BEA in the Channel Islands

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BEA Rapide over the south-east corner of Jersey heading for Dinard

On 1 January 1946 the British European Airways division of the British Overseas Airways Corporation was formed to take over the services from the United Kingdom to continental Europe that had been operated by the Royal Air Force. On 1 August 1946, the Civil Aviation Act 1946 was given royal assent and the independent British scheduled airlines were nationalised, including Jersey Airways, which had been the main carrier operating before the Occupation and since from the island's new airport. BEA became the British European Airways Corporation to operate all Domestic and European flights.

Initially BEA operated De Havilland Rapides on services to Southampton and London, but from the early days they struggled to cope with the enormous variations in demand between the winter and summer months. They demanded lengthened runways and then a tarmac surface was laid in 1952 so that larger aircraft could be operated to meet peak demand.

This process was continue over the coming decades as British European introduced the Airspeed Ambassador (Elizabethan), Viscount, Vanguard and ultimately the BAC One-Eleven jet. Initially the timetable grew, and routes were introduced to Croydon and then Northolt, to serve London, followed ultimately by Gatwick and Heathrow. Direct flights were made available to Birmingham, Southampton, Manchester, Guernsey, Alderney and France. The Paris route, however, was abandoned in 1950 because of lack of demand.

BEA ceased operations in 1974 when it was merged with the British Overseas Airways Corporation to form British Airways, which continued to operate from Jersey. There was further expansion of routes, but the airline was struggling to make them financially successful, and in August 1979 they announced that they were pulling out of all but the major routes, with the others taken up by a variety of independent airlines.

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