On 4 October 1958 BOAC inaugurated the first ever pure jet services on the North Atlantic between London and New York, using British-built de Havilland DH106 Comet 4 Rolls-Royce powered aircraft.
On 4 October 1958 two British-built de Havilland Comet 4s, with their sleek design and elegant interiors, took off simultaneously from London Airport and New York’s Idlewild Airport, and into history. The flights, operated by our predecessor BOAC, ushered in the modern age of jet travel. They slashed the time it took to reach New York by ten hours providing customers with new levels of comfort and service.
Pan American had launched a high-profile advertising campaign announcing their intention to begin their service on 26 October 1958, but they were caught by surprise when on 4 October two brand new BOAC Comet 4s became the world’s first scheduled transatlantic passenger jet service.
The westbound aircraft, commanded by Captain Roy Millichap, departed London Airport at 8.53am and arrived in Idlewild in New York in just 10 hours and 22 minutes, after a refuelling stop at Gander, Newfoundland. The eastbound aircraft, commanded by Captain Tom Stoney, departed New York at 7am and due to favourable tail winds made the non-stop crossing to London in a record-breaking six hours and 11 minutes. The two aircraft, carrying special guests as well as fare-paying passengers, passed each other mid-Atlantic, 300 miles apart, and marked the occasion with a champagne toast. The historic crossing marked the birth of the modern jet age, which revolutionised travel across the Atlantic and around the world.
The arrival on the world stage of the giant Boeing 747 ushered in another new era of air travel.
At first sight the new Boeing resembled a scaled-up Boeing 707; from the passenger’s point of view, however, the 747’s main feature was the extra space it provided. Because of the greater width and height of the cabin there was nearly three times the volumetric capacity per passenger!
BOAC divided the interior of its 747 into five cabins - two First Class and three Economy. This meant that customers in each of the Economy cabins found themselves surrounded by fewer people than they did when they travelled in the Boeing 707.
A spiral staircase led to the ‘club in the sky’ which was called the Monarch lounge and was exclusive to First Class customers. The 747 had a cabin crew of 15 – a purser, seven stewards and seven stewardesses.
Shortly after its April 1971 debut on the key route between London and New York the BOAC 747 was used by the airline on other services to Canada, to East and South Africa, the Far East and Australia.
The era of commercial supersonic air travel opened on 21 January 1976 when British Airways launched Concorde flights to Bahrain and Air France to Rio de Janeiro via Dakar.
Concorde was the symbol of British Airways, an airline in the forefront of technology and passenger service.
The physical constraints of the supersonic aircraft’s cabin precluded a First Class style product so although the in-flight service and amenities were especially and expensively designed and selected, the key area which made the Concorde experience truly outstanding was the individual effort and professionalism of its crew.
Concorde was the world’s only supersonic passenger aircraft. It held many records including the fastest crossing of the Atlantic (New York to London in 2hrs 52mins 59secs). She flew up to 11 miles high (60,000ft) at the edge of space in the layers between the stratosphere and the ionosphere where the curvature of the earth could be seen. Its aluminium alloy fuselage was designed to stretch in flight as the aircraft adapted to the heated airflow at Mach2; her colour had to be white to radiate and reflect the heat. The extra thrust, the engine reheat method, was used which lit fuel in the jet pipe, giving her the nickname ‘Rocket.’