The Story of CAA 1946 - 1961
"For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Sow the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be ;
Sow the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales."
Sow the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be ;
Sow the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales."
CENTRAL AFRICAN AIRWAYS was officially formed a year after the Second World War, and this brief history aims at telling the reader some of the facts concerning present operations and the early days of aviation in Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It also tells in short form of the pioneering elTorts (with aircraft which today qualify as museum pieces) which culminated in the establishment, by Parliamentary Act, of "a Civil Air Authority for the Central African Territories". In other words it is the story of CAA—the National Airline ofRhodesia and Nyasaland.
There can be no doubt that aircraft have played a primary part in opening up the territory which is now known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasa land, but before dealing with the actual evolution of civil aviation in those parts, let us give you an idea of the area now served by Central African Airways, with its present fleet of five Vickers Viscounts, six Douglas DC.3's and six De Havilland Beavers, which have their main base at Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.
|Central African Airways routes - 1961|
The Federation What might be described as the home territory of CAA is the large area coming within the geographic boundaries of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, a Federation which was born on September 4, 1953. The accompanying map shows the area in question, an area with an overall population (I960 figures) of 8.355.000. of which 8.000.000 are African. 314.000 are European and 41.000 arc members of other races.
Southern Rhodesia has the greatest number of Europeans (227.000). followed bv Northern Rhodesia (78,000) and Nyasaland with 9.200.
In addition to its home territory, CAA also serves the Republic of South Africa, liasl Africa, the Congo and Mocambique. At one time, the trip by road with ox-wagons from Johannesburg to Salisbury Look five and a half months, whereas today a CAA Viscount does the same journey in comfort in 2 hours 25 minutes.
Many people, of course, nurse a nostalgia for the "good old days", but you can't halt evolution, and with present-day Africa changing rapidly. CAA is a symbol of that evolution which has transformed, in a short space of years, the picture of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from a vast bush country to a thriving area of civilisation where a modern pattern of social and industrial life is taking over.
But let us start at the beginning.
The global history of civil aviation is one of very spectacular advance. The First World War saw the stumbling but heroic efforts of countries involved in that war to provide practical weapons in the form of aircraft.
The War was a tremendous stimulus to the aircraft industry, but even in 1918 when the War ended, the idea of the wholesale transporting of air passengers on regular schedules was little more than a dream.
|An Imperial Airways Armstrong Whitworth Atalanta G-ABTH at Mbeya. Tanganyika.|
This pioneering effort was followed, later in the "twenties, by the formation of the Rhodesian Aviation Syndicate, in Bulawayo, by a group of miners, ranchers and industrialists, and the Syndicate's first aircraft was a veteran wartime De Havilland 6B. To this was added a Cirrus Moth Mark II. which was bought and assembled in the Union of South Africa and flown from Durban to Bulawayo.
Meanwhile, Britain was seriously studying the possibility of operating services to the African Continent, a study which first began in 1919. The first successful flight from England to Central and South Africa began on 4th February. 1920. The pilots— Lt-Col. Pierre van Rynevcld. D.S.O.. M.C. and F/Lt. C. J. Quintin Brand, D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C. (both were later knighted)—landed at Abercorn, Livingstone and Bulawayo on their way to the Union.
As time progressed Imperial Airways, which was founded in 1924, came into the African picture and Alan Cobhani carried out a pioneer survey flight to South Africa in 1925 in a de Havilland 50J. In 1927 Sir Alan Cobham undertook a further
It was a stout effort, and pilots landed their aircraft on a piece of waste ground near the Bulawayo Cemetery. Soon after the formation of the Rhodesian Aviation Company, a Government subsidy of £750 a year was voted "to be earned by the instruction of seven pilots a year up to the level of an 'A* licence". Things were beginning lo move! The Rhodesian Aviation Company began a weekly Bulawayo/Salisbury service in 1931, operated only as required, and on the 27th July, 1933, they began operating a weekly passenger and freight service with a D.H. "Fox Moth" on the route Salisbury/ Gatooma / Que Que / Gwelo / Bulawayo / Johannesburg.
|Some of the staff of RANA in 1935(Left to right) Bill Stokes (Traffic). Percy Barry (Acct./Sect.). "Pop" Rawlins (Traffic Supt.). Daisy Ward (Typist/Hostess), W. S. Dobbie (Chief Engineer). |
C. I. Thompson (Manager).
In Nyasaland. Mr. C. J. Christowitz, a road transport contractor, from Worcester. South Africa, started Christowitz Air Services (Nyasaland) Limited, with two D.ll. "Puss Moths" and a D.H. "Gipsy Moth", and commenced a regular Blantyre - Beira service on the 5th August, 1931.
