A Personal History by Peter Clark


Two events that always stick in my mind happened before I left school. The first occurred in 1954 and the second in 1957. The first (and for the life of me I cannot find any other reference to this event and can only imagine that there were still very few people living in the Southend area at the time) was an event which took the form of a military exercise which was held at Southend Airport on the evening of 19th June 1954. At the time, I was a mad keen, 10 year old aircraft buff (we did not have anoraks then). I was born near Cuckoo Corner in 1944 and my parents lived there throughout the whole of the Second World War. Few people were allowed to stay though and most were evacuated because Southend was designated a military area, although being as my father was in the military, we were permitted to remain.

Southend Airport and ATEL’s hangars with 18 Halifaxes – 1949

Anyway, the exercise itself was carried out by 10 x Fairchild C-119 Packet (Flying Box Cars) of the US Air Force (517th TCW) but the troops were from the British Army (at this point, the RAF did not have a type suitable for this kind of operation). I believe at the time it was decided that the troops should experience an air drop assault and during the previous week, the army had built a mock village out of old wooden crates and other assorted bits and pieces on the north side of the airfield between the boundary fence by Rochford Golf Course and what is now the intersection of runways 06/24 & the old 15/33. The idea was to parachute a unit of troops together with their Jeeps and field guns onto the airfield after which they would attack and destroy the ‘village’ which they did with great gusto, lots of gunfire, flames and loud bangs.

The assault completed, they then hitched the guns to the Jeeps and headed off at great speed to Shoebury Garrison to do it all over again on yet another mock village and in doing so, completed the mission. Of course, since the end of WWII nothing of this magnitude had happened in this area and it was a most exciting spectacle watching the sky being filled with aircraft and parachutes. It was also the first time that I and many others had seen large lumps of metal being pushed out of the back end of an aircraft. But even to this day, I have never been able to fathom out why I have not seen anything mentioned about this event elsewhere. It wasn’t not long after this work began on the construction of two mixed soil and concrete, stabilized runways plus the associated ramp and taxiways. In fact, this was the first time that such a technique had been used on a British airfield.

As for the second event, well this took place on Friday 12th July 1957 and involved N7109C, a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation (Flight No TW861 c/n 4590 of TWA – Fleet name “Star of Granada” – Powered by 4 x Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone Engines). The aircraft was flying from Frankfurt to LAP (as Heathrow was then known ) and with one engine on fire & one engine shut down due to an excessively high oil temperature, the aircraft needed to land immediately hence the diversion into Southend. You could see the engine on fire far out to the east while it was still over the North Sea as it was a very clear evening and everyone at SEN was alerted to the aircraft’s emergency by the wail of the airport’s crash alarm. It was a frantic time but the duty crew who manned the fire tenders did a first class job of driving alongside the aircraft and spraying the burning engine with foam, saving both the airframe and all souls on board.

The following day TWA sent one of their flying repair stations – Fairchild C-82 Jet Packet N9701F (ET-T-12) – from Paris with two spare engines and all the necessary equipment that was required to get the Connie back in the air. As a somewhat interesting historical footnote, N9701F is now currently preserved in Hagerstown, Western Maryland, USA where she was built and was as such one of the very last C-82 Jet Packets to roll off of the production line. However later that summer, TWA presented the Southend Airport Duty Crew (SEN fire-fighters) with an award for the prompt and efficient way that they had fought the fire, saved the airframe from destruction and most importantly, preserved the lives of all those on board. For a number of years this award plaque was displayed in the duty crew office. It would be interesting to know where it is now…

Having spent most of my waking hours at the airfield when not at school, I initially started making tea for the loaders until I was taken on permanently as until such time, it was a case of doing anything to get aboard an aircraft and I learnt quickly that helping out was the quickest way of achieving my aim. I then began to assist the CAB loaders after school, at weekends and during holidays and it wasn’t long until the airframes were my oyster! Now you will probably find this very strange, but I had all sorts of tricks played on me by the loaders at the time as I was very young and inexperienced. One example in particular saw me being trapped inside a B170 after helping to load the aircraft and 20-30 minutes later, I found myself arriving in Calais! I should have learned my lesson but as a young chap, who would have given up the chance to sit behind the Captain and F/O in the Navigators position for a free round trip to Calais while at the same time being looked after by the ‘Car Marshall’ (or ‘stewards’ as they would now be called)?

The other trick the guys used to pull was to put my bike on an aircraft just before I was due to go home and on finding my bike gone, I would go to the crew room to ask if anyone had seen it (the first time thinking it may have been stolen). Then one of the guys would say he thought he had seen my bike being loaded on-board G-AMSA or Sugar Able (this was before the phonetic alphabet was changed to the standardised NATO version that we have today) which had just departed for Calais! The guys in the traffic office were all in on the wheeze and had already rung our Calais station manager Ron Bell, asking him to make sure that it was left on the aircraft for the return flight (Ron was a great guy who became a good friend later on). The round trip to Calais was scheduled for 1 hr 10 min so I didn’t have to wait too long to get it back. Needless to say, in that year my bike did a number of day trips to La Belle, France.

That said, they were a really nice bunch of guys who were all very kind and always looked out for me and made sure that I was safe, although strangely enough during all this time I never had a passport and even though Customs and Immigration knew about all the japes that were going on, everyone was very friendly and what a time we had at the airport during that period. It’s safe to say that my formative years at Southend were the best grounding in civil aviation that anyone could have ever wished for. It was magic. Also, back in those days there was no such thing as proper ‘security’ as everyone was trusted to do the right thing (‘Oh come back those days’) and as a consequence, there was not an Air Charter Avro York, Avro Tudor, Douglas Skymaster or Bristol B170 that I had not grown to know and love personally, especially those airframes that sat parked out on the northern boundary of the airfield.

Those aircraft that had reached the end of their useful service lives, eventually found their way to this area. This ‘facility’ of sorts was operated by Aviation Traders and those types operated by Air Charter and a number of other Southend based airlines were stored here prior to being cut up and melted down in the ATEL smelter. Some years earlier, many hundreds of RR Merlin engines and propellers had also taken this sorry route and would have been worth an absolute fortune today. In the early fifties, the last of the HP Halifax Bombers had met their fate there and one Avro Lincoln 694 Series B2 (G-ALPF) RAF Serial RE290 was finally broken up here too on the 10th November 1952. By 1959, there were very few of these scrap aircraft left bar a few Air Charter Avro York’s and Avro 4B Super Traders as at the time, they were being withdrawn from service.

Christmas Eve Wednesday 24th December 1958

A day not to conjure with: An exceptional Christmas for Southend Airport as we now knew that we were an important airport in the London Area.

