Sagittair

G-APRN

Operated from May 1970 to Sep 1972

Main Base – Heathrow and then East Midlands

Founder/Director – Mr. Stephen Quento

One of the more unusual sights to be seen at SEN during the 1970s was the rather rare ‘Whistling Wheelbarrow’ or as it was officially known, the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy freighter. While a small number of BEA Argosies had ventured into SEN on diversions or flown a number of Hylo collection flights from the airport, Sagittair’s three freighters would become a regular sight at the airport during 1971 & 1972. However prior to this, smaller Beech 18 aircraft were used to carry cargo mostly between Heathrow and Geneva, these aircraft also becoming regular visitors to SEN during 1970 & 1971 hauling car parts in from the Continent, mostly on behalf of Ford. However, it was in the spring of 1971 that a somewhat ‘fortuitous’ postal strike finally gave Sagittair the chance to prove its mettle to the route licensing authorities and as a result of their efficient approach to the crisis, it was later rewarded with the approval of routes to Beauvais and Lille that the company had previously applied for.

With the potential for lots more work, the small Beech aircraft were no longer fit for purpose and as such were replaced by three much larger Argosy freighters. These were soon put to work on the two French scheduled routes with Guernsey also being added to operations at a later stage. However, charter work was also available and on November 24th 1971 Argosy G-AZHN arrived at SEN to make the first of what would become daily cargo flights to Belfast, loaded with cigarettes from Basildon tobacco company Carreras. Six days later, G-APRN would put in her first appearance and these two aircraft would take it in turns to fly these operations until the beginning of January 1972, although they would return again for a few days in April. Needless to say, while temporarily based at SEN, the Argosies took the opportunity to fly other freight charters too, with Romeo November carrying 8,000kg of cargo between Southend and Madrid on December 23rd 1971.

Unfortunately, while there was still work available, Sagittair would see a down turn in their fortunes during 1972. In January, one Argosy had a writ placed upon it while at SEN due to debts incurred and in May, another was temporarily seized again for accumulating further arrears, while the company responsible for their engineering and conversions now also refused to carry out any more work for the airline. However, the Guernsey route would keep Sagittair afloat for the time being, while on July 25th and 26th, the airline’s newest Argosy G-APWW would make its way to Southend to carry out two more cigarette flights. However, the receivers could not be held at bay forever and after suspending operations for three days, one was appointed on July 31st to see if the company could be saved. While the Argosies flew for much of August, the contract that had kept them busy during this month came to an end and by September, the decision was taken to put the company into administration and dispose of its remaining assets accordingly.

With thanks to Tony Merton-Jones & Neil Punnett for help with this page.

 

Sagittair fleet from 1971 to 1972

(Only those aircraft that were likely to have been seen at SEN are listed)

Beech 18

G-AXWL*– 2/70 to 7/72

Sold in the U.S

G-AYAH*– 4/70 to 12/71

WFU & stored Lasham 12/71 – To Eastern Seaboard Ltd 3/72

Armstrong Whitworth Argosy

G-APRN*– 4/71 to 9/72

Repo by Hawker Siddeley Aviation

G-APWW*– 1/72 to 9/72

Sold to Air Bridge Carriers

G-AZHN*– 8/71 to 9/72

Repo by Hawker Siddeley Aviation

 

Do you have any other, interesting snippets of information about this airline’s SEN history or indeed, any pictures or paraphernalia that you would like to share? If so, then please contact us on saadinfomail@gmail.com

Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.