Hunting-Clan Air Transport

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Hunting-Clan Air Transport
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1946 (as Hunting Air Travel)
Ceased operations1960 (merged with Airwork to form British United Airways)
HubsBovingdon Airport (1946–1955)
London Airport (now London Heathrow, 1955–1960)
Fleet size15 aircraft
(3 Vickers Viscount 700/800 series,
9 Vickers Viking 1/1A/1B
3 Avro 685 York)
(as of April 1958)
DestinationsBritish Isles,
Continental Europe,
East Africa,
Central Africa,
Southern Africa,
West Africa
Parent companyHunting-Clan Air Holdings
HeadquartersBovingdon Airport (1946–1955)
London Airport (1955–1960)
Key peopleM.H. Curtis,
E.H. Baker,
Capt. L.B. Greensted,
D.J. Platt,
J. Robinson

Hunting-Clan Air Transport was a wholly private, British independent[nb 1] airline that was founded in the immediate post-World War II period.[1] It began trading on 1 January 1946 as Hunting Air Travel Ltd. It was a subsidiary of the Hunting Group of companies, which had come from the shipping industry and could trace its history back to the 19th century. The newly formed airline's first operating base was at Bovingdon Airport in Southeast England. Its main activities were contract, scheduled and non-scheduled domestic and international air services that were initially operated with Douglas Dakota and Vickers Viking piston airliners from the company's Bovingdon base. A change of name to Hunting Air Transport occurred in 1951. By that time, the airline had emerged as one of the healthiest and most securely financed independent airlines in Britain. In October 1953, the firm's name changed to Hunting-Clan Air Transport, as a result of an agreement between the Hunting Group and the Clan Line[2] group of companies to invest £500,000 each in a new company named Hunting-Clan Air Holdings Ltd, the holding company for the combined group's air transport interests. Apart from Hunting-Clan Air Transport itself, this included Field Aircraft Services Ltd, the Hunting group's aircraft maintenance arm.[3] In 1960, Hunting-Clan Air Transport merged with the Airwork group to form British United Airways (BUA).


Hunting Air Travel Ltd was established as a company at Luton Airport in December 1945 by three members of the Hunting family, including a former Royal Flying Corps pilot during World War I.[1][4]

In addition to an airline operation and a maintenance organisation, the Hunting Group's other aviation interests included Percival Aircraft Ltd, Hunting Aerosurveys Ltd and Aerofilms Ltd.[5]

Hunting-Clan Douglas Dakota at Manchester Airport on the Newcastle service in 1954

Hunting-Clan's operations included all-economy Safari/colonial coach class[nb 2] services to East, Central, Southern and West Africa, as well as similar operations to Gibraltar,[6] Africargo all-cargo services from Manchester and London to East Africa,[nb 3][7] general passenger and cargo charter and inclusive tour (IT) flights. Hunting-Clan African Airways was set up as an associated company to operate freight services from Salisbury to Kariba, Lusaka and Nairobi as well as IT flights to Kariba and Mozambique.[8] Regular live- and bloodstock flights were another Hunting-Clan speciality.[9] The airline also gained scheduled licences to operate a Northern network centred on Newcastle upon Tyne.[nb 4][5]

On 14 June 1952, Hunting Air Transport began operating quasi-scheduled low-fare services from the UK to East, Central, Southern and West Africa using Vikings. These services were part of a joint operation with Airwork, another wholly private British independent airline of that era. Flights initially operated on a fortnightly basis.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] International Air Transport Association (IATA) minimum fare rules did not apply to these services because the governments that owned most of IATA's member airlines had not empowered it to set and control domestic air fares, which included dependent overseas territories.[17][18]

Hunting-Clan Avro York arriving at Manchester on the Africargo service in 1955

The joint Hunting—Airwork Safari/colonial coach service from London to Nairobi routed via Malta, Wadi Halfa, Khartoum, Juba and Entebbe.[5][16] It utilised single-class 27-seat Vikings, which took three days[nb 5] to complete the journey. Although this compared unfavourably with British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), whose regular scheduled services took only 24 hours, load factors averaged 93% during the first nine months of operation. Hunting-Clan and Airwork continued to achieve very high average load factors of 85–90% because their £98 single fare was £42 cheaper than the comparable BOAC fare.[5][19] These load factors were much higher than BOAC's, as a result of which the independents doubled the flight frequency on their London-Nairobi Safari/colonial coach route to once-a-week.[18] This service proved to be so popular that a second weekly frequency was eventually added, which was operated alternately by each airline.[5]

