Aviation History & Nostalgia

DEC 29 2011
Aviation History >> London Heathrow Airport 1979 Part 1

The heading photo shows the typical scene at airports during these times. Smoke belching and noisy jets with no regard for the environment, these were indeed different times. We could stand at the perimeter fence and have fumes wafted over us by numerous aircraft. We turned out fine, I think.

The TAP Boeing 727-82 above (CS-TBP) was still with us until 2008, its last identity being VP-CKA in an executive configuration, when it was broken up at Southend Airport, although its interior was stripped out to be used in another aircraft. If you could find anyone that flew as a passenger with TAP, I'm sure they'd be very surprised to learn it was an exec jet in later life.

The airliners in the next set of four photos are no longer flying. Iberia DC-10-30, EC-CBO, was eventually sold to Continental Airlines as N37078 and ended its days at Mojave, CA. Lufthansa DC-10-30 D-ADMO ended its days flying with Gemini Air Cargo as N600GC and is still stored at Roswell, NM. It was unusual in those days to see long-haul aircraft belonging to European airlines visiting the UK. They would visit very infrequently when they had to clear bad weather backlogs or there were, occasionally, special charters.

TAP Boeing 707s were very regular visitors but Trans European Airlines (TEA) were seldom seem, at Heathrow anyway. TEA was the very first airline to order from Airbus and was the operator of the only A300B1 that saw airline service. This particular Boeing 707-100, OO-TEC, was scrapped in Brussels in 1985.

In early 1979, when the next series of three photos were taken, Uganda and Tanzania were at war, and the VIP aircraft from both countries were present on the same ramp. Presumably they were here for talks, but I can find no evidence of that.

The Tanzanian Government F-28-3000, 5H-CCM, was an extremely unusual sight here. It would often be seen in the Netherlands, where it would return for heavy maintenance, and was last seen as recently as 2010 in Woensdrecht, so is presumably still active.

The Ugandan Government Gulfstream IITT, 5X-UPF, was quite a regular visitor to our shores and could often be seen at Stansted. This airframe was still active as late as 2007 as N930LS before being de-registered. It was last noted stored at Mojave, CA. The TT type suffix was because tip-tanked biz jets were still an uncommon thing to see.

Whether Idi Amin himself visited on this jet, or perhaps another high ranking official, is unknown, but I bet this airframe could tell a few stories. Note the cut-off nose - this often happened either due to the inability to actually see exactly what was going to appear in the frame through my old Zenith camera, or simply a poorly mounted slide!

More regular airlines next. Varig DC-10-30 PP-VMO is currently stored in Rio de Janeiro and was last operated by MTA Cargo as PR-MTC having been converted to a freighter. Iberia DC-9-32, EC-BQZ, was withdrawn from use as late as 2000, was then converted into a theatre by the Spanish Airports and Air Navigation (AENA) and still sits between Terminal 1 and 2 at Madrid Airport today. The dirty behind on the DC-9 was typical of the day, with those smokey rear-mounted engines.

KLM DC-8s were pretty regular visitors, as were National Airlines DC-10s. We always commented on how National DC-10s would take up every inch of the runway on departure. Looking back, maybe this was their early adoption of fuel saving measures by using minimum take-off power? N81NA, a DC-10-30, was a nomad and worked with Pan Am and other airlines before ending her days with Ghana Airways as 9G-AND. Ghana Airways was banned and grounded in the USA during 2004 and this airframe was ferried to Pinal Airpark, AZ the same year, before being broken up and scrapped in 2007.

In these days biz-jets were very common at Heathrow, with Fields and British Airways Executive Aircraft Services both vying for business, and this was before these types of aircraft were actively encouraged to go to Northolt or Luton. First up is a Gulfstream II belonging to the Ford Motor Company. Although FMC had a base at Stansted, it would arrive at Heathrow if Henry Ford was on board, as he disliked the drive from Essex and hardly ever visited Dagenham. N329K was later converted to a Gulfstream IISP and survived as N416CG until 2009. Citation 500 HZ-NCI (the NCI standing for National Chemical Industries), was often seen around Heathrow, but I'm told that it often arrived and departed empty. Although the owner lived in Croydon, it never went to Gatwick. This aircraft survives today as F-GKID.