During this festive period, a dense fog developed over large parts of the United Kingdom closing down every major airport in the country with the exception of Southend and Prestwick. On this particular day, Southend Airport handled 56 diversions before the ramp space became completely full. This event occurred not long after the fog had started to develop due to the dropping temperature and rising dew point and as the Sun started to go down, the last of the aircraft piled in . The Douglas C-47s/DC3’s were mostly parked on the grass while all the other aircraft were parked on the ramp, taxiways and along the entire length of runway 15/33. I had never seen so many aircraft packed into such a small space. These aircraft included:

Vickers Viscounts

EI-AFV, EI-AFY and EI-AJK of Aer Lingus

F-BGNN and F-BGNO of Air France



PH-VIB of K.L.M.

G-APDX of Eagle Aviation

Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakotas


PH-DAA of K.L.M.

G-ANAE of Silver City

G-AMYJ of Transair

Airspeed Ambassador

G-AMAA of B.E.A.

Lockheed Constellations

F-BAZM of Air France

PH-LDN of K.L.M.

Douglas DC-6As

G-APON of Eagle Aviation

G-APNO of Hunting Clan

Convair CV-440s

D-ACEX and D-ACIB of Lufthansa


Vickers Viking

G-AMNX of Eagle Aviation

De Havilland Heron

G-ANLM and G-ANLN of Jersey Airways

G-AOXL of Morton Air Services

and finally

De Havilland Dove

G-ANAN of Morton Air Services

Later on that Christmas Eve afternoon every aircraft was physically checked to make sure no one was left on board prior to the doors all being closed up for the night, but on one B.E.A Viscount three passengers were found, sleeping off their impromptu Christmas celebration which they had had on their flight from Europe (after all this time, I cannot remember where the aircraft had come from) but needless to say, they were very sheepish and thankfully, they managed to get onto the very last coach leaving for London. The staff were of course extremely stretched on that Christmas Eve, but everyone on duty and those that got called in nevertheless performed a superb job under very trying circumstances. In fact, it was lucky that Prestwick had also remained open to take all the heavy Trans-Atlantic diversions along with other aircraft Southend could not handle due to its runway limitations. The final part of the saga came on Boxing Day when the remaining aircraft departed being as most airlines did not fly on Christmas Day.

When I finally left school in 1959, I was employed by Col. Freddy Link who was at that time Station Manager for the Channel ‘Air Bridge’ a division of Air Charter. What a nice gentleman he was – an ex-Army Colonel. One day during the spring of this year, he approached me and said that he had heard that I was due to leave school that summer and “What would I like to do as a job?” I immediately said that I would like a job in aviation because of my fascination with aircraft and would like to work for CAB. Hiss next words were “I think you should get your mum and dad to come up one evening and have drink with me the airport cocktail bar.” So, a week later this happened and when they came home they told me that Mr. Link had offered me the job of Traffic Assistant while having told my parents that it was due to my enthusiasm for the job and the great interest I had in aviation. Quite naturally, I was over the Moon.

And thus began the first 15 years of my aviation career at Southend where I witnessed a number of company changes of titles & ownership which finally culminated with Mike Keegan’s TMAC. Looking back, I can safely say that I personally knew most of the airport staff during this period and enjoyed working with them immensely. In fact, even to this day I can still remember the names of most of the Captains and F/Os that flew for us. Anyway, I digress…. So let’s begin with my time at Air Charter and Aviation Traders, both of which were owned by Freddy Laker. While these companies are often treated as separate entities today, back in the late ’50s there really was no division between them. Despite working for CAB, whenever I wanted to prowl around the ATEL hangars to see what was being worked on, it never presented a problem and I found myself quickly being befriended by many of the engineers who quite naturally also understood my huge aviation interest.


L to R: Ken Holmes (Car Marshal) – Dan Neale (Traffic Officer) – Capt Allen  F/O – ??? – Mike De Angelis (Car Marshal) – Peter Clark (Traffic Officer) without a hat  & Gordon Murrison (Chief Car Marshal)”

Many of them were either former RAF or FAA. There was one guy I remember called Harry Miller who had been an airframe fitter at RAF Rochford during WWII. Indeed, how can you beat that! The engineers were all very kind and seemed to want to help me get on by giving me advice and telling me about their experiences in the military which of course, I enjoyed immensely. I learnt so much from them and much of what they taught me ended up being useful to me later on in my aviation career as they had made me aware of many engineering terms and had taught me how various pieces of equipment worked among other things. It wasn’t all chocolates and roses however and we went on to suffer two sad losses in 1959. On Tuesday 27 January, our Avro 688 Super Trader G-AGRG was lost at Brindisi. This Tudor had made an en route stop to refuel while on its way to Adelaide, Australia. On her departure from runway 32, cross winds caused RG to swerve left off the runway after a 550m ground run and the rough terrain then caused the left landing gear leg to be torn off. The plane came to rest at 820m past the runway threshold and burst into flames with the unfortunate lost of the lives of two crew members.

Then on Thursday 23 April our Avro Super Trader G-AGRH (Zephyr) C/N 1256 was lost in a crash in Turkey on an M.o.S missile charter to Adelaide. The Super Trader departed Ankara for a flight to Bahrain and at 08:14 the aircraft passed Gemerek at FL115 and then Elazig at 08:59 (at FL135). The last position report received was when the Tudor was overhead Mus at 09:26, after which nothing more was heard. Tragically, the aircraft had crashed and it took six days before the aircraft was found scattered upon the face of Suphan Mountain by an RAF Hastings. An RAF mountain rescue team was then dispatched from RAF Akrotiri, but on reaching the site, they quickly realised that all 12 souls on board had perished including a Britannia slip crew that was being positioned to Aden to pick up an Air Charter Britannia for its return trip to the UK. As you can probably imagine, this was a very sad time for everyone who worked for Air Charter and Aviation Traders especially as ATEL had supplied the two ground engineers that always flew on these flights to Australia to rectify any snags that may occur on route.

Anyway, I’ve got a little ahead of myself now, so permit me if you will to rewind a year or two back to the 1957-58 period when Air Charter held a Ministry of Supply contract to fly British servicemen to and from RAF Nicosia, Cyprus via Malta from Southend airport in support of ongoing operations against the EOKA terrorists. These flights were operated on an almost nightly basis by the three Skymaster’s that ACL were then operating in full passenger configuration, namely Yankee Bravo, Foxtrot Whisky and X-Ray Kilo. The troops would initially be processed at RAF Hendon before being loaded onto military coaches which then saw them arriving at Southend in the evening. Departure times were always scheduled for late departures which occurred around 2200 hrs so that they would arrive at RAF Nicosia the following morning. The troops were all fully armed with live ammunition and were prepared to defend themselves as soon as they had left the airfield. As a result of this the Southend Airport terminal thronged with troops almost every evening…. a heady time to say the least! At the time, these operations were flown under the ‘Cyprair Contract’ and I can imagine that there were not many British soldiers who served in Cyprus at the time, that were not familiar with Southend Airport.

