HP Jetstream - DAN AIR REMEMBERED

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HP Jetstream

AIRCRAFT
JETSTREAM DETAILS & FLEET LISTING
The Handley Page HP.137 Jetstream is a small twin turboprop airliner, with a pressurised fuselage. The aircraft was designed to meet the requirements of the United States commuter- and regional airline market. The design was later improved and built by British Aerospace as the BAe Jetstream 31 and BAe Jetstream 32 featuring different turboprop engines. The aircraft was evaluated by Dan Air to meet it's growing commuter network (CIty Link) along with the Nord 262. Neither aircraft went into long term service with Dan Air who were looking at a replacement to their DC3 aircraft. Eventually, following the aquisition of Skyways the company utilised Skyway's Avro 748's and a full time replacement was found. Our Thanks go to Dave Ingham who supplied us with the picture.
Kind thanks to Propliner.co.uk for this additional information
For decades airlines the world over have sought the ideal replacement for the ubiquitous Douglas DC-3. Throughout the fifties and sixties, countless airlines were faced with the dilemma of how to upgrade their DC-3 fleets, taking into account cost, performance, capacity, reliability and all the other issues relevant to the successful introduction of a new type. Most chose Convairliners or early turboprop types such as the Friendship, Avro 748 or Herald, but one airline here in England in the late sixties was not entirely convinced that the routes upon which its last DC-3 flew, would actually support any of the new breed of Rolls-Royce Dart-powered airliners. This led to the airline undertaking a comprehensive feasibility study into the various types on offer, with the choice eventually falling to a rank outsider.

MIKE PAPA PAPA'S TERRITORY

Famous as the world's leading operator of Comet jet airliners, the last airline to fly the enchanting Airspeed Ambassador, and owner of 'propliners' as diverse as Yorks, Herons, Bristol Freighters and Doves, Dan-Air Services was one of Britain's most charismatic independents. While the Comet fleet carved a remarkable chapter in the annals of British civil aviation, the airline's initial operations were rather more modest, and came about as a result of the airline's parent company, Davies & Newman, taking a DC-3 in settlement of a debt. Four DC-3s were eventually flown by Dan-Air, but by the end of the sixties just one example remained in service - G-AMPP (c/n 26717) based at Lulsgate Airport, Bristol, flying a domestic scheduled service to Newcastle via Cardiff and Liverpool. Flown on weekdays, this route had been in operation for many years, and loads had gradually improved as the service became established. During the summer of 1969, in an attempt to further develop the network, the DC-3 was deployed on the Bristol-Cardiff-Liverpool section of the network, whilst Ambassadors flew connecting services from Newcastle and Teesside, together with an international route to Amsterdam from Liverpool. However, the service from Bristol and Cardiff to Liverpool was only flown on three days each week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), and great difficulty was experienced in generating sufficient loads to make these routes viable. Meanwhile, the DC-3 was becoming increasingly expensive to operate and was due for a major overhaul in 1970. Thus, Dan-Air decided to carry out an evaluation of the various types available to replace the DC-3 during the summer of 1969.

Having discounted second-hand Viscounts, Heralds or 748s due to their size and cost, Dan-Air narrowed the field down to perhaps three types - the Beech 99, Handley Page Jetstream 1, and DHC-6 Twin Otter, with two others on the reserve list in the shape of the Nord 262 and Saunders ST-27. A remarkably varied selection of airliners, with only the Jetstream holding British certification. But financial troubles at Handley Page meant that airlines were reluctant to commit themselves to an aircraft that might not have the benefit of long term customer support. All the other contenders, though, demanded costly certification programmes, and for Dan-Air this would not be an easy decision.

