Carvair G-AOFW

Aviation Traders ATL.98 Carvair – c/n 12/10351

With BUAF/BAF from Apr 1965 to Dec 1983

Given Name – ‘Big John’

With the orders for Carvairs coming slowly but regularly, the decision was eventually taken to convert C-54 Foxtrot Whiskey and she was flown to Stansted from Southend on 23rd April 1963. At the time, ATEL were unsure who they were going to sell this aircraft to, although AVIACO and Alisud were making noises about purchases and thus, without any clear owner, the decision was initially taken to transform the Carvair into a pure freighter without a rear passenger area. Indeed, an AVIACO order would emerge less than a year later, although the contract demanded the conversion of two of their own C-54s along with the acceptance of four Bristol Freighters in lieu of the work that needed to be carried out. Needless to say, while the airline was waiting for its own aircraft, it would for the time being, lease G-AOFW which was subsequently fitted with the standard passenger cabin and would be used to make flights between Barcelona and Palma, departing for these warmer climes during April 1964.

Slightly more than 6 months would pass before Foxtrot Whiskey was back in the UK, where during the winter of 1964/65, she would undergo heavy maintenance at Stansted before being passed on to British United Air Ferries and would thus for the first time, be put into service on the car ferry routes while every now and then, she would also fly pure cargo services too. A landing incidentG-AOFW BUA would put her out of service for a short period during September when she landed long at Dublin and unceremoniously barged her way through a fence at the end of the runway, but luckily, the damage was minimal and she was quickly repaired. Otherwise, Carvair number 12 would continue to serve her owner faithfully on a mixture of the aforementioned services until the beginning of 1967, when BUAF decided to pull its ‘Deep Penetration’ routes citing the continuing decline in passenger numbers as the reason for their termination. As such a number of Carvairs would be withdrawn from service and during 1967, three aircraft were sent to Lydd (G-ANYB, G-AOFW and G-ARSD which would join them later in the year) although FW would be the only one of the trio to fly again. She remained in storage for more than 2 years, before being reactivated again in the spring of 1969 and entered service, resplendent in her new livery, with the newly reformed British Air Ferries.

Thankfully by this time, work was reasonably plentiful again and FW was initially kept busy on the Ostend and Rotterdam routes, not to mention a good amount of freight charters that would come her way. These latter operations ranged immensely in scope and FW would find herself transporting G-AOFW ST75goods for dictators, moving car racing teams and even carrying the odd rock star. In 1969, she would transport TV equipment to Libya on behalf of the newly installed Gaddafi regime, the crew having to somewhat ignominiously, spend a night sleeping in the Carvair under armed guard. With the Keegan takeover in 1971, FW was selected to fly ‘Mike’ Keegan’s son Rupert, his race cars, equipment and racing team to various events during the early ’70s. ‘Hawke Racing’ as it was known, became a familiar name on the Formula III and Formula Ford race circuits during this time. Then in 1975, FW would be booked for Status Quo’s European Tour, being adorned with a Star Truckin’ 75 logo just under the cockpit windows. However, it would all be downhill from here, not only for FW but for the entire Carvair fleet.

Having been removed from service and stored during at the end of 1976, she would eventually be reactivated just prior to the New Year where she would have the unenviable distinction of bringing almost 25 years of car ferry services from G-AOFW CF-EPVSouthend to a sad end on the 1st January 1977. With two Carvairs having already been converted for the pure freight carrying role, FW found herself with very little to do and by the spring, with its CoA due to expire, she was again removed from service and would never fly again. However, while most of the former BAF Carvairs had been summarily scrapped or sold abroad, G-AOFW would remain at SEN for another 6 years, becoming something of a familiar sight to the ever present and prowling aviation enthusiasts who never failed to be impressed each time they saw this aircraft. Needless to say, she continued to languish and deteriorate further and by 1979, she had been fitted with a replacement nose door from CF-EPV after her original had been whipped back and damaged in a stiff gale.

By the 1980s, certain individuals were beginning to discuss the possibility of preserving this aircraft and as part and parcel of this, her nose was subsequently painted and she was given a set of time expired engines. For a while, she was given pride of place outside BAF’s engineering facility at the rear of the airport. During the early ’80s, the aircraft was clearly visible from Aviation Way and while it never G-AOFW 1982became official, she was considered by some to be an extension of the HAM which was located on the opposite side of the road. As time went on, several people and associations showed an interest in the aircraft’s longevity, while several unsubstantiated rumours abounded too. Serious efforts were made by both BAF personnel and an ex-BAF captain to keep the aircraft at Southend as a memorial or a ‘gate guardian’, while the Southend Historical Aviation Society had displayed an interest in the aircraft as well. Rumours also abounded to the effect that the aircraft had been offered to Duxford but had been considered not ‘historically relevant’ enough to deserve inclusion within its collection, while some even suggested that the HAM might take it on, although by this time, the museum itself was already in terminal decline.

However, despite a number of almost desperate attempts to save the aircraft, some of which simply needed a little more time to come to fruition, theCarvair G-AOFW 2 somewhat unbelievable decision was finally taken to quickly dispose of the aircraft. On a brisk, but sunny day in December 1983, the scrap merchants arrived armed with an excavator and within a few hours, had reduced the only remaining, British example of this aircraft to nothing but a twisted pile of metal scrap. Why this decision was taken remains a mystery to this very day, but in the very act of scrapping this machine, it had deprived future generations of aviation enthusiasts and historians of a unique aircraft which had played a vital part in what can be considered as being one of aviation history’s most exciting and innovative times. A few, poignant relics remain of this aircraft, including a panel with the aircraft name on it. Today, they are kept at the Thameside Aviation Museum at Coalhouse Fort in East Tilbury, Essex.


History of Carvair G-AOFW

2/63 to 3/64

Aviation Traders

(Converted to ATL.98 Carvair)

4/64 to 11/64

Leased to Iberia/Aviaco as EC-WVD/EC-AVD

3/65 to 10/67

British United Air Ferries as G-AOFW

3/65 to 12/83

British Air Ferries


WFU at Southend 8/79 – B/U 12/83


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