View RSS Feed

In a Moon's Course ....

British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, Canton Island to Honolulu, 1946

Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.
From departure to landing these days the position of a modern commercial aircraft is known accurately and tracked on each journey; technology, automation and certainty have replaced manual calculation, radio-navigation and estimation. At the other end of the spectrum not that long ago, trans-Pacific flights had to cover oceanic distances of 6000-7000 nm with travel stops at small islands en route for refueling.

Click image for larger version. 

Name:	BCPA 1 FS9 Kanton Island (Medium).JPG 
Views:	1533 
Size:	101.0 KB 
ID:	164004
BCPA DC-4 at Canton Island

British Commonwealth Pacific Airways (BCPA) flew such routes. The airline came into existence in the post-World War II era and existed for less than a decade – branded with the 'British' stamp to compete with the ‘American’ Pan-Am identity on the North America-to-Australia/New Zealand routes.

BCPA started in 1946 with DC-4s and two years later moved to a fleet of four pressurized DC-6 'sleeper class' aircraft (where advertising photographs show a woman in nightdress having champagne breakfast in her berth and men in the aisles wearing silk dressing gowns). They stayed with this aircraft type through to their commercial demise in 1954. Qantas then took over the route.

These flights were dependent on celestial navigation and/or radio-navigation fixes. LORAN systems were in place across the Pacific with centres in the French Frigate Shoals and the Marshall Islands. There is an interesting map of the LORAN coverage of the Pacific in this period here. BCPA flight crews, conscious of weight and fuel limitations, route times and weather changes had also to deal with low altitude turbulence issues in the original unpressurized DC-4 aircraft. They needed to choose courses (or course corrections based on weather updates) to minimize the effects on passengers.

At the www.airwaysmuseum.com web page for BCPA there is a timetable for the airline from 1946, when the journey from Vancouver through San Francisco, Honolulu, Canton Island and Fiji to either Sydney or Auckland took about 4 days. It was an era when the only barrier between the flight deck and the main cabin was a curtain rather than a security door, when a passenger could ask to see the flight deck and hold a conversation with the flight crew. It is an experience no longer possible, unfortunately. I have memories (from later flights than these!) of young boys and girls returning from such flight deck visits either unable to stop talking about how wonderful it was or struck dumb with awe, often carrying the die-cast metal model of the aircraft given to them as part of their in-flight experience.

1946 was also the year when Trans-Pacific Airlines commenced operations with their first ‘war surplus’ C-47 aircraft flying out of John Rodgers Airport, as HIA was then known. They later became Aloha Airlines operating a range of aircraft (including one of my favorites, the Vickers Viscount) over the decades before they ceased passenger operations in 2008.

Aloha to them all.

Allan Jones
[email protected]
http://moonscourse.blogspot.ca
Allan Jones is the author of In a Moon’s Course, an ebook of World War II flight stories/plans of the Air Transport Auxiliary, available at Amazon, Kobo, W.H. Smith and other ebook online suppliers.

The Flight
PCIS to HIA

Kanton Island (known as Canton in 1946) is part of the island republic of Kiribati. Its airport (PCIS) during and after WWII was an important refueling stop on the Pacific routes. The island had previously been a flying boat port of call. Now its airfield is closed but is still available as an emergency landing strip. It is present in both FS9 and FSX.

The DC-4 package by Jens B. Kristensen (DC4_V30.zip) and the BCPA livery repaint by Wayne Tudor (bcpa_dc4.zip) in the Flightsim library provided my aircraft of choice. The Kristensen model is also available for FSX (DC4_V30X.zip). The course was 19 degrees to Hawaii, climbing eventually to 9,500 ft. for most of the journey of about 8 hours. The flight arrives at John Rodgers Airport.

Although there are 'bubble sextant' add-ons for the truly enthusiastic 'veteran aircraft' flight simmer in the Flightsim library, I simply checked the GPS at about 30 minute intervals to provide deviations from planned course. Then I applied appropriate course corrections. Apart from water and clouds, there is nothing to see from departure until the welcome site of Hawaii – but that is trans-pacific aviation.


Click image for larger version. 

Name:	BCPA 9 FS9 Arriving John Rogers Field (Medium).JPG 
Views:	499 
Size:	94.3 KB 
ID:	164005
BCPA DC-4 arriving at Hawaii

Submit "British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, Canton Island to Honolulu, 1946" to Digg Submit "British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, Canton Island to Honolulu, 1946" to del.icio.us Submit "British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, Canton Island to Honolulu, 1946" to StumbleUpon Submit "British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, Canton Island to Honolulu, 1946" to Google Submit "British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, Canton Island to Honolulu, 1946" to Facebook Submit "British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, Canton Island to Honolulu, 1946" to Twitter

Comments

  1. bols59's Avatar
    The image of the aircraft on the runway waiting to take off is brilliant!
  2. allanj12's Avatar
    Thank you - all due to the people mentioned above who made the aircraft and repaint.
  3. allanj12's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by bols59
    The image of the aircraft on the runway waiting to take off is brilliant!
    Thank you - all due to the people mentioned above who made the aircraft and repaint.