Channel Air Bridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Channel Air Bridge
IATA ICAO Callsign
Ceased operations1962
HubsSouthend Airport
AllianceAir Charter
Aviation Traders,
Aviation Traders (Engineering)
Fleet size11 aircraft[1]
DestinationsUnited Kingdom
Continental Europe
Parent companyAirwork (1958–1960)
Air Holdings (1961–1962)
HeadquartersCentral London
Key peopleD.A. Whybrow,
H.E. Cross,
G.P. Parselle,
A.T. Pugh

Channel Air Bridge was a private British independent[nb 1] airline specialising in cross-Channel vehicle-come-passenger ferry services. Freddie Laker started Channel Air Bridge as a sister airline of Air Charter on a provisional basis in 1954. Operations commenced in 1955. In 1958, Channel Air Bridge took over Air Charter's vehicle ferry services.[2][3][4] In 1959, both Channel Air Bridge and its sister airline Air Charter became part of the Airwork group.[3][4] In 1960, Airwork joined with Hunting-Clan to form British United Airways (BUA).[4] In 1962, BUA reorganised its vehicle ferry operations by merging Channel Air Bridge with Silver City Airways. This resulted in the creation of British United Air Ferries in 1963.[5]


Following Freddie Laker's creation of Channel Air Bridge on an experimental basis in 1954, the newly formed airline commenced regular scheduled vehicle and passenger ferry services in April 1955 with four Bristol Freighters shuttling seven times a day between Southend and Calais.[4][6] The aircraft sported a red-and-white colour scheme.[7] In 1955, Channel Air Bridge also took delivery of the first two of nine larger, "long-nosed" Bristol 170 Mark 32 Superfreighters. Eventually, Channel Air Bridge operated 24 daily round-trips between Southend and Calais and inaugurated additional vehicle/passenger ferry services from Southend to Ostend and Rotterdam. Southend—Ostend services were operated in partnership with Sabena.[6][8][9]

By 1958, Channel Air Bridge was carrying almost 15,000 cars a year. A considerable proportion of this was traffic diverted from the Midlands, which would otherwise have used Silver City Airways, the original air ferry airline that had held a monopoly in this market prior to the arrival of Channel Air Bridge.[6] 1958 was also the year Laker decided to transfer Air Charter's vehicle ferry services and Bristol 170 fleet to Channel Air Bridge, thus putting the latter solely in charge of this type of operation.[4] During that year, Laker furthermore announced his decision to sell Air Charter, Channel Air Bridge and Aviation Traders to Airwork for £600,000 cash plus a further £200,000, subject to the valuation of stock.[10] The deal became effective in January 1959, when all three companies joined the Airwork group.[3]

Following a rationalisation of Air Charter's flight crew and ground staff in February 1959, Channel Air Bridge assumed Air Charter's vehicle ferry services while Air Charter's remaining operations were subsequently absorbed into the newly formed BUA, as a result of the Airwork – Hunting-Clan merger in June 1960.[3][4][11]

By 1962, Channel Air Bridge operated scheduled vehicle, passenger and freight ferry services from Southend to Calais, Ostend, Rotterdam, Basle, Geneva and Strasbourg. The longer routes to Switzerland and Strasbourg in France, as well as all Dutch routes, were operated with ATL-98 Carvairs while Bristol Freighters continued to ply the shorter routes to Calais and Ostend. Combined rail-air-rail services were provided between London and Brussels in conjunction with British Rail and Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges/Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen (SNCB/NMBS), the respective contemporary national railway companies of the UK and Belgium. In addition, Channel Air Bridge held British licences to operate scheduled air ferry services from Southend to Bremen, Düsseldorf and Lyon. These licences remained unused as a result of foreign government approval being withheld.[12]

Channel Air Bridge continued to operate under its own name until it merged with Silver City Airways to form British United Air Ferries on 1 January 1963.[5][13]


Fleet in 1962[edit]

In April 1962, the Channel Air Bridge fleet comprised 11 aircraft.[12]

Channel Air Bridge fleet in April 1962
Aircraft Number
Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair 2
Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mark 32 8
Bristol 170 Freighter Mark 31 1
Total 11

A further 8 Carvairs were on order.[12]

