Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mk32E – c/n 13142

With Air Charter from Feb 1954 to Feb 1959

Given Name – ‘Voyager’

G-AMSA became the second Bristol Freighter to enter service with Air Charter (although she was initially flown on lease from Bristol) and went straight to Germany to assist Lima Papa with her rather frenetic schedule, taking up military serial number XH385 in the process. Much in the same way as AMLP, she would generally only return to the UK during 1954 for servicing or with cargo that was destined for other RAF bases. However, she would also be seen at bases abroad, turning up to such places as Malta, with a visit to RAF Luqa in late-August. By October of this year, she was back at Southend and joined the other Bristol 170s on the fledgling, cross-Channel ferry services that were at this time, undertaking proving flights.

The quiet winter at Southend ended with G-AMSA making the first, pre-season flight to Calais on the 1st of April. She would also fly two of the first six revenue trips on the following Monday, although G-ANVR would have the honour of making the inaugural flight. And thus, this was how G-AMSA would spend much of the rest of the summer of 1955, flying an ever increasing number of short hops across the water to France. Indeed, the following year’s proving flight were paying dividends and by the end of the summer, these aircraft and their crews were performing rather impressive turn around times of 12-15 minutes with full loads of cars and passengers.

However, ferrying would not be the only task that this aircraft would undertake and in May she would fly a number of newspaper flights both within the UK and to the near continent and as ferry services began to wind down in October, Sierra Alpha would then be transferred to cargo flights between Southend and Amsterdam, which she would also fly in tandem with another aircraft, often returning, loaded to the gills. The winter of 1955/56 would be a slightly busier one for SA as the German contract called on the Bristol fleet to make connecting flights between Southend and Lille in support of their continental operations.

G-AMSA landing at SEN

By March 1956, G-AMSA stood ready at Southend to begin yet another hectic season of ferry flights, although the odd freight flight to Amsterdam would also continue to be flown during this period. With Ostend and Calais now part of the ‘Air Bridge’ operation, as many as 6 and 35 trips per day respectively, would be made to these destinations with Sierra Alpha doing her bit alongside the other three, Bristol Freighters. With the return of Lima Papa in March, Air Charter now found itself with five aircraft and thus, other charters could be considered. It was at the beginning of July that SA was selected to operate one of these charters that would take her from Southend to Greenland via Stornoway and Keflavik in Iceland with a dismantled helicopter for a Danish prospecting team, returning to Southend two days later.

While another busy summer was almost at an end, another route was added to the schedule in October – that of Rotterdam. G-AMSA was one of three B170s chosen to fly this new route although the load was mostly made up of VIPs and dignitaries. Over the winter, the Mk31s were transferred to livestock duties which involved the transport of live cattle to France which would invariably continue into the spring of 1957. This period also saw Sierra Alpha making a number of freight flights to Zurich during February. With summer once more, quickly approaching, the fleet was once again prepared to service its three, heavily trafficked routes although G-AMSA would make another trip to Iceland, this time hauling cargo that was destined for North America, while in June, she was given the task of transporting race horses to Caen.

Then in July 1957, she was summarily removed from service along with G-AMLP. Their reduced lifting capacity compared to the newer Mk32E Superfreighters had not gone unnoticed by the management and in an effort to make these aircraft more cost efficient, both aircraft would be converted to Mk32 standard which included the lengthening of both the nose and the vertical stabiliser, plus a few other minor modifications. While G-AMLP would be modified by ATEL, Sierra Alpha would instead be dispatched to Bristol for conversion. By the end of June 1958, SA was back in the air and subsequently entered service to Calais on July 2nd although with a temporarily reduced load of two cars. She would continue to ply the three routes from Southend until late October, when once more, she would be engaged in cargo flights to Rotterdam only.

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

With thanks to Chris Garton for providing suggestions for edits to this page.


History of G-AMSA

4/52 to 8/55

The Bristol Aircraft Company

8/55 to 2/59

Air Charter Ltd

2/59 to 1/63

Channel Air Bridge Ltd

1/63 to 4/67

British United Air Ferries


WFU Lydd 5/65 and later B/U 4/67


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