Aviation Historian 41
M.Wickstead - French wings over five continents. The story of UTA (1)
Formerly PH-TAD with KLM, Douglas DC-4 F-BDRJ (c/n 10379) was one of seven acquired by TAI in late 1947, and is seen here at Beirut in September 1956. The colour scheme for the DC-4 fleet retained the green-striped theme and incorporated the gryphon motif in a circle on the forward fuselage; note the TAI titles under the wings.
The first of UAT’s two examples, DC-8-32 F-BJLA (c/n 45567) was delivered to the airline on June 27, 1960, F-BJLB joining the fleet on August 5 the same year. The introduction of the jets prompted a new colour scheme, the blue and yellow theme continuing, but with an elegant blue chevron and yellow stripe design containing the legend UAT on the fin.
The stylish fin livery of a UAT Douglas DC-8.
Douglas DC-8-32 F-BIUY (c/n 45569) was delivered to TAI on July 31, 1960, one of three of the type to introduce the airline to jet operations. The DC-8s retained the essence of the pistonliners’ colour scheme, with white fuselage uppersurfaces and bare-metal undersurfaces, but thick green stripes and large TAI titles were applied to the fin. This aircraft went on to serve with Air Afrique during 1965-68 before returning to what by then had become UTA.
Heralding the advent of jet service for the airline, this UAT gummed label depicts a DC-8, along with the legend “Toute L’Afrique” - “All of Africa”. By the turn of the 1960s, with UAT and TAI facing increasing competition from international rivals, a merger seemed desirable, if not inevitable; enter Union de Transports Aeriens.
The first of UAT’s de Havilland D.H.106 Comet 1As to be delivered, F-BGSA (c/n 6015) made the type’s initial proving flight in UAT service from Paris to Dakar via Casablanca on December 27, 1952, regular services commencing on February 19, 1953.
A contemporary UAT brochure extolling the virtues of the de Havilland Comet service from Paris to Dakar in Senegal, which took seven hours “aboard the most modern and luxurious aircraft in service on world routes ... without a price increase”. Jet travel was in its infancy when UAT took the bold step of ordering the world’s first jetliner.
TAI began operations with a small fleet of AAC.1 Toucans (licence-built Junkers Ju 52/3ms) including F-BBYN (c/n 234), seen here coming in to land, probably in the UK, circa 1946–47. This aircraft went to the Armee de l’Air as “234” in September 1947.
The two French independent airlines that merged in 1962 to become Union de Transports Aeriens (UTA) - TAI and UAT - had both established a wide-ranging network of services using fleets of rugged and dependable propliners, including DC-6B F-BGOB (c/n 43833), seen here at Gatwick in October 1964, which had served with UAT since April 1953.
The Douglas DC-6B was introduced into TAI service from the spring of 1953, initially serving on the Paris-Madagascar service. This example, F-BHEE (c/n 44696), joined the TAI fleet in April 1955, and after serving on the Pacific routes (it is seen here at Auckland in New Zealand) it was leased to TAI subsidiary Libiavia.
In July 1958 UAT became involved in the establishment of Libyan airline Libiavia, operating services from Tripoli along the North African coast to Athens and the Turkish capital Ankara. Seen here at Paris with the Libiavia legend and Nord Africa Aviazione (NAA) titles, DC-6B F-BGSN (c/n 44871) was one of several serving the route.
Formerly CF-CUS in Canadian Pacific service, DC-6A F-BGSK (c/n 44063) was acquired by French intercontinental operator Aigle Azur in June 1954, but was sold to UAT in the wake of the Peira-Cava Agreement of 1954 and joined the UAT fleet in 1955. It is seen here at Beirut in November 1955 wearing the airline’s mid-1950s colour scheme of white upper fuselage, bare-metal undersides, blue and yellow alternating cheat lines and a stylised diagonal tricolor with a circle of five stars on the fin.
Bristol 170 F-BCJA was acquired by TAI for £39,400 and delivered to the airline on December 15, 1946, with the carrier’s distinctive gryphon motif on the forward fuselage and TAI legend on the nose. This aircraft was the last Mk IIA Wayfarer built, and was fitted with a fixed nose rather than the Freighter’s clamshell doors.
In 1954 UAT took delivery of F-BGZA (c/n 1), the first of a total of seven Nord N.2502A Noratlases, this civil variant incorporating a Turbomeca Marbore turbojet on each wingtip for take-off in “hot and high” conditions. Only ten examples were built, Air Algerie operating the identical N.2502B, of which three were completed.
In late 1957 TAI began taking delivery of three new DC-7Cs, including F-BIAQ (c/n 45367) seen here after joining the TAI fleet in early January 1958. The DC-7Cs would be used from 1960 for the transpacific leg of a joint Air France/TAI “Around the World” service, the DC-7Cs taking over from TAI DC-6Bs at Noumea (New Caledonia) to fly on to Los Angeles via Hawaii. From the USA to Europe was continued by Air France’s Boeing 707s.
With UAT’s distinctive hangars in the background, de Havilland D.H.114 Heron 1B F-AONS (c/n 14039) sits on the ramp at Paris-Le Bourget circa 1960. Delivered in early March 1954, F-OANS was one of nine examples of the initial fixed-undercarriage variant of the type to serve with UAT, most having moved on by the mid-1960s.
An extremely rare colour photograph of F-BAVD (c/n 3), one of the four Armagnacs operated by TAI, at Casablanca-Anfa. It made its first flight on January 2, 1952, joining TAI four months later. In January 1954 it went to SAGETA, a conglomeration of TAI, UAT, Air France, Messageries Maritimes, Air Algerie, Aigle Azur and SNCASE.
Formerly G-AKCO in BOAC service, Short Sandringham F-OBIP (c/n SH57C) was acquired by TAI Pacific subsidiary Reseau Aerien Interinsulaire (RAI) in May 1958. With the completion of the runway at Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, in 1960, the big flying-boat was used on services to Huahine, Raiatea (where it is seen here), Rangiroa, Tikihau and Bora Bora.