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British United Air Ferries

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Subject: List of defunct airlines of the United Kingdom, Air ferry, London Southend Airport, Timeline of Gatwick Airport, British and Commonwealth Holdings
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British United Air Ferries

British United Air Ferries
IATA ICAO Callsign
VF BAF Air Ferry
Founded 1963
Ceased operations 2001
Hubs Southend
Lydd Ferryfield
Fleet size 23 piston airliners
(9 Aviation Traders Carvair,
14 Bristol Superfreighter
(as of September 1967))
Destinations Channel Islands,
Continental Europe
Parent company Air Holdings (1967—1971)
T.D. Keegan (1971—1972)
Transmeridian Air Cargo (1972—1977)
T.D. Keegan (1977—1983)
Jadepoint (1983—1988)
Mostjet (1989—1993)
[British] World Aviation Group (1994—2001)
Headquarters Central London (1963—1967)
London Southend Airport (1967—2001)
Key people Sir Miles Wyatt,
F. A. Laker,
Max Stuart-Shaw,
R.L. Cumming,
A.F. Nickalls,
D.J. Platt,
T.D. Keegan,
A.L. MacLeod,
D. Willis,
R. Pesskin,
N. Skinner,
A. Weiner,
I.M. Herman,
R. Pinnington,
R. Sturman,
N. Hansford,
M.J. Sessions

British United Air Ferries (BUAF) was a wholly private, British independent[nb 1] car and passenger ferry airline based in the United Kingdom during the 1960s. It specialised in cross-Channel ferry flights carrying cars and their owners between its numerous bases in Southern England, the Channel Islands and Continental Europe. All-passenger and all-cargo flights were operated as well. Following several identity and ownership changes, it went out of business in 2001.


  • History 1
  • Aircraft fleet details 2
    • Fleet in 1963 2.1
    • Fleet in 1967 2.2
    • Fleet in 1972 2.3
    • Fleet in 1978 2.4
    • Fleet in 1984 2.5
    • Fleet in 1990 2.6
    • Fleet in 1994 2.7
    • Fleet in 1998 2.8
    • Fleet in 2001 2.9
  • Accidents and incidents 3
  • Film and TV appearances 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


BUAF came into being on 1 January 1963 as a result of the merger of Channel Air Bridge and Silver City Airways.[1][2][3] The newly formed airline was a wholly owned subsidiary of Air Holdings,[3] which in turn was a subsidiary of British & Commonwealth (B&C). This ownership structure made BUAF a sister airline of British United Airways (BUA), at the time Britain's biggest independent airline and the country's leading independent scheduled operator.

BUAF operated scheduled and non-scheduled vehicle ferry, passenger and freight services. This included scheduled routes from Southend, Lydd Ferryfield and Hurn to ten points in the Channel Islands and Continental Europe. Aviation Traders Carvairs operated what the airline called "deeper penetration" routes to Basle, Geneva and Strasbourg.

Bristol Superfreighters plied the routes to Jersey, Guernsey, Cherbourg, Le Touquet, Calais, Ostend and Rotterdam.

The airline's scheduled services between the UK, Le Touquet and Ostend formed part of rail-air operations linking the respective capital cities at each end. These were operated in conjunction with Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer français (SNCF) and Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges/Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen (SNCB/NMBS), the respective national railway companies of France and Belgium. (Amongst these, was a six-times daily Southend—Ostend vehicle ferry service operated in conjunction with erstwhile Belgian flag carrier Sabena. This service, which had been launched by Air Charter in partnership with Sabena in 1957 with three dedicated Superfreighters in full Sabena livery and which BUAF had inherited from Channel Air Bridge, continued until 1964.[4]) Coach-air services were provided in conjunction with local coach operators between the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland via Calais, Ostend, Rotterdam and Basle.

