The Interview with
Sir Adam Thomson Interview -1990

Firstly, my thanks to John Rickmans for recording this interview in 1990 essentially saving it for the nation and also for bearing with me while I converted it from a C60 cassette tape to You Tube format.....they don’t do audio there is now a picture slide show to go with it.

But I am really pleased we now have this 45 minute interview with Sir Adam available for you. The interview with the local radio station, Radio Mercury, was arranged on the publication of Adam’s autobiography “High Risk - The Politics of the Air”.

I do get the feeling that the interviewer had not fully read the book and Adam very quickly is on that too. But the interviewer covers Adam’s early flying days through to the formation of Caledonian and onto the takeover of BUA to form BCal.

Then on through the trials and tribulations of running one of the world’s major airlines; and also a segment on the Caledonian Girls advertising campaign of course; to the realisation that the options were becoming limited and the fight for BCal was on. To what would come to pass with BA. 

It is 45 minutes long and well worth listening too, and with luck over the holidays you can catch up and listen in sections as you like.

I would be pleased to hear your thoughts of course and I can add them to the page too.
If you have any comments on the interview, please feel free to drop me a line    email

Again, many thanks to John Rickmans for recording this in 1990
From Laurie Price
Thank you for this as ever. Particularly the fascinating interview with Sir Adam. There is a parallel book on BA history by Arthur Reid called Airline which also refers to the BA takeover of BCAL and provides an additional perspective.

It is also a pity that in addition to mentioning the help of Lord Boyd-Carpenter of CAA, the positive role taken by CAA Economic Regulation and Licensing Group lead by Ray Colgate also played at the time.  I attended over 30 CAA licence hearings in the late 70s and early 80s to give or help with evidence  and we made many more licence applications than that because that was the only way of  BCAL securing new routes and opportunities, along with increased bilateral opportunities. It was long before European deregulation and open skies that has lead to the LCC revolution in Europe.

One thing that Sir Adam did not highlight in the interview, possibly because the Conservatives were still in Government at the time or it was still very raw to him (and many of the rest of us) was the whole issue of BA (and BAA) privatisation at that time.

The Thatcher Government was totally focussed on selling off State assets in the mid 1980s, inspired by the advice of Sir Alan Walters and others.

The sale of BA needed to maximise receipts to the Treasury. Nothing was to compromise that. So a stronger BCAL, working with a company like SAS or another, would have potentially limited the relative attractiveness of BA shares, when BA performance had been very poor despite significant indirect subsidy and Government support. Plus a lot of interaction and staff exchange between BA and the DfT.

The Government had appointed Lord King as Chairman of BA assisted by Colin Marshall. King was a friend of Mrs Thatcher.

BA ran a very heavy campaign against BCAL, at licence hearings and in the Press when SAS appeared as possible suitor. For instance, the Mail ran a headline inspired by Norman Tebbit , Stop the Viking Invasion!

In addition, following a lot of lobbying at local Conservative Party  level around Epsom and Esher, the Government said that the Gatwick Heathrow Airlink would cease 6 month after the opening of the M25/M23 link in 1985 as it would provide an adequate inter airport link!.  (We all know how ridiculous that decision was). Airlink stopped on 6th of February 1986. Laura at the BCAL Heathrow Interline desk said it was like turning  off a tap of traffic. Airlink had been said to contribute up to £9 million a year in system benefit to BCAL; the CAA acknowledged over £2 million benefit. That on top of the loss of the route to Libya after the US F111 bombing from UK bases of Tripoli (1985?), endorsed by the Government but with no compensation to BCAL.   So politically, we really were up against an unsympathetic Government and Prime Minister at the time with the inevitable consequences.

But it impacted all of our lives and future careers and lost something that was very dear to us all and a unique brand and standard of service.
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