In 1953, operations were to commence on Hunting's Northern network of short-haul domestic and international European scheduled services from Newcastle. However, IATA member airlines objected to Hunting's proposed Scandinavian fares, which delayed the inauguration. This resulted in Hunting-Clan becoming the first British independent airline to join IATA at the following traffic conference in Honolulu, where a resolution was passed permitting fares 10% below standard tourist fares.[5]

In June 1953, Hunting and Airwork jointly launched a fortnightly Safari/colonial coach service between London and Salisbury, entailing one round trip per month by each company.[5] Hunting's Vikings' flightdeck crew comprised two pilots and a radio officer on all short- to medium haul Safari/colonial coach routes. On all long-range services a flight engineer manned the flightdeck as well. All passenger flights also carried an air hostess in the passenger cabin.[3]

When the Scottish Clan Line shipping company[2] became a joint venture partner in the Hunting Group's air transport business in late 1953, this resulted in a split of the group. As a consequence, Hunting's aircraft manufacturing activities were not transferred to the new holding company that took control of the airline and its maintenance support. At that time, the Clan Line was one of two UK shipping lines controlled by the Cayzer shipping magnates.[2] Sir Nicholas Cayzer, who headed the Cayzer family's shipping businesses, viewed his stake in one of Britain's leading contemporary independent airlines as a defensive move to ward off air transport's growing competitive threat to the shipping industry. During that period, Alan Lennox-Boyd, the contemporary Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, signalled the Government's willingness to let Hunting-Clan shift its base to London Airport (now London Heathrow).[3][20]

In spring 1954, Hunting-Clan finally inaugurated its Northern network of short-haul scheduled services from Newcastle following IATA's 1953 resolution permitting fares 10% lower than corresponding standard tourist fares.[5] Its aeroplanes also featured in the 1954 film 'Mask of Dust'.

In June 1954, Hunting and Airwork launched a joint Safari/colonial coach service to West Africa linking London with Accra via Lisbon, Las Palmas, Bathurst and Freetown.[21]

Hunting-Clan Vickers Viscount 732 at London Heathrow Airport North in 1955 soon after delivery

In 1955, Hunting-Clan became the first British independent airline to operate state-of-the-art Vickers Viscount turboprop planes, when it took delivery of three brand-new series 730 aircraft. These replaced Vikings on Safari/colonial coach and trooping flights to Africa, as well as on some of the airline's general passenger charter and IT flights.[3] During that year, the airline also shifted all its operations from Bovingdon to its new base at London Airport.[4]

In 1956, the Clan Line and the Union-Castle Line, the two shipping lines controlled by the Cayzers, joined with the King Line and Bullard King & Co to form British & Commonwealth Shipping. During that time, the War Office invited new tenders for trooping flight contracts to Europe and the Far East, as a consequence of the Government's growing dissatisfaction with the operational performance and high costs of the ageing Hermes fleet that was contracted from Airwork, Britavia and Skyways to operate most of these flights. The War Office specified exclusive use of state-of-the-art Bristol Britannia turboprops on the Far Eastern route as it had calculated that this would save the Government £1.75m each year compared with continuing use of the Hermes. The War Office offered the successful bidder the option of purchasing three new Britannias from the Government as part of a five-year contract or the alternative to lease these planes under a three-year contract. The contracts were to become effective from 1958. Hunting-Clan, which already had two Britannias on order, won against competition from Air Charter and Airwork.[22]

By 1957, Hunting-Clan and Airwork converted their successful East, West and Southern African Safari/colonial coach flights into regular "third-class" scheduled services. However, the Government forced the independents to maintain additional stops that were no longer needed, as a result of replacing Vikings with technologically advanced Douglas DC-6s and Vickers Viscounts. It also required them to share all traffic with BOAC on a 30:70 basis.[6] Despite these restrictions, the independents' services were fully booked five months ahead within a fortnight of their launch.[15][23] When Britain's African colonies became independent, Safari/colonial coach was converted into a fully fledged scheduled service. To secure their traffic rights between the UK and the newly independent African nations, Hunting-Clan and Airwork began participating in revenue-sharing agreements with BOAC and the destination countries' flag carriers.[nb 6][24][25]

1957 was also the year Hunting-Clan discontinued its Northern network, resulting in the closure of its base at Newcastle Airport. Hunting-Clan's Newcastle operations and engineering facilities were taken over by BKS Air Transport, another contemporary British independent airline. This move resulted in concentrating all of Hunting's UK-based activities at its new London Airport base.[26]

