The A320 and BCal - Part 5
We are now on to the 5th page of this enduring and fascinating delve into the history of BCal and the Airbus A320.
Below we have the Pilot's perspective from Chris Scott, my thanks to Chris for his input; much appreciated indeed.
Any further replies and thoughts gratefully recieved, please email me
Also, did anyone undertake any training / work on the A320 delivery team ?
Dont forget to see the previous A320 pages - links below
From Chris Scott
I relate the beginnings from a line pilot's viewpoint. It would be good to hear the engineers' story, which started a bit earlier.
Pilots on BCAL/BA A320 pilot conversion course #1 arrived at Toulouse-Blagnac on Friday 1/1/1988, and the course-proper started on the following Monday. (This was actually Airbus Flight Training's A320 pilot conversion course #2, because Air France course #1 had started a week earlier). See David Ridgway's two nice photos on his gallery, courtesy of Vanessa:
The photos were taken that first weekend, on our little induction tour of the flight line. We were a mixture of management captains, two line crews, and a CAA Flight Inspector (Capt Peter Franklin, who only did the first part of the course - not in the photos).
John Duncan (A320 Fleet Manager)
Martin Hole (A320 Chief Training Capt)
George Hallatt (A320 Project and Development Pilot since 1985)
Dave Barker (training captain)
David Ridgway (line captain, and the photographer)
Leslie Wilcox (line S/F/O)
Chris Scott (line capt)
Richard Pike (line S/F/O)
The photo of David and Les was, I think, by the A320 that had BCAL livery on one side and AF on the other. The A/C in the group photo is still in the primer, but has the BCAL logo on the fin, presumably because the composite structure was painted during manufacture in Spain. The gap at the base of the fin may be due to a missing HF-radio antenna.
Martin, David and I were on our second conversion course at Toulouse, having done the A310 in 1984. We were all as keen as mustard, as well as enjoying the culinary delights of Gascony. Given that BA's purchase of BCAL had been announced on December 21st, some of us were fully expecting word from BA (once it had noticed our existence) to say that it wasn't interested in Airbuses, and summoning us back to Blighty. To our great relief and satisfaction, it didn't happen.
In A320 flight tests, a potential problem had arisen with the A320 emergency RAT (ram-air turbine), which was found to be susceptible to stalling if the aircraft sideslipped with the landing gear extended. The electrical system architecture was therefore being rejigged, and that changed the FBW (fly-by-wire) downgrade logic in the event of electrical failure affecting one or more of the five FBW computers. The A320 was the first airliner with digital FBW flight controls (Concorde was also fly-by-wire, but with analogue computers), so this was quite a big deal.
After completing the ground course, including the simulator, we still had to fly the aeroplane for a couple of sorties to get our type ratings. That was not possible immediately, because A320 type-certification had been delayed by the electrical issues. So we had several weeks off, returning to do our base-training sectors in March. The Airbus training captains included Gordon Corps, Nick Warner, Jimmy Phillips and Dick Steele.
As has been said, G-BUSB was delivered to LGW and Lord King in BA colours as planned on April 1st, the day BCAL's AOC was transferred to BA. "Bus-bee" was almost immediately returned to TLS to rectify a long list of fairly minor defects. The start of BCAL A320 operations later that month coincided with the launch of the Gatwick North Terminal, so we had an interesting summer! The Airbus training captains came to oversee our line training. The ex-BCAL line engineers, plus at least one proper BA one who had taken a rapid conversion course, did a great job of helping us keep the aircraft in the air, assisted by engineers from Airbus. It was evident that most of the engineers were as committed to the A320 as we were.
In the autumn of 1988, the fleet was moved to LHR, and then it really hit us that we now worked for BA! But nearly all the pilots were still from BCAL, with the notable exception of Colin Wright, who joined our fleet management and inducted us and the A320 into BA-proper. As the fleet expanded, we continued to train mainly ex-BCAL pilots initially, because tmost of the established BA types didn't want to fly anything that didn't begin with a B. It took a while, but we eventually "sold" the aeroplane to them, and they started to join the fleet in increasing numbers. Today, the A320 family is the mainstay of BA short-haul.