VE Day: A Look At BOAC’s Operations During WWII

Today marks 76 years since the end of World War II in Europe. As numerous countries across the…

VE Day: A Look At BOAC’s Operations During WWII

Today marks 76 years since the end of World War II in Europe. As numerous countries across the globe observe Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), we thought we’d look at how a historic airline operated during the realm of the Second World War. Notably, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was founded soon after the war started, and was even part of some significant events during the period.

A BOAC Shorts S30 Empire Flying Boat, nicknamed Clare, in the waters by Poole, Dorset, following a transatlantic flight in August 1940. Photo: Getty Images

Special services

In September 1939, Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd had been working together following the relocation of their operations from London to Bristol amid the start of WWII. Thus, on November 24th, 1939, BOAC was formed by an Act of Parliament in a bid to nationalize the airlines into one outfit.

Operations commenced on April 1st, 1940. However, naturally, most public air services were suspended amid the conflict. So, BOAC used its extensive fleet of flying boats to transport government and military figures to the likes of North America. The British Airliner Collection at Duxford notes that the airline’s pilots used Consolidated Liberator bombers to return ferry pilots from Prestwick to Montreal after they brought new war aircraft across the Atlantic.

The Royal Canadian Air Force shipped bombers to the UK. Pioneers such as Clyde Pangborn offered their services to these efforts, marking the first operations to cross the Atlantic by land planes.

BOAC also undertook various important but unusual tasks during wartime. For instance, it sent pilots from Scotland to neutral Sweden. Here they would pick up cargo that included ball-bearings that would be used in the war. Initially, the pilots used Lockheed 14 aircraft, but from February 1943, unarmed Mosquitos were deployed.

British Overseas Airways Corporation And Qantas, 1940-1945
A BOAC Douglas Dakota of BOAC in Gibraltar, circa 1943. Photo: Getty Images

Global links

Importantly, the carrier kept the United Kingdom connected with its colonies at the time. It also helped keep the country tied with its other allies. The airline was referred to British Airways at times, even before the company would transform into an operation that would officially go by this name. Its aircraft were branded with the famous Speedbird symbol, often complemented by the Union Flag.

In May 1940, BOAC’s C Class Flying boats, Caribou and Cabot, were bombed in Norway. During this period, crews provided food to France for UK troops cut off by German soldiers. Following the Fall of France, international routes were further impacted amid the lack of connectivity in Europe. So, the airline started a weekly ‘Horseshoe’ route from Durban to Sydney via Cairo and Karachi. Later that year, C Class Flying boat operations connected Poole with Lagos. This was part of the route across Central Africa to Durban.

The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was founded in May 1938 and was then organized into an operational unit at the outbreak of WWII. BOAC became responsible for this in October 1941, and by the time the ATA ended in November 1945, it had delivered 308.567 aircraft of 147 different types since 1940.

1942 got off to a busy start for BOAC. It would fly the UK’s prime minister, Winston Churchill using a Boeing 314 flying boat. Registration G-AGCA, captained by J C Kelly Rogers, the unit took off from Bermuda to land in Plymouth. Despite the strong start to the year, the war would further hinder the airline’s operations. Japan took control of Singapore, meaning that the airline could no longer fly to Australia via Singapore.

Boeing 314 Clipper
At the end of 1941, BOAC started irregular services across the Atlantic with Boeing 314 flying boats, which continued through the ongoing global conflict. Photo: Library of Congress, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Showing its determination

Nonetheless, the carrier wasn’t afraid of flying across enemy territory for the right cause. It started flying over German-occupied Norway between Leuchars and Stockholm to bring back vital cargo.

BOAC then started flying Short S25 Sunderland III flying boats to West Africa. However, the route was suspended in October 1943 and a UK-Cairo-Karachi service was launched. Crews on this route were given military status due to the operations in military regions.