In addition, all-passenger configured Bristol Freighters/Superfreighters were used for inclusive tour work on behalf of BUA (Services) Ltd. Sister airline BUA (C.I.) assumed the former Silver City routes linking the North of England with the Channel Isles and the Continent.[5]

The British United Air Ferries Superfreighter Valiant pictured in 1966

BUAF subsequently added routes linking Southampton with Rotterdam, Ostend, Calais, Deauville, Le Touquet, Jersey, Guernsey, Dinard and Cherbourg to its scheduled route network, while discontinuing its "deeper penetration" routes to Basle, Geneva and Strasbourg as these generated insufficient traffic to sustain a viable operation. Some of the new Southampton routes were part of rail-air operations in conjunction with the French and Belgian national railway companies as well.[6][7]

As a consequence of B&C's

  • , Air Commerce, Flight International, 2 August 1962, p. 155British United Air Ferries
  • , Air Commerce ..., Flight International, 2 August 1962, p. 156British United Air Ferries
  • British United Air Ferries at the Aviation Safety Network Database
  • British Air Ferries at the Aviation Safety Network Database
  • British World Airlines at the Aviation Safety Network Database
  • British World Airlines Ltd.
  • BUAF/BAF/BUA flight schedules & timetables
  • Airliners.netPictures of BUAF aircraft at

External links

Further reading

  • Eglin, Roger, and Ritchie, Berry (1980). Fly me, I'm Freddie. London, UK: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.  
  • "Flight International". Sutton, UK: Reed Business Information.   (various backdated issues relating to British United Air ferries, 1963–1967)
  • Merton Jones, A. (1976). British Independent Airlines since 1946, Volume One. UK: Merseyside Aviation Society & LAAS International ISBN 0-902420-07-0. 
  • Dean, W.P., and O'Callaghan, M. (2008 [2nd printing]). The ATL-98 Carvair: A Comprehensive History of the Aircraft and All 21 Airframes (1: Corporate History – British United/British United Air Ferries, 2: Car-Ferry Evolution – British Air Ferries, pp. 21–30). Jefferson, N.C., USA: McFarland & Co.  


