Based at Southend from Feb 1952 to Mid-1954

Used Southend as a hub from Mid-54 to Dec 1965

Founders/Directors – Mr. J.W. Barnaby, Mr. T.D. ‘Mike’ Keegan and Mr. C. Stevens

The passenger wing of B.K.S. began life at SEN as Aero Charter Ltd, although after only one month, the name was changed to B.K.S. Aerocharter Ltd, with this seemingly random choice of letters actually denoting an amalgamation of the first letters of the three directors’ surnames, namely James Barnby, Thomas ‘Mike’ Keegan and Cyril Stevens. The company started out at the beginning of February 1952 with one DC-3 that had been obtained in lieu of shares from former Southend airline – Crewsair – from which the three directors had previously resigned.

This Dakota (G-AIWE) was then immediately put into service flying a series of freight and charter flights. One of its first trips involved a jaunt to Singapore in March, followed later in the year by a 45 hour trip to South Africa, landing only for nightly stopovers (which were not included in the price!) and for fuel as and when it was required. By December 1952, B.K.S. was flying a number of long distance charters from Southend to Istanbul, Rome and Innsbruck while multi-stop tours around the Middle East were also being undertaken. Business began to thrive for the airline and by its second year of operations, it would go on to transport more than 8,750 passengers and complete more than 2 million revenue ton miles.

BKS loading Southend

By early 1954, B.K.S. was undertaking daily newspaper flights and trooping work along with various scheduled and charter services. Routes being flown from Southend included I.T. tours to Corsica and Majorca. The airline would eventually go on to expand its fleet until it became one of the largest independents in the UK, operating a wide variety of types. However by mid-1954, B.K.S. had started moving the bulk of its operations to new bases in Newcastle and Leeds although its main engineering facility now being run by ‘Mike’ Keegan would remain at Southend until 1970. Towards the end of 1954, another name change would occur and from this point onwards, the airline branch of the company would be known as B.K.S. Air Transport Ltd.

While the centre of operations may have now moved to Northern England, B.K.S. retained strong ties with its former base which remained as something of a major hub, at least for a time. In 1955, the company began operating three Vikings on various services to the Continent while a domestic service between Southend and Leeds began as a feeder for its onward services to locations such as Belfast. Indeed for the next few years, one scheduled service and a number of I.T. tours would continue to fly regularly from Southend increasingly using their Ambassadors. These routes included:

Southend to Calvi – 1955-61

Southend to Palma – 1955-56

Southend to Oporto – 1956-58

Southend to Bilbao – 1956-61

Southend-Newcastle-Bergen -1958-59

In the meantime, the airline would also use the airport for customs clearance on its European-Newcastle/Leeds flights. Also, on top of these scheduled services, freight flights would be flown between Southend & Hannover while a number of ad-hoc charters operated by its C-47s would also fly in and out of SEN. Charter destinations serviced from Southend during 1955 would include Basle, Calvi, Innsbruck, Lyon, Nice, Orly, Ostend, Palma, Salzburg and Tarbes, with some even continuing through to 1965. Meanwhile, regular cargo services would persevere a little longer and it wasn’t until December 1965 that B.K.S. flights finally ceased altogether although its aircraft would still frequent SEN where B.K.S. still retained an engineering facility (see the menu Engineering – B.K.S. for more details).

BKS 1956 Map

Flights to Palma and Barcelona would often route through Lyon, while flights to Oporto and Malaga would route via Bordeaux


B.K.S. Highlights…

Aug 1952

B.K.S.’ two DC-3s make 6 trips from Southend to Paris and Basle with students and one passenger flight to Munich

Two notable freight flights flown between Amsterdam and Lisbon with marine spares and to Paris – One charter to Kuwait with explosives, this flight returning via Karachi and Oslo where the Dakota unloaded a shipment of marine spares

Sep 1952

Two trips to Basle and one to Johannesburg – The latter flight brings back a load of parts and spares from a crashed aircraft

One passenger charter to Johannesburg on behalf of Tropic Airways

Brings a load of passenger back from Geneva

Oct 1952

Two more C-47s arrive to compliment the two already in service. These are fitted out with 32-seat passenger cabins

Nov 1952

Flights from London to Elizabethville (passenger) and London to Athens (cargo)

Flies sailors between Le Havre and Athens

Flies Karachi – Ankara – Le Touquet with passengers

Flies NAAFI personnel to and from Cyprus

Flies a 7,000 mile charter for U.S. servicemen from Munich with stop overs in Nice, Bari, Athens, Cairo, Jerusalem and Crete

Dec 1952

More than two tonnes of textiles are transported from Manchester to Düsseldorf

Flies more NAAFI personnel to and from Cyprus

Southend to Istanbul with passengers and then on to Rome with freight

Flies a second charter for U.S. servicemen from Rome to the Middle East and North Africa and back again

A further Middle-Eastern tour starts from Southend and flies to Rome later taking in Athens, Cairo, Jerusalem and Nicosia

Transports skiers from Southend to Innsbruck and back again

Total traffic for 1952 – 3,750 passengers and more than 2,000,000 revenue ton-miles

Apr 1953

Permission given for a domestic route between West Hartlepool and London

May 1953

Daily newspaper runs to British forces (BFPO) in Germany

Dec 1953

Totals for the year include – more than 7,700 passengers and just over 317,000 revenue ton-miles

Mid 1954

B.K.S. moves the bulk of its scheduled passenger operations to Northern England

Dec 1954

Regular newspaper flights begin between Southend and Hannover – These are flown by C-47s and Vikings

May 1955

Southend – Leeds – Belfast route begins

Southend – Calvi I.T. route begins

Jun 1955

Leeds – Southend – Ostend I.T. route begins

Jul 1955

Leeds – Southend – Le Torquet I.T. route begins

Sep 1955

Leeds – Southend – Dusseldorf service begins

Winter 1955/56

B.K.S. flies a series of ad-hoc flights on behalf of South African – Trek Airways

May 1956

Southend – Geneva I.T. services start

Southend – Oporto I.T. services start

Jun 1956

Southend – Bilbao I.T. charter services begin


B.K.S. fleet while based at SEN

Avro 652 Anson

G-ALIH – 4/54 to 8/54

Sold to E.K. Cole

G-ALUR – 5/52 to 7/52

Sold to Finland

G-ALXB – 8/53 to 10/55

Sold – Fate unknown

G-ALXH – 4/54 to 5/57

Bought as a wreck and repaired during 1955 – DBR Yorkshire 9/4/63

G-AMBE – 8/53 to 10/58

To B.K.S. Air Surveys

Airspeed Consul

G-AJXE – 11/55 to 10/56

Sold to T.D. Keegan

G-AJXG – 9/55 to 8/57

To B.K.S. Air Surveys

Douglas C-47 Dakota

G-AIWE – 10/51 to 4/52

Sold to Iberia as EC-AGS

G-AMSF – 4/52 to 1/59

Sold to Crewsair

G-AMSH – 5/52 to 6/66

Sold to Starways

G-AMVB – 10/52 to 8/57

Sold to Hunting Aerosurveys

G-AMVC – 10/52 to 10/61

Crashed near Kirkoswold, Cumberland 17/10/61

G-ANAF – 6/53 to 11/58

Sold to Hunting Aerosurveys

Non-commercial types included…

G-AEYE – Percival Q.6

For use as a feeder aircraft between Southend and Newcastle

G-AJRZ – Fairchild 24/Argus II

Company hack/runabout

G-AIYX – Piper Cub J-3

Registered to B.K.S. Flying Group


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