BOAC Flying Boat
A demilitarized conversion of the Short Sunderland military flying boat getting ready for its maiden flight in November 1945. Photo: Getty Images

Overall, BOAC continued to launch routes heading towards the end of the war. It began flying to Moscow via North Africa and Iran. Impressively, it made approximately 270 flights to the Western Desert during the first half of 1943. Other scale-ups include flights to Lisbon and Gibraltar with Douglas DC-3s and flights to Cairo via Rabat and Tripoli with Avro Yorks.

In 1945, BOAC aircraft could be seen in all corners of the world. The airline even made a survey flight to South America with its Avro Lancastrian aircraft.

Stay informed: Sign up for our  and  aviation news digests.

A new era emerges

As the war came to an end, the new government wanted three state airlines to cover operations. British Airways shares that officials wanted BOAC to carry on to flying on routes across the British Empire, and to North America and the Far East. British European Airways (BEA) was tipped for European and national operations. Thus, British South American Airways (BSAA) was billed to Fly on South American and Caribbean routes.

Wartime restrictions had ended by the time 1946 got underway. At this time, the carrier flew modified Sunderlands, Lockheed Lodestars, Douglas DC-3s, and Liberators. It also held Avro Lancastrians, Handley Page Haltons, and Avro Yorks. The airline would also be part of some crucial aircraft experiments, such as the launch of the first-ever commercial jet, the de Havilland Comet, which was also a product inspired by events during WWII.

What are your thoughts about BOAC’s operations during World War II? What do you make of the history of the airline? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

Source : Simple Flying More   

What's Your Reaction?


Next Article

In Memoriam: Who Was Airbus Engineer Bernard Ziegler?

Earlier this week, commercial aviation lost one of its most pioneering engineers with the passing of Bernard Ziegler.…

In Memoriam: Who Was Airbus Engineer Bernard Ziegler?

Earlier this week, commercial aviation lost one of its most pioneering engineers with the passing of Bernard Ziegler. The Frenchman had played a pivotal role in developing the fly-by-wire system for which Airbus products have become well known. Let’s take a look back at Ziegler’s life and the aviation milestones that it encompassed.

Ziegler’s extensive career encompassed both military and commercial aviation. Photo: Airbus

The son of an Airbus founder

Bernard Ziegler was born in the western Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt on March 12th, 1933. His father was none other than Henri Ziegler, who became one of the founders of European manufacturing juggernaut Airbus in December 1970.

The company’s other founding fathers were Roger Béteille and Felix Kracht, although Ziegler had the honor of being its first President and CEO. He was one of the key players in the A300 program. This aircraft put Airbus on the map by being the world’s first twin-engine widebody jetliner. It entered service with Air France in May 1974.

Eight years after Henri Ziegler’s passing aged 91 in July 1998, Airbus honored his work and legacy in 2006 by naming its new delivery center in Toulouse, France after him. At its opening ceremony, the company’s CEO at the time, Gustav Hombert, underlined his importance by stating that “there would be no Airbus without Henri Ziegler.”

Airbus Delivery Centre
Airbus named its new delivery center after its founder Henri Ziegler in 2006. His son, Bernard, developed the manufacturer’s famous fly-by-wire system. Photo: Getty Images

Stay informed: Sign up for our  and  aviation news digests.

Bernard Ziegler’s education and military years

Having established the influential role that Henri Ziegler played in European commercial aviation, it is unsurprising that Bernard Ziegler followed in his father’s footsteps. He first studied engineering at Paris’s prestigious École Polytechnique, graduating in 1954.

Following this, Ziegler attended the École de l’air at Salon-de-Provence Air Base (Base aérienne 701) in the south of France. Here, he underwent a year of military pilot training, after which he joined the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) as a fighter pilot.

Ziegler returned to his studies in 1961, but not before he had served in the Algerian War, being decorated with several medals and honors along the way. He then studied at the Institut supérieur de l’aéronautique et de l’espace (Higher Institute of Aeronautics and Space) and the École du personnel navigant d’essais et de réception.