In fact, after the two Tudor tragedies it was decided that the Tudor fleet would be retired and replaced by our three Skymaster’s which had just completed the aforementioned Cyprair contract. As a result of this, the very last Tudor flight in the world would be performed by G-AHNL (Mistral) c/n 1345 which was operated by Captain Tommy Thomason who positioned the Aircraft from RAF Lyneham to Southend in November 1959 after a flight from Adelaide. The aircraft was then WFU at Southend where it was sadly scrapped along with the otherTudors that remained at the airport in 1960. In fact, I was given the job of collecting each ship’s paperwork after the aircraft’s arrival, a very sad task to say the least and I spent some time sitting in the captain’s left hand seat on the flight deck before finally returning to operations with the documents.

Otherwise, much of my job involved the completion of load and trim sheets for both the B170s and the C-54s/DC-4s. G-ANYB (Atalanta), G-AOFW (Jason), and G-AOXK (Golden Fleece) had been converted to cargo configuration and would later be joined by G-APNH (NH was never given a fleet name) which was later added straight to the fleet in cargo configuration to be used on the Ministry of Supply Woomera / Maralinga contract which we held at the time, The first C-54s to operate the Australian contract did so during the late summer of 1959. The east bound routing for the Skymasters consisted of the following sectors: Southend – Benghazi – Wadi Halfa – Aden – Karachi – Colombo – Cocus Islands – Perth – Adelaide with the opposite being undertaken during the return.

The round trip took approximately 14 days with a total time in the air of around 110 hours. Slip crews were not always used on this operation, but once every few weeks a flight would be routed even further east to Melbourne to pick up a number of Jindivik pilot-less aircraft drones which would then be transported back to Southend and on their arrival, they were trucked to RAE LLANBEDR test range on the west coast of Wales. These Jindiviks were produced by the Australian Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) at Fisherman’s Bend in Victoria and were powered by the British Armstrong Siddeley Viper Mk8 & Mk11. They would go on to be a very successful drone during their years in M.o.S. service. It goes without saying that these M.o.S cargoes carried to and from Adelaide were highly sensitive (being as this took part during the Cold War) and as a consequence, we had a special bonded area in the ATEL flight shed where such cargoes were stored prior to shipment. While on disembarkation the whole operation was run by one of our senior traffic officers Alistair Kerr who had special M.o.S clearance when it came to supervising the movement of such equipment.

Sufficed to say, the M.o.S Contract to Australia wouldn’t last forever and it was then that ATEL turned its attention to the Carvair which started to appear in numbers with CAB around 1963. I was very much involved with the commencement of Carvair operations, having virtually lived with G-ANYB during its conversion, my office being only 200 yards from the ATL bellman hanger where this aircraft was being converted. At the time my boss was Capt. Bob Langley DFC, who was Chief Pilot of Channel Air Bridge and during YB’s trials, Bob flew as co-pilot to Don Cartlidge who was the ATL test pilot on this programme. However, being as Bob was my boss, I got to fly in every airframe that the company operated, on numerous occasions which also permitted me to make friends with many of the other pilots and from that point on, it was not too difficult for me to bag a ride. I’m sure that many aircrew will remember John Elvidge who ran the Operations Department and who organized all of the crew roistering and training, assisted by Norman Rawl who also trained the crews on the Link Trainer… an important piece of kit that had been invented way before modern simulators.

Needless to say that for the most, the initial Carvair conversion went swimmingly, but as with all great projects something always goes wrong and this proved to be the worst that could be dreamed up and it happened on June 23rd 1961. Whilst parked outside the ATEL hanger YANKEE BRAVO was damaged by a forklift driven by an ATEL employee, the vehicle having hit the aircraft forward of the port tail plane leading edge. It was a disaster for the ATL.98 programme as the tail section had practically been severed from the rear of the fuselage and you can probably imagine the anguish that this caused with YB being so close to making her first flight. We were all beside ourselves as so much had been put into the programme to enable it to fly in time for the launch of the deep penetration routes. A fix was needed ASAP and ATEL bit the bullet, once more saving the day and by October 8th the aircraft was able to position to Filton to continue its flight test assessment to a maximum T.O.W. of up to 73800 lbs.

One point of interest that I particularly recall was that of early production ATL-98 Carvair G-ASKG being dispatched on lease to an Italian operator called ALISUD who needed a Carvair to operate car ferry services between Naples and Palermo, Sicily. Alistair Kerr volunteered to go and train the staff and actually ended up running these operations that were at the time based in Naples. However, despite such support, unfortunately the Italians didn’t really possess the enthusiasm or have the funds for such a service and it only lasted for around 6 months. Mind you, during this time corporate shake ups were once more afoot at Southend and with Freddie Laker’s departure came several changes which would see Hunting Clan and Airwork merging to form what would become Britain’s largest independent – British United Airways.

In 1958 Air Charter took a bold step and ordered its first turbine powered aircraft – Bristol Britannia 307 G-ANCE. Air Charter took delivery of this aircraft on September 12th 1958 at SEN. On this occasion it was at time the largest aircraft to have ever operated into the airport and sat proudly for 24 hours on the end of R/W 33 next to Warner’s Bridge in its very colourful and handsome colour scheme. It was placed here so that everyone could see it as they passed The aircraft was then taken into the new ATEL flight shed for some further mods on its seating prior to operating its first M.o.S. military passenger charter which took place on October 1st 1958. On that day the Britannia operated a trooping flight from Stansted to Christmas Island in the Western Pacific with 124 passengers on board. Shortly after, it was joined by another Britannia – G-ANCD – but by this time the plans to form British United Airways were well under way and the aircraft was painted in the new B.U.A colour scheme instead (Not to everyone’s taste I can assure you). These two aircraft were then later joined by two Hunting Clan Britannia 317s G-APNA & G-APNB and all four of them were maintained for the rest of their B.U.A operational lives at Southend by ATEL. Up until 1968, BUA operated around 10 Britannia’s of various marks and in most cases, these were also looked after by ATEL.