On the 3rd August, 1933, a scheduled weekly service was commenced between Blantyre and Salisbury when the D.H. Puss Moth "Nyasa I" piloted by Captain R. Bourlay carried two passengers. The pilot was virtually a "flying uncle" who, in addition to his more serious duties, benevolently undertook shopping commissions for Nyasaland residents.
It was soon seen that there was a need to coordinate flying activities in this part of Africa, and in 1933 Rhodesia and Nyasaland Airways, Limited, was formed to absorb local companies, with a capital of £25,000 provided jointly by Imperial Airways and the Beit Railway Trust.
With four D.H. Puss Moths and one D.H. Fox Moth, RANA's first main commercial air route joined Blantyre. Salisbury. Bulawayo. Victoria Falls. Lusaka, Broken Hill and Ndola.
In 1934, a Westland Wessex, fitted with three Armstrong Siddeley Genet engines, was chartered
|Rhodesian school-children boarding a RANA|
De Havilland Rapide in 1936. from Imperial Airways. This aircraft carried four passengers and hail at one time belonged to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales.
RANA took over the Salisbury-Blantyre weekly service previously operated by Christowitz Air Services, and on 5th May, 1934 began the weekly Bulawayo - Livingstone - Lusaka - Broken llill- Ndola services.
The next move might be said to mark the serious approach to increased passenger flying. This was the acquisition of a De Havilland Rapidc, in 1935, followed by the purchase of three Dc Havilland Leopard Moths, and air routes were extended from Salisbury to Beira and Beira to Blantyrc. In 1936, two De Havilland Dragonflys were purchased, and in 1938 a De Havilland Dragon.
|RANA Dc Havilland Rapide "R.M.A. City of Salisbury" —1937|
Pioneer Aircraft in the light of today's near supersonic air travel, let us take a quick look at these pioneer aircraft. The D.H. Puss Moth was a 3-seater cabin monoplane with a cruising speed of 100 m.p.h. (maximum speed 120 m.p.h,). It was powered by one 120 h.p. Gipsy III engine (or by a 130 h.p. Gipsy Major engine).
The D.H. Fox Moth was a biplane carrying four passengers in a cabin, and the pilot in a cockpit behind the cabin. It was powered by a 130 h.p. Gipsy Major engine and cruised at 90 m.p.h. (maximum speed 110 m.p.h.).
The D.H. Leopard Moth was virtually a redesigned Puss Moth, and was a 3-seater cabin monoplane with a cruising speed of 105 m.p.h. (maximum speed 120 m.p.h.). It was powered by a 130 h.p. Gipsy Major engine.
|Capt. Mike Pearce, Chief Pilot RANA (centre) at Beira 1935|
The De Havilland Dragon was a twin-engined biplane (two 130 h.p. Gipsy Major engines) capable of carrying six passengers and luggage or freight. Alternatively, up to 10 passengers could be carried on local flights. Cruising speed was 100 rn.p.h. and maximum speed 120 m.p.h.
The De Havilland Dragonfly was a twin-engined biplane (two 130 h.p. Gipsy Major engines), with a five-seat cabin and performance higher than that of a Dragon.
These, then, comprised the fleet of RANA, which on 23rd May, 1938, opened the twice weekly "bush" route Blantyre-Lilongwe-Fort Jameson with the Dragonflys.
The carriage of mail played an important part in RANA's operations and, with the introduction of the Empire Air Mail Scheme in 1937. three more Rapides were bought and they flew Central African mail to and from Beira in Portuguese East Africa, where it connected with the Imperial Airways "C" Class flying-boats, which had replaced the Alalantas on the African route. Services were also extended from Salisbury to Gatooma, Que Que, Gwelo, Bulawayo, Pietersburg and Johannesburg.
With the advent of the Second World War, RANA was taken over by the Government and, under the title of Southern Rhodesia Air Services, was operated as a civil carrier and also as a Communications Squadron of the Southern Rhodesian Air Force. Frequencies were intensified, additional aircraft purchased and a fairly extensive air service was operated throughout the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. also 10 Beira, Nairobi and Johannes- burg on a regular scheduled basis.
|CAA Viking a Belvedere|
|CAA Viking a Belvedere|
|CAA Viking a Belvedere|
CAA is Formed On October 1st, 1945, SRAS was demilitarised but continued to operate under the same title until 1st June. 1940, when the enabling Act constituting CAA was promulgated, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland subscribing to its capital and Air Vice-Marshall Sir Charles Meredith was appointed Chairman. The initial fleet comprised 13 D.H. 89's, 5 Avro Ansons, 1 D.H. Tiger Moth and 1 D.H. Leopard Moth.
