G-BCWE

Herald G-BCWE

Handley Page HPR.7 Herald 201 Series – c/n 166

With BAF from Jan 1975 to Feb 1987

Given Names – ‘Jeremy Keegan’ and ‘Caroline Frost’

By the mid-70s, the age of the cross-Channel vehicle ferry was rapidly coming to an end and British Air Ferries, the only company still operating such services was starting to struggle, still being mostly restricted by mixed cargo/passenger licences. However, most of the airline’s, few, remaining Carvairs had now been stripped of their rear, passenger cabins and were operating solely as cargo aircraft in an attempt to bring in much needed revenue for the company. Needless to say, ‘Mike’ Keegan needed to find an alternative which resulted in BAF buying its first De Havilland HPR.7 Dart Herald. This particular type of aircraft would go on to improve BAF’s fortunes immensely, being relatively easy to operate and maintain, while its low floor made it a joy to load and unload. In a passenger configuration, the Herald could carry as many as 56 passengers in a high-density layout, although BAF preferred to operate with 50 seats, while low-density, VIP seating was also trialled in a couple of aircraft too.

Herald G-BCWE would be the first of three Heralds to join the fleet from Canadian airline Eastern Provincial, arriving at Southend on January 28th 1975. The beginning of February would witness her making a number of test and crew training flights around Southend,G-BCWE early adorned in a new albeit, short lived livery which comprised of a white finish and a thick, light blue line running the length of the fuselage, no doubt inspired by the earlier livery that had been applied to the airline’s Carvairs. By mid-February, Whiskey Echo was in service and slowly began to supplement and then replace the Carvairs on a number of the Le Touquet, Ostend and Rotterdam passenger services from Southend, while other air-rail services to Amsterdam and Brussels would begin too. Charters would also take up a good deal of this Herald’s time and she was seen in Dusseldorf bearing a ‘WHO’ logo during October. Over the coming year, she would be joined by yet more Heralds and by December she was one of three aircraft in the BAF fleet.

With more Heralds destined to join the company in 1976, Whiskey Echo went off on lease at the beginning G-BCWE Jan 1977of April, leaving to join Air Anglia for a month. On her return she was renamed ‘Caroline Frost’ (after BAF’s first, female Captain) and re-entered service with BAF, again on the cross-Channel routes. By this time, BAF were down to operating a single Carvair on the car-ferry services, the very last of which would be flown on the 1st January 1977 and thus in the process, making BAF an all Herald affair as far as passenger operations were concerned. By the end of 1976, another, strange, intermediate livery appeared as BAF experimented with their ‘Bee’ livery. For the time being, these changes would be restricted to the forward fuselage and the vertical stabiliser resulting in a somewhat muddled looking colour scheme.

With Carvair services now dead in the water and BAF’s last two aircraft now being restricted to cargo flights only, this Herald began to appear on the Basle services, albeit in its rather dodgy looking finish. However, by mid-1977, a new livery had been decided G-BCWE Beeupon and henceforth, Whiskey Echo and of course, the rest of the fleet, gain a decidedly much smarter appearance in their new, ‘Bee’ colours, a scheme which would last through until the early 80s. Routes were expanded further still during 1977 with Dusseldorf being added during the winter of 1977/78, while a multitude of continental charters were also undertaken too. The following year would continue much in the same way with a broad mixture of charters and scheduled services keeping G-BCWE busy although with 1979 quickly approaching, ‘Mike’ Keegan decided to take BAF in a slightly different direction and as such concentrated the companies efforts on the charter and engineering side of the company.

Therefore, on the first day of January 1979, all of BAF’s scheduled services were transferred over to British G-BCWE BIAIsland Airways along with a number of Heralds that would fly these services on a lease basis. Whiskey Echo would be one of these aircraft and while she would still spend much of her time at SEN, she was painted up in the livery of her lessor and would continue to fly under the BIA banner until the end of the 1979 season when she was finally returned to BAF, no doubt as a result of the impending merger between BIA and Air Anglia which would result in the formation of the new entity – Air UK. By the end of 1979 all of BAF’s airworthy Carvair’s had left for the U.S which resulted in the airline becoming an all Herald airline. By this time, BAF had 16 of this type in its fleet and thus, they were quite happy to lease G-BCWE out again.

In fact, Whiskey Echo never made it back into BAF livery and she returned to the airline that she had previously been on lease with, although thisG-BCWE Air UK time, bedecked in an Air UK livery. Having taken over a number of British Airways domestic routes in the spring of 1980, to such places as Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, she was put to work flying a multitude of flights both around the country and to the Continent. While she would operate from a number of British airports, she would also operate from Southend too and invariably, two of her most popular destinations were Basle and the Channel Islands. However, by the end of the year Air UK had decided to standardise their turboprop fleet with Fokker F-27s and Embraer Bandierantes and thus Whiskey Echo was returned to BAF by December 1981.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long until this Herald would be off on lease yet again and directly after her return Herald G-BCWE TAAfrom Air UK, she was procured by Perpignan based Trans Azur Aviation which was actually an attempt by BAF’s management and the management of St Tropez Airport to start a small airline, that would operate services between Southern France and Central Europe. Two Heralds were subsequently reserved for this purpose with Whiskey Hotel being painted up in a rather stylish interpretation of the BAF ‘Bee’ livery. For the most, Whiskey Echo was seen at Basle and Dusseldorf from February until June when she returned to BAF and stood idle on the northern apron, without engines for a considerable time. Trans Azul itself would survive until October 1983, flying yet another BAF Herald although this second aircraft was later bought outright by the airline.

However, a rather curious turn of events seems to have taken place during 1982, when Whiskey Echo was seen at various European destinations still bearing Trans Azur colours but with BAF titles and logos. Was this aircraft temporarily reactivated during this time and if so, why were TAAHerald TAA BAF logos then later re-applied to the aircraft, this being evident by the fact that this aircraft was seen on the northern apron at SEN during the summer of 1984, adorned in such a livery? Nevertheless, it would appear that Whiskey Echo was eventually restored to service some time in early 1985 and quite naturally was given the new BAF, single worded ‘British’ livery after British Airways had decided to drop it. One more monthly lease was undertaken with Air Anglia 1986 and the last chapter of her SEN history would be written in February 1987 by Keegan’s General Aviation Spares who purchased and then stored at Southend for just over a year before finally being sold to Aerovias SA in Guatemala in April 1984.

 

History of G-BCWE

2/63 to 1/75

Eastern Provincial Airways as CF-EPI

1/75 to 2/87

BAF

2/87 to 4/88

General Aviation Spares

4/88 to ?/98

Aerovias SA as TG-ASA

Fate

WFU at Guatemala City – 10/91 – Still noted as of 5/01 although without engines – Likely scrapped during 2002

 

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