However, not only would the airline undergo an overhaul, but the main hangars at Southend would too. In 1958 it was decided that if the company was going to continue maintaining the ACL & CAB fleets and offer third party maintenance facilities to other operators, then a new and even larger hangar needed to be built which at the time would cost the airline a considerable amount of money. But the decision was taken and the biggest building in Southend at the time was started. It was built in two halves and when finished, would be able to accommodate a maximum of four Britannia’s. The western half of the hanger was started in 1958 and by Christmas that year all the steel form work had been completed. By early 1959, cladding commenced and by mid-1960 this work was complete,

The eastern end was a more complicated task being as it had to be built around the ATEL Bellman hanger in which Air Charter’s C-54 Yankee Bravo was being converted as the lead ship in the ATL.98 Carvair programme. So, the Bellman could not be dismantled until the conversion had been completed and once Yankee Bravo’s airframe was back on its undercarriage, the Bellman could be taken down, Taking into consideration the complications of the conversion work and the building of the flight shed everything seemed to go extremely well with everyone pulling their weight and in some cases made light work of tasks which would have likely been considered nigh on impossible elsewhere. It’s nice to think that aircraft and aeronautical engineering always seem to bring out the best in people, well that is what I have always found to be the case during my long career.

The picture above although  poor quality, was taken at Southend in 1960 with me standing on the port nose door of B170 G-ANVR. This was a publicity photograph for the BP magazine as at the time, BP supplied all our fuel via the Southend Corporation bowsers.”

When the formation of BUA eventually occurred in July 1960, the two former Hunting Clan DC-6As G-APNO and G-APNP (Two of the last DC-6s ever built by Douglas) that were based at Heathrow (LAP) were then transferred to Southend where they would be maintained by ATEL. Operations during this time saw them flying the AFRICARGO Service during the 1962 and 1963 period and during this time, transport figures increased significantly by twenty six percent. As a result, BUA leased another DC-6A/B G-ARXZ (c/n 45326) from Canadian Pacific Airlines from March 1962 through to September 1964; this aircraft also being based and maintained by ATEL at Southend. I used to dispatch the DC-6s to London Airport twice a week when working the late shift from where they would operate the AFRICARGO service to Jan Smuts’, Johannesburg (as it was then called). The routing was normally London (LHR) – Benina -Khartoum -Nairobi – Salisbury – Johannesburg and during this time, the London Airport Station was managed by Vic Attwood, formerly of Hunting Clan and who later went on to work with British Caledonian.

These AFRICARGO services always departed to LAP (Heathrow) late in the evening and engine runs were normally undertaken by an ATEL inspector prior to the crew arriving to position the aircraft to LAP. A number of these inspections would be carried out by ATEL inspector Peter Brown who has been the chief engineer of SALLY B for the last 30 years. This is the only B-17 still flying in Europe and is currently based at DUXFORD and knowing about my interest in aviation, he would often call me into ops and say he was just about to give the DC-6 its engine run and would I like to come and sit in the right hand seat. Of course, such a request was like offering manna to a starving man… simply because the Pratt & Whitney 2800 was a powerful and sweet sounding engine that would quite literally sing to you! The DC-6 was of course well chocked up and the brakes set before the throttles were advanced, whereupon the nose of the airframe would descend as the nose gear bowed down in acknowledgement of the sheer power and the roar of the four PW 2800s which was absolutely sublime. One more great thing about the DC-6 was that it was fitted with an ignition analyser which would allow the engineer to check if any of the engines had a duff spark plug. If so the they could go straight to the cylinder in question and replace the plug with a serviceable one, a luxury that the DC-4/C-54/Carvair did not have.

During 1960, I was permitted to fly on a number of crew training flights and one flight…or should I say a series of flights still stick in my mind. On this particular day, our beautiful DC-6A G-APNP that was essentially gifted to us by the merger with Hunting Clan did 19 landings, take offs and touch & go’s at Stansted with Capt Freddy Underhill as training captain and pilot in command. We had initially departed from Southend and these training flights seemed to take all day, but it goes without saying that not one minute went by where I did not enjoy the roar of the PW 2800s which in essence, made the entire episode worthwhile. Indeed, what a great Douglas aircraft the DC-6 was. Sadly this wonderful airframe was later lost during the war in Biafra.

However prior to her loss, she would spend much of the ’60s with B.U.A before being passed on to another Air Holdings company – Air Ferry based at Manston. Then in January 1969, she was sold to Swiss operator Balair as HB-IBT together with sister ship G-APNO which became HB-IBS. They were then quickly repainted in a Red Cross colour scheme before being dispatched to Cotonou via Marseilles and Niamey, arriving at their destination on the afternoon of January 30th 1969 from where they would go on to operate a considerable number of relief flights. Night flights saw these DC-6s carrying food and supplies to the airstrip at Uli in Biafra, but on the night of May 6th 1969 G-APNP now HB-IBT which was carrying a full load of dried fish crashed at 2152 hrs, just 6 miles north of Uli while turning onto final approach to land after a flight from Cotonou, with the sad loss of all four crew members.

However sister ship G-APNO (HB-IBS) would thankfully survive her African escapades and in later years she operated under the guise of C-GIBS with Conair, a Canadian company based in Western Canada or more specifically at Abbotsford, British Columbia where she was put to work as fire fighting tanker No.51 until her certificate of registration was withdrawn on September 30th 2013. This withdrawal then saw her being stricken from the Canadian register. I have no idea as to her whereabouts today but I am assuming that she is still at Abbotsford….


On October the 29th 1960, an accident occurred at Southend which involved Falcon Airways Hermes G-ALDC. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt, although lessons would be learnt from this incident and as such this would lead to greater notice being taken of the effects of braking of an aircraft in either icing conditions or in this instance, water that was laying on the surface of the runway which would subsequently come to be known as ‘aquaplaning’. Aquaplaning occurs when wheels simply slide across the top of a thin layer of water and thus the aircraft cannot be stopped by normal braking. Of course, normal brakes were applied here but the four engined Hermes airliner crashed off the end of the runway and ploughed through a fence, finishing up with its nose on the Southend to London railway line.

None of the 71 passengers or 5 crew suffered more than shock or minor injuries and it is believed that this happened because the passenger seats faced backwards (due to the aircraft previously being used for trooping flights and as such, the military required the seats to be rear facing). The aircraft was returning holiday makers from two weeks in Majorca and later one of the passengers said that the only effects she felt was being forced back into her seat after a harder bump than usual on touchdown. When the aircraft came to a halt the tail section was only a few feet away from the railway overhead power cables. Rescue workers were rushed into action and the five passengers taken to hospital were released after treatment. Two crew members were also hospitalised but their condition was not serious. A railway crash tender took over two hours to remove the fuselage from the railway tracks. Both lines were blocked and all train services suspended while other large aircraft due to land at Southend were diverted to Stansted.

