Jersey Airways back to business after the war

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From Flight Magazine, 4 April 1946

The general gloom which seems to pervade much of the civil aviation world does not seem, so far, to have penetrated to the Channel Islands. It is well known that cheerfulness and efficiency usually go hand in hand, and there is no doubt that it is this combination which makes Channel Islands Airways one of the most effective internal airline companies in the United Kingdom.

Six rapides

It is no mean feat to operate six commercial aircraft under present conditions, at such a frequency that each one averages well nigh five hours flying per day seven days a week throughout the year. This is, however, the sort of record which is being put up regularly by the Channel Islands Airways with the six de Havilland Dragon Rapides which they have at their disposal.

Some indication of the company's enthusiasm is shown by the fact that, although it was only on 9 May 1945 that the Channel Islands were freed from German occupation, on 26 May Airways Rapide landed at Jersey.

From that day onwards a number of flights were made, and, by 21 June, a regular daily service was in operation between Jersey and Guernsey and Croydon. Jersey Airways was the first of the Channel Islands companies to be registered, and it began a daily service between Portsmouth and Jersey on 18 December 1933, using the beach at St Aubin's Bay as a landing ground. Although tides have a habit of coming and going this did not deter the Jersey Airways services which consistently operated from the beach to a timetable governed by the tides, and continued without a single case of damage to an aircraft caused by such a precarious landing ground.

In 1937 Jersey Airport was opened. Guernsey Airways Ltd, the second company, was formed at the end of 1934. One of its earlier services was between Guernsey and Jersey, and this came into being in the summer of 1935, using a three-engined Saunders-Roe Windhover amphibian. The service was later extended to an inter-island service, linking Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney.

In 1934 Jersey Airways operated a fleet of eight Dragons between Jersey and Heston, Portsmouth and Southampton, and a Jersey-Paris service was also operated for a short time. In 1935 a fleet of six de Havilland 86 four-engined aircraft was introduced.

New routes

From time to time fresh ground was covered; a service to Plymouth was begun, to Exeter in May 1937, and at the same time a new service between Jersey and Shoreham was put into operation. In 1938 a pooled service with Air France between Jersey and Dinard was started, with connections so arranged that one could fly from Manchester to Dinard between nine in the morning and two in the afternoon.

In 1939 yet another advance was made when the decision was taken to operate DH Flamingos, but only one such aircraft was obtained before the outbreak of war. After September 1939 services continued to operate between Jersey, Guernsey and Shoreham, and the companies' aircraft and personnel were brought into the "National Air Communications" scheme for supplying the forces in France.

With the fall of France, and with the enemy only a few miles away on the mainland, the entire organization was transferred to England, and for those last few days in June 1940, did magnificent work evacuating a large number of refugees and islanders before the German occupation.

Thereafter it was clear that the airways facilities were going to be of more use to the Services, and so the Admiralty was persuaded to take over all the machines and personnel for the benefit of the Fleet Air Arm, many senior members of the companies, including the managing director, G O Waters, being commissioned in the RNVR.

Busy schedule

Now, with a total of six machines, Channel Islands Airways combines the services previously controlled by the two separate companies and operates a phenomenal number of schedules. These schedules are so arranged that, normally, one aircraft is being serviced while the other five operate. Three return trips from Jersey to Southampton, three from Croydon to Jersey, three between Guernsey and Southampton and one from Guernsey to Croydon are operated every day.

In addition there are four daily inter-island services between Jersey and Guernsey, plus an extra two every Tuesday and Friday to Alderney. Incidentally, these inter-island services are operating at their pre-war fares.

Operation figures

In a typical week's operations, 218 trips were scheduled, of which only 13 were cancelled, giving a mileage flown of 26,324 and a total number of flying hours for the week of over 228. With such figures it is easy to understand that since 21 June 1945, when the Croydon to Jersey service reopened, and 10 September last year when the Southampton service recommenced, nearly 22,000 passengers have been carried in addition to over half a million tons of freight and well over 180,000lb of mail.

Incidentally, the freight to the island has included more than 20,000 day-old chicks, together with such an odd assortment as radio sets and tins of floor polish. On the outward trip, large quantities of flowers are flown to the mainland.

Special flights

Apart from these routine flights the company frequently has to undertake special flights and somehow fit them in with the regular routes. A sudden call to fly the Lieut-Governor and Bailiff of both Jersey and Guernsey, together with six or seven of their staff, from each Island to London for Government consultations, is by no means out of the way, but in spite of the inroads made by such demands, the company seems to take such things in passengers to London, six to Southampton, or seven on the inter-island services.

Airfield problems

Many difficulties faced the company when it recommenced operations. The occupation of the Channel Islands airfields and airport buildings throughout the war by the Germans did not improve them and, in fact, considerable effort has been put into rehabilitating both airfields and buildings. In the case of Jersey and Guernsey the Germans had extended the airfield, and at Jersey they also installed a limited amount of airfield drainage in one corner of the airfield, although this airfield has an almost perfect grass surface, and the natural drainage leaves nothing to be desired.

Drainage at Guernsey, however, appears to have deteriorated during the occupation and it is a big problem to keep the airfield serviceable, schedules having sometimes to be cancelled in bad weather when the airfield surface becomes unusable.

The Alderney airfield fell into disuse throughout the war and much reconstruction has been necessary to make it operational. Radio and meteorological facilities at both Jersey and Guernsey are State-owned, and there are normal ground to air and point-to-point facilities. Jersey is responsible for Area Control up to a latitude of 50 deg north.

Maintenance is undertaken at Jersey with a staff of 90 per cent Jerseymen and is under the control of the Chief Engineer, Arthur Rowe, another pre-war member of the company who has returned from the RNVR. He also runs an apprentice scheme, taking boys at the age of 16 and training them to the standard necessary for them to obtain ground engineers' licences at the age of 21.

Ex-service pilots

All the Channel Islands Airways pilots have been in the Services during the war, most of them with either the Naval Air Arm, or the RAF, and most of them have had long service with the company. The Flight Superintendant, W B Caldwell, was the first pilot to join the company, and J M Keene-Miller, who is Staff Pilot, has been with the company since 1934.

The company has ten crews and, at first sight, this may seem to be something of an over-insurance when only five aircraft are in daily operation, but there is little doubt that this is part of the plan for a bigger future with bigger aircraft. With the Bristol Wayfarers which are on order, Channel Islands Airways is no doubt planning even greater things.

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