Air Holdings

Air Holdings Vanguard

Operated from Jan 1968 to Nov 1974

Main Base – Stansted

Founders/Directors – Subsidiary of British and Commonwealth Holdings

During the 1960s, Air Holdings Ltd had become a veritable leviathan within British aviation, being the holding company for a considerable number of airlines and travel companies. However, it was its acquisition of BAF and ATEL which would eventually secure its place within the annuals of Southend Airport’s history and in many respects, this is the only association many often make between SEN and this company. However, during the early 70’s, Air Holdings had become a shadow of its former self, having earlier split from what in 1968 was to become BUA Holdings. Nevertheless, it still retained many assets which included BAF (until Oct 1971) and ATEL and in 1969, it procured a small fleet of aircraft that was primarily made up of Vickers Vanguards, these having been procured from Air Canada in exchange for a number of Lockheed TriStars.

Most of these Vanguards were subsequently delivered to Cambridge or Stansted where they would be put into open storage until such time that they could be leased or sold on. Indeed when this occurred, the Vanguard in question would more than often fly to Southend where she would be overhauled and be given the requisite pre-delivery checks and painting if so required. However, a small number of the remaining aircraft were later put into service on behalf of this holding company with one of them G-AYLD being painted up at SEN in the early two tone blue BAF livery with Air Holdings Ltd titles.This particular Vanguard was ferried to the airport at the beginning of 1971 where she was converted into a ‘Merchantman’ finally taking to the air again on a test flight on July 19th.

The idea was to operate cargo flights with this aircraft and several demonstration flights were made to Dusseldorf, Ostend and Lubeck although sadly, no work was offered to the company. Needless to say, by January 1972 the Vanguard had been removed from service and both this aircraft and two others (G-AYFN and G-AZNG)) would over the coming year, pass through Southend for pre-delivery checks, refinishing and delivery to their new lessor – Air Trader of Sweden. While the airline itself may have collapsed, Air Holdings (Sales) Ltd would continue to use SEN for engineering purposes and the temporary storage of its aircraft. In fact by the end of 1973, almost all of the company’s remaining Vanguards had passed through ATEL’s doors.

In 1973, SEN would also become instrumental in an attempt by Air Holdings to re-launch the Silver City brand, with a number of its Vanguards being prepared at the airport before departing for Stansted where they would operate freight services from although ultimately, this attempt was a failure too. The following year, Vanguard G-BAMK was seen at Southend during the summer, undergoing pre-delivery work before departing to France for Europe Aero Service. Meanwhile, having been leased for almost a year by Indonesian airline Merpati Nusantara, G-BAMX returned home to her owner at the end of 1972. The aircraft was later stored at Southend from June 1973 until September 1975 when she was finally broken up. However, the relationship with SEN would not end here and with the sale of ATEL to Aer Lingus and its subsequent relocation to their larger base at Stansted in 1976, Air Holdings quickly reopened the former ATEL hangars under the name of Britavia.


Vanguard G-BAMX


Air Holdings fleet from 1971 to 1974

Vickers Vanguard

G-AXNT – 3/69 to 3/73

Sold to Invicta International

G-AXOO – 4/69 to 3/73

Sold to Invicta International

G-AXOP – 5/69 to 3/73

Sold to Invicta International

G-AXOY – 7/69 to 3/73

Sold to Invicta International

G-AYFN – 8/69 to 10/73

Sold to Invicta International

G-AYLD – 6/69 to 11/73

Sold to Europe Aero Service as F-BUFT

G-AZNG – 11/69 to 11/74

Sold to Europe Aero Service as F-BVUY

G-AZRE – 3/72 to 3/73

Sold to Invicta International

G-AZUI – 4/72 to 2/74

Merpati Nusantara Airlines for spares use

G-BAFK – 8/72 to 7/74

Sold to Invicta International

G-BAMX – 2/72 to 9/75

WFU at SEN 6/73 – B/U by 9/75


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