Contributed by: Trevor STUBBERFIELD (52A)
On the 22nd of May 1959 I stood in the departure lounge
of Idris Airport,
Tripoli, 3 years
and 13 days after arriving to start my tour of duty. Time to go home. Still fresh in my mind was the flight in an Eagle Aviation
Viking that brought me here. The same
company and aircraft had also taken me to Cyprus
via Benina Airport
in Benghazi. I was grimly apprehensive about the
journey back to the U.K.
This time I was accompanied by my wife who had been in Tripoli
for two years and my daughter who had been there for six weeks having been
born at the British Military
Called forward, we walked towards the waiting aircraft
and my nerves eased. We were to
travel in a Vickers Viscount 800 series, in the colours of Airwork, who had
secured a trooping contract. This was
the current "state of the art" aircraft which had received rave
reviews from air travellers. It stood
on the tarmac looking very smart, neat, almost pretty, and level as it had a
nose wheel rather than a tail wheel.
We were seated in large, individual reclining seats
which, unlike the Viking, were forward facing. There was plenty of leg room with a foot rest, and also a larger
than normal window through which to watch the clouds roll by.
Cabin secured and strapped in there was a slight
increase in the whine of the engines and we moved smoothly towards the end of
the runway where we turned for take off.
Waiting for the plane to stop and go through the sequence of running
up each engine I was surprised when we kept moving and with lightning
acceleration we raced down the runway and took to the air in a remarkably short
time. Undercarriage raised, we took
our last look at the desert spread out below and we were on our way.
An air hostess, as they were called in those days, took
our baby and her travel bag and settled her into a sky cot at the rear of the
aircraft where she would spend most of the journey. For each landing she was brought back to us, freshly changed
and sweet smelling, with not a little trace of lipstick on her cheeks. Broody air hostesses were on board.
was the first stop where we were served light refreshments in the lounge
whilst the plane was serviced. Some passengers stayed in Malta
and more joined us for the flight home.
The next leg took us on to France
where we landed at Nice airport. I
still remember seeing sea spray on the windows as we approached directly and
very low over the water to land on the runway which seemed to start right on
the beach. Here we were taken to the
airport restaurant where we found a full meal laid out for us in very civilized surroundings, with two carafes of red and
white wine to each table. Now that's
air trooping in style. Our little one
had once again disappeared and was in the company of the crew who were
determined to make the most of her whilst they had her. She didn't seem to have any complaints with
all the attention she was receiving.
The last lap took us to Gatwick (London)
Airport, approaching in the late afternoon over the Isle
of Wight which looked like a jigsaw puzzle laid out below. I was struck by the various hues of green
in the fields and trees which seemed so vibrant after having looked at sand
and the occasional palm tree for so long.
With our grateful thanks to the crew for their care we
made our way to customs where we received a true British welcome. Seeing us as an easy target we were
stopped by a young customs officer, who didn't need to shave more than once a
year. He proceeded to question us and
examine every bag in great detail, turning most of the contents out onto the
table. This was taking quite some
time and our daughter decided to let Britain
know she had arrived. She started to
bawl for England,
probably missing the cosseting she had been receiving. The waiting queue began to get very
restive and the murmuring started to swell.
"What a way to treat servicemen returning home." "Who does he think he is?" "Doesn't he know how far we've just
travelled?" At this point my
wife laid the baby on the counter, reached for her bag and got ready to
change a nappy. A senior customs
officer approached, whispered in the shell like, and the young officer
actually repacked our bags, even doing up the straps before making the magic
chalk squiggle which gave us clearance.
Funnily enough the rest of the passengers seemed to go through customs
in no time at all.
The final memory is of the coach ride up to London,
a beautiful sunlit evening, passing through rich countryside, sights that had
been just a distant thought whilst we were away. We were truly home.
Vickers Viscount Type 831 of Airwork Services.
Photograph Copyright.© Brian Robbins. http://www.airliners.net/
The Vickers Viscount was the first gas turbine,
propeller driven airliner to enter regular service. Originally to be named the Viceroy it made it's first flight in
1948 as a Type 630. Two prototypes
were built, one with four Rolls Royce Dart engines, the other with two Rolls
Royce Tay engines.
During the extensive development period, airline
requirements had rapidly moved on and the aircraft underwent more
refinements, finally entering regular service with British European Airways
in 1953 as Type 700.
The aircraft was well received by travellers and was
noted for it's quietness and lack of vibration from the engines.
The plane was upgraded through various stages and became
the Type 800 which could carry up to seventy five passengers.
A total of 445 aircraft were made, the last leaving the
production line in 1963. Further
plans to increase the capacity of the craft were made but eventually they
resulted in the birth of the Vickers Vanguard.
It is thought that six of these aircraft are still in
service in Africa.
Published 1st. December 2006