MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the first of three prototypes of the Airspeed Ambassador took to the skies for the first time in 1947.
The prototype utilized in the test program, G-AGUA was piloted by Chief Test Pilot George B.S. Errington.
The piston-engined airliner was created by the Brabazon Committee who identified the need for a replacement for the Douglas DC-3. Seating 47 passengers, the type was one of the first British airliners to have a pressurized cabin.
British European Airways (BEA) ordered 20 in September 1948 at a cost of £3 million. The type was placed into service on March 13, 1952, between London Heathrow (LHR) and Paris Le Bourget. BEA christened the aircraft the ‘Elizabethan Class’ in honor of the newly crowned Queen.
The Elizabethan became an overnight success for the airline. It would go on to become BEA’s most utilized aircraft for a time, flying more than 2,230 hours per annum.
BEA went on to replace the Ambassador from 1957 with the Vickers Viscount. The last ‘Elizabethan Class’ flight was operated on July 30, 1958. Many of the airframes were subsequently taken up by Dan-Air and utilized on its developing ‘package holiday’ routes.
The Munich Air Disaster
Tragically, the Ambassador is also remembered as being the aircraft involved in the Munich Air Disaster on February 6, 1958. BEA Flight 609, operated by G-AZLU, was performing its third take-off attempt from Munich Airport in poor weather conditions. Failing to get airborne, the aircraft crashed through a fence and smashed into a house.
Aboard was the Manchester United Football team. Of the 44 souls on board, 23 perished and 19 others were seriously injured.
Featured image: The Airspeed Ambassador proved a huge success in service with British European Airways. Photo: BAE Systems. Article source: BAE Systems.