Lets now move forward to 1962 when the new car ferry unit was built and then housed all of the Channel Air Bridge offices including the ‘Ferry Grill’ which was a canteen for all the staff to use, but was nevertheless very up market for its time. The food was excellent and their salads and cooked meals were to die for. We also held a great number of very happy dances and parties there over the years. Unfortunately, the Car Ferry Unit was later misnomered as ‘Viscount House’ by someone who clearly had no interest in our aviation history and just thought it would be a good name because BAF by that time were operating a large fleet of Viscounts.

The building of the car ferry unit was just prior to the introduction of the ATL98 Carvair and from the early days of the CAB car ferry operations there were two organizations based here that always tried to help and assist their members and others on request. They were the RAC & the AA and both maintained offices with a check in desk in the main terminal. Although things were pretty relaxed in those days, one rule which was strictly enforced was that all vehicles were only permitted to have only half a tank of fuel if they were to travel on a car ferry aircraft being as at the time, they were all unpressurised and because fuel expands with altitude, you did not want a fuel spill in the cargo hold especially as in those days smoking was permitted in the passenger compartment. Also, in those days before the advent of the E.U there was much more in the way of paperwork to be completed prior to departure none more so than the documentation for the temporary export and then the re-import of the owner’s car on once back in the UK. The paperwork required to take a car abroad in the later 1950s and early 1960s was as follows:-

Vehicle Registration book.

Current British Driving Licence

International Motor Insurance Card (Green Card)

British Customs Form 29(c) (Required by U.K. Customs)

By this time, we were operating three Carvairs, Yankee Bravo, Sierra Delta and our unfortunate Sierra Fox which was very sadly lost at Rotterdam during a snow storm on the 28th December 1962 in which the Captain John Tootill lost his life, although fortunately both the F/O Ron Riches and Stewardess Cathy Wood survived this accident. The following year, both Delta Charlie & Hotel Zulu would join the fleet, all new, bright and shiny airframes and we were all very proud of the way that their presence put Southend onto the aviation map at the time. In fact. ATEL did a great job of polishing them up prior to each delivery and our aircraft even gave the American Airlines fleet finished in its shiny aluminium a run for their money.

On top of my day job, I sometimes got called out in the middle of the night, especially during the winter. As a member of the operations staff who lived the closest to the airport, I was the obvious choice to be called upon. At the time we were the handling agents for B.E.A and all the other operators that they were responsible for at LAP (London Airport was open 24 hours in those days). I would occasionally be awoken by a taxi driver banging on my front door only to then hear a shed load of Viscount’s holding over the Southend NDB awaiting their turn to land due to LAP, LGW and STN all being clamped out with fog. BEA, KLM, Air France, MEA, Lufthansa and SABENA just to name but a few, were all regular diversions to SEN although admittedly, such nights made for very exciting times.

After the Christmas Eve diversions of 1958 that I mentioned above, B.E.A decided that over the winter period (Oct-Mar) they would base an engineer, aircraft tug, steps, tow bars and 2 x GPU’s at Southend. They also had a cream coloured hut containing spares, wheels, fluids and a rest room built next to the control tower. The whole shooting match was run by an engineer from LAP who was quite appropriately called Tug Wilson and at last we finally had some Viscount engineering backup when diversions occurred as prior to 1960, there were no Viscounts based at Southend. That said, this type did finally come to be based here when Tradair took delivery of two Vickers Viscount 707s which they had purchased from Aer Lingus. Mind you, diversions did seem to happen on a very regular basis during those winters of the early 1960s as at the time, there was no such thing as landing at LAP in 300m or even 600m of viz or indeed at any other UK airport.

While diversions may have brought about the occasional bout of frenetic activity during the winter, those heady summer days at SEN saw the airport becoming a never ending hive of activity. Between the hours of 0700 and 2300, CAB/ACL were operating up to 120 flights a day with 8 x Mk32 B170, 1 x Mk 31 B170, 3-4 Carvairs and 2 x DC-6As. So from dawn to dusk we saw a lot of action, although I always found it amazing how those last inbound flights always managed to make it back just before the much loved Flare Path club bar closed for the night. Then of course, there was the Channel Airways operation which was building up in the early 1960s with a large fleet of DC-3s, Vikings, B170s and Doves which was also highly utilized and added considerably to the number of flights above. Later in 1962, Channel purchased Douglas DC-4 G-ARYY from Riddle Airlines in Florida and it was fitted out with 88 seats which must have been the highest density passenger cabin to have ever been fitted to a Skymaster anywhere in the world.

Then of course, we had Tradair which was formed on November 22nd 1957 and in early 1958 the airline obtained two Vickers Vikings from Airwork. The fleet was expanded further when in July 1958 they purchased three of the Queen’s Flight Vickers Vikings, G-APOO ‘’Mercia’’ G-APOP ‘’Anglia’’ G-APOR ‘’Wessex’’. One of the unusual things about these three Vikings was that the undercarriage legs were all chrome plated in an attempt to keep them oil free when in use by The Royal Family. As already mentioned, in 1960 Tradair took delivery of two Vickers Viscount 707s from Aer Lingus G-APZB & G-APZC and for the next couple of years things went quite well for Tradair. But by the end of 1962 the airline’s debts were running at nearly £200,000 and quite naturally, this could not be sustained and as such, that was the end of this airline.

Both Viscount 707s had interesting histories however. G-APZB was purchased from Aer Lingus on 01/02/60 and only operated until 21/11/62 before being sold to Starways of Liverpool where she operated from 29/11/62 to 22/5/64. This aircraft would then go to Aviation Overhauls from 25/6/64 to 5/11/64 before finally returning to Southend and to Channel Airways who operated the aircraft from 17/11/64 until it was scrapped on the 26/2/70. G-APZC on the other hand, remained at Southend and was later transferred to Channel after the collapse of Tradair although this aircraft would later be scrapped at SEN too. When Tradair ceased operating in December 1962 they became a wholly owned subsidiary of Channel Airways and the remaining Tradair fleet was repainted in the Channel Airways livery including the Viscounts, making them the first Channel Airways turboprop airliners.

Overseas Aviation (CI) was another operator which also had a highly visible presence at Southend during end of the ’50s and early ’60s. Overseas first started to operate from Southend with a fleet of Vikings, but in early 1959, they started to take delivery of the first of a fleet of nine Canadair Argonaut’s which had been purchased from B.O.A.C and which certainly knocked the number of airframes based at Southend up. During those 1959-60 summer mornings, Overseas engineers would start engine runs around 0630 prior to departure. I remember one morning when I was on the early shift in operations, they started doing engine runs on 6 aircraft simultaneously for multiple departures and the sound of 24 Merlins was something not to be missed! Even today, it makes me smile when I think of all the whingers we now have living around the area and what they would have made of these multiple run-ups made by these very noisy piston engined aircraft that we operated around the clock.

