Tuesday 11 December 2012

It really began in the early thirties

Whatever part Central African Airways Corporation is destined to play in the future development of the Federation, it has already justified its motto

"We serve Africa with Wings".

Through is, remote areas of the Federation, which 30 years ago depended on meandering tracks for access to the outside world, are now linked with main towns and cities, and these in turn with neighbouring territories and capitals of the world.

The development of a country can be measured by its standards of communication, and the part played by C.A.A. in the development of air transportation has been of far greater significance than in many more established countries.

The history of aviation in the Rhodesias may be short, but it is glorious in its achievement.

IT REALLY began in the early thirties, when after a succession of small private companies had operated air services, Rhodesia and Nyasaland Airways Ltd. was formed.

With a capital of £25,000, provided jointly by Imperial Airways (Africa) Ltd. and the Beit Railway Trustees Ltd.. R.A.N.A. operated until the outbreak of war in 1939, and was then absorbed into the Rhodesian Air Force as a Communication Squadron.

At the cessation of hostilities the need for organised air transport between the three territories was recognised by the three governments, and the Central African Air Authority and Central African Airways were established.

The capital for the new airline was provided on the basis of 50 per cent by Southern Rhodesia, 35 per cent by Northern Rhodesia and 15 per cent by Nyasaland, and C.A.A. began operations in 1946 with the brief "to promote the fullest air services within, to and from, the Central African territories".

It was from this moment that the rapid and significant development of air transport began in what was to become the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

The Corporation's first step was to order Vickers Vikings for its regional services and de Havilland Doves for its domestic routes. By 1953, the fleet of 10 Vikings had done yeoman service in opening up the skies of Southern Africa to commercial aviation, and new routes had been inaugurated to link Johannesburg, Bulawayo, Salisbury. Livingstone, Lusaka, Ndola, Kasama. Abercorn, Elisabethville, Blantyre, Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi. Lourenco Marques, Durban, and a Colonial Coach service to London.

But by 1954 it became evident that the traffic demand which had been built up on all main routes could no longer be met by the Vikings.

Vickers Viscount turbo-prop aircraft were ordered, and were put into service in July, 1956. From that date the Vikings were gradually withdrawn from service, and a second-line fleet of DC-3 aircraft were introduced to serve domestic routes.

Meanwhile the Doves were replaced by de Havilland Beavers, enabling C.A.A. to open up routes in the remote areas of Barotseland and Nyasaland. where road and rail facilities were either non-existent or nearly so. And so the pattern of air service was extended to outlying administrative and trading posts.

The last Viking left Salisbury in January, 1959. and the strength of C.A.A.'s present fleet is four Vickers Viscounts, six Douglas DC-3s and five de Havilland Beavers.

R.A.N. A. Rapide with Mt. Merit in the background, 1935.
(Due to the poor quality of the photograph the mountain is not illustrated)

Homeward-bound schoolboys about to embark in a R.A.N. A. Rapide in the mid-1930's.

C.A.A. De Havilland Dove, R.M.A. HOEPOE at Chileka Airport, Blantyre, 1951.

Their Worships the Mayor and Mayoress of Bulawayo accepting a model of a C.A.A. Viscount from Mr. Max Stuart-Shaw, general manager of C.A.A., at the luncheon held to inaugurate the first Viscount service to operate between Salisbury and Bulawayo, in 1959.

This fleet operates a route pattern of closely integrated air services which can roughly be divided into three categories: social, domestic and regional services.

The social services, primarily operated by the Beavers, link undeveloped areas in Barotseland and Nyasaland. providing an invaluable service for doctors. Government officials, and the small number of settlers endeavouring to open up the territory.

An uneconomical service from the commercial point of view, it is nevertheless an essential communication link, and one with which C.A.A. is proud to be associated, contributing as it does to the development of the Federation.

The domestic services bring the cities and smaller towns into the overall pattern of air services, providing connections to regional and overseas destinations, and are widely used by business people, for family travel within the Federation, and by school children. C.A.A. probably operates relatively one of the world's largest "school lifts'. Approximately 1,000 young scholars are transported by C.A.A. between school and home at the beginning and end of each term.

Then there are the regional services, linking the Federation with the Union. Belgian Congo, East Africa and Portuguese East Africa. Not only do these enable people in the Federation to enjoy holidays at low altitude by the sea, but they bring tourists and outside revenue to the country, and assist shippers in moving their goods to external markets with a minimum of delay.

In addition to these services, there is the Zambezi Coach service to London, which continues to play an important part in the development of traffic between Salisbury and London.

Recently, C.A.A. entered a new ."Service" field—inclusive holidays, or packaged tours. Designed to offer a holiday at the lowest possible cost, all details regarding accommodation, transport, air travel, etc.. are arranged by the airline at special low air fares and hotel rates. Although so far these have been arranged for points outside the Federation, C.A.A., as the national airline. is vitally concerned in the overall development of the tourist trade, and is now making plans in association with South African Airways and the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Tourist Board, for packaged tours of the Federation. Comprehensive marketing campaigns are now being prepared to launch these tours of the Federation in the Union during the next few months.

With a total staff of 1.155. of which 748 are Europeans, and its fleet of four Viscounts, six DC-3s and five Beavers carrying approximately 162,000 passengers and 1,650 short tons of freight a year, C.A.A., in comparison with other carriers in the world, ranks as a "small to medium" sized airline. But there the comparison ends. For although its size may be small, its contribution to the Federal economy and its part in the development of the Federation is great.

As an "industry" alone, C.A.A. has a turnover which benefits internal trade in the Federation by approximately £2½ million a year.

But the fine record of achievements it has built up over the past years has not made C.A.A. content to sit back and rest on its laurels. The Corporation is already looking to the future and is now concentrating on building the regional and domestic traffic with the object of making the airline "the B.E.A. of Central Africa".

H.E. the Right Hon. Earl of Dalhousie, O.B.E.. M.C.: Governor-General of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, departing from Salisbury on C.A.A.'s Zambezi Viscount Service to London with Lady Dalhousie.

H.R.H. The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, arriving at Salisbury by C.A.A. Viscount in 1957.

(Below—first) C.A.A. Viking, R.M.A. LUANDA, at Salisbury Airport. 1958.

(Below—second) C.A.A. Beaver, R.M.A. ELAND.

(Below—third) C.A.A. DC-3, R.M.A. MATABELE. at new Salisbury Airport.

   C.A.A. Viscount. R.M.A. MALVERN.


Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris from a Supplement to the Rhodesian Recorder dated February 1960. Material made available by Dave Vermaak of Air Rhodesia

Thanks to Dave for sharing his memories with ORAFs.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at orafs11@gmail.com  and they will be loaded to this article.

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