EVALUATION TAKES PLACE

Three of the types under consideration were put through their paces on the Dan-Air network. First to come under the spotlight was Beech 99 N949K (c/n U-36) supplied by Eagle Flying Services at Leavesden. Her demonstration took place on May 27 1969 when she flew to Dan-Air's West Country base at Lulsgate to begin a day of testing by Dan-Air. This began with the short flight across the Bristol Channel to Cardiff Airport, where she touched down at 1104 GMT. Ten minutes later she was airborne again heading north to Liverpool, where she touched down at 1146. The Beech 99 then conducted a series of local flights for the benefit of Dan-Air executives and flight crews, before departing for her home base at Leavesden shortly after five o'clock in the afternoon. On the next day, the Beech 99 gave a demonstration at Luton Airport, while on May 29 she spent the day with Channel Airways at Southend, hopeful of replacing their fleet of Herons.

Second candidate for evaluation by Dan-Air was Jetstream 1 demonstrator G-AXEK (c/n 203). Operated by CSE Aviation at Oxford (Kidlington), this aircraft was given Dan-Air titling for the day, and once again she began by flying to Lulsgate Airport, arriving on the morning of June 12 1969. Departing at midday, she flew to Cardiff, landing at 1211 local time, took off again at 1224, and arrived at Speke Airport, Liverpool, at 1301. Here she spent two hours on the ground prior to continuing the journey north to Newcastle, where she arrived shortly before four o'clock to conclude her day with Dan-Air.

Twin Otter CF-WTE (c/n 96) was the next aircraft competing in the Dan-Air challenge. She also began her inspection at Lulsgate Airport, on the morning of July 1 1969, and after making a brief stop at Cardiff, flew on to Liverpool. Of the three aircraft, she was the slowest on the Cardiff to Liverpool route, taking 51 minutes to complete the flight as opposed to the Jetstream's 37 minutes.

All three aircraft had performed much as expected, and the sleek Jetstream with its 19-seat capacity, comfortable pressurised cabin and impressive performance won the day. However, due to the precarious financial situation at Handley Page, Dan-Air chose to initially lease one aircraft, with the intention of purchasing it outright at a later date once the future of Handley Page was secure. With the DC-3 scheduled for retirement at the end of the winter timetable in March 1970, it was planned to take delivery of the Jetstream during January in order that crew training and route familiarisation could be undertaken.

But, as in the case of so many DC-3 replacement programmes, the purchase of a successor went far from smoothly. Although production of Jetstreams continued apace at Radlett, with financial backing coming from American sources, by January 1970 Dan-Air's aircraft was still in the factory when production ceased. As a result Dan-Air had to look for an alternative, and having already ruled out the other original contenders, now looked elsewhere. It seems likely that Dan-Air had planned for this contingency, as by the end of January it had revealed its decision.
As a result of the Handley Page collapse, Dan-Air brought a true Gallic flavour to Britain's rather staid commercial scene for the first time ever. In a surprise move, the airline entered into a contract with Nord Aviation in France for the supply of one Nord 262A 'Frégate' airliner fully certified to ARB requirements on the British register. 4R-ACL (c/n 29), a lone example flown by Air Ceylon since March 1967, was bought and returned to France for overhaul and modification to British civil airworthiness requirements.

This was a bold move taking into account that this very French product was also powered by two engines that were entirely unfamiliar in the UK - the Turboméca Bastan VI rated at 1,080 eshp. Nevertheless, Dan-Air went ahead with the purchase and Nord Aviation developed a special version groomed around ARB requirements. Now registered F-WNDD, the aircraft was flown to Melun-Villaroche and here Nord Aviation fitted new wingtips to the aircraft similar to those of the later 'C' version in order to make the stall more docile, while in the cockpit the aircraft received a stick shaker and various changes were made to the central warning panel with the provision of colour-coded alarms. Flight testing took place during June 1970, with the aircraft being awarded an interim C of A on June 17 1970. One week later already resplendent in the airline's red, black and white livery, she was registered to Dan-Air Services as G-AYFR, and was now ready for delivery.