One interesting airframe that Overseas operated at that time was Hotel Kilo. On February 1st 1952, the B.O.A.C Argonaut Atalanta G-ALHK transported Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to Kenya to begin a Commonwealth tour. Some days later on February 6th, it was Atalanta G-ALHK which once again returned the newly acceded Queen Elizabeth II to England upon the death of her father King George VI. So it was an airframe with a lot of Royal History behind it, Strange that the Air Charter C-54 G-ANYB (Atalanta) was given the same fleet name.

Around 1967 I was offered a job in the BAF charter department as a charter executive which I gladly accepted. Shortly afterwards, we leased in EI-AOI – a Viscount 803 from Aer Lingus and two HS748s from Autair G-ATMI & G-ATMJ to supplement the B170 and Carvair fleets. Both of these HS748s had earlier been flown by Channel Airways. The Southend to Ostend route was at the time, the most heavily trafficked passenger sector on the network as at the time most travel companies used to coach passengers from Ostend to their final destinations on the South Coast of Europe. At the time the number of flights seemed unbelievable but all passengers behaved in the way you would like it to happen now. By 1962, passenger numbers were running at around 300,000 a year, One misconception which is printed in many publications was that Channel Air Bridge passed aircraft over to SABENA and that was why several CAB B170 Mk32s came to wear the SABENA colour scheme. Three airframes carried this livery over the years G-AOUV, G-APAV, G-APAU as part of a pooling agreement and SABENA did not put up any objections to this operation which meant that the aircraft would always crewed by Southend based Channel Air Bridge crews and as such, they never left the UK register.

The Flare Path Club – Southend Municipal Airport

Not too many people outside of the airport community really knew too much about the Flare Path Club as you had to work on the airport to be a member. The club was situated where the Holiday Inn now stands – just behind the old greasy spoon (very popular with spotters of the day). This club was run by a elderly couple called Stan and Ann who were the club’s stewards and ran a very tight ship. I believe Stan was ex-British Army hence the tight ship, but they were both very kind and always looked after their boys. At the time, this was the only licensed premises on the airport apart from the cocktail bar and the restaurant in the main terminal. The nice thing about the club was that everyone on the airport used it, from senior management down to the aircraft cleaners, not to mention all the stewardesses from the various operators. You would even find captains having a pint with one the engineers who had fixed a snag on his aircraft earlier and was discussing what needed to be done to make the aircraft serviceable. There were guys from the control tower talking with guys from special branch and customs, ops and traffic officers chatting with air crews and engineers on many subjects as long as they had something to do with aviation, beer or women…

The Cherry Tree Pub In Stambridge.

There was yet another watering hole that was frequented by a lot of airport staff members and that was the Cherry Tree pub in Stambridge which is just over 1 mile from the threshold of runway 24. This pub was over flown by every aircraft landing on this runway. This pub was run by Wally Hicks and his wife Joy. Wally was very keen on aviation, but his main interest was fairground steam engines of which he had several. Wally became a great friend to us all and especially Pete Treadaway who at the time was a F/O on our DC-6 fleet. Pete was one of those great character at Southend who everybody loved. He was so genuine and one of the best pilots I have ever flown with. He had AVGAS both 100 & 115/145 in his blood. From the time I started working for Air Charter/CAB we went on to have some really jolly evenings there over the following years.

The Cock Inn, Hall Road, Rochford

This was a pub that had developed historical connections to the airfield as RAF Rochford during WW2. Although you’d never believe it now, during the latter part of the war the snug bar on the right hand side of the pub when facing it from the road had carved into its wooden top all the squadrons that had been based at Rochford namely :- No. 413 (Polish) Squadron, No. 313 (Czech) Squadron & No. 331 (Norwegian) Squadron. During that time, it was a very short trek across the fields to the Cock Inn and the pilots and squadron members all eventually made it to this watering hole and as such, the bar remained a very poignant reminder of their battle for freedom. But in the early 1970s, the pub changed hands and the counter was torn out and dumped by a company who clearly had no appreciation for what these guys did for us in those dark days of WWII and today, the place looks like a bit of a dump. It makes me feel so ashamed that some companies in this country do not seem to have any regard for those that have gone before and done so much.

During the late 1950s, I joined the Southend branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society which had been formed by members of the founding society who mostly worked in the technical and design offices of Aviation Traders, In 1966, it was the society’s centenary and I was to be named Vice Chairman. To celebrate the occasion, we organized a number of events such as an a open day and an air show which took place in May 1966, the publishing of a book titled ‘Aviation in Essex’ which sold for just two and sixpence (which is 12 ½ p in today’s money) and we also printed a calendar with aviation pictures from airfields around Essex. I was lucky enough to be asked to be the commentator for the air show mainly because of my interest and knowledge of both civil and military aviation fields.

Apart from the ATL.98 Carvair, ATEL had involved themselves in a number of interesting projects. The first major one was the building of 50 Bristol Freighter wing centre sections which were fitted from the 116th airframe to the 165th on this production line. The company was always on the lookout for new projects and in 1953 design work was started on a 28 seat airliner which was intended to be a replacement for the Dakota (This was very forward thinking at the time to say the least). The aircraft was named the ATL.90 Accountant and first flew on July 9th 1957 and was later displayed at the Farnborough Air Show in September that year. The aircraft continued its test flights, but sadly the company was now suffering with heavy financial difficulties and in January 1958 the whole project was abandoned. Efforts were made to persuade other manufactures to build the aircraft under licence, but unfortunately no one took up the challenge and the whole project died on the vine with many people being made redundant as a consequence. It was a very sad time at the airport for everyone. One final thought on this sad episode still amazes me and that is how a few years later, the Hawker Siddeley 748 arrived and looked very much like the Accountant so obviously ATEL had got the basic design right.