  1. ^ , Air Commerce, Flight International, 26 July 1962, p. 117British United Air Ferries
  2. ^ a b c d , Flight International, 11 December 1975, p. 843British Air Ferries Ltd. (BAF)
  3. ^ a b Aircraft (Gone but not forgotten ... SILVER CITY), Vol 43, No 3, p. 44, Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham, January 2010
  4. ^ Airliner Classics (SABENA – Belgium's Flag Carrier: Post-War Years), p. 63, Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham, July 2013
  5. ^ a b c , p. 517World Airline Survey ... British United Air Ferries Ltd, ..., 11 April 1963, Flight International
  6. ^ a b c , Flight International, 28 September 1967, p. 531British Airline Survey ... British United Air Ferries Ltd ...
  7. ^ , Air Transport, Flight International, 2 February 1967, p. 157BUAF Cuts its Losses
  8. ^ , Air Transport, Flight International, 7 December 1967, p. 937From BUAF to BAF — Plans for the new independent British Air Ferries
  9. ^ , Air Transport ..., Flight International, 7 December 1967, p. 938From BUAF to BAF — Plans for the new independent British Air Ferries
  10. ^ , Air Transport, Flight International 23 May 1968, p. 775Air Holdings Lets Go
  11. ^ , Air Transport ..., Flight International, 15 August 1968, p. 248British Air Ferries Look Ahead
  12. ^ a b c , Flight International 12—18 March 2002, p. 90Directory: World Airlines — British World Airlines (VF/BWL) ...
  13. ^ , Air Transport ..., Flight International, 18 November 1971, p. 794Ferry changes
  14. ^ , Flight International, 18 May 1971, p. 17World Airlines — British Air Ferries Ltd (BAF) ...
  15. ^ Air Transport, Flight International, 8 May 1975, pp. 726/7
  16. ^ , Flight International, 11 December 1975, p. 844British Air Ferries Ltd. (BAF)
  17. ^ (Original Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 18, St. James Press, 1997)British World Airlines Ltd. — Company History: Amalgamation in the 1960s
  18. ^ a b c d Mike Sessions – Looking on the Bright Side of Life, Airliner World, Key Publishing, Stamford, UK, March 2010, p. 47
  19. ^ , Bennett, S.A., Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, 2006, p. 52A Sociology of Commercial Flight Crew
  20. ^ a b , Air Transport, Flight International, 11 November 1978, p. 1720Air Anglia takeover creates new force in Europe
  21. ^ (Original Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 18, St. James Press, 1997)British World Airlines Ltd. — Company History: New blood in the 1970s
  22. ^ , Airliner Market, Flight International, 24 January 1981, p. 211Southend-based British Air Ferries ...
  23. ^ , Airliner Market, Flight International, 23 January 1982, p. 161British Air Ferries ...
  24. ^ a b c d (Original Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 18, St. James Press, 1997)British World Airlines Ltd. — Company History: Different Aircraft, Different Owners in the 1980s
  25. ^ RAF Rochford — History: Post War
  26. ^ , Air Transport, Flight International, 14 January 1984, p. 53BAF wins oil contract
  27. ^ , Flight International, 17 March 1984, p. 684Now that the honeymoon is over ...
  28. ^ , Flight International, 17 March 1984, p. 685Now that the honeymoon is over ... British Air Ferries ...
  29. ^ a b , Air Transport, Flight International, 6—12 March 1996, p. 8Viscount's last passenger flight
  30. ^ a b , 29 May — 4 June 1996, p. 13British World considers more ATR 72 orders
  31. ^ a b (Original Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 18, St. James Press, 1997)British World Airlines Ltd. — Company History: A shining Gold Anniversary, to 1996 and beyond
  32. ^ , World News, Flight International, 8 October 1983, p. 931Keegan clarifies
  33. ^ a b c d , Flight International, 14—20 March 1990, p. 78World Airline Directory — British Air Ferries ...
  34. ^ , World News, Flight International, 16 January 1988, p. 2Airline seeks bankruptcy protection
  35. ^ , Flight International, 13 May 1989, p. 16British Air Ferries ...
  36. ^ , Air Transport, Flight International, 14—20 April 1993, p. 10BAF sheds ferry tag
  37. ^ a b , Straight & Level, Flight International, 24—30 April 1996, p. 44More than 45 years ...
  38. ^ Mike Sessions – Looking on the Bright Side of Life, Airliner World, Key Publishing, Stamford, UK, March 2010, p. 48
  39. ^ a b , Flight International, 18 May 1972, p. 17World Airline Directory — British Air Ferries Ltd (BAF) ...
  40. ^ a b , Flight International, 22 April 1978, p. 1146World Airline Directory — British Air Ferries Ltd (BAF) ...
  41. ^ a b , Flight International, 31 March 1984, p. 825World Airline Directory — British Air Ferries (BAF) ...
  42. ^ a b World Airline Directory — British World Airlines (VF) ..., Flight International, 23—29 March 1994, p. 70
  43. ^ a b World Airline Directory — British World Airlines (VF/BWL) ..., Flight International, 18—24 March 1998, p. 58
  44. ^ British United Air Ferries at the Aviation Safety Network Database
  45. ^ Aviation Safety Network > ASN Aviation Safety Database > Operator index > United Kingdom > British United Air Ferries
  46. ^ ASN Aircraft accident description Bristol 170 Superfreighter 32 G-AMWA — Guernsey Airport (GCI)
  47. ^ British Air Ferries at the Aviation Safety Network Database
  48. ^ a b , Gatwick Aviation SocietyG-APIM 'Viscount Stephen Piercey'
  49. ^ ASN Aircraft accident description Vickers Viscount 806 G-APIM — Southend Municipal Airport (SEN)
  50. ^ British World Airlines at the Aviation Safety Network Database
  51. ^ a b ASN Aircraft accident description Vickers Viscount 813 G-OHOT — 7.5 km/4.7 mi southwest of Uttoxeter
  52. ^ , Air Transport, Flight International, 9—15 March 1994, p. 12Icing blamed for Viscount crash
  53. ^ Air Accidents Investigation Branch — Report No: 3/1995. Report on the accident to Vickers Viscount 813 G-OHOT near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, on 25 February 1994
  54. ^ , Air Transport, Flight International, 5—11 April 1995, p. 12Ice and poor management hit Viscount
  1. ^ independent from government-owned corporations
  2. ^ named after Flight International magazine's former staff photographer Stephen Piercey who died on 20 May 1984 in a mid-air collision during an assignment at the Hanover Air Show


