Dan-Air Engineering opened a new hanger at their base in Lasham. The large heated hanger could handle the ever growing fleet of Dan-Air. The go ahead was given, on condition that no aircraft engines would be tested between 8pm and 6am. Meanwhile, a conortium of UK airlines asked the ATLB to allow them to raise regional fares by 5 1/2% claiming that if they were not allowed to, they would lose a collective £2,000,000 due to increases in aviation fuel prices. In March the carrier was advertising for 'Air Stewardesses' the age range was 20-28 and applicants had to be well groomed, have good eyesight and be educated up to GCE or equivalent moreover they had to be single.
Autair International, who had previously been known as BKS now became known as Court Line to coincide with the delivery of their first BAC 1-11. Along with it came the introduction of a bright new colour scheme, in pink, yellow green and magenta. The airline would change charter flights in many ways....
Channel Airways had committed themselves to the BAC 1-11 despite their reputation as being financially weak. Hawker Siddeley began negotiations with Channel in 1967, with a view to purchasing a newer version of the Trident, guaranteeing the airline a 20% reduction in seat-mile costs over the Trident 1E. With a full payload of 139 the Trident 3 had a range of 1,930 miles or 2,570 miles with 100 passengers in a low-density seating configuration. The latter brought the Canary Islands within the aircraft's non-stop range from the UK and West Berlin. These were also the first Tridents ordered by a UK independent airline. Hawker Siddeley had five remaining unsold Trident 5E and Chennel's order was worth £8 million. This was a substantial debt for a UK independent carrier. The arrival of Channel's Trident May 1968 coincided with the delivery of its second 1-11.
In 1968 Channel had reduced their outstanding jet aircraft orders due to the economic situation in the UK. This resulted in cancellation of three orders for Tridents and 1-11 jets. Channel's increasing dependence on the IT market made it a highly seasonal airline, unlike Dan-Air. Each year, the end of the winter there followed by a six-week period of intense activity starting in April, when all their aircraft were contracted by Clarksons to fly British tourists to and from Rotterdam for the Dutch bulbfield season from ten UK airports. Dan-Air ad muscled in on this market too. The flights were popular with passengers and utilised aircraft that were not used to the their full potential. Dan-Air had negotiated other day trip flights to European cities. May saw the start of the main summer season for all airlines, usually commencing with flights to Majorca, Spain and Morocco under contract to major Tour Operators. Flights to other resorts started the following month. During the peak period in July and August, UK airlines like Dan-Air operated 24 hours a day, flying scheduled routes during the day and IT destinations at night. The increase in utilisation meant that aircraft spent as little as 40 minutes on the ground between flights. By September, the IT programme began winding down, with flights to Italy ending first due to the country's short holiday season. Flights to Majorca and certain Spanish mainland destinations continued right until the end of the summer season in late-October.
To avoid having aircraft sit idly on the ground during the winter months, spare capacity was leased out. Ad Hoc charters and a small number of year-round scheduled services replaced the intensive summer IT programme. It was at this time that all heavy maintenance took place. With sixteen jet aircraft and six prop liners Dan-Air had one of the largest fleet of all the independents. each type operated as a fleet in its own right. this helped with maintainence schedules and costing.
Channel Airways held the dubious record for operating tightest seating capacity of all the UK charter airlines. their DC4 aircraft were configured to seat 88 passengers, 139 people were squeezed into their Trident 1Es, 99 passengers into their 1-11 400s and 83 & 56 into their Viscount 810s and HS 748s respectively. Dan-Air had a relatively spacious 1-11 cabin with 89 seats and 48 on the HS748.
Channel Airways also became known for putting aircraft into service they had acquired secondhand with minimal changes to the prior operators' liveries, often merely taping over the previous operators' names with their own. Channel's inability to raise funds to pay for their outstanding aircraft orders that had been placed direct from the manufacturers, left them with no spare capacity to take on additional charter contracts during the peak season of 1970. To meet the requirements of a two-year contract to operate IT flights. Channel were forced to acquire five ex-BEA de Havilland Comets for £2 million, resulting in a significant increase in its capacity. The aircraft retained the basic BEA livery with just the Channel name taped over the BEA title.
In September, a consortium of three West German tour operators awarded Channel a contract to fly from West Berlin to the Mediterranean, worth £11 million per year. Both Channel and Dan-Air were flying roughly 50 weekly round-trips during the peak season. Channel and Dan-Air were of a similar size in fleet terms and sought the same business. Dan-Air's decision not to put themselves in debt with brand new aircraft was, with the benefit of hindsight, a good decision. Both carriers encountered problems sourcing spare parts to support their growing jet fleets. In fact, the lack of spares for both Comets and Tridents caused major disruptions to the summer charter programme. Dan-Air was forced to sub charter other airlines' aircraft to meet contractual requirements of Tour Operators. In 1970 Channel Airways carried 541,000 passengers, roughly the same number as Dan-Air, one of our pilot contributors notes;
"God, I will never know how Channel got away with it. They had no money and they shoved as many people as they could on their aircraft. Their aircraft looked terrible, they barely had a lick of their own paint on them. Channel were known to go on the scrounge from other carriers for tyres silly things that any regular airline would always have a supply of. We got a much worse press than Channel did, and yet they carried on like the keystone cops. Rumours went around about them cutting corners with all sorts of things. I heard morale was low and several good people left them to work with rival airlines."
To ensure adequate access to spares to continue flying their Comets, Channel Airways acquired further second-hand models Channel's inability to pay for a sufficient spares inventory to keep all its aircraft flying during the peak summer season also resulted in one of its two Tridents having its engines removed to keep the other flying; the engineless aircraft sat on the ground at Stansted for much of that year's summer to enable its Berlin Tegel based sister aircraft to continue flying German holidaymakers until the end of the season.
British United asked BOAC to take them over in the Autumn. Freddie Laker who founded British United was furious. He said he was going to put a bid in for the airline himself. Cash strapped Channel Airways also placed a bid. Dan-Air's ambitions were more low key. They had set their sights on the Manchester-Newcastle route. Newcastle were in favour as it would help them promote links to Transatlantic services from Manchester. Dan-Air's presence at Manchester was limited to charter flights. BOAC were also keen, as the flights would link them to their Manchester - Montreal - Chicago three times weekly service. Dan-Air would use the Nord 262 on the route as it had been recently evaluated and had proven to be fast and reliable. The last time a service linked the two cities was in 1966 when British Midland flew Argonauts on the service. Dan-Air's choice of the Nord aircraft was correct. The Dakotas that had been flying Link-City Services had seats for up to 36 people. Other types were evaluated. The Beechcraft and Jetstream did not meet Dan-Air's requirements. Whilst both aircraft were luxurious, their cabins had just 10 and 15 seats respectively. The Nord could carry 20 people in comfort, with 26 forward facing and three rear facing seats in a three abreat cabin.
Tees Side was dropped from the Bristol - Cardiff - Liverpool - Newcastle - Tees Side route in July. Dan-Air stated that it was because increased frequencies meant they could not fit the service in. The proposed Newcastle - Manchester service ran into problems in June when Cambrian Airways objected to the application. Cambrian had a route from Manchester to Glasgow and claimed competition could be damaging, ultimately they lost their appeal and Dan-Air were now able to link Manchester and Newcastle together. Of course there had to be a hitch...The Nord which had never flown on a UK register was held up at the factory by paperwork. Instead of the June 6th start, flights would now begin on 29th June. Although Dakotas and Ambassadors were available they could not meet the timing schedules that the nifty Nord could achieve. Consequently the launch was delayed. Much fanfare was made of the brand new Nord aircraft that had joined the fleet. Advertisements in the press appeared herald its arrival. Dan-Air said it would aim to reach a five minute turn around at each airport the Nord landed at and that the only potential drawback was the possible tardiness of airport staff. The plan involved ground staff having passengers at the gate as the Nord landed. Once on stand, with one engine still running, passengers would disembark and new ones board. Luggage would simulaneously be offloaded and loaded. Trials had found the task possible. By August Liverpool Airport declared that Dan-Air's passenger numbers were down by 50%. In a full month they carried 985 passengers from the airport. Dan-Air stated that as they had withdrawn from a few services there was an expected drop in passenger numbers. The new service would operate three times a week. Dan-Air said that once 'passenger appeal' of linking four great English cities, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol and Cardiff, had been established, they were confident the numbers would go up. At the same airport, Gordon Connor, a 39 year old clerk decided to pocket Dan-Air's £81 landing fees nstead of handing it over to the airport. Connor was arrested and told magistrates that he would repay the money from his wages. He was fined an additonal £20.
The Liverpool-Amsterdam service that had been operated by Ambassadors was to get a boost when Comet jets would take over the service. The two hours flying time would be halved and the 65 seat availability on the Ambassador would be increased to 105 with the Comet. With the promise of a full bar service and hot food, the route was expected to be popular with business men who would now enjoy a full day in Amsterdam and return after business hours.
Global Holidays chartered Dan-Air Comets to fly out of Belfast for 1971 Summer programme and had proved to be successful. Belfast had limited charter flights and residents of the province normally had to fly to a UK mainland airport to access the majority of charters and scheduled services. The new charters would operate to Dubrovnik, Alicante, Gerona and Palma Dan-Air hoped to base a Comet at Belfast.
The faithful DC3 and Ambassador carried on into the new decade. Although they numbered just one of each type at the end of the year. Despite the obvious appeal of the brand new Nord 262, its introduction was bemoaned by some passengers who wrote to Dan-Air to request the DC3 be re-introduced. Perhaps it was because the DC3 was a larger aircraft and passengers felt safer in its drafty, rattling old cabin.
The jet fleet had now increased to sixteen models. Sadly one of the Comet fleet crashed into mountains at Arbucias, near Barcelona, Spain. The aircraft, under the command of Captain Alec Neal from Oxted, First Officer David Shorrock of Southport and engineer David Sayer of Crawley were killed. The cabin crew, Ann Vickers of Chesterfield, Carol Maddock of Barwick in Elmet, Hazel Barber of Manchester and Sue Hind of Manchester also lost their lives. A total of 105 passengers perished in the crash. The crash report can be viewed[link:3] here[/link:3]. Dan-Air announced that they would open a memorial near the crash site. The memorial would be designed similar to an English garden. Relatives of those lost would be flown out to the memorial at Dan-Air's expense. The memorial had been necessary as Spanish law stated that the bodies would have to be buried in Spain.
Despite this terrible loss, Dan-Air had an incredible 1970 with passenger numbers almost double those of the previous year, it was the first year that Dan-Air carried more than a million passengers in a single year. The stranglehold of UK scheduled air routes carried on with very limited opportunities presenting themselves to independent airlines. Dan-Air had dropped some of its loss making domestic services, concentrating on the more profitable services. If one considers the routes that Dan-Air had tried to establish. Carlisle-Gloucester and Bournemouth do not spring to mind when one is thinking of mass air travel. Although the Air Transport Licencing Board (ATLB) did allow the sevice from Newcastle to Bournemouth with optional stops at Birmingham and Manchester to commence without having a hearing. Simply put - independent airlines did not stand a chance of gaining licences for high density routes. Many of Dan-Air's competitors who were around at the start of the 1970s would not be operating at the end of the decade.
August saw bad headlines for Dan-Air when a number of flights were delayed. Passengers in Ibiza and Palma faced delays of eighteen hours when aircraft failed to arrived to take them home. A combination of fog and technical issues were blamed for the delays. The first weekend in August was a particularly busy weekend for the company. Finding a replacement Comet aircraft was near imppossible. French Air Traffic Controllers then began, what was to go on to be an annual round of industrial action. The Comets had been chartered by Clarksons who left passengers stranded in airport terminals. Passengers complained that they were left without information and would not be home in time to start work the next day. The delays were further hampered when the replacement aircraft was delayed with technical issues at Manchester. Fog would not hinder the operation of aircraft today, the technical abilities of aircraft at the time meant aircraft would often be diverted or delayed. In September a company Comet crash landed at Newcaslte airport (Picture and press report HERE) The aircraft was on a training flight when the accident occured. No-one was injured and the Comet was removed from the runway as quickly as possible. Upon being met by fire crews and emergency vehicles the crew claimed they had no idea that the aircraft had a problem. Septembers public relations took another hit when Newcastle United's football team boarded a Comet to take them, their delegation of trainers, managers and physiotherapists along with a press crew. A covering flap blew off during the flight to pick the VIPs up. After waiting an hour the anxious players and crew boarded only to find an engine would not start. Staff at Newcastle hurridly got in touch with Gatwick headquarters and a replacement aircraft, this time a BAC 1-11 arrived. The team eventually took off four hours late.
Passenger numbers were increasing in winter too, as a result of a new type of package tour that didn't take long to become a permanent fixture: Skiing. In winter 1970 destinations in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Yugoslavia had been evaluated by Tour companies who were eager to make profit during their normally quiet winter months. Airlines were delighted as it would help with year round utilisation of aircraft. Inghams and Neilson became heavy users of Dan-Air aircraft in this market. Crystal Holidays were interested in using Dan-Air on their North Atlantic services. As the Edwards Committee Report had suggested the year before; a "Second Force" UK airline would be given preference amongst other independents. Two airlines; Caledonian and British United were put forward. Caledonian had been flying for ten years and had a great reputaion for in flight service. It had been a high profile operator with the 'Affinity Group' charters accross the Atlantic carrying more passengers than Aer Lingus, Sabena and El Al to the USA. Caledonian had been using very old DC 7c aircraft on these routes before obtaining second hand Boeing 707 jets in 1968. British United had been established a long time by way of a merger of several small and medium sized operators. It was not in a good financial position. The two airlines merged when Caledonian bought the ailing British United. Now called Caledonain/BUA with the intention of becomming British Caledonian by 1973. The new airline would have seven Boeing 707 and four Vickers VC10 as well as BAC 1-11 jets for European services. Caledonian/BUA had been applying for several scheduled services which had been largely rejected. They argued that the existing regulation meant that 90% of scheduled routes by a UK carrier were carried out by BEA or BOAC, this had to, and was about to change - forever.
November saw a special BAC 1-11 charter to Bucharest. Fans of Liverpool chartered the aircraft and paid £32 10s for the trip. Lunn's Travel announced in December that they would be chartering Dan-Air aircraft for their summer programme of flights from Luton to Rome with holidays priced £36 rising to £51 in peak season for a week and £51 to £70 for two weeks. Kenton Travel, a small Harrow based company chartered Dan-Air a BAC 1-11 every Friday until Summer for a weekend trip to Hamburg from Luton for £25 including accomodation.
NETWORK & PRESS 1970
The integration of the Nord 262 which replaced the ageing Dakota had gone smoothly. However, 1971 marked the start of a difficult period for aviation. Caledonian purchased British United Airways for almost £8 million. British United had claimed they needed to spend £50 million on new aircraft to retain its status as the second force in UK aviation. British United had grown to be a successful airline in the 1960s. Managing director Freddie Laker had steered the company to an all jet operation and BUA was the government's choice for the second force in UK aviation. Laker had become disilusioned with the company and left to form his own airline'Laker Airways' in 1966. When Caledonian purchased BUA in November 1970 Laker was furious at the sale. Caledonian and Laker had ambitions for long haul scheduled services. Dan-Air was in a secure financial position after a couple of difficult years. Skyways of London had been operation 1955 it was purchased by Euravia in 1964. Senior management then went on to form International Skyways. This new airline immediately commenced the cross channel services using Dakota aircraft that were eventually supplemented with the introduction of the HS 748. This new airline traded as Skyways International. The airline was never really successful.