At this point, I feel that I should mention the various freight and forwarding companies that were based at SEN. It was in 1948 that customs facilities were set up at Southend, not long after flights to the Channel Islands and Ostend had been started by East Anglian Flying Services, who had increased their fleet to five D.H.89 Dragon Rapide’s and a single Miles Aerovan (G-AJKM). With the advent of permanent customs facilities, freight forwarders then started to establish offices at the airport. Around a year later LEP Transport/LEP Air opened the first freight forwarding office at Southend. It was run from the start by a really nice guy called Tommy Thomas and he remained there until he retired in the first quarter of the 1980s with the job then being taken over by my old colleague & boss Stan Burdett from LEP Chartering at Sunlight Wharf Upper Thames Street, London EC-4. Over the next few years, several more companies opened offices at the airport, mainly due to the vast amount of cargo (flowers, textiles, machinery, cigarettes, cars, etc) that was being imported and exported through SEN. The other freight forwarders based there at that time were:-

Watson & Skull Ltd

Atlas Air Ltd

Meadows Transport Ltd

Allport Ltd

We also had a number of large freight movements during this period. In those days my company Channel Air Bridge was flying nine Bristol 170 Freighters, so even they alone were moving vast amounts of cargo especially in the winter when the holiday market was at its lowest. In the 1960s, there were a number of bad dock strikes and again Southend Airport came to the rescue as it had done many times before. The first of the strikes I recall was in October 1959 when an unofficial walk out by workers at the British Oxygen plant that supplied the motor industry with supplies of both oxygen and acetylene to their factories took place. CAB were contacted by Vauxhall Motors at Luton, as they had decided that they would import both oxygen and acetylene bottles from France and needed to fly it in to alleviate any problems bringing it in through the docks at Dover so they wanted to charter some of our B170s to fly these bottles in.

However, one of the biggest events was a two and a half week dock strike at Tilbury. At this time the UK was importing large amounts of chilled beef and lamb from Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, so once the strike started the shipping lines decided to divert all the meat vessels to the Euro Port in Rotterdam. The nearest UK airport to Rotterdam by air was Southend, although being as this happened in the late summer, all the Southend based airframes were already very busy during the day. Yet despite this, a great push by our operations staff and aircrew saw our B170s and Carvairs operating all through the night, before freeing them up for their day time commitments on the car ferry services, while during the day these flights would be operated by non-SEN based airlines/aircraft such as Interocean Airways C-54s LX-IAL, LX-IOA, Seven Seas Airways of Luxembourg C-54s N30048, N5521V, Transair Sweden SE-CFD, SE-CFE and Fred Olsen of Norway C-46s LN-FOS, LN-FOP. Meanwhile, large numbers of assorted DC-3s and C-47s would also join in and in the end, this operation managed to successfully transport many thousands of tons of meat into the UK. In an attempt to give you an idea as to how extensive this operation was, there were sometimes as many as 50-60 meat trucks waiting at the airport from where they would then disperse the meat around the country.

The next big strike came in the mid-1960s. In 1959, Carreras merged with Rothmans of Pall Mall and moved to a new factory just up the A127 in Basildon, Essex. The official name of the company was Tobacco Exporters International but it was owned by British American Tobacco. The Basildon plant produced a number of well known brands to name just a few Rothmans, State Express 555, Craven A, Benson and Hedges and Consulate Menthol. During the strike of 1966, the company could not get their products to the docks as they were being blockaded, so it was again decided that the vessels would be diverted to the Rotterdam Euro Port where they would wait for the cargo to arrive by air at Rotterdam Zestienhoven Airport from Southend. To this end TEI chartered aircraft from BAF (B-170s and Carvairs), ACE Freighters (C-54 G-APEZ and 2 x Lockheed L749A Constellations G-ANUR & G-ASYF) along with numerous Dakota operators. Again many thousands of tons of cigarettes were transported during this operation and once more it was Southend that had come to the rescue.

Another Essex customer who made regular use of Southend based aircraft was Ford or more correctly, the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham and its Ford Tractor Division in Basildon. These flights used to happen on a regular basis during the 60s as the company had recently adopted the ‘just in time concept’ and were always playing catch-up with parts and spares. At that time, Dagenham was supplying engine blocks, gearboxes and transmission parts to the factories at Genk in Belgium, Cologne in Germany, Saarlouis near Saarbrucken in Germany and Valencia in Spain. So as you can see, there was always a requirement for freighter aircraft a few times every month.

Another big contract which BUAF/BAF held in the 1960s was the export of brand new cars that were coming off the UK production lines. The agreement was that whenever there was space on a flight going to either Calais, Ostend, Rotterdam, Basle, Geneva or Strasbourg, a car waiting for that destination which had already been delivered by car transporter from the factory, was collected from the car pound which we had established in the middle of the airfield (this was the same area where the Percival Prentices had been disposed of). The car or cars would then be loaded onto the next aircraft for that destination and this worked extremely well, especially in the winter when holiday traffic was at a minimum. The many makes that were transported consisted of Jaguar, MG, MGB, Aston Martin, Daimler, Sunbeam, Triumph, Land Rover, Austin Healey, Rover, Rolls Royce, Bentley & various other Roots group models, but to name but a few.

Again, another poor picture but this was what Channel Air Bridge was all about in the late ’50s and early ’60s. These DAF cars had been to the 1958 Motor Show at Earls Court in October 1958 and were being returned to the manufacture in the Netherlands via RTM, What is most interesting is that in the back ground is the western end of the new ATEL Flight Shed prior to it being clad. The gentleman in uniform behind the DAF at the foot of the ramp is Tom Burt,  one of our first officers whose prime interest was cars. So, he always wanted a closer look after doing his walk around the aircraft on his pre-flight check to make sure that nothing was missing.”

During this time BUAF/BAF also held two rather interesting M.o.D contracts. The first was to deliver Sunday newspaper from Southend to Dusseldorf & Hanover at 0300 and 0330 for the BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) based in Germany. At that time, commercial trucks were not allowed to use the roads on a Sunday, so they had to find a way round it and did so by employing passenger coaches which were permitted to travel. The bundles of news print were then loaded onto the passenger seats to be delivered both to British Army bases and RAF airfields all over Northern Germany. Most people in Southend didn’t even know that this went on, even though the aircraft were much nosier than they are now. Later as Sunday newspapers became bigger with the introduction of supplements etc, the aircraft type was changed to the larger Carvair which could carry a heavier payload. This entire operation was run by a company in London called Higgs Air Agency – a newspaper delivery organisation and freight forwarder who delivered the news print to Southend from Fleet Street.

As for the second contract, well this was much larger and involved both the delivery and repatriation of service personnel’s baggage and personal effects for the British Army of the Rhine. This undertaking was called the ‘MFO Contract‘ which stood for the Military Forwarding Organisation. At the time, there was not enough storage space available on the airport as there would be large amounts of cargo involved, so BUAF bought an ex-RAF T2 type hangar and had it erected on the north western boundary at the end of the taxiway which led down between the former Channel Airways and Tradair hangars. The way the system worked was that service personal who were being posted to West Germany were supplied with empty wooden packing cases which they would then pack with their belongings and a army truck would then pick them up and bring them to Southend.