Dassault Mirage G
Bernard Ziegler flew fighter jets on the front line and as a test pilot during his decorated military career. Photo: Dassault Aviation Collection via Wikimedia Commons

The latter of these, which Ziegler joined in 1964, is a leading base for French test pilots. He made his own mark there by becoming the chief test pilot for the two-seat Dassault Mirage G fighter jet in 1968. However, a switch to Airbus was just around the corner.

The switch to Airbus

With the Airbus A300 program gathering momentum, it needed a test pilot. Having helped to found the company in December 1970, Henri Ziegler brought his son Bernard onboard to be the new manufacturer’s chief test pilot. He joined the multi-national company in 1972, and, as well as testing the A300, Ziegler also did the honors for the A310, A320, and A340. Particularly in the case of the latter two designs, Ziegler would achieve remarkable success.

For example, towards the end of his career, Ziegler was part of the record-setting ‘World Ranger’ team. This saw Airbus complete an aerial circumnavigation of the globe from Paris in 48 hours and 22 minutes in June 1993. While this was not a record-breaking circumnavigation in terms of speed, it stood apart from previous attempts with its refueling strategy.

Bernard Ziegler
Bernard Ziegler joined Airbus as its chief test pilot for the A300 in 1972. Photo: Airbus

Specifically, the ‘World Ranger’ made just one stop during its aerial circumnavigation. With five center fuel tanks and just 22 people onboard, the A340-200 involved flew directly from Paris to Auckland, New Zealand in just 21 hours 32 minutes.

After five hours on the ground, it then returned to the French capital in 21 hours 46 minutes. All in all, the ‘World Ranger’ set two records, becoming both the first-ever non-stop Europe-New Zealand flight, and the longest-ever flight by an airliner at the time.

A fly-by-wire pioneer

Airbus models are known today, among other things, for their fly-by-wire (FBW), side-stick controls. The first of its (or in fact any) aircraft to be powered by such a system was the A320, which entered service with Air France in April 1988. Ziegler was a driving force behind the decision to implement such technology on Airbus designs.

Airbus A340-200
Bernard Ziegler was part of the team that flew an A340-200 directly from Paris to Auckland in 1993.        Photo: Anthony Noble via Wikimedia Commons

The company stated that:

[Ziegler] realized the full potential that digital FBW could bring, including flight envelope protection incorporated into the control software. Ziegler’s legacy lives on with digital FBW on all current-generation Airbus aircraft, and its adoption as the standard on all modern passenger aircraft globally.”

Interestingly, Airbus used the A300, for which Ziegler had been the original chief test pilot, as a testbed for such technology. It added that:

As a test pilot, [Ziegler] flew the first flight of the first A300 in 1972. The program was later an early testbed for FBW which transfers the pilot’s commands to the aircraft via digital signals. FBW provides significant benefits through commonality, improved flight safety, reduced pilot workload, fewer mechanical parts, and real-time monitoring of all aircraft systems.”

Bernard Ziegler
Bernard Ziegler’s achievements were honored at the 2012 Farnborough Airshow. Photo: Airbus

The later years

Ziegler eventually retired from Airbus in 1997, by which time he had worked his way up to the position of Senior Vice President of Engineering. His retirement marked the end of a career that spanned more than four decades, of which he spent 25 years at Airbus.

Following his retirement, Ziegler’s pioneering efforts in the fly-by-wire field were honored at the 2012 Farnborough Airshow. Here, he received the Flightglobal Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his innovation and contributions to commercial aviation. He passed away on May 4th, 2021, aged 88 years old, and his funeral took place today.

In memory of Bernard Ziegler, March 12th, 1933 – May 4th, 2021.

Were you aware of Bernard Ziegler’s instrumental role in developing Airbus’s fly-by-wire system? Perhaps you remember his record-breaking journey to New Zealand in 1993? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source : Simple Flying More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.