February saw Dan-Air recruiting stewardesses to be based in Newcastle and Manchester. The upper age range was between 20 and 28 Open interviews invited girls within the age range who had good eyesight, weight in proportion to height, and educated to GCE or equivalent. Those with foreign language or nursing skills would be at an advantage. Those who were male were at a definite disadvantage as they would not be interiewed.
Airport Catering had provided catering for Dan-Air and British Midland for many years. In view of the expansion of Dan-Air they wished to build a huge catering shed in Newcaslte only to be told that there was a 'Gentleman's Agreement' with a local brewary not to allow other firms to offer catering. A situation that Dan-Air were not happy with.
Talks had been underway with airlines with a view to introducing a larger aircraft into the fleet. Dan-Air did not want to fly scheduled services on long haul services, but they did see an opening for affinity charter flights across the Atlantic. The DC8 was considered. Dan-Air had exteended talks with McDonnell about modifications to the type to suit Dan-Air's stye of operation. this would involve a high density layout and changed to the galleys. The airline had also had talks with American carriers who wished to sell some of their DC8 aircraft. One pilot told us;
'Alan Snudden was very much involved with the discussions. He had flown over and had meetings with Delta, Pan Am and I believe, Brannif. Delta had the series 71 for sale and they carried 250 odd passengers. As I recall, the price was just outside our budget. Talks with Pan Am had gone very well and it look like a deal was going to be struck. Back at home talks went on with banks and with Pan Am. It was all looking positive. Dan-Air even went as far as to print promtional literature with the DC8 in Dan-Air's livery on the front. Pan Am had come up with the right price, so it was good to go. From Dan-Air's point of view it would be a major coup, we would be the first airline to introduce the beautiful DC 8 onto the UK register - that was when the headache started. It was something that proved quite costly with the 727 a couple of years down the line. The Air Transport Licencing Board always had to be involved when a type was introduced onto the UK register. The ATLB came up with a list of modifications that we would have to implement before the aircraft could fly. It would be very expensive to undertake such changes, especially when we were unsure if there would be sufficient business for the things once they arrived. Then the UK Government has its own rules. They naturally wanted UK airlines to buy British manufactured aircraft where possible. There would be tariffs slapped on imported aircraft. The Government forced Caledonian to purchase the 1-11 and were trying to get Britannia to get them as well, but they refused. They were less likely to be heavy handed if the UK didn't produce an aircraft that met an airline's requirements. Pan Am were very helpful and pointed out that BOAC were already operating the Boeing 707 as were Caledonian. It might not be such a headache importing them. So, basically that is what happened. Naturally, the aircraft that Pan Am were wanting to dispose of would be the ones that were the oldest. In fact they were some of the first 707s to have been produced. I considered converting to the type, but I had the Comet running through my veins. I also had a family. It was hard enough doing so many night flights that arrived back in the UK in the early hours. I didn't want to be away for days at a time.'
Dan-Air duly ordered two Boeing 707 jets which would be modified to carry 189 passengers in a single class cabin. The 707 had previously carried 123 ecconomy passengers and 18 first class. 189 was the maximum exit layout for the type.
In March Dan-Air took delivery of their first Boeing 707, and ex Pan Am example that was manufatured in 1959. The aircraft was indeed one of the first 707s off the production line, and was 12 years old when it entered Dan-Air service. A new colour scheme was designed and made its debut on the the new aircraft. It would be applied to all other aircraft as they underwent routine maintenance. The second 707 would arrive in 1972 and for reasons unknown, was fitted with 192 seats, three more than the maximum.
Altogether six crews, mainly from the Comet fleet were trained on the new aircraft. Each pilot would have ten hours flying on the machine and a further ten hours of supervision. The aircraft, minus seating was flown to Newcastle for the training. Captain Alan Bernstein from Massachusetts who flew for Pan Am was given the task. He told press that flying the 707 was easy. 'You only have to fly the cockpit' he said 'The rest will just follow on behind' Before commencing flights the aircraft would need to be refitted to Dan-Air's requitements. Pan Am's luxurious cabin was quickly replaced with new red seating. Dan-Air now had capacity to match any of its rivals on long haul flights. Initially the aircraft would be chartered to fly to North American and Canadian cities on the newly commenced 'Affinity Charter flights', mainly from Gatwick. The fares would be £50. Stewart Carlisle from Dan-Air said that the aircraft would be operating to all points of the compass if they got the enquiries. If the Transatlantic charters were successful they would be able to take Caledonian / BUA on head to head. A second aircraft was ordered from Pan Am for delilvery in 1972.
New airlines regularly sprang up to challenge the status quo. In 1970 British Island Airways commenced operations on domestic services in the UK. They would fly passengers on 50 seat Herald Aircraft. Air Anglia had began flying into Liverpool in 1971 and Loganair flew into Manchester from Scotland. As start up, they woould not trouble Dan-Air on charter services, but they would almost certainly want to get a foothold on the UK domestic market. Air Anglia commenced a Norwich - Liverpool service using a Brittan Norman Islander with seven seats. Dan-Air would be the handling agent for Air Anglia, bringing revenue to Dan-Air.
The Newcastle-Kristiansand service was upgraded from twice to three times a week in May of this year, at the same time Dan-Air applied to serve Newcastle and Bournemouth with optional stops at Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. Although the flights were planned to take place three times a week, the application was for an unrestricted service. Two HS 748 joined the fleet as a replacement for the Ambassador. A major promotional initiative was launched at Liverpool in an attempt to drum up business on the Liverpool-Amsterdam service. The airport had only one international scheduled service - the one operated by Dan-Air. It was noted that the service averaged only 20 passengers per flight. The airport complained at a lack of duty free shopping.
A large charter programme was started from Birmingham, carrying holiday makers to European destinations for Horizon Holidays Midlands and Lunn Poly using Comet and BAC 1-11 aircraft. Lunn Poly also selected Dan-Air to operate their flights out of Luton for the first time.
The Ambassador was finally phased out in September this year. The sole Ambassador in the fleet was the last turbine engined aircraft the airline had. It carried out its last flight this year to Jersey. The Dan-Air Social Club later chartered the aircraft for a goodbye flight to France.
State owned British European Airways, and BOAC were not happy with anything any of their rivals did. BEA hated the relaxing of any rules allowing charter carriers to have access to any airport they flew to. BOAC could not stand the idea that independents might be flying long haul charters to the United States. In response to the European flights BEA had started a subidiary airline 'BEA Airtours'. This airline would fly Comets to sunspots on behalf of Tour Operators, most notably, Enterprise Holidays, BEA's own Tour Operator. BOAC had Sovereign Holidays as its in house tour operator. More about this will come up in 1973. BEA announced this year that it was going to replace its entire BEA Airtours fleet of Comet aircraft with Boeing 707s to enable it to compete on the North Atlantic ABC Affinity Flights. BEA Airtours was also state funded,which put the independents at a disadvantage.
Dan-Air's parent compnay Davies and Newman was floated on the stock exchange for the first time with share prices at 23p. Giant companies with far more financial strength than independent airlnes had slowly started integrating themselves into airlines. Great Universal Stores had recently gained a major shareholding in Caledonian/BUA which gave them increased financial flexibility, Britannia Airways was wholly owned by the Thomson Organisation and Monarch Airlines had backing from the mega wealthy Mantegazza Family (who also owned Cosmos Holidays) Dan-Air was among a small group of carriers who were truly independent, Lloyd International, Donaldson Aviation and Dan-Air three of the most prominent. The flotation would enable Dan-Air to have a cash injection to obtain more aircraft.
Donaldson Aviation had been formed in 1968 and leased Britannia Aircraft. By 1971 they had started operating Boeing 707s leased from Pan Am to join the increasing number of carriers on the North Atlantic Affinity Charter operation. Lloyd International was another airline who were beginning to struggle to survice, let alone expand. These airlines ultimately failed where Dan-air succeeded. In December 1971 it was announced that Lunn Poly would be using Dan-Air Comet and BAC 1-11s for their 1972 charter programme and reducing the number of BEA flights.
East Midlands Airport had only had a handful of Dan-Air charters, in Otober 1971 it was reported by Global Holidays that they had been a great success. For the 1972 season they would operate Dan-Air Comets and BAC 1-11s on flights to Majorca, the Costa Blanca and Costa Brava.
A new service linking Liverpool and Bournemouth commenced in December. The daily service was priced at £16:20 one way. Dan-Air said that they had always chosen routes to cities that had poor road and rail connections. They hoped the service would appeal to holiday makers and businessmen. They had timed the service to link with other flights from Liverpool.
During the first week of December 1971, Channel Airways sold both of their Trident 1Es to BEA to counter the increase in unit costs resulting from low utilisation of these aircraft. (One of the aircraft was leased to BEA's Newcastle-based regional subsidiary Northeast Airlines while the other was operating the corporation's regional routes from Birmingham to the Continent.
In November a Boeing 707 was stranded in Greenland when it made a scheduled refuelling stop. In sub zero temperatures some of the aircraft parts froze. Passengers were taken to a nearby hotel while the aircraft underwent a thawing out process and anti freezing.
The flotation had helped Dan-Air go back into profit. It was reported in October that the airline had made a profit of £497,000. Dan-Air said that they were confident that the following year would be even more profitable as the entire charter fleet had already been fully utilised. It was announced in November that the days and times of the Liverpool-Amsterdam service would change the flights would now be operation on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays iinstead of Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The 8-30am departure to Amsterdam would now depart at 12-30 and return to Liverpool at 3:15 instead of 5pm. The flights had previously been operated by 105 seater Comet Jets. From now on they would be carried out using the HS748. This was much more simple. The flight was slightly longer at one 1 hour 45 minutes, 30 minutes slower than the Comet But it would mean that the HS 748 would be able to fly straight there and back. Up until the changes the Comet would fly to Amsterdam, where it would fly to Tees Side, and back to Amsterdam for the return.
The report into the Barcelona crash of 1971 was released in November. The Comet had overshot its radio beacon at Toulouse and was off course. It was reasonable to believe that it would converge on the radio beacon at Sabadell. The report concluded that the fixes given to the aircraft were eroneous and that position reports from the aircraft led the air traffic controllers to believe that it was closer to Sabadell than it was. A request from ground control to know whether the aircraft had passed Sabadell came to the same conclusion. This resulted in a wrong identification was made when a radar echo of similar characteristics, similar to those of the Comet. The radar signal was going in the same direction and speed as those expected by the Comet. It was not questioned by the ATC. This led the controller to give instructions to decend and approach the runway at Barcelona. From that moment on, the catastrophie was inevitable.
Passenger numbers increased to 1,129,000, the largest number of passengers carried in a single year so far. Two more Comets were added to the fleet, bringing the total to 14. The BAC 1-11 fleet was also increased to 5, two Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft replaced the two Nord 262 propliners. One was sold and the other returned to its lessor.
NETWORK & PRESS 1971
The year commenced with Dan-Air looking for more cabin crew for Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Newcaslte and Tees Side.
In January 1971 Skyways Coach Air went bust. The Conservative government refused to step in and save it. Although it did intervene in helping to find a buyer. Dan-Air bought the company for £650,000 and with it four Hawker Siddeley 748 propliners. Dan-Air did not wish to purchase the Skyways' old Dakota fleet, so they were sold. Dan-Air would take over the airline's existing scheduled services. Skyways' network had recently been slashed, disposing of underperforming routes. Skyways had made its name ferrying passengers to Paris in the cheapest possible way with their 'Coach Air'. This involved a train or coach ride from London to Lympne, a short flight across the English Channel to Beauvais and a train to Paris.
The newly formed division - Dan-Air Skyways - was a temporary one. The newly acquired HS 748 aircraft were a great addition to Dan-Air. This meant that the Nord 262 was no longer needed at all. The first HS748s had made the Nord largely redundant and one of them had been returned, the four new 748s would finish the type's role with Dan-Air. The HS748 would go on to be the back bone of Dan-Air's scheduled service operations. It had successfully taken over the Liverpool-Amsterdam service that had recently seen an upgrade to Comet jets. This was not a demotion in any way. The aircraft was more suited to the short haul service. Hot food was now rejected with a simple snakc offering.
The HS748 would soon become back bone of Dan-Air's scheduled service operations. It would take over the Liverpool-Amsterdam service that had recently seen an upgrade to Comet jets. This was not a demotion in any way. The aircraft was able to accomodate between 44 aand 48 passengers and had a full galley. The galley however did not have an oven facility. Instead, open sandwiches and snacks were served. The flying time was one hour 45 minutes.
In early 1972, former Channel Airways director Captain Peter Lockwood acquired a pair of ex-American Airlines BAC One-Eleven 400s for his new charter company, Orientair, to take over Channel's lucrative German charter contracts.When Orientair's plan to assume Channel Airways' position in Berlin ran into difficulties, Dan-Air took over these contracts, resulting in an expansion of Dan-air's airline's Berlin operation.
Channel Airways Lack of fleet standardisation and low, all-year round aircraft utilisation due to seasonal peaks and troughs in its charter and scheduled markets drove up Channel's unit costs while low charter rates and poor yields on short-haul scheduled routes served in competition with British Air Ferries from Southend depressed revenues. To bring costs in line with revenues, Channel Airways announced the closure of its Stansted engineering base and the return of its headquarters to Southend at the end of January 1972. A week later, Channel Airways' main lender, Barclays Bank, appointed a receiver and put the airline up for sale while operations continued. Potential buyers' lack of interest in Channel Airways as a going concern forced the break-up of the company. By winter 1971/2 work for the remaining jet fleet had all but dried up, jet services ceased on 15 February 1972. Operations ceased completely on 29 February when a DH Dove completed the last Channel Airways flight from Ostend to Southend. Permanent cessation of operations was followed by withdrawal of Channel Airways's air operator's certificate at the end of March 1972.
Following Channel Airways's demise, Dan-Air acquired the failed carrier's remaining four airworthy Comet 4Bs and its licence to operate year-round scheduled services from Bournemouth to Guernsey and Jersey while British Airways Regional Division acquired a BAC 1-11 400 previously in service with Channel Airways. In addition, the last three remaining former Channel Airways Viscounts were sold together with the aircraft's entire spares inventory to newly formed Scottish airline, Alidair. Ipswich Aerodrome, previously owned by Channel Airways, was sold to Lonmet Aviation. With so much business coming their way 1972 was going to be a big year for Dan-Air. The HS748. Services to Montpellier, Beauvais and Clermont Ferrand were opened. Skyways had flown to Clermont Ferrand from Ashford in Kent - the route was transferred to now originate from Gatwick. This wasn't without problems from the Ministry Of Aviation who were reluctant to allow Dan-Air to make the transfer from Ashford to Gatwick. Dan-Air called the MoA's bluff and an agreement was made. Meanwhile BEA Airtours continued to operated at a loss, as did the two state airlines BEA and BOAC. The Conservative Government decided that the two companies would merge the following year. The decision to change the Leverpool-Amsterdam service to a HS748 did not adversly affect load factors. The numbers on the route fell by just 400 to 13,971. The 748 used a lot less fuel and had cheaper landing fees than the Comet so the strategy was a good one. Newcastle had seen further develpment as a base for Dan-Air with the addition of Bergen and Stavanger to their list of routes from the North Eastern city. The services had all proved popular, especially with seamen and oil workers, Dan-Air offered discounts to these passengers. Amsterdam was bolstered with flights from Tees Side that had not seen any Dan-Air aircraft for several years.
