Air Bridge Carriers

Operated from Nov 1972 to Sep 1992

Main Base – East Midlands

Founders/Directors – Associate of Field Aircraft Services

In November 1972, Field Aircraft Services decided to start their own cargo airline having been left with three, idle, Armstrong Whitworth Argosy freighters due to the collapse of Sagittair which had been using them prior to getting into financial difficulties. One aircraft was initially put to work hauling fresh flowers and produce between the Channel Airlines and East Midlands Airport, although the fleet was quickly expanded upon and by the late summer of 1973, the other two, former Sagittair Argosies had also joined the fleet. Other work invariably consisted of charter flights which would see the Argosies transporting a wide range of loads from livestock to oil drilling equipment around the country and to the continent, while operations were also carried out for other companies such as Alidair, BAC and Rolls Royce.

It was in 1973 that Air Bridge Carriers began its relationship with SEN, with an Argosy (usually G-APWW) flying a number of ad-hoc, freight charters from the airport. February 1975 would see an ABC Vanguard arriving from Cologne with a load of Ford spares, while later in the year, BAF would be called upon to carry out work on behalf of this overworked airline. Otherwise, this cargo shifting concern would go on to become one of the UK’s biggest operators of Vickers Vanguard Merchantmen and Lockheed Electras. Long term SEN resident, Vickers Viscount G-BBDK would also join this fleet about 10 years before coming to Southend and somewhat ironically, considering her ‘Freightmaster’ role with BAF, she was the only aircraft on ABC’s books that could be configured to carry passengers.

From April 1983, some of the Vanguards would be transferred to Elan Air, a sister airline of ABC and as mentioned above, a small number of these Vanguards would on the odd rare occasion also pop into SEN. However, operations would for the most more increasingly revolve around the carriage of bloodstock and farm animals as far afield as Africa, while the aforementioned Elan would involve itself primarily with the movement of overnight freight and parcels for many of the larger courier companies, not to mention the Royal Mail. Other ABC flights would occasionally venture into SEN up until 1991, although these were usually operated by leased aircraft. By 1992, a reorganisation of the company came about and it was eventually relaunched in September as Hunting Cargo Airlines.

 

Air Bridge Carrier fleet from 1973 to 1988

(Only those aircraft that were likely to have been seen at SEN are listed)

Armstrong Whitworth Argosy

G-APRN – 6/73 to 4/82

DBR landing at Belfast – 17/4/82

G-APWW – 11/72 to 5/74

Sold to Brain and Brown Air Cargo as VH-BBA

G-AZHN – 8/73 to 5/77

WFU and B/U – 5/77

Vickers Vanguard

G-APEJ – 12/79 to 8/92

TFR to Elan Air – 4/83

G-APEK – 11/79 to ?/89

TFR to Elan Air – 4/83

G-APEM – 7/87 to 1/94

TFR to Elan Air – 7/87

G-APES – 11/76 to 8/92

TFR to Hunting Cargo

 

Do you have any other, interesting snippets of information about this airline’s SEN history or indeed, any pictures or paraphernalia that you would like to share? If so, then please contact us on saadinfomail@gmail.com

Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.