G-AYFR was delivered from Melun to Gatwick Airport on the afternoon of July 1 1970. Her arrival marked the historic handover of the first ever wholly French built airliner, fully certificated to ARB standards, to serve with a British airline (Silver City Airways had operated a Bréguet Deux Ponts for a short while in 1953 under French registry). Prior to her introduction into service, the Nord 262 would need to undertake many hours of route proving and crew training. This began at nine o'clock precisely on the morning of July 3 when G-AYFR lifted off from Gatwick and headed north for Newcastle. Introduction of the new type would see Dan-Air closing its regional base at Bristol, and transferring the base to Newcastle, which would now become a hub for the airline's scheduled operations. Two hours were spent on the ground at Newcastle, and this was followed by the aircraft making a familiarisation and crew training sortie over the airline's existing DC-3 route, which during 1970 was as follows - Newcastle-Liverpool-Cardiff-Bristol - before flying north to Manchester and Newcastle, and then returning to Gatwick for a night stop.

INAUGURAL SERVICE

Several hours of crew training at Newcastle followed, while DC-3 G-AMPP continued to maintain the route in her very own inimitable fashion. A number of regular passengers on the route expressed their sorrow at the forthcoming retirement of this cherished member of the Dan-Air fleet, and one businessmen insisted on buying a ticket for her last flight, whenever it was going to take place. Although planned to take over on July 27, the Nord 262 went into full Dan-Air operation earlier than expected. On July 22 it was decided that sufficient crews had been checked out on the new airliner, and while G-AMPP flew her final service on the morning of July 22 flying from Bristol via Cardiff and Liverpool to Newcastle (arriving at 0930 GMT), the Nord 262 operated the southbound evening service. She departed from Newcastle at 1700GMT, and flew via Liverpool and Cardiff to Bristol, where she arrived shortly after 1930 GMT to conclude a highly successful service debut.

Subsequently the Nord 262 settled into a weekday routine of flying Newcastle-Liverpool-Cardiff-Bristol-Manchester-Newcastle-Manchester-Bristol-Cardiff-Liverpool-Newcastle on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the aircraft tracked the route by a rather different manner flying Newcastle-Manchester-Bristol-Cardiff-Liverpool-Newcastle-Liverpool-Cardiff-Bristol-Manchester-Newcastle. The higher 200 knot cruising speed, as opposed to the DC-3's 145 knots, and faster turn-around times allowed the Nord to operate many extra sectors in a day, with a higher utilisation and more attractive timings hopefully increasing custom on the network.

And so DC-3 G-AMPP was pensioned off and flown to Lasham, having amassed a total of over 18,000 flying hours, 12,000 of which had been amassed with Dan-Air. She never flew again, but for many years was placed on display outside the Dan-Air maintenance facilities at Lasham, where she masqueraded as 'G-AMSU', the airline's first DC-3.

NEW OPERATING TECHNIQUES

The Nord 262 soon proved popular with passengers and crew alike, and the operation took on a more efficient air as the aircraft settled into daily service. Time on the ground was critical to the success of the service, with the Nord generally spending about ten minutes in between touchdown and take-off on the intermediate sectors. This was achieved by having the passengers ready at the departure gate and by the aircraft only shutting down the port Bastan, leaving the starboard running whilst passengers disembarked and others boarded. This meant that the flight crew remained busy on the flight deck, and as soon as the rear passenger door was closed, the aircraft would call for taxy clearance.

