EAFS/Channel

channel

Operated at SEN from Jan 1947 to Feb 1972

Founder/Director – Squadron Leader ‘Jack’ Jones

Remembered with great fondness by those who were fortunate enough to work for EAFS/Channel Airways – both bosses and employees alike were generally considered to be more like a family than a corporate entity by many who worked around them. Founded and run by the charismatic Squadron Leader ‘Jack’ Jones, from time to time even he could be seen humping baggage on and off of the aircraft and was not averse to giving his staff a lift to work in inclement weather. Indeed the ‘war time spirit’ of ‘We’re all in it together’ and ‘Pitch in and help’ were at the time widely prevalent within this organisation, even if operations were at times somewhat chaotic and disorganised.

However as with most airlines, EAFS/Channel started from rather humble beginnings, flying single engined aircraft on pleasure trips from its first base located at Herne Bay in Kent. With the relaxing of war time regulations which restricted private flying, EAFS began Thames hopping flights between Rochester and Southend during 1946 and it wasn’t long after this that Sqn. Ldr. Jones took the decision to move operations lock, stock and barrel to Southend which resulted in East Anglian becoming the airport’s very first, post-war airline. Sufficed to say, it didn’t take long before larger equipment was added to the fleet and by 1950, EAFS had become a fully fledged airline with a number of routes to its name.

That said, tough times still lay ahead and with Government currency control regulations coming into effect during 1951, overseas travel dropped off considerably leaving many early, post war airlines (including EAFS) in trouble. Needless to say, ‘Jack’ Jones would not be beaten and decided instead to lay everybody off with the promise of rehiring them as soon as things picked up again, while most of the aircraft were put into ‘hibernation’. To keep the airline afloat, he went back to offering pleasure and local flights, the tickets for which could be bought from a booth that he had set up on Southend seafront manned by a young male employee. Meanwhile, Jones would personally drive the customers to and from the airport and fly the aircraft himself.

As 1952 dawned, the currency regulations were eased and business began to pick up again. The staff were rehired and the EAFS fleet was put back into service. As the I.T and ad-hoc charter markets began to grow, EAFS/Channel began to push the boundaries. Known for its penchant for taking on the ‘Big Boys’ of aviation, flying in and out of airfields that others wouldn’t touch, its pack ’em in tight, high density approach to airline travel and a willingness to fly when most other aircraft were grounded due to poor weather, Channel went from strength to strength during the late 50s and the first half of the 60s, although not without cost.

While it may have led the way where low cost, no frills flights were concerned long before the likes of Ryanair’s or easyJet’s directors were even born, several, serious accidents brought a certain amount of unwanted attention to Channel from the aviation authorities who no doubt on occasion saw this airline as something of a proverbial thorn in their side. Yet despite these incidents, Channel still maintained a good safety record when compared to other airlines of a similar size, especially when the sheer number of flights the airline was making was taken into consideration too. Needless to say, to keep fares low, overheads and the level of service were cut to the bone. Everything possible was done to keep the books balanced, from adopting the liveries of other airlines and thus saving on refinishing expenses to toilets that were often removed on shorter journeys, so that an extra seat or two could be crowbarred into position instead.

However during the mid-60s, the likes of B.E.A were breathing down Channel’s neck, appealing against almost every route that it had applied for, while a large number of other cheap, I.T and ad-hoc charter airlines including local rival BAF were cutting into Channel’s profits. However, what finally finished Channel off was its rather curious decision to buy a mixture of both ageing and difficult to maintain jets which resulted in the airline moving the bulk of its operations to Stansted. This of course, didn’t help the airline’s fortunes one bit and by 1970, Channel had begun its slide down the slope towards collapse. Operations from SEN were run at a reduced level with half of its Viscount fleet standing idle there, although the situation at Stansted would remain stable for the time being. Naturally, something had to give and in February 1972 the airline was finally forced to declare bankruptcy and subsequently went into administration the following month. Inevitably, the receivers were called in to salvage what they could and in the process, yet another pioneering British airline disappeared into the annuals of aviation history forever.