The BAC 1-11 was trialed for flights from Berlin Tegal and Gatwick for flights to the Canary Islands. The aircraft could reach it's destination provided weight-saving measures were carried out. Dan-Air found it could make its aircraft fly longer without refuelling if the baggage allowance was reduced from the usual 44lb to 40lb. The aircraft would also carry a few less passengers. If 80 passengers instead of 89 were carried the 1-11 could fly with normal fuel reserves between the two destinations without a refuelling stop, certainly in one direction and possibly both if the winds were favourable. This made the BAC 1-11 an ideal choice as opposed to the Boeing 737. Particularly for tour operators struggling to fill the bigger aircraft profitably. If the passenger load was greater than 80, the charterer paid for any refuelling stops, encouraging Tour Operators to keep to a maximum of 80 passengers.
British Air Services absorbed Cambrian Airways into its company this year. The company was 70% owned by the state and could pose a serious threat to Dan-Air.
Former Prime Minister and current Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas Home was a distinguished passenger this year when the Foreign Office chartered a Comet for 17 days for the politician's Middle East tour. Fortunately it was not the same Comet that was carrying out a charter fight to Alicante on February 25th. The aircraft took off from Manchester and just thirty minutes into the flight, smoke began to fill the cabin. An alarm sounded in the flight deck and the Captain shut down one engine. The pilot immeditely turned the aircraft back to Manchester where it landed with the runway lined with emergency vehicles. The aircraft landed without a hitch and passengers were flown to their destination four hours later.
Douglas -Home's tour was not without hitches. Mis hap number one was when the RAF 'Ran out of aircraft' to accompany him. Mis - hap two saw the Foreign Secretary driven to the wrong airport 'Out of habit' and mis-hap three was when the Dan-Air Comet was delayed for fifteen minutes with a technical problem. The aircraft flew Douglas Home to Instanbul, Dubai, Delhi Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Delhi, Rawlpindi, Ankara and Heathrow. The special charter was a feather in the cap for Dan-air as all previous government charters were flown by the RAF or one of the state airlines, Before the flights Dan-Air Engineering had converted the Comet to have two wardrobes, a typing room, a canin for Sir Alec and his wife with eight seats. The aircraft was fitted with large reclining seats and tables. The total journey was carried out by five separate crews. The aircraft was under 24 hour security guard supervision. Food and drink was handled by the RAF and the appropriate British Embassy. Sir Alec later went on to praise Dan-Air for all their effort and skill. The flight back to Heathrow was early - deliberately so, because a crucial vote was underway in the House Of Commons concerning the Government's very survival. Captain King managed to get the aircraft on the ground in good time and Sir Alec made it in time to vote.
Davies and Newman's public floatation on the UK stock exchange in 1972 raised £5 million and was able to funds the purchase of more aircraft. This growth resulted in a record 1,741,000 passengers being carried. The new Berne service was the first direct air link between the UK and the Swiss Capital. Dan-Air also made an announcement that it was planning to order up to six Boeing 737 200 aircraft in a 140 seat configuration for use on charter flights. However, a change of plan ensued when Dan-Air placed an order to purchase three Boeing 727 100 series trijets from Japan Airlines. The first of which would arrive early in 1973. The second Boeing 707 was delivered from Pan Am and went into service as soon as modifications were carried out.
In Lancashire, travel agents Albert and Ivy Roberts used their initials to form a new Tour Operato "A.I.R" Tours. The couple already owned several Travel Agencies in Lancashire and wanted to expand into Tour Operating. They employed Dan-Air for all their new charters. The company was to grow into a major organisation. Airtours would market holidays for holidaymakers who had had a limited budget.
Horizon Holidays began a new concept in Package Tours. when it launched the new brand, "Club 18-30". Horizon had been having difficulties integrating younger passengers with families and older travellers. The concept was to secure exclusive usage of hotels and flights for these travellers to destinations that would have particular appeal to the younger holiday maker. Benidorm, Magaluf and Tenerife became popular destinations. Dan-Air became the leading carrier on these holiday flights. The company was a headache for Horizon who had aways prefered to promote itself as an upmarket brand. Rowdy travellers disrupting the slow pace of many resorts saw an increase in fighting, accidents, missing passengers and bad behaviour on aircraft meant the brand did not sit comfortably with Horizon. It was put up for sale and snapped up by ILG Intasun - more about that in later years. Air Anglia co-operated with Dan-Air with flights from Aberdeen and Cambridge to Newcastle timed to arrive early enough so passengers could join the Dan-Air services to Norway.
A new service linking Bournemouth and Birmingham and Liverpool/Manchester and Newcastle started in April, just a day later the Luton - Leeds - Glasgow service started.
Yvonne Sintes became Britian's first female Captain in March. Captain Sintes said 'I had been flying as a First Officer for a long time on the Comet when Dan-Air offered me a transfer to our nnew Boeing 707 jets. I said that I would prefer to gain my command. They then offered me a course on the HS 748 a 56 seat turbo prop airliner. It entailed not only learning flying but how and why aircraft fly. I now know more about a turboprop engine than I do about a car.'She completed her training at Newcastle on the HS 748. Most of the pilot training was carried out in Newcaslte. The HS 748 fleet had increased to six aircraft by March. Captain Sintes had been a first officer on the Ambassador which she co-piloted for two years before joining the Comet fleet. On gaining command she would take up her post at Luton. Just a few moths later Delphine Grey Fisk was made first officer on Dan-Air HS748s.
Dan-Air Engineering had been based at Lasham for seventeen years and had a largely good relationship with local residents. That went awry in March when the company applied for planning permission for a maintainance block with offices to be constructed. Twenty five residents complained. They had allowed themselves to get to such a state that they believed Dan-Air were planning to start charter flights from the airfield. Their director Edwards Evans told them that the airline had reached its peak and would not be bringing in more aircraft - That of course turned out to be misleading. He was right when he said the idea of charter flights was "Nonesense". Going on to say that as they had been there seventeen years if they wanted to carry out charter flights they would have done so years ago.
In May Swansea-Jersey and Newcastle - Carlisle - Jersey services started with an international route linking Gatwick to Berne commenced in June. Finally the Bournemouth- Guernsey service opened in July.
The new Liverpool - Bournemouth service had the start up date pushed back following the take over of Skyways. When the flights began the return airfare was just £16:20. The end of year profits were £867,000 which was an increase on the year before. The Transatlantic charter flights had been tough going for Dan-Air. They had entered the market the year before and found intense competition from several airlines. The Civil Avaition Authority (CAA) drew up new rules that would see some of the less reputable agents and operators leave the market. Channel Airways went bankrupt in May this year. The airline had a small network of flights that other airlines applied for Dan-Air were successful with their application to extend their Birmingham - Bournemouth route to Jersey. The CAA granted Dan-Air a licence to add Liverpool - East Midlands to its Link City network.
One of Dan-Air's rivals, Lloyd International, obtained its first jet aircraft, an ex-Pan Am Boeing 707-321. Lloyd's new long-haul jet commenced affinity group flights across the North Atlantic to the United States and Canada, as well as passenger and freight charters to the Far East. Lloyd International's rapidly deteriorating financial performance came about as a result of cancellations and overcapacity in the low-yield transatlantic affinity group market. Also, the Government's refusal to direct the British Airports Authority (BAA) to reduce airport user charges at Stansted and its preferential treatment of British Caledonian, by making it the private sector's "chosen instrument" as part of the official "Second Force" policy, compelled it to cease all operations on 16 June 1972 and to go into liquidation.
Tragedy was avoided this year when an airport cleaner opened a hold door on a company 748. After opening the door he stepped back into the aircraft's propellor. This then dragged him under the aircraft into the other propellor. Althought badly injured the man survived and later went back to work.
Rules regarding the Affinity Flights to America were finally changed this year. Previously passengers had to be part of a specific group for a period of three months. This system was open to fraud. Fake groups had sprung up to claim an affinity with the US or Canada. Membership of genuine clubs were forged as a matter of routine. Airport staff were employed to patrol check in queues and verify the genuine and rout out the fake. The new rules, which would commence in 1973 would require a simple advance booking - ABC flights - Advance Booking Charters became the new standard. Lloyd International had been a victim of the stiff competition from Dan-Air, Caledonian and Laker.
The price of fuel was beginning to hit airlines hard by September most UK carriers applied to the CAA for an increase in fares of up to 20%. With the uncertainty of the economy it was a surprise when Dan-Air announced to the press that it had purchased the three Boeing 727 aircraft. Meanwhile Court Line took delivery of the first of its Tristar jets. These 400 seat aircraft were new to the UK register and cost £9,000,000 each. Dan-Air and other UK airline executives were treated to a flight on the aircraft when Lockheed delivered it to Gatwick. Lockheed had in orders in mind - Dan-Air did not see the potential of a 400 seat aircraft plying European sunspot routes. Despite the obvious fuel saving advantages, Dan-Air could not envisage 400 passengers on a short haul flight. Clarkson's, by now the second largest UK Tour Operator, and owner of Court Line would charter the Tristars and BAC 1-11. Clarkson's programme was to expand next year, adding East Midlands to its list of airports. Dan-Air would fly Comet aircraft to eight airports in three countries.
New services were:
- Bournemouth - Birmingham - Liverpool / Manchester - Newcastle - 10th April
- Luton - Leeds - Glasgow - 11th April
- Swansea - Jersey & Newcastle Carlisle - Jersey - 26th May
- Gatwick - Beme service started. 5th June
- Bournemouth - Guernsey / Jersey 1st July
NETWORK & PRESS 1972
Legacy carriers such as British Airways had opposed the new ABC charters to the USA from their inception. British Caledonian succeded in a US court case which would allow them to carry out advance booking charters. The charters had replaced affinity group charters. From now on anyone could book a charter flight across the Atlantic, or indeed anywhere else, as long as they were booked in advance.
Affinity charters had been aimed at groups - specifically the membership of the 'group'. The group's membership was capped at 20,000. Travel agents selling these holidays would have their commission set at a maximum of 5%. Groups suddenly sprang up on both sides of the Atlantic - 'Friends of Clan Albion', 'Anglo-Scottish-American Group', 'Anglo-American Families Association', 'Rose and Maple Amity Club', 'Paisley Buddies', 'British American Club', 'Canadian US Pacific Association' were just a few. Passengers were supposed to have been a member of the 'Group' for a least six months, making a supposedly legitimate booking at a discounted price. However, and it is a big 'However' - for the scheme was wide open to fraud. Groups caiming to be 'Bird Watching clubs', 'Ballroom Dancing Associations' and 'Car Appreciation Groups' were not uncommon. Travel Agents were known to tell people to 'Form a club' before making their booking. Many UK airlines took part in the Affinity charters. Some carriers were more strict than others at adhering to the rules. What travel agents didn't always say was that staff patrolled airport check-in queues to route out the members of bogus clubs. Some were ultimately denied boarding. The airline was fined if a passenger was deemed to not qualify to travel. Dan-Air had to pay $100,000 to the American Authorites for such violations. Most airlines faced a similar charge. As the charterer was responsible for paying for the entire capacity of an aircraft, regardless of whether all seats were filled. There was a great temptation to let people not eligible to travel under the affinity group rules, take the seats of other, eligible travellers who had cancelled their bookings. As a result, there were numerous occasions on which the airlines got into trouble with the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic. This made the system increasingly unworkable. The Air Transport Licencing Board was dismantled to make way for its successor - The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Their new regulations concerning Affinity Charters came into force this year. The CAA would now only allow six airlines to operate the ABC charters. Dan-Air, British Caledonian, Laker, BOAC, BEA and British Midland. Britannia and Donaldson would lose their right to fly the services. Britannia were furious at losing the right to operate. From now on passengers did not need to belong to a group - real or otherwise. If passengers wished to travel on a charter they could. Provided it was an ABC (Advanced Booking Charter) flight. The rules required passengers to book with at least 90 days notice. Affinity charters were still operating but with this new system the need was greatlydiminished. In August Dan-Air signed a £1,700,000 deal with Jetsave for ABC charters to Canada using the Boeing 707. Thomas Cook launched Cook's Thriftways in August - using the Dan-Air Boeing 707s to the USA. British Caledonian leased the Boeing 707 that Britannia had operated on the Affinity flights to the USA. They then gave BCal the bookings they had already taken before they were removed from the list of designated carriers. Thomson holidays rarely gave Dan-Air anything! Thriftway offered return flights to New York from £58 and flights to Canada from £70.
In January, a Comet took of from Manchester with 103 passengers on board, bound for Tunis. Thirty minutes into the flight the flight deck crew were alerted to a major fault with one engine. The aircraft was diverted to Gatwick where a replacement Comet was available. Three passengers changed their mind and decided not to board the second aircraft. The replacement Comet took off and within minutes into the flight the pilot noticed a warning light in the cockpit indicating a fire in an engine. That aircraft also returned to Gatwick where emergency services, including fire engines, were on standby. After routine maintainence was carried out the aircraft was given the all clear to fly to Tunis. Twelve further passengers opted out of continuing their holiday and the aircraft flew to Tunis without a hitch.
Dan-Air's decision to order the Boeing 727 made news headlines. It was the first time any UK carrier had purchased the aircraft. At the time it was the world's best selling jet liner with more than a thousand flying for almost all the leading airlines in the world. Dan-Air had expressed an interest in the Boeing 737 with a 140 seat configuration, ultimately Dan-Air chose the Boeing 727 and sourced three available models from Japan Airlines. It wouldn't be a Dan-Air story without a twist! Dan-Air needed several modifications to the aircraft to suit their requirements. The jets would fly from their Japanese home to Boeing's Seattle base for the modifications to be carried out. This was no small task, the aircraft needed to be 'Anglosized' The instruments in the flight deck were designed with metric display. UK airlines required them to be in Imperial units. The Boeing team then made further adaptations to the jets. Dan-Air's requirements would see the aircraft fitted to carry between 142 and 151 passengers, something the aircraft had never done before. Extra emergency doors were fitted to comply with CAA requirements that an aircraft could be evacuated within 90 seconds. New fuel tanks were installed to permit none stop flights to Tenerife from the company's Berlin Tegal base and The CAA also insisted that each aircraft would have to have an anti stall system installed. This would consist of a 'Stick Shaker' 'Stick Nudger' and 'Stick Pusher' These flight deck instruments were on the control yoke to alert pilots if a stall was imminent. The cost was said to be £1m per aircraft. Dan-Air Engineering would also make several changes to the aircraft themselves. DAE would design new galleys and remove dividing walls at the front of the aircraft. This would make more room for additional seating. Resplendent in the airline's new livery the aircraft made an impressive debut on April 13th with the first revenue flight for the company being Manchester to Alicante.
The aircraft would be chartered by Global Holidays, Horizon, and Ellerman Sunflight amongst others. Dan-Air's scheduled flights were operated under the new name Dan Air Skyways. The HS748 acquired from Skyways had Dan-Air Skyways titles added and a slight change of livery, incorporating the red stripe. The new 'red tail' livery was rolled out on aircraft. The compass and flag was featured in a white circle. The red cheat line on the side of the aircraft now displayed a bold lack line underneath it. This year saw the first time that an aircraft was used as a hyphen in the name "Dan-Air"
Liverpool had seen huge increases of 137% of Dan-Air traffic. The Link City Network was gaining results after several poorly performing years. Heavy promotion and excellent service reputation helped secure the increases. Birmingham however would see a reduction in flights as it had not proved so successful in the year it had been operating.
