British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines

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British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines
Founded June 1946
Commenced operations September 1946
Ceased operations 1954 (Taken over by Qantas)
Headquarters Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
A BCPA Douglas DC-6 airliner at Brisbane Airport.

British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines or BCPA, was an airline registered in New South Wales, Australia in June 1946 with headquarters in Sydney. It was formed by the governments of Australia (50%), New Zealand (30%) and the United Kingdom (20%) to pursue trans-Pacific flights. BCPA was later taken over by Qantas.


BCPA was formed by treaty through an "Agreement between the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom for the Formation of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited" with an initial capital of 10,000 Australian Pounds. The initial agreement was signed on 4 August 1947,[1] with ownership restrictions between the governments removed on 27 October 1949.[2]

The original BCPA route was SydneyAucklandFijiCanton IslandHawaiiSan FranciscoVancouver and later included Melbourne. Initially, BCPA chartered all flights to Australian National Airways, which used its Douglas DC-4s. The inaugural flight departed from Sydney on 15 September 1946.

In late 1948, BCPA took delivery of the first of four Douglas DC-6 aircraft, outfitted as Pullman-type sleepers, bundling board options with small port holes bedside. Each aircraft was named for one of the four sailing vessels of Captain Cook, Resolution, Discovery, Adventure and Endeavour.

The airline had ordered six de Havilland Comet jet airliners in 1952 for delivery in 1954.[3] In 1953 it had agreed to buy three Comet IIs for delivery at the end of 1956[4] and retain two of the DC-6s for tourist-class carriage.

In October 1953 discussions were held by the three governments to allow the airline to be taken over by Qantas Empire Airways.[5] In 1954 it was announced that Qantas Empire Airways would take over the BCPA services between Australia and North America and would take over the order for three Comets.[6][7]

Flight 304 crash[edit]

A Douglas DC-6 operating BCPA Flight 304 crashed on approach to San Francisco International Airport on 29 October 1953. Among the passengers killed in the crash was American concert pianist William Kapell whose estate sued BCPA, BOAC (which was alleged to have sold Kapell the ticket), and Qantas, which had taken over BCPA.[8] In 1964 Kapell's widow and two children were awarded US$924,396 damages.[9] This was later retracted and the Kapell family received only the standard $7,000 internationally agreed award.



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Jet Airliners for Pacific Service". News in Brief. The Times (52195). London. 29 December 1951. col D, p. 5. 
  4. ^ "Comet IIs For Pacific Airlines". News. The Times (52530). London. 27 January 1953. col B, p. 5. 
  5. ^ "Acquisition By Qantas British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines". News. The Times (52760). London. 22 October 1953. col D, p. 7. 
  6. ^ "Changes In Pacific Air Services Qantas To Connect With B.O.A.C". News. The Times (52882). London. 17 March 1954. col A, p. 7. 
  7. ^ "Aircraft Replacements". News in Brief. The Times (52883). London. 18 March 1954. col D, p. 6. 
  8. ^ "$7M Suit Filed Against Three Airlines". News in Brief. The Times (54372). London. 30 January 1959. col C, p. 10. 
  9. ^ "$924,396 for Pianist's Widow". News. The Times (55923). London. 31 January 1964. col G, p. 12. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Moore, Harry M (1993). Silver Wings in Pacific Skies: Australia's First Trans-Pacific Airline: British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines. Brisbane, Qld: Boolarong Publications. ISBN 0864391641. 

External links[edit]

Media related to British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines at Wikimedia Commons