Saturday, July 28, 2007

If Cars Could Fly

Today with the operation of the channel tunnel taking the vast majority of cars between the UK and the Continent most people have probably forgotten that long ago they used to be flown across the channel. Silver City Airways from their base at Lydd, which was evocatively known as Ferryfield, in Kent flew Bristol Freighters on which they carried cars to and fro. They began this thirty minute cross-channel hop in 1948 and by 1964 they had carried their one millionenth car, which is an awful lot of cars. The cars were loaded through the nose and on at least one occasion the car was so big that the man who drove it onto the aircraft had to stay put because the car door could not be opened once it had been loaded. These aircraft were affectionately known as a Bristol Frightener!

In 1959 a £10,000 prize was offered for the fastest trip between London and Paris to commemorate Bleriot’s first cross-channel flight. The winner went by helicopter and jet fighter but the fastest trip on a scheduled airliner was by Stirling Moss using a Silver City Bristol Freighter to get his Jaguar across the channel. Back then it £25 for the car and £4 for each passenger. Interestingly that equates to around £400 for the car and £64 for the passenger in today’s money.

The flying cross channel car ferry service ended in 1970 when British United Air Ferries, the company that had taken over Silver City, made the last flight.

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