Aviation Historian 19
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B.Turpin - Out on a Lympne (2)
In April 1963 Skyways Coach-Air took delivery of its third 748 Series 1, G-ARMX, seen here at Heathrow in March 1968. With the 748s joining the line on passenger services to the Continent from the spring of 1962, several of the airline’s DC-3s were converted into freighters for the Lympne-Beauvais cargo service.
A superb photograph of G-ARMV at Catania, Sicily, during one of its early route-proving trials. Skyways was, along with fellow British airline BKS Air Transport Ltd, a launch customer for the 748, ordering three before the prototype had even been completed. Note Mount Etna rising majestically in the background.
The first production 748 Series 1, G-ARMV, is framed by the distinctive white picket fence and well-manicured hedges at Lympne. "Mike Victor" made its first flight at Woodford on August 31, 1961, and undertook a sales tour of Jordan and Syria before beginning scheduled services with Skyways in April 1962.
An early photograph of G-ARMV in flight, before the “Skyways Coach-Air” logo was applied on the fuselage above the windows. The 748’s flying controls were manual, with geared tabs on the elevator and ailerons plus a spring tab on the rudder. A hydraulic system operated the undercarriage, brakes and nosewheel steering.
With everything down, G-ARMX is a moment away from settling on to the grass at Lympne. The 748’s flap system was a particular source of pride for the Avro design team, the difference between the type’s "clean" and "all-down" stalling speeds being a remarkable 30kt. At full 27 1/2° deflection, the rear edges of the flaps bent down an additional 30° to give a final drag increase.
Now with the subsidiary Skyways Coach-Air titles applied to the fuselage, G-ARMV awaits another flight to the Continent at Lympne in May 1964. In July the following year the aircraft was written off in a landing accident in bad weather at Lympne. Miraculously, all passengers and crew escaped with minor injuries.
“Mike Victor” aloft over familiar territory on England’s South Coast. Skyways began operating “air-coach” services, in which motor-coaches would pick passengers up from London and deliver them to Lympne, from the Kent airfield in the autumn of 1955, the subsidiary Skyways Coach-Air being established in October 1958.
Although passengers boarded the 748 using the port rear door, the type also incorporated an extremely useful freight door, measuring some 4ft 6in (1-37m) high and 4ft (1-22m) wide, on the port side of the forward fuselage. Here a Conveyancer-Scott electric tractor delivers a somewhat meagre load to a Skyways 748 at a travel fair at Biggin Hill.
The prototype 748, G-APZV, has its engines run up during its early trials programme. The aircraft made its maiden flight on June 24, 1960, from Woodford in the hands of Avro chief test pilot Jimmy Harrison, marking the manufacturer’s bold decision to re-enter the civil market after decades of producing exclusively military aircraft.
Skyways Coach-Air 748 G-ARMX trudges across the grass in front of the control tower at Lympne before another flight to the Continent. The type was more than able to cope with the lack of a concrete runway at Lympne, although incidences of a 748 getting bogged down in mud after heavy rain were all too common.
The 748’s standard airline configuration accommodated 40-62 passengers in paired seats either side of the central gangway. The crew would usually comprise two officers on the flightdeck plus one cabin attendant. Like its larger turboprop-powered contemporary, the four-engined Vickers Viscount, the 748 boasted generously-proportioned oval windows.
Brian Turpin in the right-hand seat of a 748 during his tenure with Skyways Coach-Air in the mid-1960s.
Avro/Hawker Siddeley 748 Series 1 central control pedestal
Avro/Hawker Siddeley 748 Series 1 crew compartment instruments and controls
In contrast to the ubiquitous but ageing piston-engined DC-3, the 748 offered “all mod cons” for the pilot. British weekly magazine Flight’s regular aircraft reviewer Mark Lambert described the type as “purely a pilot’s aircraft... as easy to fly, though naturally not quite so sprightly, as a light twin, and as viceless as the best of them despite its 95ft wing span”.
The morning after - G-ARMV is manhandled away from the landing area at Lympne the day after the accident. Once the aircraft had come to rest, the passengers were left hanging upside down in their seats, including a mother holding her baby, which was not strapped in. Thankfully nobody was badly injured.