British Airways Helicopters

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Boeing 234 in 1985

British Airways Helicopters was a British helicopter airline from 1964 to 1986.


British European Airways Sikorsky S-51 G-AJHW in 1953
BEA Bristol 171 Sycamore G-AMWG "Sir Gawain" at London Gatwick in April 1955 operating the passenger service from Birmingham

From 1947 British European Airways had operated a Helicopter Experiment Unit and five helicopters were ordered from the United States (three Sikorsky S-51s and two Bell 47s).

The unit operated timetabled mail services in East Anglia during 1948 using their Sikorsky S-51s. A scheduled passenger service was operated during 1950 between Cardiff (Pengam Moors), Wrexham and Liverpool (Speke), also utilising the S-51s. These services were followed in 1954 by a passenger service between Southampton Eastleigh Airport, London Heathrow Airport and Northolt Airport using leased Bristol 171 helicopters.[1] The 1955 passenger service was flown between Birmingham, Heathrow and London Gatwick Airport, again with the Bristol 171s.

A separate company was formed in 1964 as BEA Helicopters Limited and operated the first service between Penzance and the Scilly Islands on 1 May 1964 with a Sikorsky S-61. The airline later expanded into offshore oil support flights from July 1965. Operations from Aberdeen started in July 1967 and in 1971 from Sumburgh. With the change of name of the parent on the 31 March 1974 the airline was renamed British Airways Helicopters. In 1981 the airline bought five Boeing Vertol BV-234 Chinooks for use on the offshore oil support flights.

The company was involved in setting up the Airlink high-frequency helicopter shuttle service between Gatwick and Heathrow airports in 1978. It was responsible for engineering and maintenance of the BAA-owned helicopter and for providing the flight crew. It later passed these responsibilities to British Caledonian Helicopters.[2]

In 1986 the airline was sold by British Airways to Robert Maxwell's Maxwell Aviation and renamed British International Helicopters. The successor company still operated the Penzance to Isles of Scilly route forty years after it was first scheduled, until it was cancelled in 2012.

Aircraft operated[edit]

Helicopter Experimental Unit[edit]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Sikorsky S-61N (G-ASNL) crashed in the North Sea 1983
  • On 11 March 1983 a Sikorsky S-61N (G-ASNL) crashed in the North Sea, 75 nautical miles (139 km) north east of Aberdeen. All crew and passengers were rescued but the helicopter sank and had to be recovered from the sea bed.[3]
  • On 16 July 1983 a Sikorsky S-61N (G-BEON) crashed on approach to St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly with the loss of 19 passengers and one crew member.[4]
  • On 2 May 1984 a Boeing 234 (G-BISO) crashed in the East Shetland Basin of the North Sea, 8 miles (13 km) north west of the Cormorant Alpha Rig. All crew and passengers were rescued by other helicopters and boats. Although not damaged in the accident the helicopter sank after 85 minutes.[5] The aircraft was recovered for post accident investigation and later refurbished to fly again.



External links[edit]