This year saw Dan-Air launch a new "Coach Air Service" This was the cheapest way of getting between the UK and French capitals. Passengers would board a coach at London's Victoria station, travel to Ashford in Kent where the passengers would baord a Dan-Air flight. The flight to Beauvais was just a short trip. Upon landing passengers boarded a coach which would take them to the centre of Paris. The cost of the whole trip was £11-05. In March a coach air service was set up with the coach from central London travelling to Bournemouth Hurn Airport. Passengers would then fly to Jersey. The fare was £14:10 this was £3:40 than the standard air fare from London-Jersey. Total travel time was four hours twenty minutes. The Newcastle - Carlisle - Isle Of Man service was changed this year with Carlisle being dropped. Dan-Air had complained about the standard of the runways at Carlisle and passenger numbers hadn't risen.
In April, a Dan-Air Boeing 707 carrying 83 passengers and 11 crew on a charter flight to Mauritius was forced to land by Somali military aircraft after straying into Somalian airspace. The pilot, Antony Kirk believed he had clearance to enter Somalian airspace. The airline was fined £600 and explained the mishap as an administrative error. The following month a Comet on a return flight from Alicante to Manchester crash landed at Manston after reporting a hydraulic failure. The aircraft had been diverted to Manston where, as a precaution, airport fire chiefs had layed a foam blanket on the runway. The nose wheel collapsed upon landing and the aircraft came to an abrupt stop off the end of the runway. Several passengers were treated for shock and two were admitted to hospital with minor injuries. Pilot Captain J Aitchinson was praised by RAF Manston for his excellent landing. Coaches were then laid on to take the passengers onwards to Manchester.
The terror campaign in Northern Ireland reached Dan-Air when their Engineering division at Lasham received a call to say that a bomb had been placed on a Dan-Air aircraft which was timed to explode in three hours. Frantic staff and police searched aircraft at Lasham, Manchester, Gatwick and Kent but nothing was found.
The year was also the year of the Arab Israeli war. The Saudi Government imposed restrictions on oil and there was a Worldwide fuel crisis. Dan-Air along with most other airlines saw a huge drop in passenger numbers as people could not afford the cost of a holiday. The UK economy had suffered as a result and strikes saw the economy hit harder. Power cuts became commonplace. Finally, UK public sector workers were reduced to a three day week. Holiday bookings suffered but despite this Dan-Air's production of revenue passenger-miles in 1973 was 2,200,000 and was up 26-8% on the 1972 total. It was 78% over that of British Caledonian and 110% of that of Britannia Airways. In terms of passengers it was Britain's second-largest carrier, with a total of 2.22 million sector passengers carried compared with the BCAL total of 2.1 million and the Britannia total of 1.95 million. With bookings so heavily affected several UK airlines had to pay large costs to have their empty aircraft parked at airports. Dan-Air were fortunate to have adequate space at Lasham where aircraft could be moth balled and have maintainence work undertaken.
When Dan-Air applied to serve London directly from Newcastle both Northeast Airlines and British Rail objected as they felt they would lose out. It seemed incredible in these days of free competition that a state owned railway company would attempt to thwart an expanding airline's growth. Northeast Airlines who had recently merged with Cambrian Airways to form British Air Services was 70% owned by British Airways. British Airways were now ojecting to Dan-Air's application to fly from Liverpool to Brussels as BEA were flying from Manchester to the Belgian capital.
Dan-Air's Comet fleet had now grown to a total of 22 aircraft. All of them were used on charter and IT market. The HS 748 fleet grew to seven aircraft. These were used on the scheduled service network, including the Link City UK domestic routes. The BAC 1-11 fleet was unchanged with five in service, two of which were based in Berlin. The two Boeing 707 aircraft were used on affinity charters across the Atlantic. The three Boeing 727 over time would replace the Comets and become the flagship of the airline.
- Tees-side added to the 'Link City' network. 1st March
- Tees-side-Amsterdam service started. 2nd April
- Ashford (Lympne)-Jersey services started. May 1st
- Applied for: Leeds/Bradford - Glasgow & Edinburgh
NETWORK & PRESS 1973
New ABC flights flown in 1974 included Hong Kong, which was a first for the company after they had secured CAA approval. Jetsave was the largest charterer of Dan-Air aircraft on Transatlantic and new Worldwide ABC flights. The Newcastle - Isle of Man was restarted after an absence of several years.
In May, Donaldson International Airways went bankrupt with the loss of many jobs, but the biggest shock in the Air Transport world was the collapse of Clarksons and Court Line. The company was managed by maverick executive Tom Gullick. He had used Dan-Air extensively for his programme, as well as Court Line. Autair, a long established UK airline had rebranded itself as Court Line Aviation, working alongside Clarksons.
Clarksons were determined to dominate the Package Tour Industry and be the largest Tour Operator, in the process knocking Thomson of its self proclaimed throne. Clarksons strategy was to aggresively slash prices to a level that no one could compete. This would, they foresaw, see travellers abandon all other Tour Operators in seach of a Clarkson's holiday. When other companies fell Clarksons could then raise prices to a level that was profiable for them. In some respects it worked. Many rivals DID go out of business. Clarksons worked along the lines of 'Pile them high and sell them cheap'. Something never attempted on such a grand scale. Gullick had built hotels in Spain, imported donkeys for holidaymakers to ride on and even obtained an egg farm when local firms began charging Clarksons too much for eggs. Not many people actually foresaw what was to happen. In a very short time Clarksons had become the second largest tour operator in the country. Clarksons ultimately went bankrupt - Despite this, Court Line purchased Clarksons in 1972. The formula remained the same even during the Arab - Israeli War, the UK three day week, devaluation of the pound, and the fuel crisis of 1973. Horizon Holidays had suffered and was by 1974 in a mortally wounded state. AIH, the parent company of Clarksons bought outright Horizon Holidays, securing several jobs. However, Horizons and Clarksons could not have been more different companies. Horizon, had a first class reputation and Clarksons operated with a terrible brand image. A new real time computer system was installed with great fanfare in 1969, which turned out to be hopeless at just about everything it was designed to do. Invoices were late and passengers were actually returning from holiday without having paid any money for the trip. It was estimated that almost £2m was outstanding from Travel Agents and individual passengers. The computer system itself was costing Clarksons £100,000 a year to hire. As it was, Clarksons accounted for 11% of Dan-Air's charter business. The figure was significant, and it was reported that a less robust carrier would not had fared so well. Fred Newman annnounced in the company reports that they had made a claim to the liquidators for outstanding money owed.
The subsequent chasing up of funds was costly and time consuming. Still Clarkson's carried on. Undercutting all competitors. Airlines were so desperate to have Clarksons charters that they bought aircraft solely on the provision that they would be chartered by Clarksons. There had been several attempts to buy Clarksons, and all had been resisted. When Court Line bought the firm in August 1973, it did so for a nominal £1. With this they obtained an in house tour operator, all the hotels and shares that Clarksons had and all its companies. It also inherited its liabilites - Of which, there were lots! Despite all of this, the group acquired brand new, state-of-the-art, 400 seat Lockheed Tristars and began flying them to European destinations. Something never attempted before. the group then purchased ATLAS which was a consolidating company that allowed customers to be able to purchase charter flights in many combinations, bypassing many of the UK regulations. It all came crashing down in August 1974. In the middle of the Summer Season. Court Line itself was a relatively small airline with just eleven BAC 1-11 and two Tristar aircraft. Therefore the majority of Clarkson's Holiday flights were carried out by other operators. Dan-Air operating, by far, the largest majority of flights. As soon as the bankruptcy became public Dan-Air cancelled all Clarkson's flights. They were well aware that they wouldn't be paid. Those due to fly were told not to go to the airport. Even radio stations alerted passengers not to travel to airports. One former stewardess told us;
'I was based at Luton, we had heard gossip about them not being in a good financial shape, my then boyfriend, worked in Luton Airport accounts, he told me that Court Line had paid their landing fees and bills right up to the end of the month. So I thought it was just gossip. So the day that it happened, which I remember was a Friday, I heard something on the radio as I drove into work. Luton Authority had impounded two BAC 1-11s. As I got ready for my flight I called my boyfriend at work and he told me that the debts Court Line owed did not come anywhere close to the value ot two jet aircraft! In the terminal I saw people arriving for their holidays only to be told that they should go home. I saw coaches pulling up and then leaving. It was so upsetting. At that time, I had no idea of how much worse it would become. My own flight went out with a few passengers on board. I think they were Pontins clients. The flight was full on the return. The Agents at Palma were desperately trying to fill any available seats to anywhere in the UK. Our return flight had mainly Clarkson's passengers on and we had no spare seats. Back at Luton it was still pandemonium. With passengers refusing to go home. Even though there would not be any flights to take them on holiday.'
On the day of the collapse Dan-Air carried out the scheduled return flights. Dan-Air said they would continue to bring people home if the flight balance had been paid. Several smaller Tour Operators like Pontins and OSL had chartered seats on Court Line aircraft and these were transferred to Dan-Air. The repatriation was estimated to cost more than £4.5m. Tour Operators were able to offer spare capacity for holidays, but that would mean holiday makers having to pay twice. They would have no way of knowing if they would get their money back. People told not to go to the airport did the very opposite and there were angry scenes when no Clarksons agents were on hand to help. Clarksons head office was stormed by angry people who were incensed at having paid only days before for their holiday. They believed that Clarkson's knew what was coming. Court Line had been forced previously to deposit £3m in a bond which would help pay for repatriation flights. Peter Shore, the Government Minister, blasted Court Line saying "Foreign holidays have become one of the cheapest items on a family budget. How can it be that things like clothes and food have quadrupled in price over the last twenty years and holidays have only doubled?' He went on to say 'Court Line used the fact that Spain, Greece and North Africa are poor countries where food and cost of building is much cheaper than the UK. Court Line have been flying people in huge, fast aircraft and only been making £1 or £2 per person in profit. That is ok if the aircraft is full all the time. But with the fuel crisis and the economy as it is then they went into a state where they were losing £4 per person. They were taking risks with security and that will mean an end to the cheap holiday as we know it."
Dan-Air and other companies flew an estimated 35,000 stranded passengers home. Many thousands more who were yet to travel would lose out. The Secretary of state Peter Shore was critised for "Hiding behind the CAA" and Tony Benn was mauled for misleading people with a statement to the House of Commons, saying that Nationalisation of the parent companies' ship broking business would secure business. Dan-Air was also hit because it carried many passengers on Clarkson's Holidays charters. Dan-Air picked up a lot of charters that had been planned to be operated by Court Line. All of Cosmos' charters went to Dan-Air. Other airlines and Tour Operators were offering discounted flights and holidays. This was limited as discounts had to be pre-approved. In a cruel twist, several Dan-Air flights that had been chartered flew, as planned, but empty, to their destinations to pick up holidaymakers stranded in resort. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) quickly hammered out a deal with Dan-Air to charter repatriation flights. It was a boost to the company after a difficult trading year. A Cesna C-150 was purchased to ferry crew to join flights that had been repositioned.
In the mid 1960s Harry Goodman, a London based businessman opened a small tour operator company 'Sunair' which chartered aircraft and provided cut price holidays. The small company did well in the London area before being rebranded 'Intasun' in 1973. Intasun aimed its business at the lower end of the market and concentrated on the Gatwick catchment area. In 1974 Goodman's company aimed his sights at other aeas. The first region he expanded to was Manchester in 1974. Having had a successful year Intasun would now be offering flights from East Midlands Airport. A press release in late 1974 stated that Intasun would be flying to Alicante, Majorca and the Costa Brava using Dan-Air aircraft from East Midlands. Three flights a week would be departing on Saturdays and Sundays. Intasun hoped to carry 7,200 passengers from East Midlands alone.
The oil industry charters began to be firmly established for Dan-Air, they would go on to become a large part of Dan-Air's operations. Therefore a HS748 was based permanantly in Aberdeen to serve the Shetland and Orkney Islands.
The chaotic collapse of Court Line and Clarksons was resolved by the end of August. The total cost of returning stranded holidaymakers was in excess of £2m. All airlines paid into a bond scheme and the £3m that Court Line had paid was used on repatriation flights. The CAA said that any money left over would be used to help those who had had their holidays cancelled.
In September Dan-Air signed a two year contract with Conoco to provide oil related flights from Aberdeen to Sumburgh. Meanwhile Dan-Air with its small scheduled services network carried on with moderate success. The Link City network was popular. Local newspaper advertisements at the time claimed their stewardesses clearly loved their job and that flying on the link city network would be smooth and comfortable. They even boasted that they would offer things that no other company would - such as Pilots radioing ahead to arrange car hire for passengers! 1974 saw jet services being introduced on the Newcastle - Gatwick service. It had not proved to be an instant success when it was introduced. By October the route would be served with Comet aircraft. Load factors were disappointing, Dan-Air said 'The flights are underpopulated' Blaming the timing of the introduction. British Airways were operating into Heathrow with limited success as were North East Airways. None of the carriers were willing to reduce the numbers of flights that they operated.
Despite losing business following the Clarkson's failure, Dan Air were able to report that 'Ttrading is buoyant and our financial posistion is strong' trading profit in the first six months of the year rose 52% to £385,000, but after interest and depreciation charges, both higher at £693,000 and £177,000 respectively the seasonal pre tax loss comes in at £392,000 compared to £481,000 last year. Fred Newman went on to say that he expected to end the year in a satisfactory position.
The fifth Boeing 727 to join the fleet had been purchased outright, four additional BAC 1-11 500 series were acquired to suppliment those already in the fleet. Two BAC 1-11 200 series jets were leased. Newman was pleased that the engines on the 200 were interchangable with those on the 400 series.
Comet aircraft were, for the first time, reduced in number. This was partly due to the fuel crisis the previous year. The Comets were fuel thirsty and even in the early 1970s they were inefficient when compared to jet liners other carriers used. By 1973 it was noted that a Comet carrying 119 passengers burned as much fuel as a DC10 carriying 345. However, on some international scheduled routes Dan-Air began using their Comets. The Leeds - Luton service was dropped following poor passenger numbers. In its place, a Leeds/Bradford - Bournemouth servce was introduced. In total 2,193,000 passengers were carried. The carrier's largest number to date.
- Newcastle-lsle of Man weekend service started - 14th April
- Cardiff - Bristol - Amsterdam - 14th April
- Twice daily Gatwick - Newcastle - 29th April
- All cross channel flights were transferred from Lympne to Lydd 31st April
NETWORK & PRESS 1974
Wiith forty nine aircraft Dan-Air had the largest fleet to date. In total more than 2.5 million passengers were carried. Dan-Air was the second largest carrier in the UK in terms of fleet size and passengers carried. Dan-Air also carried more charter passengers than any of their rivals.
Dan-Air started 1975 with an application to expand the Newcastle - Kritiansand service. Further applications were made to serve Gatwick - Leeds/Bradford - Tees Side - Newcastle to Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo. In January the airline announced it was to take delivery of four BAC 1-11 500 series aircraft on a long lease. The 1-11s would be used for the busy summer season. The 500 series aircraft would be configured to carry 119 passengers. In some cases they would fly to the Canary Islands with a refuelling stop. The Boeing 727 could fly none stop, as could the Comet and 707.
