By Keith Bradshaw and Nigel Moll. All photos by the author and Steve Jeal unless noted.
Of the airlines represented in the British Airliner Collection, Monarch so nearly made their fiftieth birthday but it was not to be. However Aurigny did crack the half-century and is now one of the oldest operating airlines in the British Isles. Not much is generally known about this Guernsey-based airline so here’s its birthday story.
Aurigny Air Services, was fifty years old this March. In 1968 the island of Alderney lost its air link to the other Channel Islands when British United withdrew from the route. Anxious to reconnect with the outside world, local resident Sir Derrick Bailey asked Glos-Air of Staverton to help set up a replacement air service. Glos -Air at the time had one of the very early Britten-Norman Islanders on its books, G-AVCN, so used this and a leased example to set up the fledgling airline. (G-AVCN is now under restoration by BNAPS on the Isle of Wight). Wanting to use the name Alderney in the title they were thwarted as the name was already registered, so after some head scratching the airline decided to use the old Norman-French name for the island, Aurigny.
Photo : Eduard Marmet
An early Aurigny Islander at Jersey in 1977.
On 1 March 1968 ‘VCN took off from Alderney to Guernsey for the first flight of Aurigny Air Services and also the first flight of a 49-year association with Britten-Norman aircraft. The new airline was an immediate success and operated throughout the Channel Islands and by the early 70s offered routes to England and northern France. During this first year of operations 45,000 passengers were carried around the Channel Islands.
Due to this success the fleet expanded to include three Islanders and in 1971 became the first airline to operate the new 18-seat Trislander with four in service. These larger aircraft allowed services to be offered to the south coast of the UK and into Northern France. The Trislanders stayed in service right up to 2017 when the last operational example, G-BEVT, was retired to the British Airliner Collection at Duxford.
Photo : NMOS332
The famous Trislander G-JOEY
One particular Trislander, G-JOEY, has a special place in the hearts of the Islanders as a local author wrote a number of children’s books featuring the aeroplane. JOEY has stayed on Guernsey and will be an exhibit at a newly constructed tourist attraction on the island from the summer of 2018, carrying its 1980 livery. The Trislanders were replaced after 46 years of service with four Dornier 228s.
Photo: David Kelly
A Dornier 228NG, the type used to replace the Trislanders after 46 years with Aurigny.
In 1977 Aurigny led the world and became the first airline to ban smoking on all its flights. Just as well when you see how small the cabins were! By the mid-eighties business was booming and Aurigny offered flights from Guernsey to Jersey, Alderney, Cherbourg, and Dinard as well as Jersey to Guernsey, Alderney and Cherbourg and Alderney to Guernsey, Jersey, Southampton and Cherbourg. By 1999 the fleet had expanded to include SAAB 340s and using these the airline expanded its route map offering flights from Guernsey to both Stansted and Amsterdam. By then the fleet included he Shorts 360, operated on passenger services and mail flights, with a number of examples operated until 2006.
Photo : Keith Bradshaw
An SAAB 340 waits for its next passenger load at Guernsey.
By 2003 the airline’s ownership had passed into the hands of the States of Guernsey and it also started flying Guernsey to Gatwick after British Airways withdrew from the route, using larger aircraft in the shape of two ATR-72s, joined by a third the following year. Following introduction of the ATRs, Aurigny started linking Jersey with Stansted and Guernsey to Grenoble in France and East Midlands in the UK using these new aircraft alongside the remaining Saabs.
Photo : Paul Spijkers
An engineer checks the engines on the Shorts 360 at Guernsey in 1995.
Following the withdrawal of the Saabs, the fleet comprised just Trislanders and ATRs, with the original ATR 72-200s being replaced by 500-series aircraft from 2009. They were subsequently joined by an ATR 42-500 in 2015 which was dedicated to the airline’s new London City route.
In the same year, flybe withdrew from the Guernsey- Gatwick route leaving Aurigny as the sole operator. To provide enough seats for this route, Aurigny obtained an Embraer EMB195, 122-seat jet. In 2016 routes from Guernsey expanded to include Norwich, Leeds and Barcelona on a seasonal basis.
Aurigny has its own maintenance organisation, ground handling teams, at four of its destinations, including Gatwick, and is currently looking to modernise the ATR fleet by replacing the current aircraft with new ATR 72-600s over the coming year, introducing the very latest technology available in the regional turboprop market.
Photo : Alec Wilson
The pride of the fleet the EMB 195 operates the Guernsey -Gatwick route.
After fifty years and now with a modern nine strong fleet of Dornier, ATR and Embraer aircraft this ‘local’ airline has come a long way since its first flight with that Islander in 1968.
Photo : RHL images
ATR-72s are the mainstay of the UK services.