Belfast G-HLFT

Short Belfast C.1

Conceived in 1959 to fulfil the RAF’s ‘ASR.371’ requirement, the Belfast would give the Royal Air Force its first truly strategic, heavy lift capability. Belfast G-OHCABeing larger than the competing Hercules, the Belfast could move a massive 38 tons of men and equipment compared to the meagre, 20 ton limit imposed on the C-130. However, despite being an excellent aircraft with few minor teething troubles, the RAF ordered only 10 airframes, all of which had a rather short operational life of only 8-10 years – the entire fleet finally being withdrawn in 1976. A year after their removal, TAC Heavylift purchased six of the ten aircraft with the intention of pressing a number of them back into service, carrying out-sized freight and cargo worldwide.

Eventually, five of these aircraft were flown to Southend where they stood for a while awaiting their Belfastsconversion into civilian aircraft. The picture to the right taken in August 1979 by Richard Vandervord, shows three of these Belfasts outside the former Aviation Traders hangar just after their arrival, awaiting civil modification. While four were eventually converted, G-BEPE was used solely as a test bed, after which she was finally WFU and put into storage on the Eastern Perimeter of Southend Airport, next to spares ship G-OHCA which never flew again after its initial arrival at SEN. They both languished there until they were finally B/U in Feb 1994. In 1982, the remaining aircraft were temporarily leased back to the RAF to fly supplies and equipment during the Falklands and again in 1990 during the Gulf War. However, their main remit was to carry oversized cargo any place, anywhere and at any time.

G-BFYU was eventually withdrawn from service at SEN during July 1992 and was eventually broken up there at Belfast G-BEPSthe end of June 2001. Meanwhile, the other two aircraft would remain flying for another decade with G-BEPS being WFU at SEN in April 2001 in the hope of eventually returning her to service or selling her on to another airline. However, with the demise of HeavyLift and its eventual absorption into Air Foyle during 2001, this aircraft having sat forlorn at SEN for more than 6 years would be slowly dismantled over the next couple of years. The last aircraft G-HLFT was to have a more favourable future and although the plane itself would be WFU at SEN during 10/02, it would finally find a buyer in the reformed, Australian airline, HeavyLift Cargo Airlines Pty Ltd, flying out in Jan 2003. To date the aircraft itself has not flown for several years and is currently stored at Cairns Airport. It is the only, complete, HeavyLift Belfast left in existence.

Hovertaxi’s video of Short Belfasts G-BEPS and G-HLFT at Southend

Click here to view


HeavyLift Belfast Fleet

XR362/G-BEPE – 3/79 to 2/94

WFU at SEN 10/84 – B/U 2/94

XR363/G-OHCA – 3/79 to 2/94

Never converted WFU 3/79 – B/U 2/94

XR365/G-HLFT – 3/79 to 9/02

WFU at SEN 10/02 – Currently stored in Cairns, Australia

XR367/G-BFYU – 3/79 to 6/01

WFU at SEN 6/92 – B/U 6/01

XR368/G-BEPS – 3/79 to 9/02

WFU at SEN 4/01 – B/U 10/08



Spares use only – Scrapped at Hucknall 7/79


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