On one occasion at Cardiff in the autumn of 1971 this intensity created a problem after leaving the apron on another sector to Liverpool. G-AYFR had landed five minutes earlier on runway 31 inbound from Liverpool, and having vacated the runway alongside the local flying club, had parked on the main apron adjacent to the original terminal. Keeping her starboard engine running throughout, the passengers had exchanged their seats and with everyone safely aboard, the door was closed and the aircraft requested taxy clearance. This was duly issued, with instructions to cross the main runway, then proceed along the parallel taxiway to the holding point for runway 31. As the aircraft turned through 180 degrees leaving the apron, it became apparent that something was wrong. From the control tower, it seemed that a section of the port lower fuselage was missing, exposing the area around the main undercarriage wheel. This observation was passed to the crew, who insisted that the aircraft was fully serviceable and that they were now requesting airways clearance and permission to take-off. As the Nord 262 raced towards the holding point, anxiety in the control tower led to a member of the fire service being despatched in a Land Rover to inspect the side of the aircraft and report his findings. This he did by radio, confirming that there did appear to be a chunk of fuselage missing. Disbelief on the flight deck eventually gave way to common sense, and the aircraft returned to the main apron, where both engines were shut down, the passengers disembarked and a red-faced crew left to inspect the damage to the aircraft. Repairs were soon carried out, and the aircraft placed back in service. Later in the day, a farmer in the Brecon area telephoned the airport to report that he had found an item in one of his fields that he believed had fallen from an aircraft. It seems likely that during the earlier descent in to Cardiff, this piece of the aircraft had for some reason broken away. Although it made the aircraft appear unsightly, the lack of this part of the fuselage had not affected the structural integrity of the aircraft in any way.

Apart from the scheduled services linking Wales and the West Country with Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, the Nord also undertook other flying on the Dan-Air network and also occasional ad-hoc charter work. This included a Ronaldsway to Prestwick passenger schedule on August 15 1970, a Manchester to Aldergrove newspaper charter on the night of December 18 1970, followed on the very next day by a charter carrying Wardair passengers from Manchester to Prestwick. A similar charter was flown from Prestwick to Manchester on January 9 1971, and later in the year the Nord would become a regular participant on the Dan-Air summer schedule linking the Isle of Man with Prestwick. G-AYFR carried 26 passengers from Prestwick to Ronaldsway on April 18 1971, and thereafter visited every weekend until the end of the season.

May 1971 saw further variety for the Nord 262, with the aircraft flying charters from Liverpool to Gatwick and Luton on May 7 and 8, while on May 13 the aircraft undertook a route proving flight from Leeds to Glasgow and return in anticipation of the opening of this new route. Subsequently inaugurated by Dan-Air's newly acquired Avro 748 G-ARAY on June 1, the Nord appeared on the route on June 2 and 4, but otherwise remained dedicated to the "Link City" (as it was now called) schedule from Newcastle.

During the summer of 1971, when engineering or operational requirements dictated, the Nord would be replaced by Dan-Air's last Ambassador G-ALZO, and she flew the Newcastle to Cardiff and Bristol routes on several occasions during June and July. However, she had been retired by the time that a replacement was needed in November, and on one day, November 18, Dan-Air BAC One-Eleven 401 G-AXCK and Skyways International Avro 748 G-ARMX were both used to operate the "Link City" service.

The appearance of the Skyways 748 was no great surprise as Dan-Air were in the process of taking over this troubled airline, together with its fleet of 748 airliners. This take-over sounded the death knell for the Nord 262, as the 748 fleet would now take over Dan-Air's scheduled network. As a result the Nord flew her final service to Newcastle on January 26 1972. She was flown to Lasham on the next day, and then prepared for sale to Rousseau Aviation based at Dinard. Registered F-BTDQ she was delivered from Lasham, via Gatwick, to Dinard on February 22 1972, thereby concluding a successful eighteen month long period of colourful airline service with Dan-Air.  Throughout this section of the website we have endeavoured to find a photograph of each individual aircraft. there are usually thumbnail images of all the liveries the aircraft wore whilst with Dan Air, and in many cases, the prior and subsequent liveries with other operators. The thumbnail images can be enlarged by simply clicking on them.


G-AXEK
Type:  Handley Page Jetstream 137

Serial Number: 203

Entered Service:  1969

Last Flown: 1969

Obtained From: Manufacturer

Notes: Used only for evaluation purposes. The aircraft did carry Dan Air Titles

G-AXEK GALLERY
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