  • A BUAF 737 is seen in Series 4 Episode 11 of Airline, operating a service from London Luton to Palma, Majorca.
  • BAF aircraft are seen in the background of scenes shot at Jersey Airport on several occasions in the BBC detective series Bergerac.
  • A BUAF aircraft is seen in the opening scene of the video clip for the song "Do-Wah-Doo". The song "Do-Wah-Doo" is performed and written by Kate Nash. It was released in early 2010.
  • BUAF's car ferry service is shown in the episode "Racist" of the Anthony Quayle series The Strange Report.

BUAF aircraft appeared in the following feature films and TV series:

Film and TV appearances

  1. Multiple engine failures were a consequence of extreme icing conditions.
  2. The flightdeck crew's failure to complete the emergency drills as a result of not referring to the emergency checklist prejudiced their chances of restarting the engines successfully.
  3. The crew's actions to secure and restart the failed engines, which did not comply with the operator's procedures, restricted the power that was available.
  4. The drag induced by the failed engines' unfeathered propellers and the weight increase suffered by the heavily iced airframe caused a loss of height and control before reaching the diversion airfield.
  5. The crew had no contingency plan to avoid the forecast severe icing conditions and was unaware of the relative position of a closer diversion airfield that could have been chosen by using ATC services more effectively. This constituted poor crew resource management, which reduced the potential for emergency planning, decision making and workload sharing.[51][53][54]

The official accident investigation report of the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) identified the several factors as the likely cause:

On 25 February 1994, a BWA Vickers Viscount 813 (registration: G-OHOT) operating an all-cargo flight from Edinburgh to Coventry encountered severe icing conditions en route. This caused the no. 2 engine to fail and its propeller to autofeather while the aircraft had begun its descent from flight level (FL) 150. During that time, the no. 3 engine started losing power as well. In response air traffic control immediately cleared the flightdeck crew to descend to FL070 and thereafter, FL050. The crew attempted to restart the no. 2 and 3 engines but when this proved futile, they elected to divert to Birmingham. The crew did manage to restart the no. 2 engine but this was followed by failure of no. 4. Five minutes short of Birmingham, the aircraft lost all electrical power and as a result radio navigation and intercom. The aircraft struck trees on 7.5 km (4.7 mi) southwest of Uttoxeter, causing it to break up and kill one of the two pilots.[51][52]

The final two recorded incidents occurred during the British World period. One of these involved fatalities.[50]

Vickers Viscount 806 G-APIM Viscount Stephen Piercey,[nb 2][48] was hit on 11 January 1988 by a Fairflight Shorts 330 (registration: G-BHWT), which had suffered a nosegear brake and steering failure while preparing to take off from Southend Airport to Fairflight's Biggin Hill base. The collision destroyed the left-hand side of the Viscount's nose. Although the aircraft was deemed damaged beyond economical repair, it was subsequently restored and put on display at the Brooklands Museum.[48][49]

The company suffered two non-fatal incidents during the British Air Ferries era.[47]

The accident investigators established the probable cause of the accident as the inability of the pilot in command to bring the aircraft to a stop within the remaining runway length, following his decision to abandon the takeoff due to a malfunction of the port engine, .[46]

Operating a scheduled passenger flight to Bournemouth, the Bristol 170 was preparing for takeoff from Guernsey Airport's runway 28. The first officer, who was flying the aircraft used full power to counteract the effects of a 17 kn (20 mph) crosswind. Due to a problem with the port engine the First officer decided to abort takeoff as speed approached 80 knots. As the aircraft was going to overshoot the end of the runway he steered it to the left to avoid hitting obstacles. The aircraft became airborne for a short distance, crashing through the airport boundary fence, crossing a public road and coming to a halt a quarter of a mile from the runway end. Although the aircraft was a complete write-off, there were no fatalities among the four occupants (three crew and one passenger).

