AN AUSTRIAN ODYSSEY
by Fred Barnes
It was a partly cloudy spring afternoon in April 1969, as I sat at the window seat looking along the red painted wing of the British European Airways (B.E.A.) Trident 1C G-ARPD, as the aircraft make its final approach to Vienna-Schwechat Airport.
After touchdown, the Trident decelerated on the runway to the roar of the engines in reverse thrust, before joining a taxiway to manoeuvre to the allocated parking ramp; coaches were waiting to transport the passengers to the terminal building.
After the aircraft came to a halt the engines were shut down, the passenger steps arrived and the front cabin door was opened.
The passengers slowly retrieved their cabin baggage and moved through the cabin and down the steps to the waiting coaches and when my turn came, I grabbed my trusty B.E.A. cabin bag and followed in turn.
During the coach ride to the terminal, I was able to see a few jet aircraft operated by the major European airlines; but what really caught my eye was a Fred Olsen Lines Curtiss C-46R Commando, parked over on the freight ramp.
Curtiss C-46R Commando LN-FOP of Fred Olsen Lines ( Fred. Olsen Flyselskap
After completing the usual arrival formalities I went outside the terminal and walked towards the freight ramp and the Austrian Airlines hangar area.
The C-46R was Fred Olsen Lines LN-FOP (c/n 27049) and I was able to get a photograph of that magnificent aircraft.
Later I discovered that the C-46 was being used at that time on behalf of Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines on freight flights LH/OS950 between Frankfurt and Vienna and OS/LH951 between Vienna and Frankfurt on five days per week.
Then I continued towards the Austrian Airlines hangar area, where I was able to get photographs of H.S.748 OE-LHT (c/n 1590, named ‘A. Bruckner‘) and Vickers Viscount V.837 OE-LAL (c/n 441, named ‘W.A. Mozart’) both parked awaiting their next turn of duty.
H.S.748 OE-LHT, at Vienna (24 April 1969)
Vickers V.837 Viscount OE-LAL (c/n 441, named ‘W.A. Mozart’) at Vienna, 24Apr1969
Also parked nearby was the Austrian Airlines Aero Grand Commander 680FL OE-FAV (c/n 680FL-1611-117), painted in standard Aero Commander style in red, black and white with Austrian Airlines titles in white on the fuselage below the cabin windows and the Austrian national flag on the tail fin.
After photographing OE-FAV, I visited two hangars containing light aircraft, then returned to the terminal and went to the domestic area to check-in.
VIENNA – INNSBRUCK Flight OS005
At check-in I hoped that there would be a seat available on Austrian Airlines flight OS005, at 1545 to Innsbruck, operated by the Aero Grand Commander 680FL, as it was a rare opportunity to get a scheduled flight in the type.
My luck was good and I duly received a boarding card for the flight and then went along to the boarding gate. Soon a few other passengers arrived and the flight was boarded and we went through the doorway and on to the waiting coach. After a short drive across the ramp the large coach parked close to the waiting aircraft OE-FAV, which now seemed very small.
The passengers left the coach, walked to the aircraft and after putting their cabin baggage on an adjacent trolley clambered into the cabin one by one through the port side entry door and I eventually had the seat behind and to the right of the pilot.
After all the baggage had been loaded into the rear baggage compartment the pilot came on board and moved into his seat and the door was closed. He then gave a safety briefing in German and English and asked all the passengers to confirm that they were strapped in.
Soon each of the two 380hp Lycoming piston engines was started in turn and the aircraft began to vibrate and the noise level in the cabin increased. After going through the relevant ‘check list’ the pilot had contact with Air Traffic Control and then he signalled to the ground crew to remove the wheel chocks.
When the engines were set for taxi power and the brakes were released the Aero Grand Commander moved slowly forward across the ramp and headed to the taxiway for runway 34 for take-off.
As OE-FAV was turned on to the active runway I realised that this was the smallest aircraft that I had flown in at that time and the width and length of the ‘concrete’ seemed vast from such a low vantage point.
When engine take off power was set, the engine noise and vibration increased as the aircraft started its take off run and accelerated along the runway and became airborne. The wheels were retracted with the sound of a thump and the aircraft maintained a steady climb. After reaching the top of the climb engine power was reset from climb power to cruise power and cabin noise and vibration decreased as the aircraft maintained cruising height.
There were eight small, but comfortable, passenger seats in the cabin arranged individually along on each with a narrow aisle between the seats. The high wing design of the Aero Grand Commander and large cabin windows gave the passengers a good view, but I had the ‘benefit’ of sitting near the engines!