Hunting-Clan made substantial losses in 1958. Its successful bid to take over the UK—Singapore trooping contract from Airwork had been priced too low to leave any room for the aircraft's depreciation. Hunting was also facing unexpected problems meeting the War Office's contractual requirements. This necessitated subcontracting a significant part of its newly won business to Air Charter at a loss. As a result, the airline got into financial trouble as soon as the contract started. At that time, trooping accounted for the biggest share of Hunting's overall business. The company's poor financial performance accelerated the initiation of exploratory talks with the Airwork group about a potential alliance, including a full-scale merger of their air transport businesses. These talks also came against the background of Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's government's decision to break up the Ministry of Supply and to create a separate Ministry of Aviation under Duncan Sandys with the intention of rationalising Britain's disparate aircraft manufacturers and independent airlines into bigger, economically viable entities. These moves culminated in the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act of 1960.[15][27]

By March 1960, Hunting-Clan's and Airwork's shareholders had finalised the merger terms. This was followed by a public announcement of their airline subsidiaries' intention to amalgamate all commercial activities from June 1960, trading as British United Airways.[1][28]


Hunting-Clan operated the following aircraft types:

Fleet in 1958[edit]

In April 1958, the Hunting-Clan fleet comprised 15 aircraft.[8]

Hunting-Clan fleet in April 1958
Aircraft Number
Vickers Viscount 700/800 3
Vickers Viking 9
Avro 685 York 3
Total 15

Accidents and incidents[edit]

There are three recorded accidents involving Hunting-Clan aircraft. Two of these were fatal.[29][30]

