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Blackbushe to Idris Airport, Tripoli.


Contributed by: Trevor STUBBERFIELD (52A)



On the 10th of May 1956 I stood on the tarmac at Blackbushe Airport, peering into the darkness at the aircraft in which I was to take my very first flight.  Already nervous, the sight of the Eagle Aviation Vickers Viking did nothing to dispel my fears.  This was to take me in a series of long hops to my posting with 10th. Armoured Division in Tripoli, whereas in reality it didn't look as though it would reach the end of the runway, let alone get off the ground


Loaded, with the door shut and the passengers strapped in, the engines fired up and we lurched to the start of the runway where the engines were run up, one at a time to maximum revs.  The fact that one engine needed three attempts before it reached peak revs didn't do my confidence a lot of good, especially as the plane seemed ready to fall apart with the vibration. Finally the pilot was happy, both engines were balanced, full power applied, brakes released and we lumbered down the track for what seemed a very long time before the tail came up and we lurched into the air.  The noise as we climbed was absolutely deafening and remember, this was a civil airliner for which civilian travellers would pay good money for a flight ticket.  Perhaps it was to cover the cost of the obligatory boiled sweet to ease the pressure on the ears.


As we started the descent to our first stop, Nice Airport in France, the stewardess advised us not to buy anything there as everything was expensive.  A cup of coffee would cost 2/9d (about 14 new pence today) and she would serve refreshments on the next leg.  She lied.  Luckily I needed something to drink to take some tablets so I spent a good slice of my 56 shillings per week (£2.80 today) on a cup of something that looked like coffee.  Because of my strange colour, frog green, I was approached by an M.O. who was a fellow passenger to ask if I was still living.  I think I said yes but for the rest of the journey I noticed he kept a very close eye on me.


The next hop was to Malta and I managed a few minutes of sleep.  I didn't miss the refreshments as none were served.  Daylight was beginning to break and I began to look out of the window at the scene below.  It seemed an awful long way down but as one kindly soul said to me "You'll be alright mate, it's not flying that kills you, it's crashing." which did my confidence a power of good.


At Malta we dropped some passengers for local postings and picked up new ones for the next leg which would take us to Idris Airport, Tripoli.  Sitting at the end of the runway and going through the same engine revving procedure I looked out at one of the engines which now had the cooling flaps fully open in the cowling.  Not only was there a distinct trail of engine oil creeping down the cowl but in several places I could see rivets spinning merrily round.  I pointed this out to one of the cabin crew who reassured me with "It's alright, it always does that, just close your eyes" as if that would rectify the faults.  I asked if I could have a drink as we'd had nothing to drink or eat since leaving the Goodge Street terminal in London some 12 hours earlier.  The reply from the new stewardess we had picked up at Malta was "I'm awfully sorry, we have no provisions loaded for this leg, did you not get something on the earlier stages?"  I'm told my reply was unprintable and I was given a verbal warning for violence of the tongue.


After some 14 hours of travelling we landed at Idris and I all but got on my knees and kissed the ground.  That's where the Pope got his ground hugging habit from.  When I reached my unit I was begging for food, only to be told "You've just missed breakfast, have to wait for dinner now."  Luckily one of the lads took me under his wing and managed to lay some sandwiches on before I collapsed with starvation.


My first flight memories have stayed with me and I have to confess to still being a nervous flier, something only to be undertaken under extreme pressure from my manager.


Vickers Viking of Eagle Aviation.


Viking 4 Eagle


Derived from the Wellington Bomber, 163 Vikings were built from 1945 to 1949.  Of the 163, there were 57 major crashes in which the plane was destroyed.  4 of these incidents were in the colours of Eagle Aviation and one in Cunard Eagle colours. On the 6th of April 1948 a Viking took to the air as the first jet powered airliner after it had been fitted with two Rolls Royce Nene engines.


On the 1st of May 1957 an Eagle Aviation Vickers Viking G-AJBO took off from Blackbushe, bound for Idris Airport, Tripoli, with servicemen and families on board.  There was only one flight per week.  After take off, one engine failed and the pilot turned back.  The plane crashed upside down in trees, there was one survivor from the 35 on board.


Editor’s Note.

On Wednesday 19th of October 2011 a memorial dedicated to the 34 people who lost their lives in this crash was unveiled on the control tower of Blackbushe airport.  The link below leads to a video that was made of the ceremony.

BBC Local News – Hampshire.


On Wednesday 19th of October 2011 this Memorial Plaque was unveiled at Blackbushe.


On the 29th May 1957 my wife stood on the tarmac at Blackbushe, ready to fly to Tripoli just four weeks after the disaster.  Her first flight and the first time she had left the country.  The departure was delayed by "engine faults" and I don't think you need me to describe her feelings.


First Published: 1st June 2006.

Latest Update|: 1st January 2015.





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