In flight the Aero Grand Commander was stable and overall acceptably comfortable. The flight continued over the flat plain around the Austrian capital Vienna and after a while the pilot gave the passengers some details of the route, flight time and weather in Innsbruck.
The droning of the engines became the background to the flight and the pilot offered a basket to pass round which contained pastries and soft drinks for the passengers.
After some thirty minutes the snow capped mountain ranges of the Austrian Alps came into view ahead as the flight continued westward towards Innsbruck. It was an enjoyable view and later in the flight the route took the aircraft along the scenic valley of the River Inn with the snow capped mountains on both sides of the aircraft.
The pilot started to busy himself with his airfield arrival charts and after further contact with ATC the engine power was reduced as the aircraft started to descend towards Innsbruck Airport. With light winds and continuing good visibility the Aero Grand Commander made a straight in approach to runway 26.
When the undercarriage was lowered I noticed that the wheel rotated from a sideways position as it dropped and turned before locking in position.
I could see the runway ahead on the final approach and then there was a slight squeal from the wheels, as the aircraft touched down and started braking. It was a short taxi from the runway to the ramp, where the Aero Grand Commander was the only aircraft parked by the terminal building.
The flight time from Vienna to Innsbruck had been one hour and thirty five minutes.
After the engines were shut down the pilot opened the cabin door and the ground crew were there to chock the aircraft and then started to transfer the baggage from the aircraft to a hand trolley.
As I was next to the cabin door, I was the first passenger to leave the aircraft and collect my cabin bag from the hand trolley and then it was a short walk into the terminal building. At the tourist Information desk I arranged a small pension for the night with bed and breakfast and then I went outside the terminal to catch the local bus into the city.
INNSBRUCK – SALZBURG Flight OS002
The following morning, after breakfast, I spent some time sightseeing in the historic and picturesque City of Innsbruck , the capital of the Austrian Tyrol region. At that time Innsbruck Airport was not very busy in the period between the skiing and summer seasons and there were only a few scheduled flights.
I took the local bus back to the airport at lunch time and visited the hangars of the local Cessna and Piper aircraft agencies before going to the small terminal for lunch.
It was a sunny day with good visibility and the close proximity of the mountains around the airport made a spectacular scene from the small roof terrace, but confirmed that the airport would present difficult flying conditions in poor weather with low cloud and snow.
My flight OS002 from Innsbruck to Salzburg was scheduled to depart at 1530 with the H.S.748 aircraft due to arrive from Salzburg and Vienna as OS001 at 1500 and after check-in I returned to the roof terrace to await the arrival of the flight.
When there was some activity by the staff on the ramp I looked eastward down the valley of the River Inn and saw the unmistakable shape of the aircraft heading towards the airport.
The H.S. 748 was making a straight in approach and soon I could hear the whine of the two Rolls–Royce Dart engines as the aircraft came over the runway threshold and landed on runway 26 with a puff of smoke from the main wheel tyres.
As the aircraft turned off the runway on to the taxiway towards the ramp that magnificent ‘growling’ sound of two Rolls–Royce Dart engines reverberated around the mountains, a moment that I shall never forget.
The H.S. 748 was OE-LHT and after the aircraft stopped to park on the empty ramp I quickly took my photograph and then it was back downstairs to the departure area and to the gate to wait for passenger boarding.
When the departure was announced I walked across the ramp with the other passengers and climbed in turn up the rear air stairs and into the cabin and took my seat which was aft of the wing. After I had strapped into my reasonably comfortable seat, I noticed the burgundy and white cabin décor and the 2 by 2 seat configuration with a central aisle.
Soon the aft cabin door was closed and the hold doors were secured and finally the forward door was closed by a cabin crew member.
A safety announcement was made in German and English, and the cabin crew checked that all of the passengers had buckled their safety belts.
When each of the Dart engines was started in turn, there was that familiar ‘whine’ as the engines spooled up.
After the ground crew had removed the chocks, they signalled to the flight crew and engine power and sound changed as the H.S. 748 started to move forward on the ramp and turned towards the taxiway.
From my seat I could see the flaps moving towards the take off position, as the aircraft turned on to the runway towards the threshold of runway 08. I presumed that with the light wind that it was the preferred runway for departure from Innsbruck and at the end of the runway the aircraft was turned through 180 degrees and stopped.
The two Dart engines were set at take off power and there was an increase in cabin noise and some vibration and after the brakes were released OE-LHT accelerated along the runway and became airborne.