If you glanced at Danfoss Falcon 20C OY-BDS, you would swear it was from Switzerland, as that was the usual stock colour scheme for Swiss biz-jets. This aircraft was written-off in an emergency landing overrun on 15th February 2006 as F-OVJR at Kiel-Holtenau in Germany. It was on a flight from Moscow to London when smoke and fire filled the cabin. Gulfstream II N401M has been converted to an SP variant and is still flying as N889JC.

Boeing 707-300 A20-624 belonging to the Royal Australian Air Force wasn't such a regular visitor to Heathrow. This was the last 707 in service with the RAAF, being retired in June 2008 and was also the first to go into service in 1979. I'm not sure if British Airways had something to do with the conversion looking at the date, but it would seem strange to fly the aircraft from Australia, where she flew previously with QANTAS, to the UK for conversion, but stranger things have happened. This aircraft was sold to Omega as N624RH, still keeping part of its RAAF serial in the process.

A6-AAA Boeing 737-200 belonging to the UAE Government was however a regular visitor. I'm told the English captain used to play his guitar while the cabin crew girls cleaned the cabin after each flight! This airframe is still active in Bolivia as CP-2561 with Aerosur.

Although Air Bridge Carriers (ABC) operated a few Armstrong Whitworth AW-650 Argosy aircraft in the late-'70s, they didn't venture south from their Castle Donington base that often. Here G-APRL is seen lining up on 28R - also notice I didn't step down the shutter speed enough; I was probably too excited!

This aircraft was one of a batch that was delivered as a civilian aircraft and never actually served with the military. It was produced for Riddle Airlines in the USA, later serving with Zantop and Universal Airlines. This aircraft is currently displayed at the Midland Air Museum in Coventry in the final Elan colours that she wore while with ABC.

Staying on the ABC theme, British Airways was phasing out its Vanguard Merchantmen freighters at this time, and ABC snapped them up to supplement its Argosy aircraft. The phasing out was known way ahead of time, and for this reason they kept their old BEA coloured tails until they left British Airways service.

G-APET is seen here on a damp, misty day starting her take-off run on 28R. This airframe was scrapped at Castle Donington in 1997. G-APEJ is seen on the same runway on an unusually sunny day and survives at the Brooklands Museum as a front fuselage only.

G-APEP, seen in the last photo above, was being prepared for onward sale at the old BEA engineering base and devoid of titles. This is the last complete survivor of this type and is kept in ground running condition at the Brooklands Museum. What a beauty! Or going by the name of the aircraft, "Superb"!

N200BE is a PA-31 Navajo anomaly. It had a Monro Panther Turbo conversion, and although some details have become blurred over time, this airframe is still thought to be active as N7XB. Arab Wings was a regular visitor with Learjets and Sabreliners. Here Learjet 35A JY-AFE is seen at the old BEA maintenance base in June 1979. It is currently flying in Sweden as a target towing aircraft and registered SE-DHP.

Parked next to the Arab Wings Learjet on the same day was Citation OY-ASR. Its last known identity was N501DG but was sold to Venezuela and its current status is unknown. Last up is ITT Corporations Boeing 727-1H2 N320HG seen here parked at the old Pan Am maintenance area alongside 28L. This airframe was the very last series 100 manufactured, in 1971, and is still flying.

A pair of Saudi Arabian Airlines aircraft to finish off this series. L-1011-200 Tristar HZ-AHJ served its whole life with the Saudi carrier and was withdrawn from use in 1999 at Taif. After being put up for sale for no less than nine years, and with no buyers forthcoming, she was scrapped in 2008.

Boeing 737-200 HZ-AGR is seen here most likely on its delivery flight. We had many early 737s come via Heathrow on delivery back in those days. Notice that it has a gravel-kit installed, with deflectors on the nose wheel and underneath the engine intakes. All photos I've seen of this particular aircraft show no signs of any gravel-kit, so it's a mystery why it was delivered in this configuration. This aircraft is currently withdrawn from use and is at Jeddah.

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