Explore our past: 1950 - 1959

BOAC De Havilland Comet 4.


1950

1 January: Mr Peter G Masefield was appointed Chief Executive of BEA.
The New York operating base was transferred from La Guardia to the new international airport at Idlewild.

16 April: The first scheduled BEA service from London Airport, a Vickers Viking to Paris, took place.

May: The carriage of parcels mail on services to North America and Africa commenced.

1 July: The world’s first regular scheduled helicopter passenger service, between Cardiff and Liverpool was opened by BEA.

28 July: The world’s first gas turbine-powered service was flown by BEA from Northolt to Le Bourget, Paris with a Vickers V630 Viscount aircraft.

6/7 August: A Handley Page Hermes aircraft was introduced on BOAC’s UK to African services. The first flight by G-ALDJ Hengist replaced York aircraft on the London-Tripoli-Kano-Lagos-Accra.

October: The Avro York aircraft was withdrawn from service.

7 November: BOAC replaced its Southampton to Johannesburg Solent flying boat services with a thrice-weekly Hermes service from London to Johannesburg via Tripoli, Kano, Brazzaville and Livingstone. BOAC then withdrew all Solents, which had been the airline’s last flying boats. Imperial Airways and BOAC had maintained continuous flying boat operations since 1924.

1951

1 March: BOAC introduced their luxury Monarch service to New York using the Stratocruiser, which offered sleeper accommodation.

July: BOAC operations through Malta were withdrawn, with the services taken over by BEA. All BOAC’s East African services were re-routed to operate through Rome.

8 October: The first Royal flight by BOAC took place. The then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh flew to Montreal in a Stratocruiser for their Canadian tour (G-AKGK Canopus, Captain O P Jones).

1952

7 February: HM Queen Elizabeth II arrived at London Airport from East Africa in BOAC Argonaut G-ALHK Atalanta, following the death of her father, King George VI.

13 March: The first scheduled BEA Airspeed 'Elizabethan' service operated between London Airport and Paris.

1 May: The world’s first tourist fare was introduced by BOAC on the North Atlantic route.

2 May: BOAC flew the world’s first pure jet service. The Comet G-ALYP operated from London Airport to Johannesburg via Rome, Beirut, Khartoum, Entebbe and Livingstone.

16 June: The first BEA ‘Silver Wing’ service operated on the London to Paris route with Airspeed 'Elizabethan' aircraft.

26 October: A fare of £8 return fare was introduced by BEA on the London to Scotland route.

1953

1 April: BEA introduced Tourist fares on routes throughout Europe.

3 April: BOAC introduced Comet jet services to Tokyo, thus reducing the flight time from 86 hours to 33 hours.

18 April: BEA began the world’s first sustained airscrew-turbined airliner passenger service with Vickers Viscount V.701 G-AMNY, flying London-Rome-Athens-Nicosia.

19 May: BEA’s Kensington Air Station closed. However the Waterloo Air Terminal was opened.

October: Tourist services by BOAC to Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Persian Gulf, East Africa and Trinidad commenced.
BOAC’s Handley Page Hermes aircraft were withdrawn from service.

8 - 10 October: BEA operated the Viscount V.700 G-AMAV in the Transport Handicap section of the London to Christchurch Air Race. It flew the 12,365 miles in 40 hours 43 minutes calling at Bahrain, Colombo, Cocos Islands and Melbourne.

1954

10 January/8 April: Two BOAC Comet aircraft exploded in mid-air within three months of each other, causing the fleet to be grounded. Exhaustive tests revealed that the aircraft had suffered from metal fatigue.

30 October: BEA operated its final service from Northolt, a DC-3 (G-AHCZ) to Jersey.

1955

17 April: Services from London Airport Central Area commenced. The first service was a BEA departure to Amsterdam on a Viscount G-ALWE Discovery.