There was a thud as the undercarriage was retracted and the noise of the two engines changed as each was set to climb power as the aircraft started its climb along the valley of the River Inn.
To the north of Innsbruck Airport the mountains are up to 9,000 feet high and to the south up to 9,200 feet high and there was a superb view of the terrain through the large oval cabin window, as the aircraft continued the climb. When the aircraft reached cruising height the engine power was reset and the engine noise decreased with cabin noise becoming a gentle buzzing sound. There was again the spectacular view of the snow capped mountains as the flight continued towards Salzburg.
Soon the engine sound changed as power on the two Darts was reduced and the H.S. 748 started its descent towards Salzburg Airport. The engine sound changed once again, when power was increased when the flaps were deployed to the landing position and the undercarriage was lowered in preparation for landing.
It was a sunny late afternoon as OE-LHT landed on runway 16 at Salzburg Airport, after the short twenty four minute flight from Innsbruck.
The aircraft was taxied to the ramp and came to a halt and the engines were shut down.
When the rear cabin door was opened, the Salzburg passengers moved through the cabin and down the air stairs and walked across the ramp, into the terminal and I followed in turn. The Vienna bound passengers remained on board.
As I only had a cabin bag, I did not have to wait for baggage and I found the Tourist Information desk in the terminal and booked my small pension with bed and breakfast for the night.
I had previously been to Salzburg Airport, in 1967, and I went up to the roof terrace in time to see OE-LHT taxi out to runway 34 and take off - but without a telephoto lens it was not possible to get a good photograph.
As I had most of the following day at the airport and there were few flights on the arrivals board I decided to get the local bus into the city and find my lodgings for the night.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON AT SALZBURG AIRPORT
Salzburg is the capital of the Salzburg State of Austria and is situated on the Salzach River, which is a tributary of the River Inn and is close to the Bavaria Region border of Germany. The terrain includes plains to the north of the city and the northern boundary of the Austrian Alps mountain range to the south.
Next day was a Saturday and the weather remained sunny, so after breakfast I took some time to revisit some of the favourite tourist attractions, including the famous castle before catching the local bus out to the airport.
I went to the local Cessna dealership OFAG, to visit their hangar and took some photographs and then walked to the terminal building.
When I was planning my trip, I had checked with the ABC World Airways Guide and the airline schedule at Salzburg for a Saturday afternoon included a B.E.A. Viscount from and to London Heathrow, an Austrian Airlines Viscount to Frankfurt and the H.S. 748 flight from Vienna and departing to Innsbruck which returned at 1605.
After lunch in the terminal, I went up to the roof terrace and photographed Austrian Airlines Viscount V.837 OE-LAK (c/n 440), named ‘Johann Strauss’, on the ramp and waited for the H.S.748 flight to arrive and hoped that OE-LHS was operating the service.
Soon the H.S.748 was on final approach to runway 16 and after landing taxied on to the ramp with that unmistakable sound of the two Dart engines before parking and shutting down the engines.
The aircraft was OE-LHS and I was very pleased as it would be the aircraft for my flight OS002 to Vienna departing at 1635.
Next aircraft on the approach for runway 16 was the B.E.A. Viscount operating flight BE510 from London Heathrow, which landed and then went towards the end of the runway before turning through 180 degrees to backtrack to the taxiway for the ramp.
Meanwhile H.S.748 OE-LHS was starting each Dart engine in turn and as the Viscount V.802 G-AOHO (c/n 164) taxied on to the ramp, with the inner engines still operating (the outer engines had been shut down whilst taxiing) there was the magical background noise of four Dart engines at different sound pitches!
I took a photo of G-AOHO painted in the classic B.E.A. ‘Red Square’ livery, with red wings, and then OE-LHS started to taxi from the ramp down the taxiway to the runway and turned towards the threshold of runway 34.
After reaching the threshold the H.S. 748 was turned through 180 degrees and started its take off run and became airborne and started climbing before setting course for Innsbruck.
Meanwhile the two inner engines on G-AOHO had been shut down and the ramp staff arrived with chocks, passenger steps and baggage carts.
After a few minutes of quiet, OE-LAK was ready for departure, operating as OS421 to Frankfurt, and when the ramp staff had removed their equipment each Dart engine was started in turn.
Soon all four engines were running and when the chocks were removed, OE-LAK moved forward again making that wonderful ‘growling’ sound of the Dart engine. Runway 34 was used for departure and the Viscount became airborne and set course for Frankfurt.
The ‘mini peak’ was over and the British aircraft and engines were replaced by some light aircraft being readied to do local flying and activity re started at the gliding club on the far side of the airport, where the Red Bull complex has now been constructed.
