Vintage Aviation In Colour


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A DH89 Dragon Rapide.operated by Swissair between 1937 and 1954.  The airline had a fleet of three of these aeroplanes which they flew on their routes into Austria.

This aeroplane was delivered in March 1937 to Aero St Gallen which was later taken over by Swissair. In 1954 it was sold to Farnerwerke Grenchen



One of the aeroplanes is seen here at Zurich Airport where they operated flights across the border to destinations in Austria, They had been supplied in the 1930s to Swiss airlines Alpar and Aero St. Gallen before being transferred to the postwar fleet of Swissair who operated them until 1954 when they were sold out of service.



A KLM Douglas DC3 on the tarmac at Palembang, Indonesia in 1937.

The airline had received its first DC3 in 1936 and a further 22 were delivered before WWII. At that time, KLM operated the World’s longest scheduled route between Amsterdam and Sydney via Jakarta.

The aeroplane in the photograph PH-ALS called at Palmbang in October 1937 en route from Batavia to Amsterdam. Shortly after take off, the lefrt engine failed and attempting to land the aircraft hit the tree tops and crashed killing three of the crew and one passenger.


Boarding for Paris

British European Airways operated a fleet of 20 Airspeed Ambassadors. These were known as the “Elizabethan” class being named after notable figures from that period. The 47 seat aeroplane was flown by BEA between 1952 and 1958.

Having been replaced by the larger and faster Vickers Viscount, the Ambassadors were sold on to other operators, notably Dan Air.



Dan Air’s Avro York G-ANXN.  This aircraft, one of 6 operated by the airline was obtained from Air Charter(Stanstead)Ltd in 1956 and continued in service until it was scrapped in1963.

The York was developed by Avro from the Lancaster bomber design and first flew in 1942. The aircraft served as a military transport for the RAF and as a civil airline for a number of operators, particularly BOAC, the largest user.  More than 250 Yorks were built between 1943 and 1949.  The civil aircraft carried 56 passengers and 5 crew.



TWA stewardesses in 1952.  The airline, one of America’s largest began operations in 1926.  After 75 years, it was declared bankrupt. It was acquired in 2001 by American Airlines who took over 190 aircraft and a network of 130 routes.



Passengers board a BEA Dragon Rapide at Lands End Airport for the short flight to The Isles Of Scilly.

The aeroplane was first built in 1934 for short haul routes. It seated 6 to 8 passengers. It was a highly successful aircraft, over 700 having been built. Several of these plywood aircraft are still flying.

BEA was formed in 1946 and a fleet of DH-89 Dragon Rapides was among its first aircraft. The route to the Scilly Isles was inaugurated in 1947 and three of these aircraft continued to operate this route until replaced with helicopters in 1964.


A stewardess is photgraphed with a Pan Am, Boeing Stratocruiser in 1953.  This aeroplane, the Boeing 377 first flew in 1947 and Pan Am, who ordered 20 were the largest operator.  It was a large, 2 decked aeroplane with a capacity of up to 114 passengers. It was rather expensive to buy and to operate and not very reliable. Only 55 Stratocruisers were built. This was however, a luxurious airliner with spacious cabins and in some formations, berths as well as seating. The Stratocruiser was a long range aircraft, popular on the North Atlantic routes where it was also flown by BOAC.  The last passenger flight was in 1963


Airmen at RAF Wick in 1941.

The airport at Wick opened in 1933 with civilian flights by Highland Airways to Inverness.

In 1939, this became an R.A.F. station. It had been a grass field so concrete runways were laid and hangars constructed. It was administered by Coastal Command and the first aircraft based there wer Avro Ansons of 269 Squadron. These aircraft were replaced by Lockheed Hudsons in 1940.

In this colourised photograph we see Flight Lieutenant H.M.Ferriss(standing) with a Hurricane Mk 1 of 111 Squadron.

The airport at Wick currently has flights to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.



A Handley Paige HP42 at Croydon Airport.

Opened in 1920, Croydon was London’s principal airport prior to World War II.

This was the base for Imperial Airways which quickly developed a route network which by 1934 offered flights to most parts of the British Empire including the World’s longest route to Brisbane. Croydon was the first airport to introduce air traffic control.

