Capital Airlines (UK)

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Capital Airlines
Capital airlines uk logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1987
Ceased operations 1990
Destinations UK & Europe
Headquarters Leeds Bradford Airport
Key people Adrian Thompson, MD

Capital Airlines was an airline based in the United Kingdom and self-proclaimed "Yorkshire International Airlines". It operated a fleet of BAe 146's and Shorts 360's between 1987 and 1992.


Capital Airlines, the self-styled "Yorkshire International Airline", existed between 1987 and 1992. It was the first airline to be based at Leeds Bradford Airport.

The airline came into being in 1984 as Brown Air, a subsidiary of the Brown Group which specialised in the sales and maintenance of heavy plant equipment. It flew a Cessna 441 Conquest (G-MOXY) on services from Leeds Bradford to Oslo, originally flown as a corporate shuttle but then opened up for public bookings. An afternoon service from Leeds Bradford to Frankfurt was later introduced. The Conquest was then replaced with a Grumman Gulfstream 1 turboprop, registration G-BRWN.

Scheduled services to Glasgow were introduced with a Short 330 aircraft after the previous operator, Metropolitan Airways, had ceased trading. The SH330 was later returned to its leasing company and the scheduled routes to Oslo and Frankfurt were discontinued. The sole Gulfstream 1 was then operated on a regular Leeds-Glasgow-Leeds-Cardiff service, introducing the first direct services from Leeds to Cardiff and a through-flight from Glasgow to Cardiff. The Gulfstream 1 proved a popular aircraft and operated 50 sectors a week for a full year with a 100% dispatch record. The aircraft soon became too small to service demand and it was then the airline re-branded as Capital Airlines and took delivery of its first Short 360-300 G-BNDM, which was the first airline to operate the Short 360 configured with 39 seats.

Its route network was expanded progressively to include routes from Leeds Bradford to Belfast City and Dublin, a new Leeds-Edinburgh-Leeds-Southampton operation and services from Leeds Bradford to the Channel Islands, London Gatwick and Brussels. Services between London Luton and Belfast City were also introduced at that time. In 1988 the airline was one of the first to adopt a low cost pricing model with seats priced at £13/£26/£39 between LTN & BHD, undercutting BA cheapest price of £45 between London & Belfast.

The fleet of Short 360 aircraft were expanded as routes were commenced. An extensive range of charter flights from the Channel Islands were offered, together with scheduled services from Cardiff to Jersey and Guernsey as well as Royal Mail flights from Belfast Aldergrove to East Midlands. A short-lived attempt to operate Dublin-Belfast City scheduled services also took place towards the end of Capital's existence.

Capital took over the long-established maintenance and light aircraft operations of Northair at Leeds Bradford, providing access to hangar facilities, office space and the establishment of its own reservations centre and catering service at the airport.

With a Short 360 fleet of six aircraft, the airline then embarked upon the expansion to service the demand on its Belfast-Luton and Dublin Luton services which were running at near full capacity and acquired two British Aerospace BAe 146-200 jet aircraft, formerly operated by Air Wisconsin of the USA. These were used to expand its services from London Luton with the upgrade of the Belfast City service from the 39-seat Short 360 to the 106-seat jet; a service linking Leeds Bradford with Luton each day was effectively a positioning flight to return the 146 to the Leeds Bradford base and rotate the two BAe 146 aircraft to Leeds Bradford every other day. The BAe 146 aircraft also flew weekend charters from Leeds Bradford and Manchester for Intasun to destinations including in the summer season Malaga and Palma and Salzburg in the winter season.

The airline abruptly ceased operations in June 1990 as a result of Brown Group International, its parent company, declaring itself bankrupt due to their bankers in Norway withdrawing their financing of the group activities and the calling of the groups borrowing "cross guarantees" by the bank to repay the outstanding loans.

These are the route/frequencies at the time of its demise (June 1990)

  • BHD-DUB 3 x daily (SH6)
  • BHD-LBA 5 x daily (4 x SH6, 1 x 146)
  • BHD-LTN 3 x daily (146)
  • LBA-BRS-CWL-LBA-GLA 2 x daily (LBA-GLA 3 x daily) (SH6)
  • CWL-JER Wed/Sat/Sun (SH6/146)
  • DUB-LBA 3 x daily (with extra flight on Mon and Fri) (SH6, 146 on Sun)
  • DUB-LTN 4 x daily (146)
  • EDI-LBA-SOU 2 x daily (EDI-LBA 3 x daily) (SH6)
  • GCI-LBA Wed/Sat/Sun (SH6/146)
  • JER-LBA Wed/Sat/Sun (SH6/146)
  • LBA-LGW 3 x daily (SH6)
  • LBA-LTN 1 x daily (146, SH6 on Sat)

At the conclusion of the bankruptcy the Capital Airlines subsidiary of the Brown Group was "technically" solvent being GBP 4,000,000 "in the black" if Brown Group had been able to repay the GBP 12,000,000 it owed to the airline. This was not possible as Brown Group had debts in excess of GBP 20,000,000.

A number of companies looked to acquire Capital but ultimately decided not to go ahead. The primary Capital routes were later taken up by Jersey European (Leeds-Belfast City and Leeds-Jersey from 1991); Loganair (Leeds-Glasgow from July 1990) and later Yorkshire European (Leeds-Southampton). Its two 146 and six Shorts 360-300 aircraft went on to operate for other airlines.

The assets of Capital and the Northair subsidiary were acquired by Lambson Aviation for around GBP 700,000.


The body had a white top-half and a red underside. Where the colours met, they merged with pin-stripe horizontal stripes increasing/decreasing in thickness. The tail was white with large black ‘Capital’ lettering running down the leading edge. Yellow pin-striped horizontal stripes ran down the length of the rudder. Where the yellow stripes of the tail met the red of the body they merged in orange. (See image).