During this intervening period, much forward planning in anticipation of the Constitution of CAA was completed, and orders for the purchase of 3 Vickers Vikings and 5 De Havilland Dove aircraft were placed. The first act of the new Corporation was to confirm the provisional order for these aircraft, and as a result the new licet began to arrive within six months of the Corporation being constituted.
|CAA De Havilland Dove "R.M.A. Hoepoe" at Chileka Airport. Blantyre—1951|
In the war years, it was possible to serve the "bush stations" with the same aircraft which were being used for the main line routes, i.e. Rapides and Ansons. With the purchase of the Vikings, this was no longer possible hence the Doves were intended to fill a dual role as a "bush" aircraft and to supplement the Viking fleet as required. It transpired that the aircraft was not entirely suitable in either role, and it became necessary in 1951 to purchase De Havilland Beavers to operate the "bush services". Additional Vikings were from time to time added to the licet, and the Doves were sold.
At a later stage DC.3 aircraft were purchased. As in many other parts of the world the DC.3 rapidly made itself indispensable, and when it was decided to purchase Vickers Viscounts it was retained as a second line aircraft in preference to the Vikings.
|Lord Pakenham opening, the new Livingstone Airport on 12th August, 1950|
Further Progress CAA progressed until, by 1953. the Corporation owned 10 Vikings, and air services linked Johannesburg, Bulawayo. Salisbury, Livingstone, Lusaka, Ndola, Kasama, Abercorn. Elisabethville, Blantyre. Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, Lourenco Marques and Durban.
Also, in 1953, CAA launched into the wider international sphere by inaugurating the Colonial Coach Service between Salisbury, Lusaka, Ndola and London, operated by Vikings.
No airline, however, can afford to sit still, and on 25th April, 1956, CAA look delivery of its first Vickers Viscount. VP-YNA "Malvern", which represented another leap forward in carrying capacity. The Viscount is powered with four Rolls-Royce Dart jet-prop engines, and at that time cost CAA over £300.000 each.
It is fitted to carry 52 passengers and has a cruising speed of 300 m.p.h. at 18,000 feet and a range, with full tanks, of 1,100 miles. Each aircraft is fitted with storm warning radar, and CAA was probably the lirsi airline on this side of the Atlantic to have Viscount aircraft so equipped.
On 1st July, 1956. a new Salisbury Airport was opened, and. as a result, CAA's main base was moved from the historic Belvedere Airport to a site of about 48 acres at the new airport, inclusive of buildings and taxi tracks. Improvisation was the order of the day at Belvedere. where staff were obliged to cope with unsatisfactory working conditions and the lack of proper facilities—the engine repair and propeller shops were half a mile away from the maintenance section. However, the new base at Kentucky was planned with every care. A hanger having the distinction of being the largest single span building in Africa was erected as a docking area for all CAA aircraft. This hangar was previously used for the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition at Bulawayo, where it was known as the Theatre Royal.
|Col Sir Ellis Robins, now Cot. The lord Robins of Rhodesia and Chelsea K.B.E.. D.S.O., E.D. (Chairman of CAA. I949/I957), signs contract for the|
purchase of 5 Vickers Viscounts— 4 August. 1954.
Adjoining this large hangar are the stores, housed in a modern building with a floor area of some 200 ft. by 225 ft., designed and situated so that stores can be fed easily to the maintenance hangar and the workshops. These workshops are contained under one roof with a floor area somewhat larger. In this vast workshop can be found all the various engineering activities that ensure the highest degree of servicing and construction of component parts for CAA aircraft including a complete engine overhaul base.
The administrative offices were previously situated in small buildings originally designed for the R.A.F., and spread over a large area to suit wartime disposal ideas. This, of course, prevented close minute to minute contact between all the divisions and branches, but today they are all housed in three adjoining modern buildings.