The success of the oil related charters meant more aircraft needed to be based in Aberdeen. This led to a shortage of HS748 aircraft. This was the given reason for Dan-Air's decision to prune its daily Newcastle-Manchester service to a Tuesdays and Thursdays product. John Clementson, Dan-Air's station manager at Newcastle said that it was also part of a rationalisation programme. It was, he said, a reflection of the difficult time the aviation world was having, particularly on domestic services. British Airways announced that they were axing 1,800 jobs many of them pilots. Dan-Air were able to grow as a company despite the bleak economic picture. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted Dan-Air the right to fly to Norway no more than 14 times a week in both directions. The flights would orginate from London Gatwick and/or Newcastle and/or Tees Side and/or Leeds/Bradford to Kristiansand and/or Stavanger, the licence was for a ten year period. The BAC 1-11 would serve the routes and promised to be cheaper than a boat crossing. The flights would be carried out by BAC 1-11 200 series aircraft, two of which, were purchased from Zambia Airways. During the ecconomic crisis of the previous year several Dan-Air Comets had been stored at Lasham. The advantage of the Lasham facility cannot be underestimated. Aircraft could be stored there free of charge. Other airlines with no such facilities were facing heavy airport parking fees. This led to airlines going out of business or selling aircraft.
Although much charter work had been lost by the Clarkson's failure. Lunn Poly had siezed the avaialble trade and chartered more Dan-Air Aircraft, as did Cooks, Cosmos, Blue Sky, Airtours and Arrowsmith. Blue Sky opted for Dan-Air on its new charters from Aberdeen to Majorca. It was the first time that Aberdeen had been featured in their holiday programme. The Clarksons collapse was followed by the introduction of the voluntary ATOL scheme. Tour operators would pay into the scheme, the funds would then be available if any airline or Tour Operator collapsed. Initially it was suggested all companies pay the same. But in a later agreement smaller Tour Operators were enabled to pay less. It would also mean that Tour Operators would have to give the CAA access to their accounts. If a company did not have a sufficiently good set of trading figures, licences would not be given until the company had an injection of funds. That system is still in place today. The government also set up the Air Travel reserve fund. That fund was to be repaid by Tour Operators with a 1% levy on all package holidays. The scheme was also extended to all ABTA travel agents.
Dan-Air were experts at purchasing second hand aircraft that were relatively young in age. They sourced them from airlines with excellent reputations. Pan Am for Boeing 707s and Japan Airlines for 727s being just two examples. The failure of Court Line saw several BAC 1-11 aircraft put up for sale. The aircraft were in good condition. Prices would be reasonable as the receiver needed to sell assets on. Dan-Air were quick to secure not only the aircraft, but thousands of seat covers! Court Line had painted their own aircraft with vivid colours which reflected the 'feel good' nature of a holiday flight. The seat colvers had a print that featured all those bright colours. Dan-Air had enough of them to last until the end of the decade!
The Court Line Seat Covers
As mentioned previously Harry Goodman had set up a company called Sunair in 1966. Sunair had purchased Lunn Poly, which it then sold to Thomson. Eventually Goodman sold Sunair to Cunard. In its first (1973) year Intasun carried just 4,000 passengers. Goodman also sought to capitalise on the crash of Clarksons / Court Line. He had had two jets on standby and had used them to pick up the pieces of Clarksons' failure. In 1975 his company had carried 50,000 holidaymakers and made a profit of £300,000. Intasun's operation was similar to Clarkson's in as far as he wanted to sell holidays cheap. He had based his business on high loads of aircraft. Goodman mainy used Dan-Air aircraft. Laws surrounding charter flights were further relaxed, albeit just a little bit, by the CAA late in 1974. Now Tour Operators from 1975 would not have to charter a full aircraft. As long as the airline had the licence to fly on a particular day and time it could sell seats as full aircraft or in blocks to multiple tour companies. Many tour operators took advantage of this. Intasun in particular was a proponent of this method. Usually waiting until all aircraft had been chartered, before booking up all the available spare seats at a reduced rate. Where Intasun did charter whole aircraft, it did so on late night flights that were cheaper to operate as landing fees and aircraft parking charges were considerbly lower. This arrangement suited Dan-Air too. Dan-Air's regular clients included Lunn Poly, Exchange, Inghams, Cosmos and Neilsons who chartered most of Dan-Air's fleet for the full season. Lunn Poly joined the Thomson stable of companies in 1975; almost immediately Lunn Poly reduced its charters with Dan-Air. Despite Lunn Poly and Dan-Air enjoying a fantastic working relationship. The acquisition by Thomson meant that where possible Lunn Poly would charter, or use Britannia Airways aircraft. The facts were that Britannia was still a relatively small airline with just thirteen Boeing 737 aircraft, meaning it couldn't supply all of Lunn Poly's flights. Therefore Dan-Air were still able to secure some charter work from Lunn Poly.
Pre tax profits announced in April were up 10% from £684,000 to £853,000. The high levels of corporation tax in the seventies saw £625,000 taken from the total. Giving the group a profit of just £312,000. Shares remained unchanged at 68p. The UK has corporation tax rates of 19% in 2021. In 1975 these tax rates were almost 80%! This year saw Dan-Air Skyways, the subsidiary company being fully absorbed into Dan-Air. The livery of the HS 748s were rapainted in Dan-Air colours and the titles read 'Dan-Air London'
Dan-Air finally withdrew on the Liverpool-Amsterdam service. Liverpool Airport had been rocked with several airlines dropping services from the Merseyside Airport. Dan-Air cancellation was the last scheduled link to the continent. It was almost a case of putting the service out of its misery.
In May Dan-Air applied to the CAA to operate daily services from Leeds/Bradford - Isle Of Man services.
A major coup was achieved by Dan-Air in September. A Newcastle based Tour Operator, Airways Ltd dropped British Airways as its preferred airline. The company had used BA (Or its predecessors') aircraft for the last 27 years, carrying a record 41,000 holidaymakers in 1975. Airways planned to sell 54,000 holidays in the next twelve months from November onwards. Airways Ltd would be offering holidays to Rome, Venice and Rimini in Italy and Pula and Dubrovnik in Yugoslavia. Airways said that British Airways (Whom Airways founder, Harry Sedman's equity was 25% owned by BA) could 'not offer the right price at the right time'. Airways would charter Dan-Air's 89 seat BAC 1-11 series and 119 seat Comet aircraft. Further good news came when in October the American company International Weekends Inc. signed a £5 million deal with Dan-Air to charter flights from Gatwick to Boston and other US coastal cities. It came when the half year losses were reported in November at being £899,000. The delivery of a further Boeing 727 and four more BAC 1-11 that had been fully employed all Summer would make up the short fall when the second half figures would be published the following April. Jetsave, who were Dan-Air's largest customer on Transatlantic charter flights announced it would be flying six flights out of Birmingham and six from Newcastle to the USA using Dan-Air Boeing 707 aircraft. The 189 seat jets would have a fare between £115 and £147. The flights would have a refuelling stop at Prestwick. The licence for Gatwick-Montpellier was approved and flights would commence in 1976.
Three Viscounts were leased or purchased and the HS 748 fleet increased to 9. In total 2,582,000 passengers were carried in 1975, a further year on increase. Following the increase in passenger numbers Dan-Air was able to offer pure jet services on many of their scheduled services, most notably the Gatwick to Ostend and Jersey services and the Newcastle-Bergan route. The Newcastle-Kristiansand route was expanded to a daily service. As was the Gatwick-Berne service. The Comet aircraft remained strong in charter fleet with the number standing at 19. The Comet variants operated were - The 4, 4B and 4C. Across the three varients, the Comet could accomodate 99, 109 or 119 passengers respectively. Despite this, replacements were needed sooner rather than later. One former pilot noted.
'The Comet was a gorgeous aircraft to fly, but it used so much fuel. To put it into context, our Comet 4B aircraft burned 5,200kg of fuel per hour with 119 passengers. The 4C about 4,000kg. Our BAC 1-11 500s used a fraction of this at 2,800 and they both had the same seating capacity. Granted, our Boeing 707 used over 6,000kg per hour - but they did have 189 seats. The 727 were quite thirsty with 4,100kg per hour. Britannia's 737 used just 2,800kg per hour. So the obvious choice was to use the 1-11 where possible. They used the same amount as a 737 but they didn't have same range or capacity. Dan-Air's logic was that if you bought a jet outright, or on a hire purchase over a year, then it was earning money and we weren't paying out over years and years for an aircraft. Let's face it, some of the Comets we bought were in a terrible state. Not really airworthy at all. They arrived at Lasham and were used for spares. Even those that did see service were, frankly, bloody awful from a passengers point of view. The flight deck didn't even have a door - just a curtain! The windows had fabric curtains and not blinds. The seat pitch was a nightmare for anyone who was above average height. We couldn't use the new style airbridges as our main door was on the wrong side of the aircraft. The aircraft was unbelievably robust and overpowered. because of its history De Havilland did everything they could to make it safe. I think all flight deck crews loved the aircraft. It handled beautifully, a real joy to fly. I doubt the ground staff thought so highly of it. It was noisy and leaked a lot. I suspect the Dan Dare moniker came about at this time, because of how the aircraft looked inside. If I'm honest, those aircraft looked exactly what they were, old jets from the early sixties. Dan-Air never thought to give them a complete refit. I'm pretty sure that management knew they would be phased out by 1980 so what was the point of such an investment. Of course, the period you are talking about, we had nineteen or twenty of them, so there was absolutely no question of Fred Newman ordering twenty Boeing 727s!! It was always a case of one out one in. Alan Snudden had already started urging him to get the 737 as the figures spoke for themselves. But it was just not in Newman's nature to be so flash with cash.'
This explains Dan-Air's desire to obtain more BAC 1-11 with similar seating layouts as the Comet.Technically the Comets were well maintained and still had relatively low hours on their clock. Another of our contributor pilots notes;
"I always adored the Comets, but, and I say this carefully.....They were.....starting to show their age. It wasn't just their inefficiency, it was that passengers were now far more used to flying than a decade before. Some of our Comets were perhaps fifteen years old. Whilst that is releatively normal, say in 2020 to fly in a jet that was made in 2004. The advances from 1958 to 1974 were collossal. Our Comets had hat racks and not overhead lockers. I don't think passengers had hats that much by then! The aircraft were noisy, they were practically obsolete in every way apart from the fact that they were well maintained. I wasn't privvy to meetings with Tour Operators of course, but I am sure they must have noted it from passenger feedback. I gained my licences on the Boeing 727 pretty quickly after it came into the fleet and it was a marvellous machine. If Dan-Air had made a mistake it was that we didn't get rid of the Comet sooner. We had lost some business when Lunns were taken over by Thomson and they would barely touch us, when they did I believe that it was under the stipulation that they wouldn't touch the Comet. . I think if we had more modern aircraft to offer they might have been more inclined to charter our aircraft. The problem, as far as I can see it, is that good quality second hand aircraft were difficult to source. Fred Newman was not one for extravagent gestures like announcing an order for ten brand new Boeing 737s direct from the manufacturer. I think we would all have been pole axed had he done that. Perhaps the Gods were on our side, some airlines had disappeared and some didn't have the capacity we had, and so we were able to utilise the fleet fully every year, even with our short comings."
The Isle of Man services had proved to be a great addition to the network with sales up 33% over the previous year.
- Tees Side - Isle Of Man - 24th May
- Aberdeen - Isle Of Man - 24th May
- Gatwick - Isle Of Man - 24th May
- Gatwick - Perpignan - 1st June
- Gatwick - Belfast (Cargo) 1st June
NETWORK & PRESS 1975
Page and Moy chartered Dan-Air Comet aircraft for a series of holiday flights to Austria for the Summer months of 1976. The upmarket brand was a feather in the airline's cap. Malta Villas Ltd would use Dan-Air Boeing 727 for the Manchester flights to Malta and Majorca. A total of 18 Comet would be flying in Dan Air colours for the 1976 season, they were complimented by 14 BAC 1-11, 6 Boeing 727 (up one) Ffur Boeing 707 and eleven HS 748. Together those aircraft carried a record 2,846,000 passengers. Early in January a second engineering base was opened at Manchester. It would service the company's HS 748s and BAC 1-11s. British Airways which had been formed in 1973, following a merger with BOAC and BEA continued to protest at any new route applications the independents applied for. Dan-Air and the other independents fought for any of the available market share. Independents even objected to other independents increasing their network. When Dan-Air applied to serve Stavanger in Norway from Edinburgh Air Anglia formally objected. The new route from Aberdeen-Isle of Man was launched early this year.
Jetsave were delighted with the results of their 1975 offer of charter flights from Newcastle to the USA and Canada. In 1977 Jetsave wanted to repeat the successes. Six flights were planned for the season. The number was increased to ten within weeks, with many flight sold out entirely to Geordies. The ten flights would see five depart for New York and five to Ontario. There was even the promise that more would be added if demand warranted. Within a few days Jesave announced that there would be a further six flights to New York and six flights to Ontario from Birmingham. Bookings were said to be strong with fares ranging from £117-£147 reurn.
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Oberland Travel who specialised in Northern European Holidays would exclusively charter Dan-Air for their 1976 programme, offering flights from Cardiff, Manchester and Gatwick for holidays to Ireland, Germany, Holland, Austria and Switzerland. This would involve the use of a Dan-Air BAC 1-11 operating up to twenty flights a week for the company. April this year saw the - Boumemouth - Dinard service start.On April 18th a Carlisle-Jersey began and just a month later on 28 May Newcastle - Stavanger (HS 748) followed with a Gatwick - Perpignan and Kristiansand joining the network in June.
The government had relaxed some of the aviation legislation in 1975. Finally, in 1976, under pressure from Tour Operators and Airlines, the Government abolished minimum fares on charter flights. Trials over the Winter had been a success with the 1975 Programme, allowing for a slight reduction in fares. From now there would be no minimum all year round fare on any route. All Tour Operators would have to be bonded with ATOL and ABTA, and all airlines were licenced with the CAA, therefore no one foresaw any problems arising. The new rules did not apply to discounting. This would still be regulated. In practice, if a holiday was advertised in a brochure at, say, £70; it could not be reducted at any time that season. Dan-Air's scheduled service network grew slightly, but the charter division saw substantial growth with Israel added as a Summer '76 destination with holidays from £179. Two new initiatives emerged from the new laws; Whilst Tour Operators were not allowed to discount on brochure prices, a new innovation saw the introduction of "Accomodation Allocated On Arrival" - Tour Operator could now sell holidays to a destination at its advertised price. Tour Operators could then, discount holidays, if, as the name implies, they placed guests in hotels that had spare capacity. This could be a higher star rating or a lower one. Lucky holiday makers could find themselves with a holiday that could cost a great deal more. They would only find the name of their accomodation at the destination airport. The resort would be as chosen in the brochure, only the accomodation was not specified.If a holidaymaker did not know what hotel they were staying, in how could they know if they had been given a discount or not? This new ruling led to a huge boost in Dan-Air's charter business.
As the 1970s had progressed people had became more affluent and had started to purchase holiday homes, time shares and began renting privately through newspaper lets. This led to a second, equally innovative idea - "Seat Only Sales". This was the one ruling that worried the National carriers the most. Until now, only flghts that operated as a scheduled service could sell tickets without accomodation. From now on, a limited amound of a charter flight seats could be sold as 'Seat Only' even then, in a strange twist, all charters seat only flights had to had to offer basic accomodation! It was up to the buyer whether they used it or not.
