Bristol 170 Frtr 21 G-AIFO

Bristol 170 Freighter Mk 21A – c/n 12775

With EAFS/Channel from Mar 1957 to Aug 1966

Another first of its type for Channel, arrived at Southend on the 31st March 1957, in the form of Bristol 170 Wayfarer G-AIFO. This aircraft had also been purchased from the same source as most of its Doves and as such, required no modification to its livery asides from the application of the airline’s own titling and logos, although she would undergo the requisite period of servicing and maintenance before taking to the air again. On the 21st of May 1957, she made her first test flight from Southend and two days later, she would undertake a training cum proving flight to Ostend to assess her suitability for this route, a flight that was deemed to be a resounding success. Her first revenue flight would come on the 25th, when she lifted 39 passengers on her first jaunt to Jersey, although by the end of the day, she had flown this route twice. Also, having solid, rough field landing gear, she was tested at Rochester on the last day of the month and was invariably considered suitable for this and other grass airfields.

While she may have been primarily configured to carry passengers, she would naturally make a multitude of flights as a freighter too and only a few days into the month of June, she was flying loads of fruit, vegetables and printed papers between Southend and Rotterdam with similar services continuing for the rest of the month. Indeed, the rest of the year would see Foxtrot Oscar making mostly mixed passenger/cargo trips to Rotterdam while passenger trips would operate between SEN and Ostend with the odd Channel Island trip being thrown in for good measure as and when required. However, with the winter approaching and the subsequent downturn in passenger numbers, Channel’s larger aircraft (including FO) found themselves being removed from service until the following spring.

By the beginning of April 1958, she was back in the air and almost immediately, found herself supplementing the smaller Doves on Channel’s coach-air service. The rest of April and much of May would see her hauling full loads of 50+ passengers to Le Tourquet, Ostend and Rotterdam, the latter of which would once again see her returning to Southend with cargo onboard. However, she would still venture into other airports across Europe and between April 17th and 19th, she took a trip to Scandinavia, dropping off a load of washing machinery and textiles in Gothenburg, before freighting a cargo of live mink from Oslo to Madrid 2 days later. Needless to say, her large lifting capacity would be put to good use whenever possible and by the 25th, she was back at Rotterdam, taking passengers out and hauling yet more freight back to Southend. However, at times, freight would be carted over to Rotterdam, such as on May 8th when she transported a load of fridges and on the 21st with radio equipment and parts.


In July of this year, she would also go on to fly the popular Manchester-Ostend route that was frequently patronised by yet more excited holiday makers and as such, this aircraft once more settled down to a summer of trips on this sector plus the regular Ostend/Rotterdam services from Southend. The oncoming winter months would see Foxtrot Oscar making more freight flights to less common destinations when on the 16th October, she lifted 3 tons of computer equipment from Southend to Berlin. The end of the season also brought with it a new route to Antwerp which AIFO helped the Doves to operate during December, although ultimately, this service was far from successful and it was eventually withdraw in the spring of 1959. Meanwhile, FO was rested during much of January and February.

The next two years would see a similar pattern emerging for this aircraft and as such, April and May would see FO taking passengers to the bulb fields of Holland via Rotterdam and as the summer once again approached, the old favourites of Ostend and more frequent trips to the Channel Islands would take place at weekends while the weekdays would involve flights mostly to Rotterdam and Ostend, although thanks to its excellent rough field performance, the odd feeder would also be flown from the grass runway of Rochester Airfield. Charter work was regularly undertaken too with a number of newspaper flights taking place during mid-June 1960 between Manchester and Belfast, while July 12th 1960 witnessed the hauling of more printed papers to the same destination, this time accompanied by Channel Viking G-AGRU.

These freight runs would continue into September, although FO would be called upon to transport electric motors. September 12th 1960 saw her lifting a plane engine to Toulouse while the 26th would also see her flying to Bremen with such a load. With the winter season again approaching, G-AIFO was due for an overhaul and was summarily sent to Heathrow on November 29th where this necessary work would be undertaken and as a consequence of this, she would not return to service until the following May. Her return in ’61 would see her catching the end of the bulb flights, making such a trip to Rotterdam on the 7th, again returning with cargo. However, a few days later, a Silver City charter would once again see her shifting a load of papers, this time between Blackpool and Belfast on the night of the 13th/14th May. Otherwise, she settled down to the regular cross-Channel flights until November when she was once again, retired for the winter.

A test flight on the 12th April 1962 saw her heralding in yet another season of hectic schedules and on the very same day, she was back at Rotterdam on a cargo run. In fact, the next three years would see her engaging in repeats of the pre-summer bulb runs, multiple Ostend, Rotterdam and Channel Island flights during the summer, with mid-July 1964 in particular, boasting an impressive 38 round trips to Ostend and a total of 2,680 passengers carried back and forth across the Channel by the two Bristol 170s. However, with more new equipment arriving at Channel, these two venerable aircraft were coming to the end of their effective service lives while also increasingly looking out of place amongst its more up to date fleet. Thus on October 18th 1964, G-AIFO was WFU after returning from a flight to Ostend. She was then moved to the rear of the airport where she sat for almost 2 years before finally being scrapped in August 1966.


History of G-AIFO

10/46 to 10/48

Ministry of Civil Aviation

10/48 to 5/49

Central African Airways as VR-YHZ

5/49 to 3/57

West African Airways as VR-NAA

3/57 to 8/66

EAFS/Channel Airways as G-AIFO


WFU at Southend 10/64 – B/U 8/66


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