File:British European Airways Arms.png

British European Airways (BEA) or British European Airways Corporation was a British airline which existed from 1946 until 1974. The airline operated European and North African routes from airports around the United Kingdom. BEA was the largest domestic airline within the United Kingdom, operating flights to major British cities, including London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast and Glasgow. BEA ceased operations in 1974 when it was merged with the British Overseas Airways Corporation to form British Airways. BEA was headquartered in the BEAline House in Ruislip, London Borough of Hillingdon.[1]


File:Douglas DC-3 G-AHCT BEA 1951.jpg
File:BEA Viking 1B at Manchester.jpg

On 1 January 1946 the British European Airways division of the British Overseas Airways Corporation was formed to take over the services from the United Kingdom to continental Europe that had been operated by the Royal Air Force.[2] On 1 August 1946, the Civil Aviation Act 1946 was given royal assent and the independent British scheduled airlines were nationalised and BEA became the British European Airways Corporation to operate all Domestic and European flights.[2][3]

On 1 February 1947 a number of former independents were merged into BEA; Railway Air Services which had been an independent airline since 1937,[4] Isle of Man Air Services that had been formed in 1937,[5] Scottish Airways had been formed in 1937 from the merger of Northern and Scottish Airways, and Highland Airways Ltd, founded 1933 by Captain Ernest Edmund "Ted" Fresson.[6]

On 24 September 1947 in cooperation with Government of Cyprus and private interests it created Cyprus Airways in the island of Cyprus.

BEA was the first customer for British-built short- and medium-haul airliners of the 1950s and 1960s, including the Vickers Viking, Vickers Viscount, Vickers Vanguard, BAC One-Eleven 500 and Hawker Siddeley Trident.

The airline carried out trials with a Helicopter Experiment Unit, operating mail services in East Anglia during 1948 and a passenger service from Cardiff via Wrexham to Liverpool (Speke) Airport in 1950. Subsequently the airline formed a separate helicopter airline, BEA Helicopters, to operate services between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly.

In 1969 BEA formed a charter subsidiary BEA Airtours to provide inclusive tour holiday charters. BEA ceased operations in 1974 when it was merged with the British Overseas Airways Corporation to form British Airways. The airline IATA code was BE with the callsign Bealine.

Aircraft operatedEdit

File:BEA Ambassador at Manchester Ringway.jpg
File:Bea vickers viscount g-aohj arp.jpg
File:Vickers 953 Vanguard at Manchester 1965.jpg
File:British European Airways Comet G-APMC.jpg
File:British European Airways Trident G-ARPE.jpg
File:Lockheed TriStar at Tempelhof Manteufel.jpg
  • Airspeed Ambassador
  • BAC One-Eleven
  • Bell 47J Ranger (BEA Helicopters)
  • Bell 206 JetRanger (BEA Helicopters)
  • Boeing 707 (BEA Airtours)
  • Bristol 171 Sycamore helicopter
  • de Havilland Comet
  • de Havilland Heron
  • de Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide
  • Douglas DC-3
  • Hawker Siddeley Argosy - Series 100 and Series 220 for freight
  • Handley-Page HPR.7 Herald 100
  • Hawker Siddeley Trident 1C/1E
  • Hawker Siddeley Trident 2E
  • Hawker Siddeley Trident 3B
  • Junkers Ju-52/3m
  • Short Skyliner
  • Sikorsky S-51
  • Sikorsky S-61N (BEA Helicopters)
  • Vickers Merchantman
  • Vickers Vanguard
  • Vickers Viking
  • Vickers Viscount
  • Westland Whirlwind (BEA Helicopters)

