Aviation History & Nostalgia

JAN 20 2012
Aviation History >> London Heathrow Airport 1979 Part 2

The heading photo above shows Royal Nepal Airlines' Boeing 727-1FB 9N-ABD parked outside the TBJ base at British Airways. I'm not sure if this was a state or a maintenance visit, but it was certainly an unusual sight to see. The aircraft was named Yeti and was scrapped in Hamburg during October 1993.

The same year and two different colour schemes on LOT Polish Airlines aircraft. Tu-134A SP-LHB spent its entire career in Poland and is currently displayed, unmarked and in poor condition, at the museum in Krakow. Il-62 (note no 'M' designation as this still had the older engines) SP-LAD worked with Aeroflot later in its life as RA-86707 and is now preserved at Krasnovarsk-Yemelyanovo Airport at the technical school there, in Siberia.

Some common airliners of that time. El Al Boeing 747-200B 4X-AXB is seen before the days when tanks would patrol the perimeter road whenever El Al had movements. 4X-AXB would be scrapped in Tel Aviv in 2001. Thai DC-10-30 HS-TGE last flew with Northwest Airlines as N232NW. She ended up at Pinal Airpark, like many others in 2006, and was most likely scrapped that same year.

Aeroflot Tu-154B-1 CCCP-85285 was last operated by Donavia as RA-85285 and was eventually scrapped at Chisinau Airport, Moldova, in July 2006. BMA DC-9-14 OH-LYB is seen here landing on 09L. This was the sixth DC-9 off the production line and started life with Air Canada as CF-TLC. Sold to Finnair in 1977, she was leased to BMA from 1977 to 1979, eventually being sold to BMA and re-registered as G-BMAH. She later went to Intercontinental Colombia as HK-4056X and was scrapped in Bogota in September 2003.

Iberia's new and old colours are represented by these DC-8-63s - well, new in 1979 at least. EC-BSE also saw service later with Aviaco and then Airborne Express as N820AX. She was scrapped at Lake Charles Chennault Airpark, LA, in 2007.

EC-BMY also went to Aviaco and, like her stablemate, ended up in the USA as a freighter, this time with Rich International as N4935C, before being scrapped at Opa Locka, FL, during 2002/2003.

Gulfstream II corner - XC-MEX was operated by Banxoco, otherwise known as Banco de Mexico. This was a rare machine and more than likely its only visit. It was later operated as N396CF and is currently stored at Kingman, AZ. N7602 was owned at the time by Union Oil. It was later converted to a Gulfstream IIB and is currently flying as N200AQ.

G-HADI, another early tip-tanked machine, was owned by Madi Al Tajir who owned the Highland Spring bottled water company alongside the Sheraton Park Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge. This would have been one of the first G2s on the UK register and is still current as N840RG. An alternate shot of Ugandan Government 5X-UPF - you can find out the information on this aircraft in part 1 of this article.

Probably one of the most interesting and surprising stories is that of Montana Austria Boeing 707-300C OE-IDA. The airline only existed for six years and faced fierce competition from Austrian Airlines, which was then government owned. It was finally granted the glamorous and rather strange Vienna-Baghdad-Bangkok route and later on added New York as a destination.

Near the end of the company's time it switched to mostly cargo operations due to the slow-down in the economy, retaining only the New York route with passengers. This aircraft was seized by the US Justice Department in Houston, TX, in 1981, after illegal weapons were discovered in cargo on board. This signalled the beginning of the end for the airline and soon after the Austrian government withdrew its operating licence, ending the airline for good. It is suggested that it was this airline that gave Nikki Lauda the idea to operate an airline and many of the crews were latter hired by Lauda.

This airframe then found its way to the USAF and was converted to a VIP configured C-137 flying as 85-6973 with the 89th MAW (Military Airlift Wing) from Andrews AFB, MD. It was later converted to an E-8C Joint Stars and re-serialled 00-2000. She is currently stored at AMARG and has certainly led a varied career.

Boeing 720-047B HZ-KA4 was owned by Sheikh Kamal Adham and was a regular visitor along with the rest of his fleet, KA1 to KA5. It was last noted as P4-NJR grounded in Beriut and its fate is unknown. Another large Saudi bizjet, but this time on the American register as N112AK and registered to American Capital Aviation. This DC-9-15 was owned by Adnan Khashoggi, and it ended its days at Miami International as N915MJ where it was scrapped in 2003.

Westwind 1124 N124TY is seen here parked at the old Bealine base, and this aircraft is still extant as N518WA. Last up is Sabreliner I-FBCA owned by Fabocart, again seen at the old Bealine base. This was sold to Mexico as XA-SVG and may well still be current.

BAC1-11-401K HB-NB2 was owned by the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia and was a regular visitor. Here, surprisingly, I caught her in the air!

The aircraft was withdrawn from use in 1997 and was then sold to Kabo Air as 5N-HHH but she never left Southend and ended up being used as the airport fire trainer with the fake registration G-FIRE.