To get around the rule of basic acommodation, Tour Operators handed out accomodation vouchers with these seat only deals. The accomodation provided was of the lowest standard. Usually in hostels or shared dormitories. In some cases the address was none existent. Only on a few occasions did people actually use them. One person complained officially that the accomodation provided did not exist - he was provided with a refund. The small print on bookings and brochures pointed out that the accomodation was of a poor standard, and it was entirely up to the ticket holder if they used it or not. British Airways reacted furiously. They saw it as further erosion of their territory. British Caledonian had returned to the charter market following the substantial downturn in their own scheduled network in recent years. Caledonian had spent the last few years boasting about its own service and rubbishing charter carriers. Some of B Cal's routes had become unworkable, in particular their Tripoli service. Now BCal wanted a piece of the charter market - again. In Dan-Air's case, further progress was made with their growth, with the awarding of a Ministry of Defence contract from Gatwick to Gibraltar.
In June, British Petroleum chartered three HS 748 series 2 aircraft for flights from Glasgow and Aberdeen to fly oil support workers. The flights would operate to Sumburgh and the Shetlands. The two year deal was said to be worth £1,500,000.
Tees Side had often had a difficult time finding routes that would be popular with the travelling public. One route that had worked out was to Amsterdam. Dan-Air stated that when the new timetables came into force in November the service would increase from Monday, Wednesday and Friday to a daily one, with standardised timings. Dan-Air would double flights to Stavanger using HS 48 propliners and the carrier applied to commence services from Newcastle to Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Frankurt and Copenhagen. None of which were granted.
151 pilgrims boarded a Dan-Air Boeing 727 from Aberdeen in October. The aircraft was chartered to Lourdes and included the eldest passenger who was flying for the first time, aged 84. One of the pilgrims said. "We had been awake since 4am to get to Aberdeen from Manchester to be with the rest of the party. The weather was attrocious. Dan-Air were very kind with us, the flight was delayed a while because of thunderstorms, but we eventually got in the air. The flight was really bumpy, my Grandmother was terrified, but the crew soldiered on, smiling and reassuring those who were nervous. I just assumed all flights were as bumpy as that because I had nothing to compare it to. It wasn't until we returned home that I realised flying could be so smooth. I was always well disposed towards Dan-Air after that. In fact my travel agent used to say 'Are you sure?' when I chose a slightly more expensive holiday with Dan-Air flights than a cheaper one with Monarch flights."
Bad publicity came in August when a quartet of stewardesses went to the national press to complain about being dumped by Dan-Air. Judy Dove, Mandi Baker, Catriona Mann and Anne Power were taken on with a six months contract after training as stewardesses. At the end of the six months the girls were let go as was standard with charter airlines at the end of the summer. The girls then found out that the airline had taken of 60 new girls. Les Shorter, the aviation secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union said 'I will certainly be looking into this, it is a most disturbing situation.' The stewardesses were under the impression that they would be taken on a permanent cabib crew if their work had been good. 'I know I haven't been terminated because I am unsuitable' said Judy Dove. 'We asked to see our check reports and they were all good. It's not as if there is not enough work for us because I know they have taken on more girls.' Anne Power said 'I always wanted to be a hostess, I've worked hard and have worked hard to get good reports, now I'm left with nothing - I feel as though I've just been dumped.' Mandi Baker who came over to the UK from Canada to train with Dan-Air said 'I never dreamed I'd be out of a job within six months, I call them Dan Unfair'
The Union official who represents the UK's 8,000 cabin crew went on to say 'Dan Air always take on too many temporary staff, and they are the only airline that pay them less than they pay their permanent staff.' Dan-Air's public relations officer Ted Sessions said 'It is true, not all the girls who are taken on were kept on, but they know from the start that their contract is only for six months, if they are needed at the end of that period then they are given a permanent contract.'
Pre tax profits for the first six months of trade showed that turnover was up from £19.4m to £30.3m an increase of 30%. Dan-Air made a pre tax loss of £1.4m against last years £763,000. The fleet had grown from 36 to 45 aircraft and leasing charges had cost £1.3m. As the six months trade only included one of the peak months (June) Dan-Air management were confident that the airline would return to profitability when the full year figure would be shown the following April. This was the usual routine with airlines and one explanation was that as the airline had grown so much over the last few years the figures would also be far greater. The extra aircraft would all be operated at their full utilisation.
Dan-Air Engineering (DAE) at Manchester would be responsible for the airline's (and other airlines) BAC 1-11 and HS 748 fleets. The rest of the fleet would continue to be maintained at Lasham. Newcastle aslo had extensive maintainance facilities for any technical issues that aircraft often had down route. DAE had built up a significant reputation and many other airlines used them to maintain their aircraft. Even the Royal Flight of foreign nations and private jet owners came to DAE. They were CAA approved and their American counterpart the FAA had also approved them.When the financial year closed in April the airline had made a pre tax profit of £1.35m up 20% on last year. the airline had a turnover of more than £52m. There was further good news when in April Dan-air was able to state that the enlarged charter fleet was fully booked for the whole Summer. During the last twelve months 2.5 million passengers had been carried. More than any other UK airline with the exception of the state owned monolith British Airways. As the year drew to a close the fleet had reached fifty aircraft, which was impressive by any standards. The airline could boast that they carried more passengers and had a larger fleet than several national airlines, Aer Lingus, TAP and Sabena included.
Above: The 'dumped' stewardesses.
- Bristol - Cardiff - Leeds - Glasgow service commenced with HS 748s - 6th January
- Boumemouth - Dinard service commenced - 17th April
- Carlisle-Jersey service began - 18th April
- Newcastle - Stavanger service opened - 28th May
- Gatwick - Perpignan and service started - 20th June
- Gatwick - Kristiansand - service opened - 20th June
NETWORK & PRESS 1976
Dan-Air was, by now, an established, successful, scheduled airline, with sound finances. As such, the carrier should have been able to apply for any routes. It was still very difficult for an independent to get a foothold on any trunk routes to Europe. Even from airports that were outside of the capital. The idea of competition was horrific to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Instead of allowing carriers to try to lure passengers onto their flights with lower fares and better service, the CAA simply refused airlines the right to compete. It was the culture of the time, but very frustrating to airlines who wished to grow. This in turn led to squabbles and objections amongst the independents. Ridiculous objections by a carrier wanting to operate from an airport to a major city would be heard. Cries that flights from Tees Side to a European capital would affect a rivals flight from Newcastle to the said capital were upheld.
The EEC Parliament, with its MEPs and delegations could be lucrative business for Dan-Air, who were successful with an application for the Gatwick-Strasburg service. A new service linking both Birmingham and East Midlands to the Isle of Man was also introduced. The Isle of Man was by now well connected to the UK mainland thanks to Dan-Air. Over the years nine airports had regular flights to the island. These Dan-Air flights provided an important link to both holidaymakers and the many business people working in the Islands' financial sector. Dan-Air had established itself as the leading oil support charter carrier. Their HS748 fleet was already working at near full utilisation and had to be increased. Dan-Air found six availaable HS748 aircraft that Aerolineas Argentina had placed on the market. The Aberdeen Press and Journal said that Dan-Air was known as 'The Quiet Airline' because it was known not to have colourful characters lilke Freddie Laker on camera talking all the time. The press had implied that the silence was extended to how much they had paid for the planes. They hinted that the propliners were in some sort of derelict state when they said "No figure is being put on the price of the aircraft, but it can only be a small fraction of what it is going to cost them to refurbish them and bring them up to the Civil Aviation Authority's specifications....The total cost could be as high as £2,000,000" Two of the aircraft had arrived in early March and underwent the conversion immediately. The third aircraft would arrive in April with one arriving every month. The ever resourseful Dan-Air purchased the old fire fighter unit at Sumburgh and converted it into an office complex and storage facility. One of the Glasgow ground crew said;
'You have to laugh. Dan-Air would always get things done, but from a PR viewpoint - blimey we were sometimes a disaster. If we saw an opportunity we took it. It didn't seem to matter what it looked like. The main thing was that when it came to being an airline - God, we were good. It didn't matter what stripes you had on your uniform, if baggage handlers were on strike, we would put cases on ourself. If someone on check in was ill, we'd somehow do it ourself. The people at larger bases had lots of options. We were just a small team and if that meant rolling your sleeves up and getting your hands dirty then, so be it. They were the best years of my working life.'
Dan-Air leased a Handley Page Herald early in January. On February 27th the aircraft took off from Newcastle on a scheduled flight to Stavanger from Newcastle. Shortly after take of lights in the flight deck indicated that the brakes had jammed. A major incident followed which saw the aircraft flying to burn off fuel and then land as a full scale emergency. It transpired that it was a small electrical fault. The next day the aircraft was returned to British Air Ferries. The type was never seen again in the Dan-Air fleet.
On Monday 10th January a company HS748 was damaged during landing at Sumburgh. Weather conditions were described as 'grim' when the aircraft landed in snow and slush. The front undercarriage collapsed and two propellors were damaged. the runways was blocked until Wednesday 12th as enginering crew flew to Sumburgh to undtake repairs. These would have to be carried out at Sumburgh. The aircraft was patched up. Before being flown to the Manchester engineering base for major repair work.
The early part of every year saw Travel Agents and Tour Operators announcing their programmes for the year. Several newpapers started to get in on the act this year. regional newspapers would often charter a jet from a local airport and book rooms at a hotel. One such flight would see a Dan-Air 727 fly from Birmingham to Lanzarote for a week long holiday for just £138. Many more of these special 'one off' charters were undertaken each year.
Residents close to Newcastle Airport became angry with Dan-air who carried out engine tests at midnight on a BAC 1-11. More than 50 residents complained bitterly that their sleep was disrupted. Dan-Air issued an apology, saying it was a regular occurance that had to take place, and had been going on for a long time. As it was the first time residents had complained it was theorised that the wind might have been blowing the wrong way!
Spanish Air Traffic controllers were again in the news for all the wrong reasons. What is still the worst air accident occured in April this year, when two Boeing 747 aircraft collided in Tenerife with the loss of more than 500 lives. Further complaints were made by a BA Trident pilot which almost crashed whilst flying in Spanish airspace en route to Valencia. The BA pilot happened to glance out of the side window of the flight deck to see an El Al jumbo a few hundred yards away. His quick thinking enabled him to disengage the autopilot and install a steep climb. This enabled him to leap frog over the jet. Having had an altercation with the Spanish air traffic controllers, and still shaking he was told by Valencia Air Traffic Control to decend to 8,000 feet. Totally ignoring the fact that a Dan-Air Boeing 727 was already on that flight level. The BA Captain, Derek Baker said 'The Dan-Air pilot said something like; 'Hey you can't do that, I'm on that level.' which I already knew because I was aware of the Dan-Air aircraft even if the air traffic controller wasn't."
The Spanish Air Traffic controllers decided to 'work to rule' in August leaving thousands of passengers in misery in UK airports. Delays were reported at 17 hours in Newcastle and 16 hours in Manchester as people waited for an aircraft that was still on the tarmac at Palma and Malaga. The press dubbed the nightmare 'The Costa Crisis'.
The Berlin operation continued to grow with aircraft permanently based there. By 1976 Dan-Air had become the largest charter operator at Berlin Tegal airport. German stewardesses and ground crew had been recruited. Most of the German Tour Operators relied on Dan-Air to carry their holiday makers, including Neckermann & Reisen. Despite negative press saying how much the airline was in the red financially for the first six months of the year, by April, the company reported its hightest ever profit at the end of the financial year. Pre tax profits were £1.88m, 38% up on the previous year. Dan-Air could also boast that they carried 2,846,000 passengers
Sadly, one of the company Boeing 707 freighter aircraft was lost on approach to Lusaka whilst on lease to I.A.S. Six crew died in the accident. Cracks had been found in the tail. 30 British Boeing 707s were grounded while checks were carried out. Several aircraft around the world were found to have similar cracks. More about this accident.
There had been a further sterling crisis in 1976/77. Bringing misery to the airline industry which has always operated on very low margins. Tour Operators were forced to impose surcharges on holidaymakers. The CAA reacted by saying that Tour Operators were forbidden from charging surcharges after tickets had been issued. Of course, that didn't stop them adding surcharges on holidays after they were booked. Tickets were usually issued six weeks before travel. The CAA also claimed that the surcharges had been the result of Tour Operators cutting prices too aggresively. The CAA anounced that they were considering reintroducing minimum pricing. Commenting shortly afterwards, that they had deferred judgement on the matter. Tour firms then were forced to petition their Banks to ask for an extension of how far in advance they could purchase foreign currency. The CAA rejected their requests. Cosmos holidays claimed that the rich - poor and the poor - rich swing had altered. Going on to say that bookings of the upper and middle classes had dropped by 10%, while bookings from the blue collar workers were up 40%. Cosmos saw a gap in this market and announced, with great fanfare, a new feature. "All holiday costs including deposits would be returned if a customer was made redundant". The public reacted positively to Cosmos' offer Ensuring a surge in their bookings.
Cosmos did have its own airline - Monarch Airlines and naturally, Cosmos would try to ensure that their holidaymakers would fly with their own carrier. However, Monarch was still a very small airline in terms of fleet size, operating a fleet of three old Boeing 720s and four BAC 1-11s. Monarch didn't have the capacity for all the new bookings and Cosmos would need to charter other carriers' aircraft, they chose Dan-Air.
Meanwhle, Intasun and Airtours continued to see their own business' grow. Laker Airways had recently acquired Arrowsmith Holidays and a considerable amount of its charter bookings went Dan-Air's way too, as Laker Airways had a relatively small short haul fleet. Other major Tour Operators included Ellerman, Inghams, Lunn Poly, Owners Abroad, Neilson, Jetsave and Horizon Holidays; a separate company to the original 'Horizons' which had been set up by Vladimir Raitz who had founded Horizon. Exchange Holidays chartered Dan-Air aircraft for their new programme for Malta Cyprus and Gibraltar. Exchange would operate flights from Manchester, Gatwick and Luton with prices from £77 for a weeks holiday. Flights commenced in April. Dillie Mayhew who worked for Exchange says;
'I was invited on an educational trip to Cyprus, somewhere I had never been. My manager told me that we had chartered a Dan-Air Comets. I must admit, we had chartered their Comets before and people did complain about them being old fashioned and smelly, I had flown on one myself and I had to agree with them! The bookings came in really strong and management renegotiated with Dan-Air who happened to have some spare capacity with thier Boeing 727, and a change was made. When I boarded the aircraft through stairs under the tail I was in awe. The aircraft was lovely. I'm no expert, but the 727 seemed to go up like a rocket. I wasn't so impressed at people sitting opposite one another over the emergency exits. I wouldn't have fancied flying backwards! But I was impressed at the food we were served, and the service. I was more than happy to reccomend Dan-Air to customers after that. We continued working with Dan-Air for many years. They were a great airline and I am sorry that they are no longer with us."
Intasun continued their rapid expansion with Newcaslte being added to their stable this year. Dan-Air would carry out the charter programme with Costa Brava, Costa Del Sol, Malta and Tenerife flights undertaken.
For the first time the company carried more than three million passengers. (3,591,000) The Boeing 727 had proved to be popular with passengers and the fleet had now grown to eight of the type. The Boeing 707 fleet also contunued to grow with an extra model purchased. The 707s, it can't be denied were some of the oldest 707s in operation. One in particular G-AYSL - 'Sierra Lima' had two nicknames - 'Sick Lil' and 'Spread Legs' because of its poor record with technical problems. Another example 'Tango Golf' was less affectionaltely known as 'Tree Grazer' because of the runway length required and its slow rate of climb. Cabin crew enjoyed flying long haul, many have told this site's webmaster that they often felt nervous on the 707 because it was old and shaky. Pat Martin, a stewardess on the 707 said
'When you were in the rear galley, you could actually feel the tail swaying as it flew. I would sit anxiously as it went up the runway.'
