Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mk32E – c/n 13078

With Air Charter from Feb 1953 to Feb 1959

Given Name – ‘Vanguard’

Lima Papa had the distinct honour of being Air Charter’s very first, brand new aircraft and as such, she was subsequently put straight into service on the Berlin routes during the ‘Mini Berlin Airlift’ alongside Air Charter’s Stansted based Yorks. It was in Germany that she would remain for the foreseeable future, only returning to Southend for checks and maintenance or to other airfields in the UK on RAF flights, where she would return damaged fighter airframes back to the UK for repair or salvage. By the spring of 1954 she was back at Southend (having been replaced in Germany by B170 G-ANMF) and with Laker’s plans for his new ‘Air Bridge’ service already well under way, she would become one of three aircraft chosen to trial this inaugural route. Between August and October of 1954, a good number of proving flights were made to Calais and while Lima Papa did get involved with these early services, much of the flying would actually be done by G-ANMF due other Air Charter commitments. However, these essential proving flights not only helped Laker and his team to perfect the unloading/loading process, but they were also instrumental in ironing out any major problems prior to the commencement of the ‘Air Bridge’ revenue operations that would begin in the summer of 1955.

By April 1955, four B170s stood ready for the busy, summer season ahead with G-AMLP being one of the aircraft that had been committed to this operation and while Lima Papa would go on to fly a number of these car ferry routes especially during peak times, she was chiefly retained to fly cargo being as the longer nosed Mk32 aircraft could accommodate three cars in contrast to the Mk31E which could only carry two. During August and September she was called upon to carry livestock and machinery to the Continent while flights were also undertaken for the Ministry of Defence. However before the year was out, Laker had decided to expand his car ferry services to Belgium and as a result, the ‘Air Bridge’ went on to operate the very first Southend to Ostend flight on October 17th 1955. The first revenue flight would take place six days later with G-AMLP hauling two cars to the Continent on this new route, although services would inevitably fall off quickly as they always did during the quieter winter months.

Nevertheless, LP would not sit idle and come November she was put back into service providing linking services for Air Charter’s ongoing German operations. However, by the spring of 1956 bookings were once more going through the roof and ACL’s aircraft were all being prepared for yet another busy summer season. Thankfully, Lima Papa returned from Germany at the beginning of April and was immediately put to work on the Calais and Ostend routes although she would only fly these services for several weeks before eventually being called upon to return to Germany. As a consequence of this, Air Charter temporarily leased another B170 (G-AINL) to replace her.

“Above is ACL/CAB Bristol 170 Freighter Mk-31 G-AMLP ‘’ VANGUARD’’ prior to conversion to a Mk-32 in 1958, loading a Vauxhall Wyvern & Ford Zephyr at SEN around 1957. Although stated elsewhere that this was not a posed shot, as far as I am concerned it is for three reasons. Firstly the correct parking for B170s at SEN would have seen the aircraft  facing the opposite direction. Secondly, the passengers were never taken to the aircraft until it was completely loaded. Lastly and for safety reasons, the passengers would have always approached the aircraft from the rear.” – Peter Clark

Eventually, another aircraft was dispatched to fulfil the terms of the German contract and Lima Papa finally returned to Southend in October, although quite naturally, she was immediately put back into service with two other B170s, this time flying cattle between Southend and Ostend. These operations would continue well into 1957 and as the spring approached, flowers and vegetables would also begin to fill the holds of these Bristol Freighters. However, Germany beckoned once more and by February 1957, LP would find herself once again heading for Continental climes, albeit for the final time. By July, she was back home and resumed car-ferry flights, although by this time it was becoming evident that ACL’s two Mk31E Freighters were not really suited to these services by virtue of their poor lifting capability when compared to the Mk32Es, so something had to be done.

Rather than replacing these aircraft, ACL’s sister company ATEL were given the task of converting its two Mk31Es into Mk32E aircraft. ATEL already had a huge amount of experience with the Bristol Freighter having previously manufactured vital parts for this aircraft and were thus well placed to carry out such major work. The conversion involved the fitting of an extended nose and cargo deck, a taller vertical stabiliser and a few other, minor modifications and by July 1958, both aircraft were ready to take to the air again. LP resumed services with the usual mixture of car ferry services outbound while returning with assorted cargo loads, the latter of which increased considerably as the year drew to a close.

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


History of G-AMLP

2/53 to 2/59

Air Charter Ltd

2/59 to 1/63

Channel Air Bridge

1/63 to 10/67

British United Air Ferries

10/67 to 11/70

British Air Ferries

11/70 to 5/71

Midland Air Cargo Ltd

5/71 to 3/77

Lambair Ltd as CF-QWJ


Crashed at Rankin Inlet, Canada 3/77


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