Atlantic Airlines has recently bid farewell to its last airworthy
Lockheed L188 Electra – the final example flying in Europe.
The carrier acquired its flrst Electra in
November 1993 and went on to become
Europe’s largest operator of the type. The type was contracted to fly for TNT, DHL and Royal Mail, as well as undertaking ad hoc cargo charters. At the peak of the company’s activities with the Electra
(between 1998 and 2007) it was flying seven examples. However in later years, as spares became harder to find, the fleet was reduced until only two airframes remained in service at the start of 2013: G-LOFC and G-LOFE. The former was based at
Aviation News incorporating Classic Aircraft July 2013
Main photo: After departure, the ferry crew completed one circuit of the airfield and a low approach before departing to Keflavik.
Above left: Electra G-LOFC receives a traditional water cannon salute before leaving for the last time from Coventry.
Left: An aerial pollution control spraying kit being loaded onto G-LOFC. The Electra could carry 15 tonnes of dispersant and was contracted in this role for many years by the UK Marine Coastguard Agency.
Right: The spacious cockpit of the Electra was popular with aircrew. Note the cameras on top of the coaming installed by the Ice
Pilots NWT filmcrew to record the ferry fight to Canada. Charles Cunliffe
Leipzig in Germany undertaking daily flights to Katowice in Poland on behalf of DHL, while ’FE was at Bournemouth Airport,
Dorset flying nightly to Jersey delivering newspapers and mail.
A DEPENDABLE FREIGHTER
The Electra is able to carry a respectable cargo volume of 3,200 cuft (91m3
) consisting of eight ABY containers plus one
AEP pallet at the rear, with a total maximum weight of 33,069lb (15,000kg). As Atlantic
Airlines’ Electra operations began to wind down, the company sought a buyer for the remaining aircraft. One of the companies that showed interest was Canada’s
Buffalo Airways based at Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, which has come to wider public attention thanks to the TV series Ice Pilots NWT. It was largely reliant on an old, piston-engined fleet requiring
Avgas, and was seeking newer, faster, more fuel-efficient aircraft that would enable it to compete more successfully for new government contracts. It had already identified the Lockheed Electra as a costeffective solution and acquired its first L188s in July 2007 from the Austrian company
Amerer Air, re-registering them as C-FBAQ and C-GLBA. In 2010 it acquired two ex-
Reeve Aleutian aircraft that had been bought by Atlantic, now registered as C-FIJX and
C-FIJV. Buffalo currently uses them as both freighters and aerial fire-fighting aircraft.
With the retirement of ’FE and ’FC imminent,
Atlantic approached Buffalo again and the
Canadian company snapped up the two remaining Electras.
On a cold and snowy Saturday, on March
23, 2013, G-LOFE departed Coventry for the final time en route to Canada. This left ’FC as the sole airworthy example in Europe. It was built in 1959, c/n 1100, at Lockheed’s factory in Burbank, California, and was
Using the radio callsign ‘Neptune 188’,
G-LOFC starts its take-off run on
Coventry’s Runway 05. Peter Reoch delivered as N6213A to American Airlines
– the Electra’s launch customer. In 1967 it was sold to Air California and re-registered as N289AC before being put into storage from 1969 until 1977. During this period it was converted to a freighter and re-entered service as N775F with Fleming Airways, before joining Cam Air, then Spirit of America and subsequently being stored once more between 1988 and 1991. It took to the skies again flying for ALM Antillean Airlines Cargo until its sale to Atlantic Airlines in 1995.
During its years with Atlantic, ’FC was used as both a freighter and an aerial spraying platform, the latter in order to combat oil and other chemical spillages for the UK Marine Coastguard Agency. In recent years Atlantic’s Electras achieved availability rates of 99%, an impressive feat for an aircraft over half a century old.
However, to achieve this required a lot of maintenance – on average it took twice the number of man hours to service an Electra compared to Atlantic’s other main workhorse
– the BAe ATP.
On April 27 a small crowd of Atlantic employees and airport staff gathered to bid farewell to G-LOFC and watched as it was loaded with Electra spare parts, plus an aerial pollution spraying kit and an additional engine. Shortly after 10:40, the joint Atlantic-
Buffalo crew started the Electra’s engines and began taxiing for departure. On the taxiway some of the airport’s fire trucks were waiting to give a water cannon salute. Using the callsign ‘Neptune 188’ the aircraft took off from Runway 05 and performed a missed approach as a farewell, then turned north, heading to Keflavik in Iceland. After a nightstop there the crew continued to Iqaluit, an isolated airfi eld in the Nunavut region of
Canada, before completing the final leg to the company’s maintenance facility at Red Deer,
Alberta. All remaining airworthy L188s are now on the Canadian civilian register, with
Buffalo, Air Spray and Conair Aviation being the only current operators.
The departure of the final Electra from
Europe marks the end of a small but significant chapter in the type’s long and varied career. Over 50 years after its first flight, the type demonstrated its continued effectiveness and flexibility, and it looks as though some of Atlantic’s former stalwarts will continue earning revenue in at least one part of the world for several years to come.