Despite this, the 70 served Dan-Air until 1980. Fred Newman, the company chairman, said at the time "The Boeing 707 was not successful for Dan-Air - it was the wrong type of aircraft for our style of operation."
The BAC 1-11 was a different story altogether. Its sturdy design was ideal for short haul flights. The fact that Dan-Air operated four varients meant that they could tailor its operation for longer distance charters with 119 passengers or shorter, lower payloads on domestic schedules. The Boeing 727 was put to good use on a series of night flights to Tel Aviv. The five hour flight was at the limit of the Boeing 727's range capability. Flights to Eilat were also undertaken on behalf of Sovereign Holidays and Red Sea Holidays.
The balance sheet favoured the Comet - only just. With no hire purchase payments to pay on the type despite the high fuel costs. Their operation wasn't sustainable over time when the balance would tip against the Comet. Dan-Air ad placed a great deal of faith in the 727 as the ultimate Comet replacement.
Spanish Air Traffic Control made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 1977. A British Airways Trident and a Pan Am jumbo narrowly avoided a mid air collision over Spain due to poor navigational advice. The aircraft, carrying a total of 500 passengeres came within one second of a collision west of Barcelona. As the press berated the organisation news broke that a Dan-Air Boeing 727 and another BA Trident almost crashed after Spanish controllers in Valencia instructed the Trident to descend to 8,000 feet. The Dan-Air pilot who was listening to the conversation shouted 'Hey, you can't do that.' The BA pilot said he was aware of the Dan-Air aircraft even if the controller wasn't. The Spanish Air Ministry said they would investigate and boasted of a new system that was currently being installed.
Strike action in Spain affected many flights in August of this year. One 0830 flight due to leave Manchester for Naples hadn't departed at midnight because the Boeing 727 was stuck in Palma waiting for departure clearance from Spanish Air Traffic Controllers. Several airlines suffered with delays of eighteen hours being commonplace. Commentators suggested that Manchester Airport looked like a 'refugee camp'. Tour operators were forced to lay on meals for passengers and many were given an extra nights holiday in resort. The average delay was nine hours, but delays of up to twenty hours were reported.
For the first time in the airline's history, Cabin Crew training would be provided at Aberdeen and not just Gatwick. Training would be specific to the HS 748 as many of the type were based at the airport. Nince new stewardesses were recruited for the two week course.
- Gatwick - Strasburg - 1st Apri
- Bristol - Cardiff - Cork - 4th April
- East Midlands - Birmingham & lsle of Man . 21st May
NETWORK & PRESS 1977
1978 was Dan Air's Silver Jubilee year. It was also a record breaking year in terms of passengers carried. For the first time, in the airline's history, more than four million passengers were carried (4,010,000). The Comet fleet was virtually obsolete and a phasing out was well under way in 1978. Nevertheless, thirteen Comets were still carrying out many of this year on charter flights. With four, fuel thirsty engines the aircraft used more fuel carrying 119 passengers than a Boeing 737 did carrying 130. Dan-Air used a system that each aircraft type in the fleet would operate independently of each other. Their costs could be analysed separately. It was apparent that a replacement for the Comet had to be found. The main hurdle was financing new aircraft was costly and replacing thirteen aircraft would be costly.
The BAC 1-11 fleet had grown in size to 14. The 1-11 fleet consisted of the 200, 300, 400 and 500 series. The different capacity or the 1-11 varients was seen as a great benefit, Tour operators could choose from 89 seat 200 series up to 119 on the 500 series. The decision was made to also begin phasing out of service the Boeing 707. One example had been leased to Air Malta the year before. Advance Booking Charters (ABC) had also declined, in no small part because Laker Airways had been awarded licences to operate low cost Transatlantic scheduled services. Laker's 'Skytrain' advertised low fares to New York for passengers who simply turned up at the airport and bought a ticket for the next departure. The low frills service sold drinks and meals on board and was an instant hit. A rival carrier, British Caledonian had also been awarded rights to fly scheduled services to US cities. Their flights would be similar to other Tranatlantic carriers, with normal service.
Airlines like Dan-Air were not in a position to compete. Management at Dan-air saw no reason to try to attempt to enter the scheduled long haul market. One of our pilot contributors told us;
"The 707 aircraft that we had were, frankly bloody awful. I know they had carried out the job they were purchased for, in that they went across the Atlantic on charters. They were sometimes used on flights to the Canaries as well. I had transferred from the Comet to the 707 before joining the 727 permanently. My conversion couldn't come quick enough. When the 707 was at its maximum take off weight it would send a shiver down my spine. Gatwick has a long runway and thank God it has. One of them was nick named 'Tree Grazer' officially it was 'Tango Golf' but when you have only just managed to get airborne before you run out of runway, it tests your constitution. Cabin crew at the back used to say they could feel the tail section swaying as they carried out their duties. Our 707s had come from Pan Am's first batch of the type and it showed. The damn things regularly went tech down route, so that meant engineers from overseas had to work hard to repair them. It led to disgruntled passengers blaming cabin crew or ground staff. Far too many times we were sat in the flight deck at the gate with a full aircraft all set to go....You start the push back and the tug is released. Then some warning light came on - something was wrong, which meant that we had to go back to the stand. Everyone had to deplane and wait. Worse still would be that passengers would have to sit on board the aircraft for hours if we couldn't get back on stand. We would have to put people up in hotels, all at expense to us. Our reputation was getting a pumelling on a daily basis. Someone wrote to a newspaper saying the brochure had promised in flight entertainment, of course there was none. They called the aircraft 'delapidated' which was a little harsh, but perhaps not altogether inaccurate. It might have been ok if it meant an extra night in a hotel and a three hour flight back from Spain, but when you are facing an eight hour flight and jet lag, people, understandibly wanted the aircraft to leave on time and get home on schedule. One year on the aircraft was enough for me. After I transferred to the 727, I still had a license to fly the 707, and If I was asked to fly it I did my best to avoid it. After we came off the ABC flights we tried the aircraft on European routes with similar success. A couple got leased out to British Airtours and Air Malta and they had similar problems. When they were retired they had virtually no book value, but they were sold, and as far as I remember the last two of them were scrapped at Lasham."
In January Newcastle Evening Chronicle compared two services from the city to London, Dan-Air to Gatwick and British Airways to Heathrow. The Dan-Air review was outstanding. The piece siad the check in staff were chirpy and professional, and the cabin crew were in a class of their own. The Dai-Air BAC 1-11 offered a hot breakfast with Bacon, Eggs, Muchroom and Crispbread with Marmalade. A glass of grapefruiut juice and tea or coffee. The British Airways flight to Heathrow had no food, just two hot drinks. Dan-Air's staff had handed passengers their coats and wished everyone a pleasant day. The Dan-Air flight was on time and the BA flight delayed 15 minutes. When questioned about the lack of a meal, BA said that the majority of passengers were businessmen and a meal was not on their list of priorities. BA also said the Dan-Air flight was TEN MINUTES longer - giving staff the time to serve breakfast! The journalist disagreed. He said that he was charged an'exhorbitant 49p' for a sandwich and coffee at Heathrow. the only snag for Dan-Air was the £2:25 train journey to London itself. It was just 80p to travel from Heathrow to the capital by underground. Dan-Air charged £24:80 for the flight, British Airways fare was £26.
The number of oil industry charter flights had grown substantially. To mee the demand the HS 748 fleet had grown to eighteen. A 19th came in the shape of a leased model from Mount Cook Arways of New Zealand. In January Dan-Air flew more than 60 flights in four days carrying 3000 passengers from Aberdeen taking oil workers back to Sullem Voe after their Christmas break They had completed a similar feat into Aberdeen before the holiday. The increase in Dan-Air charters for the oil supply workers required more than 10 Hawker Siddeley 748s to be based at Aberdeen. During a difficult time two HS 748s collided when a strong gust of wind blew one aircraft off its chocks and into the other aircraft. One other HS748 took off and developed an engine fault within minutes of the aircraft becoming airborne. It returned to the airport safely.
The HS748 was widely used on the Scheduled Service Network. Most notably the Isle of Man which was now served by Dan-Air from eleven UK airports. The airline applied to serve Sumburgh on its scheduled network from Newcastle with a possible stop at Dundee or Edinburgh. The Newcastle - Bournemouth route was increased to a daily service. Further new services commenced Gatwick - Bergen on 1st April, and just two weeks later Gatwick-Jersey was restarted, finally on 27th May Bournemouth - Isle of Man and Jersey-Cork began services.
New cabin crew uniforms were unveiled in April. The new design was nick named 'Mix n Match' designed by the Jouse of Mansfield the cornflower blue outfit came with lemon blouse and summer dress. Trousers were optional, or a skirt with a cream overcoat and blue bowler style hat to complete the look.
El-Al, the national airline of Israel, was affected by industrial action in April. The airline approached Dan-Air to help. A Dan-Air Boeing 707 was chartered by El-Al fly out to Israel and return passengers to Gatwick. The aircraft would then operate the Stanstead - Tel Aviv service. Dan-Air would operate both services until the industrial action was settled a month later.
More scorn was poured on the Comet when a Coventry journalist was delayed 32 hours when his pilot ran out of flying time. Delays followed delays due to snow and fog. Eventually the crew ran out of flying hours and no replacement aircraft or crew could be found. The journalist said he never wished to see the inside of Milan airport again. He called the Dan-Air Comet 'Ancient but elegant'.
The Flagship Boeing 727 flew exclusively the charter flight programme and the eighth model joined the fleet this year. The 727s were based in Manchester and Gatwick, they would also reposition in other UK airports with smaller programmes before returning to their base. Their utilisation rates were among the highest of any airline. Each of the aircraft flew for over twelve hours a day. Other Boeing 727 were based in Berlin. One Dan-Air 727 flight witnessed high drama when a passenger went into labour, two months early. The flight had departed from Tenerife. One of the passengers was Mrs. Carole Walker, who was seven months into her pregnancy. Walker, who hadn't informed Dan-Air she was expecting, had seemingly gone into labour before she boarded the aircraft. The expectant mother had no holiday medical insurance and couldn't afford to stay in Tenerife and pay for hospital and hotel costs. When it was revealed the baby would not wait until touchdown, the Captain asked if there was anyone medically trained on board. Step forward Jessie Morley, a trained midwife. The baby turned out to be a complicated breach birth. Jessie calmly went about her business, her only surgical equipment being a pair of scissors borrowed from the crew, towels and bandages from the aircraft's first aid kit. The aircraft's emercency oxygen was delivered to help Carole with pain. Cabin crew moved Mrs. Walker to the front of the aircraft and female passengers formed a circle and used coats and blankets to form a screen to avoid the 'theatre' The scissors were steralised using a cigarette ligher provided by a male passenger. When the baby was born she wouldn't breathe. Without any surgical equipment Jessie used her little finger to clear the baby's airways before administering mouth to mouth resuscitation. The baby's cries were heard over the whine of the jet engine. This brought the passengers to heir feet.
Her baby was delivered as the aircraft passed over Daventry, twenty minutes before the aircraft was scheduled to land at Birmingham. Cabin Crew moved Mrs. Walker to the front of the aircraft and made up a screen of coats and blankets. Fortunately, a midwife was on board and helped deliver the 5lb baby. The Captain delayed landing which enabled the baby daughter to be born in the air. The Mother called her daughter DANielle!!
Dan-Air were invited along with other carriers to evaluate the brand new Dash 7 turbo prop aircraft which promised excellent effiency and performance including short take off and landings. De Havilland Canada who manufactured the type were confident UK airlines would purchase the aircraft. Soon afterwards Dan-Air did indeed increase their fleet when they bought another HS 748, this time from Mexicana. The newly delivered aircraft would be the twelth of the type to be based at Aberdeen and would be used on oil related flights.
The Summer season was blighted by yet another round of industrial action by French and Spanish Air Traffic Controllers. Tour Operators informed passengers to 'expect the worst'. Birmingham airport reported delays of up to eighteen hours. Manchester Airport had similar delays. Dispute went on to affect 100,000 people. On top of this, Manchester was undergoing runway improvements that would be undertaken at night. For many nights Dan-Air and other carriers had to divert their aircraft to Liverpool, ferrying passengers to and from Manchester to Liverpool for flights.
The Unfair Contract Terms act came into force this year. The law was resisted by the operators who had always included exemption clauses in their terms and conditions. This covered all external suppliers, such as airlines, hotels and transfer coaches. If a person died as a result of fire or a coach crash the liability was passed onto the Tour Operator. The CAA also announced new measures designed to please consumers, they would however displease Tour Operators. Firstly Travel Agents were no longer to be under legal restrictions to offer travel incentives. From this year they were allowed to offer inducements such as Beach Towels, Bags, and even sun cream as an incentive to entice holiday makers from one firm or another. The Tour Operators would provide these goodies. Another rule change was to be far more wide reaching; In July of 1978 the CAA gave approval for a Danish Tour Operator, Tjaereborg, to start selling directly to UK customers. For the first time people could book an international holiday without visiting a travel agent. A huge TV campaign followed, providing a telephone number to call for a brochure. Once the customer had chosen their holiday they could then phone the call centre at Tjaereborg, who would advise, in real time, prices and availability. Travel agents had traditionally sold holidays on behalf of Tour Operators with a commission of between 10 and 15%. Tjaereborg's owner, Elif Krogagor, also owned his own airline - Sterling, who sold 600,000 holidays a year to Scandinavians and Germans. Krogagor's airline were now attempting to take a share in the UK travel market. Quick to follow, with a similar product was a Swedish company - 'Vingresor' who had cornered about 40% of the Swedish market. This new concept was quickly accepted by UK consumers but the industry was not so keen. Some of the flights were flown by Dan-Air who were only too happy to have a new customer. The Tour Operators in the UK on the other hand were furious and a dispute quickly broke out. Appeals to the CAA fell on deaf ears. Tour Operators naturally were worried that these direct sales companies would almost certainly take some of the business from the established UK Tour Operators. When Tour Operators realised that their attempts to stop the direct selling of holidays had failed, several, established companies went on to start up similar operations of their own. Portland Holidays, a small division of the Thomson Group began direct selling of holidays. Portland had to work very hard to earn any market share. Portland were a regular charterer of Dan-Air aircraft and the airline would have to wait to see how many Dan-Air aircraft they would charter.
It didn't take long for the Tour Operators to realise that there clearly was a markey for direct selling and that it wasn't destructive to the industry as long as the Tour Operator sold to travel agents as well as direct. The travel agents didn't see it that way at all. They bitterly resisted all attempts to interfere with the industry. As often happened in the travel industry -there was a take over - Vingresor was swallowed up by Thomson and Tjereborg was taken over by Owners Abroad in 1987. Harry Goodman's ILG and Intasun continued to grab a sizeable share of the market. Never shy of publlicity Goodman was unapologetic in boasting that his holidays were cheap and cheerful.