  • The first fatal accident occurred on 17 February 1952. It involved a Hunting Air Travel Vickers 614 Viking 1 (registration: G-AHPI) operating an international non-scheduled passenger flight between Nice Côte d'Azur Airport and Malta Luqa Airport. The aircraft was destroyed and all 31 occupants (five crew and 26 passengers) were killed when it crashed into the northern slope of the La Cinta mountain range at an altitude of 3,410 ft (1,040 m). This was the worst fatal accident in the company's history. The commission investigating the accident established "imprudence on the part of the pilot", who did not maintain a sufficient safety altitude during his flight over Sicily, as the prime cause. This was of particular importance in view of the thundery formations that were present over the area. The pilot's ignorance of existing wind conditions the aircraft encountered en route, which led to a three-degree discrepancy between the actual and intended track, was cited as a contributory factor. The investigating commission furthermore found that D/F stations at Rome and Cagliari provided flight safeguarding services as and when required, and that other D/F stations at Milan and Venice voluntarily transmitted bearing information to ensure the aircraft and its occupants reached their destination safely.[31]
  • The second fatal accident occurred on 2 December 1958. It involved a Hunting-Clan Vickers Viscount 732 (registration: G-ANRR) on a test flight following a major overhaul. While flying at 1,000 ft (300 m) 10 minutes after takeoff from London Airport, the aircraft lost its starboard wing. This caused the aircraft to crash and catch fire, killing all six occupants. Accident investigators established the reverse operation of the elevator spring tab as the probable cause. Incorrect maintenance of the spring tab mechanism and failure to notice the tab's faulty operation as a result of negligence on the part of maintenance personnel, who were responsible for inspecting the aircraft before returning it to service, involved the pilot in command in involuntary manoeuvres that overstressed the aircraft. This in turn resulted in the aircraft's right wing breaking off.[32]
  • The non-fatal incident occurred on 8 May 1951. It involved a Hunting Air Travel Vickers 639 Viking 1 (registration: G-AHPD) operating an international scheduled passenger flight from Bordeaux Mérignac to RAF Bovingdon. Following an uneventful takeoff from Mérignac, the no. 1 engine suddenly began to lose power when the aircraft climbed through 163 ft (50 m) and the pilot in command throttled down to initial climbing speed. The pilot then shut down the malfunctioning engine, feathered the propeller and applied full power to the no. 2 engine to compensate for the loss of engine no. 1. However, this was insufficient to maintain altitude and led to the flightdeck crew's decision to execute a gear-up landing. When the aircraft touched the ground, it slid for about 110 yd (100 m) before coming to a halt. There were no fatalities among the 32 occupants (five crew and 27 passengers). Accident investigators established the probable cause as the disconnecting of the articulated control rod of the propeller governor due to the lack of a split pin on the governor spindle, and due to the nut of the ball joint of the control spindle having been unscrewed by force.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ independent from government-owned corporations
  2. ^ British residents only
  3. ^ Britain's first scheduled all-cargo service to Africa inaugurated on 23 July 1955
  4. ^ linking Newcastle with Bovingdon, Manchester and Glasgow in the UK, as well as with Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo in Europe; all routes were to be served with Dakotas at a frequency of two flights per week, except Newcastle-Bovingdon which was to be served twice daily (with services to Glasgow and Manchester eventually flown daily during the peak summer season)
  5. ^ with night stops
  6. ^ following Hunting-Clan's's absorption into BUA and that airline's subsequent acquisition by Caledonian Airways to form British Caledonian (BCal), these arrangements continued to be the legal basis of BUA's and BCal's UK—Africa scheduled services
  1. ^ a b c Aeroplane — Britain's Biggest Independent Airline, Vol. 102, No. 2625, pp. 143/4, Temple Press, London, 8 February 1962
  2. ^ a b c Alan Bristow Helicopter Pioneer: The Autobiography (Chapter 3 — In the Navy), Bristow, A. and Malone, P., Pen & Sword Books, Barnsley, 2009, p. 25
  3. ^ a b c d Hunting-Clan — Air-Sea Alliance: The Background to Some Efficient Independent Airline Operations, Flight International, 8 January 1954, p. 45
  4. ^ a b Dix, Barry, Fly Past: A hunting we will go, The Hounslow, 15 January 2009
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Hunting-Clan — Air-Sea Alliance: The Background to Some Efficient Independent Airline Operations, Flight International, 8 January 1954, p. 46
  6. ^ a b Goodbye BUA Viscount Safaris --, Flight International, 10 August 1961, p. 201
  7. ^ Hunting-Clan's "Africargo" Network, Civil Aviation ..., Flight International, 8 July 1955, p. 62
  8. ^ a b World Airline Directory ..., Flight International, 18 April 1958, p. 528
  9. ^ Dean, W.P.; O'Callaghan, M (2015). "1: Corporate History - British United/British United Air Ferries". The ATL-98 Carvair: A Comprehensive History of the Aircraft and All 21 Airframes. Jefferson, N.C., USA: McFarland. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7864-5177-7.
  10. ^ ON SAFARI: ..., Civil Aviation, Flight International, 27 June 1952, p. 781
  11. ^ The New African Airway — A Passenger's Log on the Safari Service, Flight International, July 11, 1952, p. 43
  12. ^ The New African Airway ..., Flight International, July, 11 1952, p. 44
  13. ^ The New African Airway ..., Flight International, July, 11 1952, p. 45
  14. ^ The New African Airway ..., Flight International, 11 July 1952, p. 46
  15. ^ a b c World Airline Directory ..., Flight International, 18 April 1958, p. 526
  16. ^ a b This is Skycoach, Air Commerce ..., Flight International, October 7, 1960, p. 559
  17. ^ Britain Goes It Alone, Air Commerce, Flight International, 15 April 1960, p. 543
  18. ^ a b Fly me, I'm Freddie!, p. 58
  19. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, pp. 58, 165/6
  20. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, p. 61
  21. ^ Sierra Leone and BUA, Air Commerce, Flight International, 23 March 1961, p. 385
  22. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, pp. 44/5
  23. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, pp. 58, 61, 165/6
  24. ^ The Caledonian punchbag, Flight International, 21 March 1987, p. 33
  25. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, p. 166
  26. ^ "History of BKS". Archived from the original on 24 May 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  27. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, pp. 44/5, 61/2
  28. ^ Fly me, I'm Freddie!, p. 63
  29. ^ Aviation Safety Network > ASN Aviation Safety Database > Operator index > United Kingdom > Hunting-Clan Air Transport
  30. ^ Aviation Safety Network > ASN Aviation Safety Database > Operator index > United Kingdom > Hunting Air Travel (and Hunting Air Transport)
  31. ^ ASN Aircraft accident description Vickers 614 Viking 1 G-AHPI — near Burgio, Sicily, Italy
  32. ^ ASN Aircraft accident description Vickers Viscount 732 1 G-ANRR — London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
  33. ^ ASN Aircraft accident description Vickers 639 Viking 1 G-AHPD — Bordeaux Mérignac Airport (BOD)


  • Eglin, Roger; Ritchie, Berry (1980). Fly me, I'm Freddie. London, UK: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-77746-7.
  • "Flight International". Flight International. Sutton, UK: Reed Business Information. ISSN 0015-3710. (various backdated issues relating to Hunting Air Travel, Hunting Air Transport and Hunting-Clan Air Transport, 1946–1960)

External links[edit]