Channel Air Bridge employed 201 people at this time.[12]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

There is one recorded fatal accident involving a Channel Air Bridge aircraft.[14]

The accident occurred on 28 December 1962. It involved an Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair (registration: G-ARSF) operating an international scheduled passenger flight from Southend to Rotterdam. While the Carvair was making a visual approach to Rotterdam Airport in conditions of snow with 1,460m visibility, the landing gear struck a 6 feet high dyke, 800 ft short of the runway threshold. When the plane hit the ground 200 ft further on, it bounced heavily. This resulted in the right wing becoming partially detached from the fuselage and the aircraft rolling rapidly to the right. After sliding inverted for about 700 ft, the Carvair came to a halt. This accident resulted in the death of one of the four crew members. All 14 passengers survived. Accident investigators established the fact that the commander carried out the final stage of approach below the normal glide path with insufficient engine power as the primary cause. This resulted in the speed of descent being too high in relation to the horizontal distance still to be covered to the beginning of the runway. As a result, the aircraft hit a dyke at a high vertical speed after facing the direction of the approach. The board of investigators furthermore concluded that the aircraft would still have hit the ground a considerable distance short of the runway threshold, possibly with less fatal consequences, even if there had been no dyke, which in this instance was not an obstruction of any significant height.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ independent from government-owned corporations
  1. ^ As of April 1962, two Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair, eight Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mark 32 and one Bristol 170 Freighter Mark 31.
  2. ^ Flight International, 18 April 1958, World Airline Directory ..., p. 525
  3. ^ a b c d Airliner World – Britain's Carferry Airlines, Key Publishing, Avenel, NJ, USA, July 2005, p. 34
  4. ^ a b c d e f Merton-Jones 1972, p. 10
  5. ^ a b Aircraft (Gone but not forgotten ... SILVER CITY), Vol 43, No 3, p. 44, Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham, January 2010
  6. ^ a b c Fly me, I'm Freddie!, Eglin, R. and Ritchie, B., Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1980, pp. 41/2
  7. ^ Flight International, 11 December 1959, Bridging that gap — What prospects for the vehicle air ferry? (by D.A. Whybrow), p. 711
  8. ^ Flight International, 11 December 1959, Bridging that gap — What prospects for the vehicle air ferry? (by D.A. Whybrow), p. 709
  9. ^ Airliner Classics (SABENA – Belgium's Flag Carrier: Post-War Years), p. 63, Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham, July 2013
  10. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, Eglin, R. and Ritchie, B., Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1980, pp. 54, 56/7
  11. ^ Airliner World – The Laker Airways Skytrain, Key Publishing, Avenel, NJ, USA, July 2005, p. 72
  12. ^ a b c d Flight International, 12 April 1962, World Airline Survey — The UK Carriers ..., p. 547
  13. ^ Merton Jones 1972, page 32
  14. ^ Aviation Safety Network > ASN Aviation Safety Database > Operator index > United Kingdom > Channel Air Bridge
  15. ^ ASN Aircraft accident description Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair G-ARSF — Rotterdam Airport (RTM)


  • Merton Jones, T. (1972). British Independent Airline & Operators Since 1947. UK: LAAS International. NONE.
  • Eglin, Roger; Ritchie, Berry (1980). Fly me, I'm Freddie. London, UK: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-77746-7.
  • Dean, W.P.; O'Callaghan, M. (2008). "1: Corporate History – Channel Air Bridge". The ATL-98 Carvair: A Comprehensive History of the Aircraft and All 21 Airframes. Jefferson, N.C., USA: McFarland & Co. pp. 17–20. ISBN 978-0-7864-3670-5.
  • Airliner World – Britain's Carferry Airlines, January 2004. Avenel, NJ, USA: Key Publishing. (Airliner World online)
  • "Airliner Classics (Sir Freddie Laker – The Man Who Gave Us Skytrain, p. 81)". Stamford, Lincs, UK: Key Publishing. November 2009. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2009. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • "Airliner Classics (SABENA – Belgium's Flag Carrier: Post-war years, p. 63)". Stamford, Lincs, UK: Key Publishing. July 2013. Archived from the original on 6 July 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[edit]