EKCO Electronics


EKCO (E.K.Cole) Electronics Ltd began life in Southend as a radio manufacturer, producing both receivers and transmitters. Initially starting out in Leigh-on-sea during 1930, the company finally moved to a much larger factory complex on Priory Crescent in Prittlewell where production began in earnest. EKCO was also one of the first companies in Britain to introduce Bakelite which would become a feature of many of its radio cases and it was this manufacturing process alone that would continue at its Southend plant during WWII, while the rest of its facilities were moved temporarily to the centre of the country away from the worst of the bombing.

This company first started using the airport as early as 1948, when four of EAFS Dragon Rapides were temporarily pressed into service carrying neon advertising on behalf of ‘EKCO Vision’, but a certain amount of TV signal disruption caused by this brought the venture to a swift end. However, it was the continuation of its war time work with airborne interception radar that would eventually tie the company to SEN, being as the airport was located less than a mile from its factories. In the 1950s, EKCO developed a large number of military radars that would be used on the Hawker Hunter, Avro Vulcan and Fairey Gannett among others, while its weather radars would be fitted to most of the British turboprop and jet airliners of the time including Concorde. Indeed, was in 1950 that SEN’s GCA landing system entered service after EKCO had developed a simplified and reduced cost version of the ARI-5820 radar that had been fitted to the Hunter, a system that was so effective that it would continue to operate until the early 1980s.

Anson G-ALIH

Yet despite its glut of aviation related activities, it wasn’t until 1954 that EKCO purchased its first aircraft, Avro Anson G-ALIH (from B.K.S.) and had the nose rebuilt by Aviation Traders so that it could accommodate a number of the aforementioned radar systems that were being developed, including the new E390/564 weather radar that would later be fitted to Concorde. She served with the company until 1967 and was then summarily replaced by Anson G-AGPG. ‘Aggie Paggy’ as this Anson had become affectionately known was a rather special airframe having been the first civil production aircraft of her type off of the line that then went on to be used as a sales & company hack with A.V. Roe, subsequently gaining metal wings during the winter of 1948-49. She was then passed on to Skyways in 1961 becoming the personal chariot of company director Eric Rylands before arriving at Southend on October 26th 1967 to continue the radar work for EKCO. In 1969 EKCO merged with PYE Electronics although despite this, Aggie continued to soldier on until 1971 when she was finally sold to the Historical Aircraft Museum in Southend for £300 and became an exhibit (see ‘HAM Aircraft’ for further details).

Anson G-AGPG (2)

At its height, ECKO Electronics was estimated to have employed more than 8,000 people at its Southend facility, although by the early 1970s the company itself had gone into decline due to financial irregularities involving PYE. By 1972, the name itself had all but vanished although a radio repair service continued on the EKCO site until its closure in 1977. The entire site has since been demolished with part of it now being used for new housing developments.