Beirut’s strategic location as a key transit point in the Middle East made it no stranger to regular exotic visitors, including this Ilyushin Il-14 from the Soviet Union. Rather more workaday is the Kuwait Oil Co Ltd Vickers Viking beside it, G-AGRU (c/n 112), still extant today and on display at Brooklands Museum, near Weybridge in Surrey.
Along with MEA, Air Liban and Trans Mediterranean Airlines, Lebanon’s fourth carrier, Lebanese International Airways, also operated out of Beirut with Curtiss C-46s in a passenger/freight configuration. This example, OD-ACK (originally 42-96587 in USAF service) crashed into the sea on take-off from Beirut on March 10, 1957.
With the Lebanon Mountains rising to the east in the background, Middle East Airlines DC-3 OD-ABD has its engines run up on the ramp before departing the newly-completed airport at Khalde, south of the capital’s centre. Parked in the distance are DC-3 OD-AAM and Languedoc OD-ABJ of Air Liban and a USAF C-54 Skymaster.
DC-3 JY-ABW was one of five used by Air Jordan, formed in 1950 with Airspeed Consuls to operate services from the Jordanian capital Amman to Jerusalem and Cairo.
Aryana Afghan Airlines was formed in 1955 by the Afghan government with assistance from the Indamer Company of India, which was bought out by Pan Am in 1957. Behind the DC-3 is Avro Tudor 4B “Super Trader” G-AHNI Trade Wind of Trans Arabia Airways, lost over the Turkish-Soviet border in 1959.
“Bienvenue au Liban” - Douglas DC-4 OD-ACI of Air Liban is prepared for flight beside the newly completed terminal building at Beirut-Khalde. The French/Lebanese airline had begun DC-4 operations from the airport in late 1954.
Another regular visitor to Beirut was the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco), whose C-54B N711A, The Flying Oryx, is seen here en route to Saudi Arabia, where the company operated the world’s biggest offshore oil field at Safaniya. The names Flying Oryx, Gazelle and Camel were used by various Aramco DC-4s and DC-6s.
Lockheed L-749A Constellation F-BAZF beneath the control tower at Beirut. Curiously, the “Bienvenue au Liban/Welcome to Lebanon" legend that ran along the front of the terminal building is missing, suggesting that John returned to Beirut later in 1955 or 1956 to take more photos, some of which are also seen on these pages.
By the end of 1955 the turboprop-powered Vickers Viscounts supplied to MEA by MASCO were operating services from Beirut to Europe. Viscount 732 OD-ACF was originally G-ANRR in Hunting-Clan service and operated with MEA from September 1955 to September 1957, when it was returned to Hunting-Clan.
Parked out by the bushes opposite the terminal, Avro York EP-ADA of Persian Air Services (PAS) awaits further maintenance on its No 2 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. With technical assistance from British company Skyways, PAS operated a service to Europe and later became part of IranAir. York EP-ADA was damaged beyond repair during a forced landing owing to engine failure near Basra in September 1955.
According to several sources Fiat G.212 trimotor G-ANOE, of short-lived Kuwaiti operator Arabian Desert Airlines, was damaged beyond repair in a landing accident at Kuwait Airport on July 29, 1954. However, John took a photo of it in fine fettle at Beirut in the summer of 1955, even making special mention of it in his report for Flight.
With the Mediterranean sparkling in the background, passengers board Misrair Viking SU-AGN (c/n 196) for a flight to Cairo. The aircraft had originally seen service with Danish airline DDL (which became part of SAS) before being sold to Misrair in September 1949. Sadly, it crashed at Menzalah Lake in Egypt on March 7, 1958.