 

Channel Airways Liveries

The early ‘East Anglian Flying Service’ livery was about as basic as airline schemes came, this comprising of nothing more complicated than a painted company name on the nose or forward fuselage of its aircraft, irrespective of how the rest of the aircraft looked. Needless to say, in ongoing attempts to keep costs to a minimum, the general policy was to retain the former owner’s liveries while simply replacing all logos and branding with Channel’s own. The first, clearly identifiable livery came courtesy of West African Airways which thanks to a mass purchase of Doves and B170s from this company, ultimately resulted in just one aircraft having to be painted in these colours.

However in 1966, Channel acquired a large number of Vickers Viscounts from Continental Airlines in the U.S and thus the livery would be changed once again with all aircraft ending up in this grey, white, black and gold colour scheme with the addition of a single red stripe and quite naturally, the airline’s logos and branding. As a result of this, all of Channel’s new purchases came adorned in this livery which was retained until its demise. The only exception to this rule were Channel’s ex-BEA/Olympic Comets which true to form, retained the liveries of these companies for the short duration that they served with the airline.

 

1947-1960

Plain EAFS Logo Livery (Single engined types, Aerovan & Dragon Rapide)

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1955-1966

Green ‘West African Airways’ Cheat Line Livery (Dove , B170 & DC-4)

DC-4 G-ARRY

1966-1972

‘Continental’ Livery (Dove, Heron, Viscount, 1-11 & Trident)

Viscount G-AVIW

1970-1972

Modified ‘Olympic/BEA’ Livery (Comet)

Comet G-ARDI

 

A Comprehensive History of EAFS/Channel Airways…

Jan 1947

East Anglian Flying Services moves from Herne Bay to Southend Municipal Airport and starts operations on New Year’s Day

The original fleet consisted of three, single engine types:

G-ABKZ – D.H Puss Moth

G-ACVF – Airspeed Courier

G-AIGF – Auster J-1N

Jun 1947

E.A.F.S acquires its first, brand new commercial aircraft in the form of a Miles Aerovan

Dec 1947

The airline purchases four ex-RAF Dominies which are subsequently converted into Dragon Rapides

Jul 1948

A contract is signed with B.E.A to provide feeder services between Rochester and Southend

Apr 1949

B.E.A associate charter flights between Southend and Ostend begin

Scheduled flights to Jersey commence from Southend

The E.A.F.S fleet consisted of:

2 x D.H. Dragon Rapide

1 x Miles Aerovan

1 x Auster J-1

1 x D.H. Puss Moth

Jul 1949

E.A.F.S adds another single engine type to its inventory in the form of Percival Proctor G-AGYA

May 1950

A new ‘Associate Agreement’ permits E.A.F.S to fly between Southend and Jersey until September 1950

Mar 1951

Due to government imposed exchange controls, lack of demand for continental flights forces E.A.F.S to cut back its services to domestic and pleasure flights only

May 1951

Regular flights begin between Shoreham and Jersey

Summer 1951

Attempts are made to fly airborne neon advertising for Ekcovision, although disturbance to local TV reception quickly sees these flights being abandoned. Banner towing is also undertaken

May 1952

The Shoreham – Jersey service is expanded to Southend where all flights eventually begin and end

The Southend – Ostend service begins

Sep 1952

The first official and recorded use of the ‘Channel Airways’ name

Nov 1952

Route application submitted for Portsmouth – Paris flights with passengers and freight

Dec 1952

Total number of passengers for 1952 – 3,200 (2,800 scheduled and 400 charter)

Apr 1953

Approval is given for the Ipswich – Southend – Rochester – Shoreham – Jersey route which starts the same month

Approval is also given for the Portsmouth – Shoreham – Paris route

May 1953

Services begin between Southend and Le Bourget via Shoreham

Jun 1953

Ipswich – Southend – Calais route approved although not immediately taken up

Nov 1953

Approval is given for the Southend – Antwerp route, but this is not taken up by the airline

Jan 1954

E.A.F.S opens its second base at Ipswich

Apr 1954

E.A.F.S routes now include:

Ipswich – Southend – Ostend

Ipswich – Rochester – Southend – Brighton – Paris

Ipswich – Rochester – Southend – Shoreham – Jersey

Southend – Rochester – Shoreham – Jersey

May 1954

The fleet consists of:

4 x Dragon Rapide

2 x Proctors

2 x Tiger Moth

1 x Auster

Summer 1954 - Copy

Dec 1954

E.A.F.S carries more than 3,000 passengers in 1954

Mar 1955

Routes now include:

Ipswich – Southend – Rochester – Shoreham – Paris

Ipswich – Southend – Rochester – Shoreham – Channel Islands

Ipswich – Southend – Ostend

Ipswich – Southend – Le Touquet

Shoreham – Le Touquet

Portsmouth – Shoreham – Isle of Wight

Apr 1955

Another new type enters service – D.H. 104 Dove – G-ANVU

May 1955

A requested Portsmouth – Shoreham – Le Touquet service is approved

Jun 1955

Southend – Calais is added to the list of routes but is not flown

All aircraft now carry ‘Channel Airways’ titles

Jul 1955

The fleet includes:

3 x D.H.89 Dragon Rapide

3 x D.H.104 Dove

Oct 1955

All flying is suspended for the winter, no doubt as a partial result of the runway laying work that was taking place at Southend during the winter of 1955/56

Mar 1956

Having been stored over the winter, all aircraft receive thorough checks and are test flown

Jun 1956

The airline is awarded its first cargo contract flying newspapers nightly between Croydon and Dusseldorf

Summer 1956

Routes include:

Southend – Shoreham – Le Bourget

Southend – Ostend

Southend – Shoreham – Jersey – Guernsey

Southend – Ipswich (feeder)

Southend – Rochester (feeder)

Portsmouth – Jersey

Oct 1956

E.A.F.S begins passenger flights to Rotterdam from Southend on the same day as Air Charter’s ‘Air Bridge’ service. For the first time, flights continue throughout the winter

Nov 1956

The directors of E.A.F.S register the company ‘London-Rotterdam’ in an attempt to develop operations between Rotterdam and Southend. However, this idea remained a paper airline only and never took off

Dec 1956

Totals for the year are 2,663 flights with 16,641 pax carried

Mar 1957

Channel’s first Bristol Freighter arrives

May 1957

Channel begins services with its first Bristol 170 Freighter

Summer 1957

Discussions begin about emulating the success of Channel Air Bridge’s car-ferry services. Channel considers using both Bristol Freighters and Blackburn Beverleys on a number of continental routes. However, despite several serious proposals being looked at during the lifetime of the airline, nothing would ultimately come of these plans

Dec 1957

Almost 30,000 pax carried during 1957

Jan 1958

Channel’s first hull loss occurs on the 15th when Dove G-AOCE makes a forced landing on Dungeness Beach during her approach to Ferryfield. The plane is written off although thankfully, there were no serious injuries or fatalities. Fuel exhaustion due to fuel mismanagement is found to be the cause

Mar 1958

The first Vickers Viking arrives

Apr 1958

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Timetable for Rotterdam services 1958 (© Björn Larsson – timetableimages.com)

Apr 1958

The Southend – Le Touquet ‘Coach-Air’ service starts

Summer 1958 - Copy

Dec 1958

Channel carries just over 33,000 pax in 1958

Apr 1959

The fleet includes:

2 x Viking

2 x Dragon Rapide

2 x D.H. Dove

2 x Bristol 170

E.A.F.S/Channel applies for a route between Southend and Basle

Jul 1959

Viking G-AHPH suffers undercarriage failure while landing at Southend. See ‘Prangs’ for more details

Nov 1959

Application submitted for a Portsmouth – Guernsey/Jersey service

Dec 1959

Total number of pax carried for 1959 – just over 42,000

Feb 1960

The first Douglas DC-3 Dakota arrives

Dec 1960

Passenger numbers almost triple compared to the previous year with a total of 113,000 pax being carried

Apr 1961

Channel withdraws from Shoreham citing operational difficulties

May/Jun 1961

Channel opens two, long distance I.T charter routes to Strasbourg and Treviso. However, Tradair’s financial problems with similar routes deters Channel from expanding these services further and they are both subsequently pulled in October of the same year