Interesting photo this, as it shows the starboard wing of De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk 22A (s/n C1/0150) G-AOFE which was operated by Southend Municipal Flying Club between 18/05/58 & 25/01/61. It was then sold on to the Stapleford Flying Club. Behind this, with the dark fin is Vickers Viking G-AHPC that was bought from Hunting-Clan by Tradair in May 1960 and then sold on to Air Safaris a month later in June 1960.”

Once in the MFO warehouse, they would be sorted by destination weighed, palletized and then netted on to wooden euro pallets of 800 × 1,200mm (the B170 Mk32s could take around 5). As for the Carvair, once palletized they would then be trucked across the airport and offloaded into a designated area in front to the Car Ferry Unit ready to be loaded as and when space became available on the Ostend service. Once they had arrived in Ostend they were then loaded onto army trucks for delivery to bases all over West Germany and quite naturally, much the same thing would happen in reverse. The whole operation was controlled and organized by a gentleman named Malcolm Openshaw who managed this contract for nearly 6 years until the emergence of the Ro-Ro Ferries.

Between 1960 & 1970, there wasn’t much in the way of duty free shops at the various airports around the country, so the aircraft would instead carry a considerable stock of tax free goods such as spirits, cigarettes, perfume etc. However, on board they used to sell out quite quickly, so a plan was devised where on the return trip to Southend, the cabin crew would make a list of all items that needed replenishing and then gave it to the first officer who would call up movement control at Southend on the company frequency of 130.6 and past on the requirements for the next flight… As an example it went something like this:- “2000 BH, 1500 ROTHS, 2000 PLAYERS, 5 J WALKER, 8 COURVOISIER, 5 GORDON’S, 2 TWEED and 3 MAGIE.” This would then be passed on to the bonded store and when the aircraft arrived at SEN, one of the guys from the store would be there to meet the aircraft and restock the on board bar.

I will now move forward to the takeover of BAF by Mike Keegan (He was originally the K in B.K.S back in the mid-50s and early ’60s) who at the time owned Transmeridian Air Cargo based at Stansted which operated a fleet of Canadair CL-44D4s & the world’s only example of the CL-44O Guppy on world wide charter operations. I was at that time ‘Charter Executive’ for BAF and it fell to me to sell two of these airframes on the charter market. Easier said than done! The first airframe was G-AZIN and while it continued to be registered to Transmeridian Air Cargo it was operated for a short time under the BAF banner and was never registered to BAF contrary to what has been printed so many times before. It must be said that the CL-44 BAF escapade was a mistake on TDK’s part as he was advised against it by many, but Mike being Mike he went ahead anyway and it did cost a lot of money which could have been better used elsewhere. For my sins, I was given the job alongside a college named Norman Bamford who had joined BAF from Lloyd International after their closure the previous year.

Before TDK took over BAF I had been a Charter Executive in the Charter Department working alongside Barry Pawsey, until he was spirited away to STN after the takeover, along with Les Orr. I lived with India November G-AZIN from the time it was ferried into SEN for its conversion into a 174 seat pax aircraft. I was able to watch its progress on an almost daily basis as the ATEL flight shed was only about 100 yards from my office. I do have to say that the ATEL guys at SEN did a remarkably good job on the conversion and the resulting interior was roomy, light and finished to a high standard for the time. It went on to operated its first travel agent’s educational trip from Southend to Ostend on the 28/7/72 when it carried 170 pax in an attempt to aid its promotion onto the charter market and to this very day, this still stands as a record as far as the number of passenger carried out of Southend in one airframe is concerned.

Above is a photo of the aircraft at Ostend on its turn round after the first flight while the picture to the right is of the aircraft interior from roughly the over wing position facing to the rear. These pictures were also used to promote the aircraft to the travel industry and as many who are involved in this line of work well know, it was a very difficult exercise as at the time, more and more operators were taking jet deliveries being as everyone wanted to fly higher and faster, so this did not bode well for the project. However there were some successful flights performed in this configuration, amongst them a sub-service operation for Ariana from Kabul to various European destinations on their scheduled route network which lasted a number of weeks whilst their own aircraft was on a check 3. The biggest contract which did last around 6 to 8 weeks on and off was to fly Turkish gastarbeiter (Turkish guest workers) to Germany from both Istanbul and Ankara. Finally, we flew a number of round trips to and from Katowice for the 1972 Speedway World Cup although these were operated from STN.

As for the second airframe, well this was CL-44-D4-2 G-ATZH. This aircraft was converted to car ferry configuration although technically, it was a combi with passenger seating in the front part of the cabin and car or cargo space at the rear with a ‘High-G’ cargo net made of nylon and steel being fitted behind the pax compartment which was designed to stop the cargo forcing its way forward in the event of a crash landing. It was known in the industry as a ‘crash net’. While ZULU HOTEL did operate a number of flights on the Stansted-Ostend service it did not seem to appeal to the car ferry public who seemed to prefer the SEN-OST route. So unfortunately, this project alos died on the vine and both airframes were eventually returned to the T-MAC fleet at STN.

Later in 1977, T-MAC’s CL-44-D4-2 G-ATZH was sadly lost. On Friday 2nd September the aircraft was departing from Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport when the no. 4 engine failed shortly after take off. The prop was feathered, but a fire developed and the aircraft was seen to crash into the sea on fire, just 8 minutes after leaving the airport. The official findings were as follows :-PROBABLE CAUSE: “A loss of control following in-flight separation of the right-hand outboard wing section and the no.4 engine. These failures followed a no.4 engine failure, an internal engine fire and a fire in the aircraft fuel system eventually resulting in a massive external fire.” Sadly, all 4 crew members perished in this fatal accident and it was a bad time for all those at T-MAC and at ATEL as the aircraft had received both regular and major maintenance at Southend.

In the 1960s Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Southend were staffed with a real bunch of great characters, so to finish off, I’d just like to name those people that I can still remember after 50 years:

Anthony.P. Cusworth – Airport Commandant

Eric Riley – Senior Air Traffic Controller

Wally Wallace – Senior Air Traffic Controller

Fred Innal – ATC Controller

Roy Crook – ATC Controller

Dave Chavner – ATC Controller

Hillary Barber – ATC Controller

Chris Phelpps – ATC Controller

Dave Scoggens – ATC Controller

Chris Welk – ATC Controller

Dave Thompson – ATC Controller

Mick Abbot – ATC Controller

Roger Campbell – ATC Controller & later Airport Director

Mick Couson – ATC Controller

Steve Joel – ATC Controller


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