BCal's A310 Fleet
Where are they now?
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The Libyan Connection - 17th April 1984
Yvonne Fletcher, who had joined the Metropolitan Police Service in 1977, was part of a detachment of 30 officers sent to St. James's Square to monitor a demonstration by Libyan dissidents opposed to the rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The demonstration had been organised by the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF) following the execution of two students who had criticised Gaddafi. Since February 1984 the Libyan embassy had been staffed by "revolutionary committees" made up of students loyal to Gaddafi who had assumed control of the diplomatic mission with the tacit approval of the Libyan government. They were not professional diplomats. Gaddafi loyalists at the embassy warned police that they also intended to mount a counter-demonstration.
On the day, about 75 protesters arrived. The demonstration began peacefully as police successfully kept the two sides apart with crowd control barriers. Both groups shouted at each other and waved banners and placards. Loud music was played from the People's Bureau in an apparent attempt to drown out the noise of the protesters.
Without warning, automatic gunfire was fired into the anti-Gaddafi protesters at 10:18 am. Eleven people were hit, including the unarmed WPC Fletcher. She was taken to Westminster Hospital where she died from her injuries approximately one hour later.
Following the shooting, the embassy was surrounded by armed British police for 11 days, in one of the longest police sieges in London's history. Meanwhile, Gaddafi claimed that the embassy was under attack from British forces, and Libyan soldiers surrounded the United Kingdom's embassy in Tripoli in response.
Following the shooting of WPC Fletcher, BCal temporarily suspended their services to Tripoli. Just as BCal resumed flights, their Station Manager in Tripoli, Douglas Ledingham, was arrested on 19th April and held without charge in Libya.
The British government eventually resolved the London siege by allowing the Libyan staff to leave the embassy before expelling them from the country. The UK then ended all diplomatic relations with Libya, UK diplomats were expelled from Libya. Though a few British embassy staff remained in Libya working from the Italian Embassy.
The family members of the British Embassy staff in Tripoli flew back into Gatwick on board a BCal flight on 26th April, after a five hour delay waiting for approval to board the flight in Libya. Two days later, and after a similar delay in boarding, the Embassy staff and diplomatic officials arrived safely back at Gatwick on-board a British Caledonian 707 flight. This was one of the last 707 services, as the A310 was scheduled to take over the Tripoli services on 2nd June 1984.
It would take months of pressure from BCal and diplomatic negotiation, through the Italian Embassy, before he and a fellow hostage (George Bush) were finally released after nearly five months, on 31st August.
The first A310 passenger service to Geneva, accompanied on board by Adam Thomson, took place on 30th April 1984. Libreville became the latest point to be served on the African network; an A310 inaugurated the service on 22nd July 1984 and this was BCalís 12th African destination on their network.
The last two 707ís, G-AXRS and G-AYEX had left the BCal fleet, one in May and one in August 1984 as the A310s had taken over the last of their routes.
The end of the A310
An announcement made in June 1985 heralded the end of the A310s in BCal service. The third, yet to be delivered, aircraft (G-BKWV) was cancelled and the two in service were to be sold. The options on three more aircraft had already been cancelled by this time.
Changes in BCalís route network meant that the A310 was no longer viable on its routes; too big for short-haul and too small for the long-haul routes. There were no penalties for cancelling the third aircraft, demand was strong and Airbus moved up a delivery to Turkish airline, Thy.
The return of the Libyan Connection
The two aircraft were soon sold, but they became a major headache in July 1986. BCal Aircraft Trading had sold them to a Hong Kong aircraft broker, who then sold them back to a UK aircraft broker who themselves sold them on again via a German broker.
The upshot was they were now somehow heading to Libya which was by now a US embargoed country following Libya's bombing of a Berlin nightclub which killed a US Serviceman. Thus by April 1986 the sale of US technology to Libya was prohibited. The BCal A310s had American made General Electric engines (CF6-80s) and BCal ended up taking High Court legal action in the UK to block the sale plus legal action in a number of other countries to try and stop the deal. They had been believed to be going to a European charter airline.
BCal had resumed flights to Tripoli with DC10s after the US air strikes but the service had again been suspended in the summer of 1986 over diplomatic complications arising from the Airbus sale. The Tripoli service would never resume.
By August 1986, one of the A310s had arrived in Libya, via Jordan, despite all attempts to stop it. The other A310 was, however, stopped in Dubai, and impounded; but that too ended up in Libya after signatures were allegedly forged down the line, between brokers.
The business dealings over a spares pack that had been sold was even more complicated, the brokers had split the consignment with parts allegedly routed via France, Greece and Dubai with a Swiss firm now involved with the Hong Kong broker and the German broker.
BCal had been involved in a matter that drew the following statement from the UK Government who said it was "satisfied that at the time of sale the airline [BCal] had no suspicion that Libya was the intended end use".
Where are they now A310 Pt 3