam service would continue to operate throughout the winter and ANVS would more than often find herself hauling vehicles and passengers outbound, while returning with freight. As the spring of 1957 approached, this freight would invariably begin to turn greener as the Bristol Superfreighters made their way back from Rotterdam loaded with greenhouse grown vegetables from the Continent. By the middle of January, two more Mk32s had joined the fleet and by early June, this was further increased to four which along with VS and VR were kept busy on the three, extremely busy routes of Calais, Ostend and Rotterdam. Needless to say, VS would also find time to fly freight and as such, one of CAB’s growing charters would more increasingly see the transport of new cars between the Continent and the UK and visa versa. Such a flight took place on September 5th 1957 when VS delivered two, brand new Vauxhall Victors to Rotterdam, returning later with a load of passengers and a number of paintings.

Operations would slow again towards the winter months although as per usual, flights would continue at a reduced rate to Rotterdam. However, Victor November would find herself being temporarily removed from service in February 1958 when a storm swept through the East of England damaging both G-ANVS and G-AOUV which were blown into each other by the high winds. Thankfully, the damage was mostly superficial and the two aircraft were quickly restored to normal operations. On April 1st, Victor Sierra found herself producing another first when she was selected to fly the inaugural Coach-Air service between Southend and Calais with coaches bringing passengers in from Euston. June would then see another temporary shift in operations when the 1958 foot and mouth outbreak necessitated the import of meat from Holland. This work would continue nightly for about a week, before things returned to normal.

For more on this aircraft’s post-1958 history, please see the menu CAB/BUAF/BAF/BWA – Bristol 170s


History of G-ANVS

4/55 to 2/59

Air Charter Ltd (purchased – 12/57)

2/59 to 1/63

TFR to Channel Air Bridge Ltd

1/63 to 10/67

TFR to British United Air Ferries

10/67 to 7/70

TFR to British Air Ferries


WFU Lydd – 11/67 and B/U – 7/70


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