Air France/TAT F-28-1000 F-GBBR was later operated by British Airways in the company's own colours in 1994, was later operated by Canadian Regional Airlines and was delivered to NASA in 2001 for crash testing. I have no idea if she still survives. Tarom Tu-154B-1 YR-TPH was written-off a year after this photo was taken when it crashed into the sea on approach to Nouadhibou in Mauritania. On a missed approach on 7 August 1980, it hit the water 300 metres short of the runway and amazingly there was only a single fatality from the 168 people on board.

SAS DC-9-41 LN-RLP is seen here in an experimental silver colour scheme as a weight saving measure. It was delivered new to SAS in February 1979 so was less than two months old in this photo. It was painted into the more familiar white colours ion 1982, and, in 1986, was sold to leasing company Air 41 and immediately leased back to SAS who continued to use it until 2001. When the aircraft was returned to Air 41 registration N78XS was allocated ahead of being flown to Roswell, NM, for storage, eventually being scrapped in 2006. British Airways Tristar 1 N323EA was leased from Eastern Airlines. She last served with Air Atlanta as TF-ABP and was later stored at Bruntingthorpe in 1996. She was taken apart in 2002 and the fuselage was taken to Pinewood Studios for use in a film in March 2002 and one month later was scrapped.

TAP Boeing 707-300 started out life as a BCAL machine registered G-AVKA before being sold to TAP as CS-TBH. It then went to the USA and all around Africa as a freighter and was last noted with Kinshasa Airways as 9Q-CKS when it was then stored at Sharjah for a long period of time. It was then flown to Luansa in Angola and its fate is currently unknown.

Air Anglia was one of the many companies that merged to later form Air UK and is seen here on final approach to runway 28R. G-BAKL served with Air UK, BMA and Loganair and I personally flew this aircraft many times while operated by Air UK on flights to and from Guernsey. She was scrapped at Norwich in December 1996. There were only ten Dassault Mercures built and they were all operated by Air Inter. This particular aircraft, F-BTTH, is currently stored at Marseille-Provence.

Malev TU-154B HA-LCF was written-off when it broke in two on touchdown in Prague on 21 October 1981 on a flight from Schiphol. While performing a PAR approach the aircraft was high on the glideslope and, as the aircraft crossed the threshold at 80 metres height, instead of the normal 20 metres, the crew elected to reduce engine thrust and deploy the spoilers, which in this aircraft is not allowed above five metres altitude. The aircraft came to a halt and drove into the runway with an estimated 4G acceleration force where it broke into two. There were 81 people on-board and there were no fatalities. The nose section should still be current in the Hungarian Transport Museum, and a section of the fuselage was last noted being used as a garden shed in the village of Hostoun near Prague in September 2008.

9G-ACN was a Boeing 707-100 owned by Transasian and leased to Sudan Airways via Air Malta. This aircraft has had a complicated history of leases but ended up at AMARG at Davis Monthan AFB, AZ, as N62TA and was later sold and moved to the National Aircraft scrapyard in 2001, where presumably she was scrapped.

A couple of real classics next. First up is Caravelle F-BVPZ belonging to Aerotour. These would be seen more often at Gatwick, so I'm not sure why this aircraft was at Heathrow. This airframe still exists and is preserved at Paris-Orly.

Aeroflot Il-62M CCCP-86621 is seen here ready to line-up on runway 28R. It later served with Domodedovo Airlines and was scrapped in 1997.

I've saved the real mystery until last. Boeing 707-100 VR-CAN became a regular visitor for a couple of months in 1979 and, like many others, ended her days in Pinal Airpark, AZ, before being broken-up. Now this aircraft was reportedly used by the Shah of Iran after he fled into exile on 16 January 1979 to Egypt. In the photo below you can see the internal steps have been deployed and the door is left wide open with no sign of security. This may or may not be relevant to the events described below.

It's hard to narrow down the exact date I took this photo, but it was close to 21 February. Tony Hamiltion-Hunt remembers a strange event concerning this aircraft around this time-frame. Tony worked for British Airways Executive Aircraft Services and, in those days, they didn't work night shifts. Tony takes up the story. "First thing in the morning the phone was ringing like mad and everyone wanted to know why VR-CAN had arrived during the night from Moscow and then parked at the old Bealine base.

"Now aircraft were not allowed to taxi to the base under their own power, so maybe they shut the engines down and coasted in, or maybe they just didn't care. No-one knew where or who the passengers were or how they got out of the base without BAA security of BA engineering investigating.

"All sorts of rumours were flying that the FBI or the CIA were involved, but no-one ever got to the bottom of the story."

Digging deeper, during this time the Shah owned an estate in Godalming down the road in Surrey, and he had already made it clear that he would like to spend his exile at his estate, even if it meant that he had to be confined within its walls. The UK government at the time certainly discouraged him to continue with this plan during February 1979, making it clear that they feared all kinds of reprisals.

Looking at the way this aircraft was left in this photo all these events could well be tied up, but we will probably never know.

The aircraft was later seen at Meachan Field, Texas later the same month.

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2012-02-08 - Paul Field
Thanks for contributing a great article,very interesting

2012-01-20 - Ray Willmott
Happy days which bought back memories of Heathrow form when I first visited in 1959. Great stories that bring back an era that sadly we will not see again

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