On 24 September 1963, a Bristol 170 Superfreighter Mark 32 (registration: G-AMWA) was damaged beyond repair in a takeoff accident at Guernsey Airport.[45]

During the early part of its existence, when the airline traded as British United Air Ferries, it suffered one non-fatal incident.[44]

Accidents and incidents

In December 2001, the BWA fleet comprised 15 aircraft.[12]

Fleet in 2001

BWA employed 222 people at this time.[43]

In March 1998, the BWA fleet comprised 9 aircraft.[43]

Fleet in 1998

The BWA group employed 400 people at this time.[42]

In March 1994, the BWA fleet comprised 18 aircraft.[42]

Fleet in 1994

BAF employed 450 people at this time.[33]

In March 1990, the BAF fleet comprised 22 aircraft.[33]

Fleet in 1990

BAF employed 165 people at this time.[41]

In March 1984, the BAF fleet comprised 10 aircraft.[41]

Fleet in 1984

BAF employed 450 people at this time.[40]

In April 1978, the BAF fleet comprised 18 aircraft.[40]

Fleet in 1978

BAF employed 300 people at this time.[39]

In May 1972, the BAF fleet comprised 8 aircraft.[39]

Fleet in 1972

BUAF employed 633 people at this time.[6]

In September 1967, the BUAF fleet comprised 23 aircraft.[6]

Fleet in 1967

BUAF employed 519 people at this time.[5]

In April 1963, the BUAF fleet comprised 28 aircraft.[5]

Fleet in 1963

In BUAF's days, all aircraft were given individual names.

  • BAe 146-100 (BAF)/200 (BAF)/300 (BWA)

BUAF/BAF/BWA operated the following aircraft types:

British Air Ferries, Vickers Viscount at Dublin Airport in 1993

Aircraft fleet details

BWA ceased trading on 14 December 2001, as a result of the tough business climate during the post-9/11 downturn.[12][38]

Following delivery of BWA's first ATR 72 on 1 April 1996, the airline converted its three remaining passenger-configured Viscounts to freighters.[29][30][37] On 18 April the same year, BWA Viscount G-APEY operated the type's last passenger flight, marking the 43rd anniversary of the Viscount's entry into full commercial air service with British European Airways (BEA).[37]

In April 1993, BAF was renamed British World Airlines (BWA).[18][36]

Growing financial difficulties at Jadepoint resulted in BAF being placed in administration in January 1988.[24][34] A new holding company, called Mostjet, was formed within a year to enable the airline to emerge from administration in May 1989, the only British airline to do so at the time.[31][33][35]

In 1983, the Keegans put some of their businesses into receivership and in March of that year, sold the British Air Ferries name along with the airline's commercial flying operations to the Jadepoint investment group for £2m.[24][32][33]

As a result of the changes the airline underwent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, BAF mainly concentrated on leasing, charter and oil industry support work.[20][26][27][28][29][30][24][31]

Following British Airways's decision to withdraw from its loss-making regional routes and to retire its Vickers Viscount turboprop fleet, BAF acquired the entire 18-strong fleet along with the spares inventory during the early 1980s. This acquisition made it the world's largest Viscount operator at the time.[18][22][23][24][25]

On 1 January 1979, BAF transferred its entire scheduled operation including associated aircraft and staff to British Island Airways (BIA).[18][20][21]

On 1 January 1977, BAF operated its last car ferry service.[17][18] Later the same year, on 31 October, BAF Herald G-BDFE operating the airline's inaugural scheduled passenger flight from Southend to Düsseldorf under the command of Captain Caroline Frost and First Officer Lesley Hardy became Britain's first airliner flown by an all-female crew.[19]

In 1975, BAF began replacing its remaining Carvairs with Handley Page Dart Herald turboprops on its cross-Channel routes linking Southend with Le Touquet, Ostend and Rotterdam. This resulted in these services being converted into ordinary passenger schedules and the Carvairs being transferred to cargo flying.[2][15][16]

Handley Page Dart Herald of British Air Ferries operating a service from Southend Airport in 1976

In 1972, BAF became a wholly owned subsidiary of Transmeridian Air Cargo (TMAC), a Stansted-based all-cargo airline controlled by the Keegan family.[2]

In October 1971, BAF's ownership passed from Air Holdings to the Keegan family.[13][14]


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