Manchester had become the second busiest airport for Dan-Air, and Dan-Air became the second largest employer at Manchester. The North West airport was fast becoming a major holiday airport. Runway repairs had to be carried out - at night! This would affect most charter carriers, who for several weeks would have to divert flights into Liverpool and transport passengers by coach to Manchester
Dan-Air's Commercial Director Errol Cossey and Chief Executive Martin O'Reagan had being urging Fred Newman to place an order for the Boeing 737 200 Advanced. This would have allowed Dan-Air to leap frog over rival Briannia who operated the 737 200. Newman rejected repeated appeals. Crossley and O'Regan then left Dan-Air in protest. Newman had no idea where they would go. He found out in a very short time that they had joined forces with Harry Goodman. The three carved out plans to launch a new airline. Several of Dan-Air's staff were poached including Chief Air Stewardess Renee Manchester. The new airline - Air Europe, commenced operations in 1978 with a Single Boeing 737 200 Advanced with more on order. They were tiny compared to Dan-Air but Air Europe would go on to be a thorn in Dan-Air's side in later years. Dan-Air also had to deal with rejection from the Civil Aviation Authority over their plans for a licence to link Newcaslte with Edinburgh and Sumburgh. At the hearing in Aberdeen only Loganair was granted a licence to operate a service from Edinburgh to Sumburgh. There followed a heavy promotion for the Newcastle-London Gatwick service that saw ten flights in each direction. The fare was to be cheaper than those offered to Heathrow.
- Gatwick - Bergen- Commenced - April 1st
- Gatwick - Jersey Commenced - April 15th
- Bournemouth - Isle of Man Commenced. May 27th
- Jersey - Cork - Commenced May 27th
NETWORK & PRESS 1978
Dan-Air started the year by applying to fly between Tees Side and Belfast with a one way fare of £27:50, the also had high hopes to commence services from Gloucester's Staverton Airport to the Isle Of Man and Jersey. They also penned hopes on a new service from Manchester and/or Birmingham to Cork.
The phasing out of the Comet was almost complete with just seven remaining at the start of the year. More would be retired as the year went on. One such aircraft was obtained from Dan-Air and towed just two miles away to the Fur and Feathers pub in the pictureque village of Herriard. The aim was to convert the Comet into a restuarant. Villagers were incensed that a 113 foot long airliner would be parked outside the pub. Its tail was taller than the pub! In the end the locals made an official complaint. Basingtoke council decided the aircraft should be returned to Lasham where it would be broken up.
The Newcastle-Birmingham service was performing better than expected and so frequency was increased to twice daily. There was increased frequency too on the Newcastle - Isle Of Man route. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Awarded Dan-Air a license to fly the Aberdeen-Gatwick route on 30th July. The servic had been flown by British Airways who did not wish to relinquish the route. However Dan-Air had worked hard to win the license giving 12 positive reasons why they should operate it. In the end the CAA said that British Airways should concentrate on the Aberdeen - Heathrow service and Dan-Air would help improve Gatwick as an airport. Dan-Air planned to offer more flights, and fares would be £10 cheaper than BA. Dan-Air would operate two flights each way on Mondays and Friday and three on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There would be a south bound service on Saturdays and a north bound one on Sundays. In May the Gatwick-Dijon route started. Dan-Air went as far as to say that they were willing to improve the service on board and use larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 727, should the need arise. If Dan-Air were to operate the service, flights would commence using BAC 1-11 jets.
In April Dan-Air was able to report that turnover had risen to £117,500,000 which was up from last year's figure by £16,850,000. Whilst pre tax profits soared by from £802,000 to £2,010,000. The first time that profits had ever surpassed the two million mark. The charter fleet was fully booked for the upcoming season as were the 14 HS748s based in Aberdeen on oil charters. For the first time in the airline's history the charter fleet was also fully emplyed for the Winter season. Share prices rose to 150p. It seemed that 1978, the jubilee year was a great one and 1979 would be even better. Newcastle station manager John Clementson had been effective in his post for four years. He had been a popular figure with staff. They were shocked when he was sentenced to a fifteen month jail term for stealing cash. Clementson was responsible for banking cash from bar and duty free sales. Stewardesses had handed over sealed envelopes and receipts that Clementson took money from. Clementson, was jailed for fifteen months for admitting to 'borrowing' £3655 from Dan-Air that he never paid back. Clementson had taken the cash from 1976-1978. He told the court that he had 'borrowed' money to pay off gambling debts. He had also began drinkning heavily. He co operated with the police and said he was sorry. The crime was discovered folowing a break in where £2,000 was stolen from a safe. This led to a full investigation that discovered the discrepency. Claiming that he was too embarrassed to tell his family, the father of four had co-operated with the airline and the police. His wife did clear the debts ultimately.
The upgrade of the runway Manchester Airport caused not only disruption to airlines, but great expense. As repairs could only be carried out at night, charter flights were the only flights affected. Fuel cost $20 (30c a gallon) a barrell more at Liverpool than Manchester. The additional cost of then ferrying passengers to and from Liverpool was time consuming and expensive. On top of that only one supplier of fuel was available, panic ensued when supplies started to run out. British Airtours diverted five boeing 707 flights to Gatwick rather than risk the extra charge or not being able to refuel. Dan-Air had to divert more than sixty flights a week during this fraught itme.
The official report into the 1977 Lusaka crash was published in May. the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) largely exhonorated Dan-Air from any blame. The metal fatigue on the tail's main spar could not have been found with the maintainence guidlines laid down by the CAA. Dan-Air had followed the guides to the letter. The repoprt also pointed out that of the 521 Boeing 707s flying 7% had been found to have similar fatigue on the main spar. New rules would be laid down for UK operators of the type. Dan-Air did not have to concern itself about that, as the company had decided to withdraw the type from the fleet. Two of the turbo fan examples were sold for a profit. Two more had been leased to British Airtours and Air Malta. The latter being broken up at Lasham on return from its lease.
Saga Holidays, the UK's leading Tour Operator for the over 60s announced in June that they had signed a major contract with Dan-Air. Saga would use the airline for the majority of its flights. The 1979 programme would feature 40 destinations. saga said they had an excellent relationship with Dan-Air and were keen to offer an ever expanding network for both companies.
On 28th July it was announced that Dan-Air had successfully wrestled the Aberdeen-London Gatwick service from British Airways. BA had not wished to give up the route, but were told by the CAA that the licence had been revoked and would be awarded to Dan-Air. It was the second time in a month that BA had suffered a revocation of a route. BA had lost the Aberdeen-Wick route when it was awarded to Air Ecosse. There had been an open hearing about the service with Dan-Air being supported by many large companies and businesses. British Airways lodged an appeal, but the CAA upheld their decision. The press pointed out BA's lack of available aircraft and the flag carrier's inefficiency led to many complaints. Dan-Air would commence services in November.
The celebrations would be short lived as the next day a Dan-Air HS748 was involved in a fatal accident in Sumburgh. The aircraft had failed to become airborne and plunged into icy sea at the end of the runway. The pilot attempted to abort take off and braked heavily. Sadly there was not enough runway. As the aircraft hit the water one wing broke off. The weather had been described as 'filthy'. Seventeen people died and 30 were injured. Gust lock problems had been the cause of the accident. Full Details
One of the passengers, Joseph McKinnon said:
'We were ready to take off from the runway and the plane seemed to lift, then go down, then try again to lift, and finally went down. The pilot braked and then veered to the left, but the plane ploughed through a fence and went straight into the sea. It was less than a minute before the cabin was full of water. I could not get my life jacket on to inflate, so I threw it away when I got into the sea. I managed to swim ashore where two men helped me get out of the water. I was swept by the queue to get out of the rear door into the sea.' Mr. McKinnon said that he thought most of those who died were sitting at the front section of the aircraft and that he thought the starboard engine had failed.'
A British airways helicopter and members of a scuba diving club assisted the rescue. Captain Bain of British Airways said 'When we got there we could see a few survivors and bodies in the sea and we picked up those that we could see. The plane was in the sea about 50 years from the end of the runway, and was nose down at an agle of about 45 degrees. Only the tail was sticking out of the water and the rear door was about six foot under water. There was nobody left clinging to the fuselage, so we started looking at bodies that had the most signs of life. We winched one man up out of the water and another from the deck of a small trawler. We tried to pick up more, but our winchman was swamped by a large wave. Some of the survivors had managed to swim ashore with the help of wind and tide.'
Another passenger, Keith Dwyer said; 'The young stewardess tried her upmost to keep everybody calm. The water was up to our waists in seconds, but still she was calling to people not to panic.' and passenger Harry Kennedy who was just 21 at the time said 'She was telling us to put their life jackets on, she was so calm and courageous. Suddenly she was hurled into the sea by a wave. She bobbed about in the sea and still she kept shouting 'Don't panic, we'll make it'
August saw the third hearing for the Aberdeen - Inverness - Stornaway service.
August was always a trying time for UK airlines. It was an annual event when either the French or the Spanish Air Traffic Controllers would go on strike. This resulted in many delays. Airlines had requested to fly out into the Atlantic and head toward Spain. The CAA claimed to do so was dangerous and thus refused. Manchester Airport's fire department went on strike in September which saw the airport close for two weeks. Dan-Air diverted their fllights to Liverpool and complained that Liverpool charged 30 cents a gallon more than other UK airports. British Airways announced it was dropping 26 routes that were unprofitable. Dan-Air, Air Anglia, British Island Airways and British Midlands proposed to take them all over, with Dan-Air keen to take on a new Gatwick- Toulouse service which would begin in October. The Gatwick-Newcastle service would commence on November 1st. The airline also joined up with British Celedonian to interlink with B Cal's Gatwick-Atlanta service in November. The CAA increased fares across the board in November making the £37 fare on the Aberdeen-Gatwick rise to £41.50
Tragedy struck when two oil support workers were denied boarding on an oil support flight because they had been drinking. Two brothers stormed out of the airport and onto the ramp. Airport staff battled to restrain the men, one of who was intent on getting their luggage off the aircraft. The pilot noticed the men on the tarmac and indicated that he should move away. Instead the man waved his fist at the pilot and went towards the aircraft. He walked into the aircraft propellor and was decapitated. Dan-Air refused to accept any responsibility.
In October, British Airways announced it was scrapping 26 routes that were no longer profitable. The routes included several services from Jersey and Guernsey, The Isle Of Man and Belfast. International services earmarked for dropping were Cardiff, Bristol to Paris and Dublin - Bristol, Cardiff and Paris. Many of the destinations were served by several regional airports. Heathrow, BA's main base would lose services to Leeds/Bradford the Isle of Man and Birmingham. The flag carrier had lost £6.5 million on the services in the last year, saying that high fuel prices were partly responsible. Four UK independent airlines would vie for the licences; Dan-Air, Air Anglia, British Isand Airways and British Midland Airways. The independents claimed they had far lower operating costs and that they would be able to operate the flights profiably. Dan-Air were keen to expand their Newcastle network and had flights to Dublin, Belfast, Cardiff and Bristol in their sights.
In October Dan-Air announced it had plans to scrap the sixteen flights a week between Lydd and Paris, the airline had applied to the CAA to transfer the services to Gatwick. Dan-Air would continue with their programme of flights to the Channel Islands.
The year was rounded off with a massive boost to Dan-Air's oil charters. The job of returning workers to Aberdeen was handed to Dan-Air. Operation Santa Claus saw almost 5,000 oil support workers flown home by the airline. The busiest day of all had 904 BP workers flying with Dan-Air. This annual event had now become the largest peace-time airlift in the UK. Shetland manager Geoff Fisher said that 'it was a tremendous achievement and that only Dan-Air had the relevent experience to do.' It was all the more impressive given that a days flying was lost due to the inevitable bad weather. Normally flights were carried out with HS748 aircraft, but to supplement them, this year a BAC 1-11, two Viscounts and a Comet ferried the passengers. Two small aircraft from Dan-Air subsidiery company Air Taxi were also used.
Good news also came in December when the CAA announced which of the 26 abandoned BA routes would go to which airline. Dan-Air were successful with the Bristol/Cardiff - Jersey Bristol/Cardiff - Belfast and Newcastle-Belfast. Dan-Air were also offered the Leeds/Bradford - Guernsey service which they accepted. Other routes went to British Midland, the newly formed Air UK. The remaining 13 routes would be decided in the new year.
December 10th saw the launch of the Aberdeen-Gatwick service, which had been taken from British Airways. The flights would, for the first time on the route, serve hot breakfasts and dinners. There would be free newspapers and a new style of boarding - 'Trickle Boarding'. This allowed passengers to board the aircraft as soon as they wanted to as soon as the aircraft was ready. Flight times were designed to give business travellers a full day in either city. Three flights a day in each direction would be operated. Cargo would also be carried on the flights. Beaujolais Nouveau is traditionally released on November 14th. The 1979 release, in accordance with the tradition, should be on the table and corks popped on the stroke of midnight. Dan-Air were responsible for getting the 1979 batch to Scotland on time. Passenger on the last flight from Gatwick to Aberdeen were treated to a glass of that year's vintage early with the compliments of Dan-Air. The publicity stunt helped endear passengers toward Dan-Air who were already getting the thumbs up for the service.
Aberdeen had proved to be a success story for Dan-Air, when the airline commenced flights from the city in 1971 just one aircraft was based there with just 28 staff. In 1979 fouteen HS 748 were based at the airport and a BAC 1-11 jet for the new services. Now more than 200 were employed by the company. The HS 748 flew up to 25 flights a day on oil related charters. In addition a scheduled service operated to the Isle of Man.
The BAC 1-11 fleet grew by one model and two Vickers Viscounts were obtained, primarily for use on the Channel Islands Services. Viscounts were based at Lydd Airport following the closure of Ashford Lympne. In November Dan-Air announed that flights operating from Lydd to Paris (Beauvais) would be transferred to Gatwick. The flights carried 42,481 in 1979 which was 5,000 fewer passengers than the previous year. Lydd Airport said that they were 'disappointed but not dispodent.' Dan-Air stated that the market for the service had been 'drifting away' for some time because there were so many cheaper ways of getting across the channel from Kent.
Just one Boeing 707 remained in the fleet in 1979. Altogether 21 HS 748s were flying and the Boeing 727 stood at eight in total. Martin O'Regan and Erroll Cossey who had left the airline in 1978 to form Air Europe had a promising start with their first year. Dan-Air chairman, Fred Newman reluctance to purchase new aircraft was not a good move. Thomas Cook, it was reported, had made it very clear that they wanted Boeing 737 aircraft to fly their passengers for the 1980 season. A new airline was announced; Orion Airways would be based at East Midlands and would operate four brand new Boeing 737 200 advanced aircraft. The airline would employ 200 people with charter flights operating from Manchester, Gatwick, East Midlands and Luton. The two new carriers were both in house airlines for major Dan-Air Tour Operators, Orion was owned by Horizon and Air Europe by Intasun. Naturally, the use of their own aircraft would be a priority. Dan-Air's Boeing 727s carried more passengers but were less fuel efficient. Dan-Air would have to be able to compete with the new airlines on an even playing field.
Dan-Air had finally agreed to purchase the new model. Talks began with other carriers with a view to leasing the new type. They would be second hand, as was the usual practice with Dan-Air.
3,591,000 passengers were carried in 1979, a new record. A new agreement with Intra Airways was signed allowing each airline to use each other's aircraft on the Carlisle, Staverton and Swansea to Jersey and Guernsey service. By the end of the decade people were travelling further and more often. It was also clear that people were now opting to take self catering holidays. The role of the in resort representatives was changing as well, holidaymakers were becoming less reliant on them. Smaller Tour Operators, offering a more personalised service were complaning that the giant companies were deliberately trying to undercut them with huge, loss leading discounts on their holidays. The smaller companies could never compete with them. Dan-Air aircraft were being chartered by more and more of these smaller companies. It was vital that they retain their working relationship as they entered the new decade.
- Gatwick - Dijon - Commenced May 1st
- Newcastle - Birmingham - Isle of Man - Commenced May 23rd
- Gatwick - Aberdeen - November 1st (Taken over from British Airways)
- Gatwick - Toulouse - December 16th
NETWORK & PRESS 1979
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