At the outbreak of war, Croydon became a fighter station, returning to civil use in 1946 at which time there were 218 departures each week. Destinations were mostly domestic with some flights to the continent. Northolt was now designated as London’s main airport and airlines quickly transferred there. The last scheduled flight from Croydon was in 1959 after which the airport closed.


A DeHavilland Moth at Wythenshaw Airport in 1929.

This aeroplane, a DH 60x model, registered G-EBZU was built in 1928. It was operated by Northern Air Lines until crashing at Irlam in October  1932. Northern Air Lines operated a number of aircraft from this field. These 2 seater Moths could be chartered for a shilling per mile.

This photograph appears to be an advertising opportunity for both BP and Northern Air Lines.

 The Moth and its many vairiants were built in the 1920s and 30s.  They were operated mostly by flying clubs although many were sold as military trainers and large numbers were exported.  The Moth was the most popular aircraft of its day and was produced in large numbers. The Gipsy Moth sold almost 9000 aircraft.  When introduced in 1925, the Moth sold for a price of £650.

Wythenshawe was Manchester’s first municipal airport which opened in April 1929. It was also known as Rackheath Aerodrome for it occupied the site of Rackheath Farm. A barn became an aircraft hangar and the farmhouse served as the administrative building.  This was only a temporary arrangement until Barton Airport opened in January 1930. Wythenshawe saw its last flight in June of that year and eventually the site was absorbed into the new housing estate.


The prototype  British European Airways Viscount taxies on the runway at Farnborough Air Show.

The Vickers Viscount was the World’s first turboprop airliner introduced in 1948. A highly successful aeroplane, production continued until 1963 by which time 448 had been built.  The final version carried 75 passengers with a range of 2280km and a maximum speed of 566 km/h.

BEA  had a large fleet of Viscounts which they first flew in 1953. The airline did not withdraw the last of these airliners until 1982.

Viscounts had been sold to many operators both at home and abroad and continued to give long service. The last commercial flight was as recent as 2008. Many aircraft still exist, displayed at museums around the World.


A desert stop-over at Port Sharjah in Oman.  The Handley Page HP42E was a four engined biplane designed for services to India and South Africa. G-AAUD “Hanno” first flew in July 1931. The HP42 carried 24 passengers in two cabins. This aircraft was later transferred to the RAF’s 271 Squadron but was lost on the ground at Whitchurch, Bristol when it was blown into another ex-Imperial aircraft during a gale.


An Aer Lingus Douglas DC3 at Dublin Airport.

Dublin Airport at Collinstown, in the north of the city opened in 1940. The terminal building completed the following year was designed in the style of the bridge of an ocean liner. The architect was Desmond FitzGerald, whose brother Garret, a Fine Gael politician, served twice as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in the 1980s.

Dublin now handles 25 million passengers annually making it one of the busiest airports in Europe.


The Airport buses were once a familiar sight in Manchester. These are photographed in the 1950s outside the airline terminal at the Royal Exchange. Here passengers could check in for their flights before being transported to the airport. The buses were operated by Manchester Corporation on behalf of the airline BEA.


Air Mail at Croydon.

The aeroplane is G-AAXD a Handley Page HP42 of Imperial Airways, named “Horatius”.  It was first registered in April 1930 and continued in service until being destroyed in a forced landing at Tiverton in November 1939 when in RAF service. .  Eight of these aircraft were built, this version being designed for the routes to Europe. There were two passenger cabins with seating for 24.

The air mail service started in July 1937 and letters would be carried at a rate of 1 ½ pence per ounce to any Imperial Airways destination..


A DeHavilland DH66 Hercules of Imperial Airways refuels in the desert en route to India. Nine of these aeroplanes were operated between 1926 and 1935. G-EBMY was named “City of Baghdad”. The aeroplane was a three engined biplane with seating for seven passengers. It was designed for long distance services and the inaugural flight was to Delhi in January 1927.