9 May: BOAC introduced a tourist class London to Sydney weekly service, using a Constellation aircraft.

July: BOAC moved into its new centralised headquarters at London Airport.

25 July: BEA began scheduled passenger helicopter services between London Airport and the South Bank Heliport at Waterloo. The first flight was operated by a Westland-Sikorsky S55 helicopter, G-ANUK. The service was eventually discontinued on 31 May 1956, having carried 3,822 revenue passengers.

30 December: BOAC took delivery of its first two Bristol Britannia 102 aircraft when G-ANBC and G-ANBD were delivered from Filton to London Airport.

1956

1 May: Mr Gerard D’Erlanger was appointed Chairman of BOAC in succession to Sir Miles Thomas.

3 May: Mr Anthony Milward was appointed Chief Executive and Member of the Board of BEA.

15 October: BOAC’s first Douglas DC-7C G-AOIA was handed over at a ceremony at Santa Monica, California.

8 November: BOAC signed a contract for 15 Rolls-Royce engine-powered Boeing 707-436 aircraft.

1957

6 January: BOAC introduced DC-7C aircraft to New York and to San Francisco in March.

1 February: BOAC introduced Bristol Britannia aircraft to the Johannesburg route and then on 2 March to Sydney.

13 February: The first scheduled BEA 'Viscount' flights were operated between London and Glasgow. Two days later its first international flight, to Amsterdam, took place. Both flights were operated by G-AOJD Sebastian Cabot.

2 March: BOAC introduced Bristol Britannia services to Sydney.

29 June: A BOAC Britannia 312 made the first ever non-stop flight from London to Canada’s Pacific coast, flying the 5,100 miles to Vancouver in 14 hours 40 minutes.

6 October: BEA’s West London Air Terminal at Cromwell Road was opened.

19 December: BOAC operated the first gas-turbine transatlantic scheduled passenger service with Bristol Britannia 312 aircraft between London and New York.

1958

1 May: Mixed-classes, First Class and Tourist, were introduced by BEA.

30 July: The last scheduled service by a BEA Airspeed Ambassador 'Elizabethan' aircraft took place.

4 October: BOAC operated the first jet service across the North Atlantic to New York using the Comet 4. G-APDB operated the eastbound flight and G-APDC operated the westbound. The two aircraft passed about 300 miles apart at 47degW at 1335Z. Sir Gerard d’Erlanger, BOAC’s Chairman, aboard the westbound aircraft and Basil Smallpiece, Managing Director, in the eastbound aircraft exchanged messages during the flights.

6 October: All BOAC Lockheed Constellations were withdrawn from service.

1 November: BEA introduced cheap weekend fares on UK domestic trunk routes.

19 December: BOAC’s De Havilland Comet 4 services to Canada commenced. The London to Montreal service was operated by G-APDC.

1959

20 January: The first flight of a Vickers-Armstrong Vanguard aircraft, prototype G-AOYW, took place.

21 January: BOAC operated a De Havilland Comet 4 proving flight to Tokyo, using G-APDC.

31 March: Britannia 312 G-AOVT left London for New York and Tokyo to inaugurate BOAC’s round-the-world service, which then operated regularly from August 1960. The following day, Comet 4 G-APDH inaugurated the eastward round-the-world service.

14 May: BEA services between London and Moscow commenced with Vickers 'Viscount' aircraft.

30/31 May: The last service using a BOAC Stratocruiser took place. The routing was from London-Barcelona-Kano-Accra on 30 May and Accra-Kano-Barcelona-London the following day, by G-ANTY Coriolanus.

July: BOAC began an all-cargo service between London and Hong Kong.

20 August: BOAC started the first regular round-the-world service by Britannia 312 aircraft, operating via San Francisco and Hong Kong.

1 November: The inaugural flight of a BOAC De Havilland Comet 4 aircraft on the London to Sydney route took place.

2 December: The inaugural flight of a BOAC Comet 4 aircraft on the London to Johannesburg route took place.