Monday, 5 January 2009

Heathrow boy

We lived just over eight miles from Heathrow Airport; my father worked very close to it in the offices of West's Piling on Bath Road. A real treat for me was a visit to the airport. A place of real glamour - international air travel; the Britannic, Europa and Oceanic terminals (to prosaically become Terminals 1, 2 and 3), and the ongoing sense of change (during the 1960s the airport was systematically being extended and developed). To the point that by 1968, Heathrow had more passengers flying through it (14m) than Warsaw's Okęcie did 40 years later (11m in 2008). The best place of all at Heathrow for me was the Queen's Building - below the control tower, on the viewing gallery. Here, the roar of the engines, the smell of kerosene, the romance of flight was at its most tangible. Above: British European Airways' airliners - Vickers Vanguard (centre and left) and a Vickers Viscount (right). Nearest the camera G-APEO. Photo by my father, Bohdan Dembinski, summer, 1962. I'd have been four at the time.

It was at Heathrow one day in 1965 that we came to meet my uncle (mother's sister's husband) who'd come over from Canada. He had worked on the Avro Arrow project and brought me as a gift a large, white, plastic kit of the Arrow supersonic interceptor (1/50th scale?) along with some small white lapel pins of the aircraft. While we were waiting to meet him (Oceanic terminal!) we looked into a toy shop where there was a large, tinplate model of a Vickers Viscount in Lufthansa markings, which had operating features such as passenger stairs and retracting undercarriage. Cost a fortune (five or six quid!), so it was not to become mine.

Right: A period artifact, still in my possession. The New Esso Guide to Heathrow Airport London, 1968 edition (I recall also having the earlier 1965 edition). On one side of this map, photos of every passenger aircraft type flying into Heathrow (b&w), and colour illustrations showing the livery of every airline flying scheduled flights into Heathrow. The other side, there's a map of the airport, a map showing its location, and an article about the tanker trucks that refuel the airliners - Pythons and Super Pythons. More details on request.

Above: That's me at the controls of a Heli-Jet Mk VII at Queen's Building.


Michael Merrifield said...

I thought I had the only extant photograph of the infamous Heli-Jet Mark VII!

Jane Ross said...

Michael,I was interested to read your post about Heathrow in the 1960s, to see the photos of the crash of 1963 as well as a nice shot of a BEA Vanguard from the Queens Building. I am doing some research at the moment and wondered if you or your father had any recollection of the Vanguard crash of October 1965 (my father was one of the victims). Any observation or memory would be much appreciated! Many thanks Jane (PS. Also enjoyed your more recent observations on Aberdeen, so apt!)

The Aviation Anorak said...

Great Photo and read. I have posted the Vanguard photo on my Facebook group if that is ok? (if not I will remove it) with a link back to this blog.