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The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was the Britishmarker state airline from 1939 until 1946 and the long-haul British state airline from 1946 to 1974. The company started life with a merger between Imperial Airways Ltd. and British Airways Ltd. Following a 1971 Act of Parliament, BOAC was merged in 1974 with British European Airways Corporation (BEA) to form British Airways.


BOAC Short Solent 3 G-AHIN Southampton served the airline's route to Johannesburg between 1948 and 1950
During the 1930s, the 1940s postwar and until November 1950, Imperial Airways and then BOAC operated scheduled flying boat services from their Marine Air Terminal at Berth 50 at Southamptonmarker to colonial possessions in Africa and Asia. Aircraft such as the Short Empire and Short S.8 Calcutta flying boats, transported their prewar passengers and mail. Postwar, BOAC flew converted Short Sunderlands under the class names of Hythe and Plymouth. Latterly, the airline flew the completely new Short Solent flying boat on their service down the Nile and through East Africa to Johannesburg.

In addition to training pilots in the UK, BOAC operated a tropical training school in Sorotimarker, North East Uganda.

The breakup

The Civil Aviation Act of 1946 led to the demerger of two divisions of BOAC to form three separate corporations:

In July 1949, British South American Airways was merged back into BOAC.

Early post-war operations

BOAC Boeing Stratocruiser G-AKGJ "RMA Cambria" at Manchester in June 1954 en route to New York

BOAC's initial land plane equipment during the years immediately following the end of World War Two was based on converted or adapted military aircraft including the Avro Lancastrian, Consolidated Liberator, Handley Page Halton and Avro York. In summer 1948, the unpressurised Yorks were still operating passenger services as far afield as Nairobi (Kenya), Accra (Gold Coast, later Ghana) and Delhi and Calcutta (India).

The pressurised Lockheed Constellation was operated from April 1946, initially on routes to the United States and Canada, and from 1949 also to Australia. These were supplemented by the Boeing Stratocruiser for their key transatlantic routes from October 1949, as this type could reliably fly non-stop eastbound from New York to London Airport (later Heathrow). The Handley Page Hermes and Canadair DC-4M Argonaut joined the BOAC fleet between 1949 and 1950, replacing the last of the non-pressurised types on passenger services. The Yorks continued to operate BOACs freight flights.

From late 1956, the airline received ten Douglas DC-7C to enable them to operate non-stop westbound flights from London and Manchester to New York and other North American east coast destinations, in competition with Pan American Airlines with their DC-7Cs and Trans World Airlines with Lockheed Super Constellations.

Introduction of jets

In May 1952, BOAC became the first airline to introduce a passenger jet, the de Havilland Comet. All Comet 1 aircraft were grounded in April 1954 after four Comets crashed, the last two being BOAC aircraft. Investigators discovered serious structural cracks caused by metal fatigue due to the repeated pressurisation and depressurisation of the aircraft as they ascended and descended. While rectifying this problem, de Havilland engineers improved the Comet in many ways and improved its range, creating the Series 4. In 1958, BOAC used the new Comets to become the first airline to fly jet passenger services across the Atlantic.

During the 1950s and 1960s, BOAC flew the Bristol Britannia and Comet but these aircraft were not competitive so in October 1956 they ordered 15 Boeing 707s which entered service in 1960. Sir Giles Guthrie, who took charge of BOAC in 1964, preferred the Boeing aircraft for economic reasons, and indeed BOAC began turning a profit in the late 1960s. The preference for US-made aircraft caused a political row in Parliamentmarker, however, and the government ordered BOAC to purchase 17 Vickers VC-10 aircraft from a 30-aircraft order which Guthrie had cancelled. However, BOAC initially believed that the VC-10 had somewhat higher operating costs than the 707, largely as a result of BOAC's own demands for the aircraft to have excellent hot and high performance.

BOAC later became the largest Boeing customer outside North America. The next major order of Boeing aircraft was for 11 747-100s. BOAC received its first 747 on 22 April 1970 but due to strike action by the British Air Line Pilots' Association the aircraft did not enter commercial service for almost a year, on 14 April 1971.

In 1962, BOAC and Cunard formed BOAC-Cunard Ltd to operate scheduled services to North America, the Caribbean and South America. The operation was dissolved in 1966.


On 1 September 1972, the British Airways Board was formed, a holding board that controlled BOAC and BEA. On 31 March 1974, both the BOAC and BEA were dissolved and their operations merged to form British Airways.

BOAC would have become one of the first operators of the Concorde had it not merged to become British Airways. BA's Concordes carried registrations of G-BOAA through G-BOAG. The first Concorde delivered toBritish Airways was actually registered G-BOAC. A diecast model Concorde in BOAC colours was sold by Corgi Toys in the early 1970's.

Aircraft operated


BOAC fleet in 1970
Aircraft Total Orders Notes
BAC/Sud Concorde 0 0 Eight on option
Boeing SST 0 0 Six on option
Boeing 707-300 6 4
Boeing 707-400 18 0
Boeing 747-100 0 12
BAC VC10 11 0
BAC Super VC10 17 0
Total 52 16


  • On 5 March 1966 Flight 911 operated by Boeing 707, registered G-APFE crashed on Mount Fujimarker after experiencing clear air turbulence, all 124 on board died.

Popular culture


  1. Brickbats at BOAC, TIME, March 24, 1967.
  2. Flight International 26 March 1970
  3. Special Report: British Overseas Airline Company Flight 712. Retrieved on 2008-01-09.

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