Incidents and accidentsEdit

File:BEA Viscount 701 at Manchester.jpg
  • On 15 April 1947 de Havilland Dragon Rapide G-AHKR crashed into Slieu Ruy whilst operated a scheduled passenger flight from Speke Airport, Liverpool, Lancashire to Ronaldsway Airport, Isle of Man. There were only minor injuries amongst the six people on board.Template:Sfn
  • On 6 January 1948, Vickers Viking G-AHPK crashed at Ruislip on approach to RAF Northolt killing one crew and injured 17 more passengers and crew.[7]
  • On 21 April 1948, British European Airways Flight S200P crashed into the Irish Law Mountain on approach to Renfrew Airport. None of the 20 passengers and crew were killed but 14 were injured in the accident.[8]
  • On 5 April 1948, a BEA Vickers 610 Viking 1B (registration: G-AIVP) operating that day's scheduled flight from RAF Northolt via Hamburg to Berlin collided during its approach to RAF Gatow head-on with a Soviet Air Force Yakovlev 3 fighter, which was performing aerobatics in the area at that time. As a result of the collision, the Viking spiralled out of control and crashed 1.9 miles from the airport on East German territory with the loss of all 14 lives (four crew, ten passengers) on board the aircraft. The Soviet fighter pilot was killed in the accident as well. The subsequent investigation established the Soviet fighter pilot's action, which contravened all accepted rules of flying and the quadripartite flying rules to which Soviet authorities were parties, as the cause of the accident.[9]
  • On 19 February 1949, Douglas DC-3 G-AHCW collided with a Royal Air Force Avro Anson VV243 near Exhall killing all 14 passengers and crew on both aircraft.[10]
  • On 19 August 1949, Douglas DC-3 G-AHCY crashed into a hill just 15 miles short of the flight's destination at Manchester Airport killing 24 out of 32 passengers and crew 1949 Manchester DC-3 accident.[11]
  • On 13 April 1950, Vickers Viking G-AIVL was on a flight from RAF Northolt to Paris over the English Channel near Hastings when a French passenger was suspected of making a suicide attempt after a bomb exploded in the rear toilet compartment making an 8-foot-high and 4-foot-wide hole in the fuselage. The flight landed safely back at Northolt. The passenger and a flight attendant were injured in the blast.[12] The captain, Ian Harvey DFC, a former RAF Bomber Command pilot, was awarded the George Medal for the “coolness” that had characterised his deportment, not only throughout the incident: "In the face of this very grave emergency the action of Captain Harvey is worthy of the highest praise. The complete loss of the aircraft and all its company was avoided only as a result of his courage, high skill and presence of mind." The Flight Safety Foundation of America also honoured Harvey and his crew with an award.[13] An official inquiry confirmed that a bomb had been detonated in the Viking’s lavatory, but there was no evidence of how it had been done. The investigation revealed no motive for the attack. Material relating to it in the Public Record Office has been released and available from the National Archive.[13]
  • On 17 October 1950, Douglas DC-3 G-AGIW crashed in Mill Hill shortly after takeoff on a flight from RAF Northolt to Renfrew Airport. The accident killed 28 passengers and crew, leaving only 1 survivor,Air Steward James McKissick. The crew had shut down the No.2 engine after it developed problems and were left without sufficient power to clear high ground.[14]
  • On 31 October 1950, Vickers Viking G-AHPN crashed in bad weather at RAF Northolt after the aircraft struck the runway and went off the end of the runway and caught fire killing 28 out of 30 passengers and crew[15]
  • On 5 January 1953, Vickers Viking G-AJDL crashed on approach to Belfast-Nutts Corner Airport due to an error of judgement by the pilot. 27 out of the 35 people on board died.[16]
  • On 20 January 1956, Vickers Viscount G-AMOM crashed on take-off from Blackbushe Airport on a training flight.[17]
  • On 14 March 1957, British European Airways Flight 411 "Bealine 411" operated by Vickers Viscount G-ALWE crashed on approach to Manchester Airport due to a flap failure caused by metal fatigue. All 20 occupants on board died, and two on the ground.[18]
