Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mk32 – c/n 13256

With CAB/BUAF/BAF from Feb 1959 to Mar 1971

Given Name – ‘Versatile’ and ‘City of Edinburgh’

While this aircraft may have been the last of her kind to be delivered to Air Charter, Bristol 170 G-APAU would ultimately retain the distinction of being the longest serving of the type with the CAB/BUAF/BAF succession of companies, finally being disposed of in the spring of 1971. She was officially transferred to Channel Air Bridge in February 1959, having previously served as part of Air Charter’s car ferry wing which was initially known as ‘Air Bridge’ although the word ‘Channel’ was also later added some time during 1955. She would for the most, fly the three popular routes between Southend and Ostend/Calais/Rotterdam until the end of 1959 when she went off on lease for 1-1/2 years, although this lease would still necessitate her continued presence at SEN.

With flights between Ostend and Southend reaching their peak during the late ’50s and early ’60s, Belgian airline SABENA decided to get in on the act and as a consequence, from June 1957 they leased a single Bristol 170 which was subsequently painted up in their own livery, although the aircraft itself would continue to be flown, serviced and maintained by ACL and later CAB crew and staff. While G-AOUV would be the first aircraft to fly the SABENA service, in November 1959 it was the turn of G-APAU to take up the baton and for the most, she was reserved primarily for this route until May 1962 when she was finally replaced by the last aircraft to fly this service, namely G-APAV. On her return she was given a new lick of paint and then returned to service with CAB, albeit on the same Channel routes.

However in 1962, CAB’s owner BUA  purchased Silver City, CAB’s only real competitor where the popular, airborne car-ferry services were concerned and during 1962 (and no doubt as a precursor of things to come) Silver City Bristol 170s (G-AIMH and G-ANWN) began appearing on CAB routes at Southend, while G-APAU was despatched to Lydd for the rest of the year where she flew on Silver City services. Come the beginning of 1963, the decision was finally taken to merge the two airlines with British United Air Ferries emerging as a result of this. As far as Alpha Uniform was concerned, by the beginning of 1963 she was back at Southend resplendent in her new British United livery, although for some unknown reason, she retained her ‘City of…’ name which was generally a Lydd based aircraft adornment. Needless to say, for the most part she resumed flying the car-ferry services.

Another change of name came about during October 1967 with all former BUAF aircraft gradually being repainted in the new colours of the reorganised British Air Ferries. By this time, most of the dwindling car ferry services were being more than sufficiently maintained by the much larger and more capable Carvairs and as a result, the remaining Bristol 170s found themselves having far less to do and were by this time, mostly confined to freight runs. That being said, by 1969 APAU was back at Lydd once more hauling cars across the Channel and remained there until returning to Southend at the end of 1970 where she was temporarily stored over the winter before finally being sold on to Midland Air Cargo in March 1971 which effectively brought more than 15 years of Bristol 170 operations at Southend to an end.


History of G-APAU

6/57 to 2/59

Air Charter Ltd (Leased)

2/59 to 1/63

TFR to Channel Air Bridge (Purchased 7/61)

1/63 to 10/67

TFR to British United Air Ferries

10/67 to 3/71

TFR to British Air Ferries

3/71 to 5/75

Sold to Midland Air Cargo


WFU Lasham during 1973 and B/U 5/75


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Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.