30th November 1970 - 30th November 2010
40th Anniversary Special
The formation of British Caledonian Airways
British Caledonian Airways was formed on 30th November 1970, St Andrews Day. Caledonian Airways and British United Airways - two internationally respected names in aviation - merged to form a Second Force airline.
Caledonian//BUA as it was initially known was an Independent airline from the start; they brought competition to the then state airline dominated skies and competed in the worldwide market.
The task that BCal set itself demanded efficiency and hard work coupled with the ability to build a solid reputation and this was achieved with a level of personal service which was acclaimed globally.
The formation of Caledonian//BUA ended some 20 years of confusion in the development of British civil aviation.
Both Caledonian and British United had both emerged from this period of uncertainty in the industry. BUA was a combination of many independent airlines that had been taken over and merged over four decades; while Caledonian had been formed by the efforts of a group of likeminded airline men unhappy with the way the industry was being run.
BUA’s founder companies dated back to 1928, when an engineering and aviation advisory company called Airwork was formed. They began airline operations in their own right after the end of World War II with ad-hoc charters and then trooping flights.
Later, Airwork and Hunting-Clan Air Transport fought hard and won the rights to start scheduled coach-class Safari services to East, West and Central Africa. These went on to form the basis of BCal’s African route network.
In 1957, Transair were bought by Airwork and became the first airline to operate from the new London Gatwick when it opened in 1958 and they opened the first hangar and offices there. These formed the basis of BCal’s engineering base at Gatwick. Transair had pioneered the first Inclusive Tour charter flights in 1950 and were based at Croydon Airport originally.
Morton Air Services, another Croydon based airline, sold out to Airwork when the decision to close Croydon Airport was announced and their operations moved to Gatwick. Morton’s had earlier taken over the pioneering Olley Air Service. Olley’s were one of the few civil airlines considered important to the British war effort and were permitted to fly during WWII.
In 1960, Hunting-Clan joined Airwork and British United Airways was formed. Further airlines joined the new airline group, Jersey Airlines and Silver City both brought well developed and popular route networks with them. Airwork’s vehicle ferry operation, Channel Air Bridge was merged with that of Silver City. Channel Air Bridge had been formed after Airwork took over Air Charter, originally part of the Aviation Traders Group.
Silvery City themselves were made up of many airlines; Manx Airlines, Lancashire Aircraft Corporation and Air Kruise; all under the British Aviation Services Group.
Aquila Airways and Dragon Airways had also been taken over through the successive mergers and takeovers along the way.
Caledonian Airways was launched following collaboration between Adam Thomson and John de la Haye. They were both disillusioned with the industry and wanted to start their own airline with modern aircraft and high standards of service.
A period of spectacular growth followed for Caledonian, aided by efficient operations, strong salesmanship and its Scottish image. BUA, too, grew although not quite so fast and when in May 1969 the Edwards Committee recommended the formation of a Second Force airline for Britain, BUA and Caledonian were specifically named in that context.
Secret talks, at times difficult and at one point almost abandoned, were held between Caledonian and BUA. The new Conservative Government in I970 announced its full support for the Second Force proposal and added that the new airline would be assured of a viable route network by the transfer to it of British flag services then operated by BEA and BOAC
The merger went ahead, and Adam Thomson became Chairman of the new company - Caledonian//BUA.
In October 1971 the name was changed to British Caledonian Airways.