July 1961

As many as 70 flights per week are being made on the Southend-Ostend route

Twice daily, weekday services to Jersey and Guernsey, although the Southend-Jersey route sees as many as 20 flights every weekend

Twice daily flights to Rotterdam from SEN and daily flights to Paris

Dec 1961

Totals for the year 1961 – 9,123 flights and 166,726 pax carried

Feb 1962

An order is placed with Aviation Traders for four Carvairs to be used on the Irish Sea routes. In anticipation of starting these services, one DC-4 is purchased for conversion, although this is later put to work as a high density passenger aircraft which primarily flies between Southend and Ostend

Mar 1962

Channel gets approval to fly routes between several Western and North-Western airports to Dublin and Cork.

Summer 1962 - Copy

May 1962

Channel suffers its first fatalities when Dakota G-AGZB makes a controlled flight into terrain on St Boniface Down, Isle of Wight in foggy conditions. Sadly, all but five of those on board lose their lives. This was the only time an E.A.F.S/Channel aircraft suffered the loss of both passengers and aircrew on a scheduled, charter or I.T flight

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Timetable for Summer 1962 (© Björn Larsson – timetableimages.com)

Jun 1962

Channel opens offices in Liverpool in anticipation of the start of Dublin services, but these routes are subsequently dropped when the Irish authorities begin obfuscating over the conditions of these flights after it becomes clear that Channel intends to challenge Aer Lingus on this route with Carvairs rather than smaller, Bristol 170s

Oct 1962

East Anglian Flying Services officially changes its name to Channel Airways (although the Channel name had been in use more or less since E.A.F.S’ inception)

Dec 1962

Channel Airways takes control of Tradair after it goes into administration and as a result gets its first turboprop aircraft in the shape of a Vickers 707 Viscount – G-APZC

Jan/Feb 1963

All aircraft remaining in service are officially transferred into the ownership of Channel Airways

Apr 1963

Services begin with a 700 series Vickers Viscount. Its very first turboprop service takes passengers to Luxembourg and back, after which it spends some considerable time trooping between Germany and the UK

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Timetable for Winter 1963 (© Björn Larsson – timetableimages.com)

Mar 1964

Channel contracted by Riviera Holidays and Tartan Arrow to carry their passengers on I.T routes

Apr 1964

Channel signs a deal with Hawker Siddeley for 4 x H.S 748 aircraft to replace its ageing DC-3 fleet

Apr 1965

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Timetable for 1965 (© Björn Larsson – timetableimages.com)

May 1965

The fleet is comprised of:

9 x Vickers 700 Viscount

7 x DC-3 Dakota

2 x Bristol 170 Mk21

2 x D.H Dove

1 x DC-4

1 x Autocrat

1 x Auster 5

Summer 1965 - Copy

Early-1966

Channel starts its own travel company in the form of Mediterranean Holidays

Apr 1966

The first of Channel’s 812 series Viscounts arrive from Continental in the US

May 1966

Channel takes out a 21 year lease on Ipswich Airport

Sep 1966

Channel places an order for its first, pure jet equipment – four BAC 1-11 400 series aircraft. The deal is worth around £5.5 million and includes options on a further two aircraft

Oct 1966

Channel Dove G-ANVU makes the final flight in and out of Rochester on the 14th. Channel cites the withdrawal of its DC-3s and its unsuitability for its newly purchased H.S.748s for the termination of operations

Mar 1967

Channel Airways becomes the official, UK sales agency for Italian aircraft company S.I.A.I and as such takes delivery of two, Marchetti demonstrators – G-AVEG and G-AVEH

May 1967

Two further BAC 1-11 400 series aircraft are ordered

A Vickers 812 Viscount crashes at Southend Airport, sadly claiming the lives of two people on the ground and seriously injuring one other (See ‘Prangs’ for more details)

Jun 1967

The first BAC 1-11 arrives at Southend

Summer 1967

The I.T charter network flown mostly by Viscounts notches up the following number of flights:

Southend-Basle – 17 flights per week

Southend-Milan – 11 services per week

Southend-Maastricht – 4 services per week

Jul 1967

Channel takes over a number of Hourmont Holiday routes from Cambrian/Treffield which are mostly flown by the remaining 700 series Viscounts. The 812 Viscounts would later take over during the 1968 season. These routes included:

Cardiff/Bristol-Ibiza/Palma

Cardiff/Bristol-Oporto

Cardiff/Bristol-Valencia

Cardiff/Bristol-Genoa

Aug 1967

Two Channel H.S.748s are damaged on the same day at Portsmouth. The first flying the sector Southend-Portsmouth before it was due to continue on to Paris. The pilot landed the aircraft too far to the left of the wet grass runway and skidded off the end and into an earth embankment. Luckily, there were no serious injures. The aircraft was subsequently repaired and returned to service

Sep 1967

Three D.H.104 Doves are purchased from Morton Air Service for conversion into Carstedt CJ-600 aircraft (with Garret turboprops) and while the aircraft would later be delivered to SEN by road, this project would ultimately come to nothing with the aircraft later being scrapped

Oct 1967

An £8 million order is placed for two H.S.121 Trident 1E airliners. This was something of a departure from the established 1-11s, not to mention a complicated aircraft to both service and operate

Channel trials its ‘Bus Stop’ service which started at Southend, after which it would make 5-10 minute stops at Luton, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Tees-side, Newcastle, Edinburgh and finally Aberdeen before returning to SEN via the same albeit reversed route. Services were initially flown by an Avro 748 and Viscounts, depending on passenger loads

Winter 1967/68

Services to Portsmouth are temporarily suspended

Spring 1968

Channel Med Holidays

Apr 1968

Fleet comprised of:

10 x Viscount 812

2 x Viscount 700

2 x H.S.748

2 x Trident 1E

1 x BAC 1-11

1 x DH Dove

May 1968

A Vickers 812 Viscount skids off the end of the runway at Southend Airport and is DBR (See ‘Prangs’ for more details)

Channel’s first Trident arrives at Southend

Jun 1968

Trident services to Barcelona from Southend begin. However due to the short runway, operations at SEN prove to be untenable and the I.T jet services are quickly moved to Stansted

Jan 1969

The ‘Scottish Flyer’ service begins

Apr 1969

Having obtained several D.H.114 Heron aircraft, services resume from Portsmouth to the Channel Islands

Jun 1969

The last 700 series Viscount is removed from service

Nov 1969

The ‘Scottish Flyer’ service ends

Jan 1970

The very first of five, serviceable, De Havilland Comet 4s arrives at Stansted. A further example (XA-NAP) is purchased from Mexicana but this is immediately WFU and broken for spares. In regular service, Jack Jones considered the Comet to be overpowered and toyed with the idea of removing two of the engines while using the empty nacelles as baggage or cargo holds. Even today, the mind boggles as to what the CAA would have made of a request to implement such a radical design change…

Mar 1970

Squadron Leader Jones looks at a possible merger with Laker Airways to prevent the take-over of B.U.A by B.O.A.C

Apr 1970

Channel officially abandons the ‘Scottish Flyer’ route

Jan 1971

Channel is given permission to carry out transatlantic ‘affinity’ charters. Two Boeing 707s are proposed for the routes although the plan eventually falls through

Apr 1971

Fleet comprised of:

9 x Vickers 812 Viscount

6 x D.H. Heron

5 x Comet 4B

2 x Trident 1E

2 x B.A.C 1-11

1 x D.H. Dove

Summer 1971

Most I.T charters from SEN end with the exception of daily, weekday services to Dusseldorf

Sep 1971

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Timetable for Winter 1971/72 (© Björn Larsson – timetableimages.com)

Nov 1971

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Timetable for Summer 1972 (© Björn Larsson – timetableimages.com)

Dec 1971

Channel sells its Tridents to Northeast/B.E.A

Jan 1972

Channel’s engineering base is closed at Stansted and moved back to Southend

Feb 1972

All of Channel’s jet services cease on the 15th

The final flight by Channel Airways takes place on the 29th with Heron G-APKW flying between Ostend and Southend

Mar 1972

Channel’s operating license is suspended and the airline goes into administration

May 1972

Receiver Kenneth R. Cork sells all remaining Viscounts and spares to Alidair

 

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