452 Squadron at Kirton in Lindsay 18th June 1941. This was a Royal Australian Air Force squadron formed in Lincolnshire with RAF ground crew.  They were equipped with Spitfires and were among the most successful in Fighter. Command. The following year, the squadron transferred to  Australia to help the defence of Darwin then under attack from the Japanese forces.


Passengers board a Vickers Viking at Northolt Airport.

Located to the west of London, this has been an RAF station since 1915 and is still operational. Commercial flights started in 1946 and by 1952 this was the busiest airport in Europe.

British European Airways was formed in January 1946 and established Northolt as its main operating base. Its last flight from there was in late 1954 by which time all operations were transferred to newly opened Heathrow.

The Viking first flew in  June 1945 and entered airline service the following year. Originally developed from the Wellington bomber, 163 aircraft were built, BEA being the largest operator.  The first version carried just 21 passengers although later models were modified to seat 36.  Almost one third of all Viking built were lost in accidents through various causes, a number resulting in loss of life. By the end of 1954 BEA had retired their fleet having sold most of the aeroplanes to other operators at home and abroad.


A BEA DeHavilland Heron prepares to take off from Barra Beach in the Hebrides in March 1964.

The 14 seat Heron first flew in 1950. Two aircraft were delivered to BEA in 1955 to replace the ageing Dragon Rapide on the Glasgow to Barra route. The Heron also served as the Island's air ambulance. They continued to fly this route until 1973. When new, the basic DeHavilland Heron cost just £60,000.

The island of Barra lies at the southern end of the Outer Hebrides off of the West coast of Scotland. The airport, marked out with three runways, is the only one in the world where aircraft take off and land on the beach.



Manchester's other airport.

Barton Aerodrome, to the west of Eccles, a suburb of Salford opened in 1930 as Manchester's airport. Passenger services operated until the opening of Ringway Airport in 1938. Destinations were all domestic. Barton was used for the repair of military aircraft during World War II although between 1940 and 1942, Aer Lingus operated a passenger service using  Douglas DC3 aircraft.

Now owned by Peel Group and re-named City Airport and Heliport, this is a busy general aviation field.  There are four grass runways, the longest being 625 metres.  The heliport is base for the Greater Manchester Police helicopter and North  West Air Ambulance.

Some of the original buildings remain and have been refurbished including a hangar and the Control Tower which also houses a visitors centre.



Foynes Flying Boat Station in 1938 attracts curious visitors.

The nearest aeroplane is a Short S21 Flying Boat of Imperial Airways, G-ADHK "Maia". This was composite aircraft built in 1937. On take off, it carried "piggy back", a smaller S20 flying boat, "Mercury" mounted on top. "Mercury" was launched mid-air to continue a transatlantic air mail service. Neither aircraft had sufficient range to complete the crossing independently.

An international agreement of 1935 ensured that all transatlantic flights would call at an Irish airport in either direction.  At that time, conventional aircraft did not have sufficient range to offer a passenger service but long distance flying boats were then being developed.  The village of Foynes on the Shannon estuary, near Limerick was chosen for the site of Ireland's flying boat station. The former Monteagle Arms Hotel became the passenger terminal and administrative building.
The first flight was in February 1937 when a Shorts S23 Flying Boat of Imperial Airways arrived from Southampton. The next two years saw many proving and experimental flights.  Range of aircraft was the greatest problem and several trials including in flight refuelling and extra tanks sought to address the issue. The introduction of the Boeing B314 flying boat with its increased range and passenger capacity offered the solution. Regular services commenced in July 1939 and continued throughout the war.  The summer service to New York was via Botwood in Newfoundland. Winter ice required a longer southerly routing via Africa and South America.
 Shannon Airport, on  the northern bank of the river had opened in 1942. The introduction of transatlantic flights in 1945 was followed by a run down of flying boat services and by 1949 the last flight had departed from Foynes.
Catering Manager Brendan O'Regan opened a restaurant and coffee shop at Foynes in 1943 and it was here that Irish Coffee was invented as something to warm passengers experiencing cold weather. O'Regan later moved to Shannon Airport where he opened the World's first duty free shop.
The terminal building at Foynes now houses a flying boat museum and a replica B314 aircraft.



A Flying Circus act in the 1920s


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