  • On 28 September 1957, de Havilland Heron G-AOFY, while operating a flight for the Scottish Air Ambulance Service, crashed on approach to Glenegedale Airport, Islay, in bad weather. The three occupants, two crew and one nurse, were killed. They were Capt. Paddy Calderwood, R/O Hugh McGinlay and nursing sister Jean Kennedy. Come the next repaint, the remaining two Herons (GANXA and GANXB) were named "Sister Jean Kennedy" and "James Young Simpson" a Scottish pioneer in anaesthetics. The nursing sisters for these Air Ambulance flights were supplied by volunteer staff from Glasgow's nearby Southern General Hospital.[19]
  • On 23 October 1957, Vickers Viscount G-AOJA from London Heathrow Airport crashed after overshooting on approach to Belfast-Nutts Corner Airport. The cause was not determined. All seven occupants died.[20]
  • On 19 November 1957, Vickers Viscount G-AOHP crashed at Ballerup after the failure of three engines on approach to Copenhagen Airport. The cause was a malfunction of the anti-icing system on the aircraft.[21]
  • Munich air disaster – on 6 February 1958, British European Airways Flight "Bealine 609" crashed in a blizzard on its third attempt to take off from an icy runway at the Munich-Riem airport in Germany. On board the plane was the Manchester United football team, along with supporters and journalists. Twenty-three of the 43 passengers on board the aircraft died. The charter flight was operated by British European Airways with an Airspeed Ambassador G-ALZU 'Lord Burleigh'.
  • On 28 April 1958, Vickers Viscount G-AORC crashed at Craigie, Ayrshire on approach to Glasgow Prestwick Airport when the pilot misread the altimeter by 10,000 feet.[22]
  • On 22 October 1958, Flight "Bealine 142" operated by Vickers Viscount G-ANHC was hit by an Italian Air Force F-86 Sabre and crashed with the loss of all 31 on board.
  • On 5 January 1960, Vickers Viscount G-AMNY was damaged beyond economic repair at Luqa Airport when it departed the runway after landing following a loss of hydraulic pressure.[23]
  • On 7 January 1960, Vickers Viscount G-AOHU was damaged beyond economic repair when the nose wheel collapsed on landing at Heathrow Airport. A fire then developed and burnt out the fuselage. There were no casualties among the 59 people on board.[24]
  • On 21 December 1961, De Havilland Comet 4B G-ARJM stalled on take-off from Esenboga Airport, Ankara, Turkey. The aircraft was being operated for Cyprus Airways. The aircraft was destroyed, with the loss of six crew and 20 passengers.
  • On 27 October 1965, Vickers Vanguard G-APEE on a flight from Edinburgh crashed on to the runway during an approach in bad weather at London Heathrow Airport. All 36 on board died.
  • On 12 October 1967, Flight "Bealine 284" operated by De Havilland Comet 4 G-ARCO on behalf of Cyprus Airways exploded in mid-air over the Mediterranean and crashed into the sea with the loss of all 66 on board. The explosion was caused by a device under a passenger seat.
File:Hs trident 3b at avp manchester arp.jpg
  • On 2 October 1971, British European Airways Flight 706, operated by Vickers Vanguard G-APEC, crashed near Aarsele, Belgium following a mid-air rupture of the rear pressure bulkhead due to severe undetected corrosion. All 63 on board died.
  • On 18 June 1972, British European Airways Flight "Bealine 548", operated by a British European Airways (BEA) Hawker Siddeley Trident 1C G-ARPI, crashed two minutes after takeoff from Heathrow Airport, killing all 118 passengers and crew. The crash occurred close to the town of Staines, Middlesex.
  • On 19 January 1973, Vickers Viscount G-AOHI crashed into Ben More while on a test flight. All four people on board were killed.[25]

Other facts of interestEdit

  • On 10 June 1965 a BEA Trident 1 (G-ARPR) operating Flight "Bealine 343" from Paris to London Heathrow Airport, made the world's first fully automatic landing of a commercial airliner with fare-paying passengers.
  • BEA employed the archetypal London red Routemaster buses in a blue and white livery with luggage trailers as airport buses on services to Heathrow Airport[26]

In popular cultureEdit

  • The Beatles occasionally flew BEA. On one flight, Ringo Starr held a “TLES” sign next to the BEA logo on the aircraft door, spelling out BEATLES. A similar change to the logo was made at the end of A Hard Day's Night.
  • The BEA is mentioned in Bill Wyman's 1981 song 'Je suis un rock star'.
  • Tintin and Snowy leave Britain in a BEA plane at the conclusion of the 1966 edition of The Black Island.
  • Ben and Jo McKenna (James Stewart and Doris Day) arrive in London on a BEA plane in the 1956 film The Man Who Knew Too Much

Notes Edit




External links Edit

Template:Portal box

Template:British Airways Template:Aviation lists

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