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British Overseas Airways Corp.

BOAC launched service to Honolulu on August 23, 1959.

In 1924, four small private air carriers were amalgamated to form British Overseas Airways Corporation’s predecessor company, Imperial Airways.  These were Handley Page Transport, Ltd; Instone Air Line, Ltd; Daimler Airways, Ltd; and the British Marine Air Navigation Co., Ltd. 

Included in their accomplishments were an experiment in airmail (1911) and the opening of the world’s first regular daily international passenger air service (1919). Imperial’s 1924 fleet included the first three-engine airliner, the 120 passenger biplane, “City of Washington.  In its first year of operation, the new airline carried 11,395 passengers and flew 853,042 miles. Services were inaugurated from the United Kingdom to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. 

In May, 1937, Imperial opened a flying boat service between Bermuda and New York in parallel with Pam American Airways.  Two months later, the “Caledonia,” an Imperial Airways flying boat, made the pioneer commercial survey flight across the Atlantic, east-to-west.  Most of BOAC’s present 145,000-mile, six continent network of air routes were established by Imperial.

BOAC emerged as the national overseas airline of great Britain in 1939, British Airways for domestic flights and services between London and European cities (forerunner of BOAC’s present sister corporation, British European Airways).  On April 1, 1940, the two were amalgamated.

During the war, BOAC flew more than 55 million miles throughout the world.  After the war, BOAC began expanding its routes and services.  The British European Airways Division of BOAC became a separate corporation and on August 1, 1946, took the United Kingdom/ continental services.  In 1947, BEA also absorbed the domestic services within the UK.

On August 23, 1959, BOAC started making twice-weekly flights with jet-prop Britannias from New York, San Francisco and Honolulu to Tokyo and Hong Kong.  Thus was inaugurated trans-Pacific service, linking up BOAC’s eastern flights to form the first round-the-world jet service. 

In 1960, the Britannia flights between San Francisco and London via New York and from San Francisco to Tokyo and Hong Kong were replaced by Boeing 707s.  This completed BOAC’s first pure jet round-the-world service.  A twice-weekly connecting service between U.S. points and the Philippines was inaugurated on November 2 with a Tokyo-Manila Comet 4 jet service, connecting in Japan with BOAC’s Boeing 707 “Jet Bridge” to the Orient. 

On March 26, 1962, Boeings were placed in service to Asia.  During fiscal year 1962-63, BOAC accommodated nearly a million passengers and flew 2.8 billion passenger miles. Today, BOAC flies tri-weekly jets across the Pacific.

Excerpted from the book Above the Pacific by William J. Horvat, 1966.


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