The opening of the new Salisbury Airport exposed CAA to severe competition from the large international airlines operating Trunk Services between the Federation and Europe who had previously been precluded from using Salisbury due to (he limitations of Belvedere Airport. It also permitted South African Airways to introduce its regional services between Johannesburg and Salisbury. As a result, a large volume of traffic between Johannesburg. Salisbury and Nairobi, wholly carried by CAA in the past, had to be shared with other carriers, and this had a serious effect on the Corporation's economy for some time.
|CAA Viscount undergoing inspection at the Corporation's Maintenance Base at Salisbury Airport.|
Today's Fleet Today the CAA licet consists of live Vickers Viscounts, six DC.3s and six Dc Havilland Beavers, the former two aircraft types making a daily link between Salisbury. Bulawayo, Lusaka, Livingstone, Ndola and Blantyre, while Viscount flights also connect Salisbury with Johannesburg, Lourenco Marques, Durban, Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam.
CAA's "bush services" have for many years played an important part in the daily life of the remoter parts of the Federation. Today these services arc flown with Beavers, which are single-engine aircraft powered by a 450 h.p. Pratt & Whitney engine; capable of carrying live passengers plus mail and freight with a range of less than 500 miles and a speed of 120 m.p.h. They are responsible for air communication on two networks, one of which covers the Barotseland Territory of Northern Rhodesia, with 10 stations over 800 miles. The other embraces the west coast of Lake Nyasa, linking 11 stations over a 775-mile network from Blantyre to Mbeya in Tanganyika.
|CAA Viscount "R.M.A. Mlanje" at Salisbury Airport|
|De Havilland Beaver "R.M.A. Eland" at a typical Bush Station in Nyasaland|
Hacked from Bush
It would be an overstatement to call the airstrips on these Beaver routes airports. They are literally strips hacked from the hush, with the "Airport Building" often no more than a single thatched hut. In many cases, the duties of "Station Officer" are carried out by the wives of local officials, and their lives arc made more interesting by meeting the Beaver crews and passengers, who arrive with news from the outside, with mail and perishables and often all the shopping for the week!
The Beaver, and its predecessors, have and continue to provide a very definite social function as well as bringing an end to isolation for such lonely places as Balovale on the Zambezi River, which is 450 miles from the nearest railhead in the Federation. It has meant cutting travel to a matter of hours and sometimes, in the long rainy season it is the only means of travel.
In a sentence, CAA has opened up huge stretches of African Territory, and is busy keeping isolated points as well as main centres within easy touch of one another by regular flights.
To maintain a service of this nature means constant planning, expansion and anticipation, and the day-to-day study of improved standards of training for pilots. Flight and ground engineers and staff generally, while ensuring the greater availability of the aircraft for commercial usage. It is gratifying to record that, while there have been very occasional mishaps, there have been no fatal accidents in the whole history of the "bush services", which have been operated continuously for close on 20 years.
The "Airmail Loaf"
An increasing function of importance with CAA is the transportation of freight, and it will be appreciated that, in a territory like the Federation, this service has a greater impact on the lives of people than a similar service in, say, Europe, where the lines of communication do not offer the same problems.
The importance of this service in the daily lives of scattered communities can be gathered from the types of freight which are commonplace on the CAA routes. Fresh fish is flown south from Lake Nyasa to Salisbury for sale in the shops, and fresh meat and even loaves of bread are flown to the remote parts of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia.
|Central Reservations Control at the Airways Terminal, Salisbury|
Every season half a million day-old chicks form part of the freight loads, which also include fresh fruit and vegetables as well as leopards, cheetahs, snakes, car spares, industrial and electrical equipment and drugs.
In 1960, CAA introduced a new Freight Advisory Bureau to assist business executives in analysing the problems arising from the transport of goods and from insurance costs to the packaging of the product. This service has been welcomed by business people as another valuable service provided by the airline.
And, most important of all, CAA has kept and enhanced its reputation as the friendly airline that keeps people in isolated parts of the bush in touch with friends and relatives in other parts. This is done through an air-letter service which, for a small surcharge, allows mail to be handed in at the last possible moment without going through the normal processes of postal collection
|Federal manufacturers and shippers find it pays to airfreight their products|
Like any other airline, every day sees new problems to confront and new ideas to be studied in the overall picture of closing the large land gaps between the communities in the Federation.
One important service was introduced in January, 1960, to eliminate a tortuous overland trek of nearly 400 miles. This was the inauguration of low-fare "Skybus" services. This is a weekly DC.3 service, which takes 40 passengers between Salisbury and Blantyre, the commercial capital of Nyasaland.
To give this figure some meaning, imagine an area larger than the British Isles, France. Germany and Holland combined—or larger than the States of New York, Texas and California rolled into one.
A recent innovation for the training of CAA's pilots is the installation of a flight simulator at Salisbury Airport for Viscount conversion and testing. The new simulator saves CAA thousands of pounds, which normally would be expended on operating a Viscount for special training flights.
