Aquila's East African Safari
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I recently found an article in a 1949 issue of The Aeroplane, an aviation news magazine from back in the day and they had a small feature report on a flight that had been recently made by Aquila Airways and their Flying Boat "Hungerford" (G-AGKY). Though flown as a charter flight it seemed to be on the lines of the later East African Safari services flown by Airwork and Hunting-Clan; and of course Nairobi would still be on BCal's route network many years later.
Below is a map of their route and the stops they made along the way.
A memorable charter flight
Aquila Airways’ fleet of Short “Hythes” is the largest of a single type in private ownership anywhere in the world. This airline took over 12 of these big boats after their 10 million miles of service on the England-Australia route [with BOAC] and adapted them for the carriage of everything from ships’ crew to cut flowers.
Recently their Hythe “Hungerford” returned to Southampton after a 10,000 mile round trip to Nairobi via Marseille, Alexandria and Khartoum etc. At all stops “Hungerford” was right on schedule.
The flight demonstrates clearly the great passenger-carrying capacity of this type of Short flying boat. With the crew of five, there were altogether 64 people on board - all comfortably accommodated.
On the way out to Africa, 59 women and children were carried, and the job of stowing a heterogeneous baggage of prams and play-pens only became feasible in the huge space of the flying boat’s hull. On the return trip Hungerford carried 42 soldiers and their kit.
Flying Boats on a weekly service to Madeira
Meanwhile, Aquila’s weekly service from Southampton to Madeira is proving economical for the airline and most popular with the passengers. Madeira, which lives almost entirely on tourist trade, has long felt the want of regular air communication with Europe, and the Hythe “Hampshire” that made the proving flight to the island was accorded an enthusiastic welcome.
These Short Hythes fly direct to Funchal Bay from Berth 50 at Southampton, and Aquila takes advantage of a larger passenger potential by operating a shuttle service from Funchal to Lisbon too.
The aircraft have been adapted to carry 22 passengers in conditions of exceptional comfort. Cruising easily at about 140 knots they cover the distance between England and Madeira in as little as 9 hours, with fuel consumption working out as low as 0.942 air miles per gallon.
Landing in difficult conditions
The Hythes are remarkable for their ability to land well on tricky waters. “Hungerford’s” landing on high Lake Naivasha near Nairobi and “Hampshire’s” easy negotiation of the swell of Funchal Bay and the swift flowing River Targus by Lisbon are new instances of this ability.
This successful charter emphasises again the practical value of a flying boat over what is virtually an inland route. Night stops were made at Augusta on the Sicilian coast, and at Alexandria in Egypt and Khartoum on the Nile. The Flying boats' range of 1,500 miles easily accommodating the stages between stops.
The outward journey ended on the waters of Lake Naivasha which is about 50 miles from Nairobi. The take-off from the lake, which is 6,000 feet above sea level and ringed by volcanic hills was a lengthy business. But with 12,000 yards of water in all directions, the fully loaded Hungerford ably coped when taking to the air.
The Aeroplane - 28 October 1949
On the left we have a photo of Flying Boat Hungerford in Ireland about to depart on a pilgrimage flight.
A few years later, in January 1953, Hungerford was taking off from Southampton at 01:30 hours, a night departure, when her port wing struck a wave and the float was torn away. All passengers and crew were rescued safely and Hungerford was being towed in, when she capsized within sight of the shoreline and was beyond repair.
Father Ignatius Rice wishes ‘Bon Voyage’ to Aquila Airways Short S.25 Sunderland ‘Hungerford’ (G-AGKY) bound for Lisbon from Foynes with fifty passengers on a pilgrimage to Fatima.