British Eagle International
With the conclusion
of the Cunard episode and the plumb routes being taken by Cunard
in their merge with B.O.A.C it was not surprising that the morale
at Eagle was at an all time low. However, the spirit of Eagle was
to prove stronger in its resolve to get back into the business of
operating an airline. Harold Bamberg was once again at the helm
having regained full control of what was left. With determination
to see it succeed he with others began to rebuild the operation.
The airline dropped the name Cunard Eagle and replaced it with British
Eagle International Airways. It retained its famous Eagle symbol,
which was known all over the world.
British Eagle was
awarded a number of domestic routes in direct competition with BEA.
The restrictions of the licences made it difficult to be over successful,
but Eagle services were first class and appreciated by the passengers.
With an expanding
network more aircraft were needed. The arrival of a Britannia 312 G-AOVT marked the start of a large number
of Britannias that were to serve Eagle.
What the Viking was to Eagle Airways in the fifties, the Britannia
was to become to British Eagle in the sixties.
In 1964 Eagle took
over Starways of Liverpool and continued to operate their routes.
Maintenance of the Eagle Viscount fleet was transferred to Liverpool.
Extra Viscounts were leased from Channel Airways. Interestingly,
one of the leased aircraft was G-ALWF the oldest Viscount flying.
Two Britannias were
purchased from the defunct Argentine airline Transcontinental and
converted into freighters. Eagle engineers with help from Bristol
of Filton fitted freight doors to both aircraft.
A contract with the
airline Qantas meant that many of the Britannias were found operating
the emigrant flights to Australia on a £10 assisted passenger
The year had started
with the sad loss of G-AOVO crashing on
the Glungzer Mountain whilst attempting to land at Innsbruck. The
Austrians have placed a permanent memorial to the victims.
In 1966 Captain J.
Gerrish was the commander of the Britannia, which made history between
January 14th and 29th by making the first direct commercial flight
from South Africa to South America, and also making the first in
the reverse direction. The westbound crossing between Luanda and
Recife was made between 18,000 and 24,000 feet in nine and three
quarter hours and the return between Rio and Windhoek (3995 statute
miles) at between 19,000 and 29,000 in twelve hours. Average speed
both ways was 350 m.p.h. Info
In 1966 Eagle returned
to jet operation with the arrival of BAC 1-11 aircraft. During this
year the airline carried 1,010,00 passengers of whom 304,00 were
on scheduled international and domestic routes.
The Britannia fleet
amassed 52,308 flying hours covering in excess of 17,000,000 miles.
The Eagle fleet now stood at 27 aircraft, 15 Britannias, six Viscounts,
four BAC 1-11s and 1 Dove.
1967 began with the
application for a licence to operate across the pond to New York,
the Caribbean and Hong Kong. Two new Boeing 707 aircraft had been
ordered for the operation. Yet again the restrictive practices of
the government and the opposition of B.O.A.C towards independent
airlines killed these plans.
With government policy
and the continuous objection by the state carriers, independent
airlines had much against them. The company had not had a good year
but despite all the difficulties, they had achieved increases in
punctuality on both domestic and international services.
In 1968 Harold Bamberg
was awarded the CBE in the New Years honours list for his services
Two ex Qantas Boeing
707s were purchased with a view to an application to enter the New
York route, yet again killed of by B.O.A.C objections.
Licences were granted
to operate inclusive tour services to Bermuda and Nassau as well
as Nairobi and Mombassa.
Sadly this was not
the saviour of the airline and on Wednesday 6th November 1968 the
airline ceased to fly.
At the close the
airline had thirteen Britannias, seven BAC 1-11s, three Viscounts,
three Boeing 707s and one Dove.
British Eagle International
Airways is remembered in a number of ways; there are the personal
memories of the ex-staff, the yearly reunions, the taxiway that
is referred to as Eagle Taxiway at Heathrow. Even folk who were
not even born then show a great interest in the airline, monitor
ebay to see the rush to buy anything to do with Eagle.