Big Challenge It is a big project . . . and a big challenge.
|Passengers boarding a CAA Skybus|
There can be no silting back when operating a national airline. One of the latest schemes to be launched by CAA ... a scheme unique on the African Continent . . . was the introduction of "Flame Lily" Packaged Tours in the Union of South Africa. There are more than l00) of them covering the Federation and Mocambique, and they arc likely to have an important bearing on the future tourist habits of people in Southern Africa.
CAA pioneered Package Tours on the African Continent some years ago, and further plans are now being made to extend this scheme to East Africa and Mocambique.
In the same year CAA launched the Skycar Plan, a plan which caters for an important scction of CAA's passenger traffic . . . the businessman. It can also be utilised by holiday makers and ensures that passengers flying on the three regional airlines of South, Central and Fast Africa can book cars to await them at the airport when reserving their air passages.
Thus, again, communications are being speeded up and improved facilities offered.
As CAA grows, so will further services be added and greater facilities be offered in line with CAA's motto:
"Conservimus Africae Alis"
which means ... "We serve Africa with Wings"
|An aerial view of Salisbury Base|
1- Central African Airways Headquarters.
2 - CAA Display and Distribution section.
3 - CAA main maintenance hangar.
4 - CAA base workshops.
5 - Salisbury airport terminal buildings.
|It is interesting to note that the CAA egret symbol, which was designed by Cppt. Ross Ktrkman—one of RANA's first captains—is still in use today with only minor alterations to the original design.|
|Account staff ot work in the computing and tabulating room|
|CAA's latest aid in training—the flight simulator|
|CAA's new bookings and enquiry office—Salisbury|
|The Operations Planning room where aircraft movements are planned to meet maintenance requirements.|
|The new air-start unit purchased by the Corporation for servicing Boeing 707 and DC-8 aircraft.|
SOME AVIATION MILESTONES
1920 4 February - 20 March
First successful night from England to Central and South Africa. By It.-Col Pierre van Ryneveld. D.S.O., M.C. and Flt.-Lt. C. J. Quintln Brand. D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C.
1925 16 November
Alan Cobham begins commercial route survey flight from London to Cape Town and back In the D.H. 501 G-EBFO.
1929 November 11
Air Ministry. Imperial Airways and Cobham Blackburn Airlines begin operational and technical survey of Cairo Cape Town air route. Completed 11 April, 1930.
Rhodesian Aviation Co. Ltd. is formed and begins weekly Bulawayo-Salisbury service.
1931 5 August
Chriscowitz Air Services (Nyasaland) Ltd. begin regular Blantyre-Beira service.
1932 20 January
Start of first London-Cape Town regular service of Imperial Airways.
1932 27 April
Imperial Airways' England-Central Africa- South Africa route open in both directions for passenger traffic.
1933 27 July
Rhodesian Aviation Co. begin weekly passenger and goods service Salisbury - Gatooma - Que Que - Gwelo - Bulawayo - Johannesburg.
1933 3 August
Christowitz Air Services begin Salisbury. Blantyre service.
1934 I February
RANA take over the weekly Blantyre- Salisbury service previously operated by Christowitz Air Services.
RANA start Salisbury-Beira and Blantyre- Beira services.
1937 2 June
Imperil Airways first through flying-boat service to South Africa leaves Southampton.
1937 29 June
Empire Air Mail Programme inaugurated by Imperial Airways' C class flying-boat G-ADVE RMA Centurion.
1938 10 August
RANA begin weekly Lusaka - Fort Jameson service.
1940 I February
Southern Rhodesia Government acquire the assets of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Airways and found Southern Rhodesian Air Services as a Communication Squadron of the Southern Rhodesian Air Force.
1941 1 June
Southern Rhodesian Air Services begin weekly Johannesburg - Bulawayo - Salisbury - Lusaka - Ndola - Kasama - Mbeya - Dodoma - Nairobi - Kisumu service.
1946 1 June
Central African Airways Corporation (hereinafter referred to as CAAJ constituted by the Governments of Southern Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland as successor to Southern Rhodesian Air Services.
1946 19 November
CAA introduce first Viking scheduled services in Africa.
1946 9 December
CAA introduce first D.H. Doves on scheduled services in Southern Africa.
1948 4 May
B.O.A.C. begin Southampton-Johannesburg (Vaaldam) service with Short Solent flying-boats. The route is via Augusta - Cairo - Luxor - Khartoum - Port Bell and Victoria Falls.
Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris for use on Our Rhodesian Heritage site that Orafs administers.
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