The Andes Incident - G-ASIX
18th June 1971
|IX in BUA original livery
||IX in BUA Sandstone & Blue
||IX in Caledonian//BUA titles
There is little recorded about this incident, what has been published is sketchy and in places not quite right. With thanks all who have contributed their time and recollections I think we have a great account of the event.
Whilst flying the Buenos Aires to Santiago sector of the service, VC10 G-ASIX experienced servere turbulence. We recount the story below using official BCal reports and the recollecions of those onboard, both flight crew and cabin crew.
On 31st May 1961 BUA placed an order for four Vickers VC10 (2 firm, 2 options) and the order was worth £10 million. The 2 options were were contingent of BUA being granted a number of long haul routes. In October the routes to the Far East were no longer on the table and the VC10 options were cancelled. Though two aircraft were being bult for BUA and these aircraft were due for delivery in the autumn of 1964
BUA’s first VC10, G-ASIW, made her maiden flight on 30th July 1964 and they took delivery in September 1964, ASIX arrived a few weeks later.
Not long after ASIX's first flight for BUA, an announcemnet was made that BUA were taking over the routes between London and South America. BOAC were abaondoning the routes as they made heavy losses on them, BUA saw the market differently and the VC10 would offer some of the fastest flight times from London.
The VC10 enabled BUA to offer the fastest journey time on the route with a total travel time of 19 hours to Santiago from Gatwick. The quick journey time was a draw to many. By contracting out their ground handling in South America, BUA were able to reduce costs, so enabling the route to turn a profit, predicted for the 3rd year of operations. The official approval to fly the South American route was awarded on 1st December 1964; some three weeks after flights had started. The license was for 15 years, the longest license issued to any airline at that time.
The first flight left Gatwick and flew via Madrid (and Lisbon alternately), to Las Palmas followed by Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Santiago. Services left with accommodation arranged for 16 First Class and 93 tourist seats. The inaugural flight had the British Ambassador to the Argentine onboard and BUA’s Chairman, Miles Wyatt.
The services turned a profift slightly later than planned, but they went into the black and VC10's plied the route for many years in BUA colours, eventually the Caledonian//BUA livery was seen in South America and then the BCal livery was seen on the VC10s.
British Caledonian VC10 G-ASIX seen at London Gatwick taxiing out for another flight
BCal Internal Memorandum - 13/71 Issued 24th September 1971
All crew correctly licenced, aircraft correctly loaded and completely serviceable before take off from Buenos Aires.
Forecast for the flight Buenos Aires - Santiago stated no significant weather at jet levels - no turbulence was forecast. Low wind velocity forecast at cruising level - 20/45 knots. Crew knew Lufthansa aircraft had preceded them by 30 minutes along the same route and at same flight level and no report received from this aircraft of any turbulence (Lufthansa have now confirmed that this aircraft did not experience any turbulence).
After Mendoza (shortly before crossing Andes) seat belt signs were put on as a precaution after very little cobblestone effect was experienced.