SALZBURG – VIENNA Flight OS002
Back in the terminal I went along to check-in for OS002 to Vienna, but was advised that I would have to wait until 25 minutes prior to departure to see if there was a seat available as the flight was ‘busy’.
I returned to the roof terrace to watch the departure, on runway 34, of G-AOHO operating BE511 to London Heathrow and noted the long take off run and slower climb out of the heavily laden aircraft and heard the sound of the four Dart engines at take off power.
I returned to the domestic check-in area and later heard the Austrian Airlines H.S. 748 arrive from Innsbruck.
When check-in for the next sector to Vienna was closed there was a short wait before I was advised that there was a seat available and I was given a boarding card and went to the departure gate and the flight had started to board.
Sadly I did not have time to go back to the roof terrace for a photograph of OE-LHS. I followed the other passengers across the ramp and climbed up the rear air stairs then moved forward through the cabin to my aisle seat which was abeam the engines.
After the rear passenger door and front door were closed, there was the usual safety announcement and soon the whine of the Dart engines was heard as each was started in sequence.
Then the H.S.748 started to taxi and the noise level increased at taxi power and the aircraft moved along the taxiway to the runway and turned towards the threshold of runway 34. At the end of the runway the aircraft was turned through 180 degrees, to line up for take off on runway 34. When take off power was set the noise from the two Dart engines increased and after the brakes were released OE-LHS accelerated along the runway, became airborne and after the initial climb turned on course for Vienna.
After the top of climb the engine power setting was changed to cruise setting and the engine noise level decreased in the cabin.
The flight deck crew gave some details of flight time and the weather at Vienna and the cabin crew offered another selection of pastries with a beverage or soft drink. Sadly, I did not get quite such a good view from my seat on this sector, but as the flight headed east towards Vienna, the flat plains came into view. I reflected on the trip and my good luck to have good weather and get my flights in the Aero Grand Commander and both of the H.S. 748s of Austrian Airlines.
Engine power was reduced at the start of the descent and soon the H.S. 748 was on approach for landing at Vienna and touched down after a flight time of 45 minutes from Salzburg.
After taxiing to the ramp and parking both engines were shut down and I joined the other passengers going down the rear air stairs and boarding the coach for the terminal. In the terminal I organised accommodation for the night in Vienna and took the airline coach into the city.
The following morning was the last day of my trip and I returned to Vienna Airport and spent some time viewing the aircraft.
There was only one notable piston engine aircraft Convair 340 YU-ADB (c/n 177), operating the Jugoslovenski Aerotransport (J.A.T.) flight JU310 from Zagreb; it looked in pristine condition, having been repainted in the airline’s new blue, red and white stylised livery used on the their new Sud Aviation Caravelle jet aircraft.
AUSTRIAN AIRLINES H.S. 748 - A BRIEF HISTORY
Austrian Airlines had started domestic operations on 1st May 1963 using three DC-3 aircraft on the routes Vienna – Linz - Salzburg - Innsbruck and Vienna - Graz - Klagenfurt. The DC-3s were also used on an international route operated Innsbruck - Zurich.
The three aircraft were OE-LBC (c/n 12324, named ‘Edelweiss’), OE-LBD (c/n 42976, named ‘Enzian’) and OE-LBN (c/n 42963, named ‘Erika’).
An overnight freight flight was operated by the DC-3s on the route Vienna – London Heathrow with routeings via Salzburg, Linz or Zurich depending on the schedule.
As passenger traffic increased, the airline decided to upgrade the domestic operation to larger turbine powered aircraft and two new Hawker Siddeley H.S.748 aircraft were ordered for delivery in 1966.
The H.S. 748 was selected for its good airfield performance, flying and handling capabilities for operation into the more difficult airports on the network, and commonality with the Rolls Royce Dart engine used on the airline’s Vickers Viscount V.837 aircraft.
Both aircraft were H.S. 748 series 2 aircraft, with model number 226 and the first OE-LHS (c/n 1589) made its first flight at Woodford on 22nd April 1966; it was delivered to Austrian Airlines on 30th April 1966 and was named ‘Franz Lehar’. The second aircraft was OE-LHT (c/n 1590), which made its first flight at Woodford on 23rd May 1966 and was delivered to Austrian Airlines on 31st May 1966; it was named ‘Anton Bruckner’.
In Austrian Airlines service the H.S. 748 was known as the ‘Belvedere’ Class’ and was operated in a 40 seat passenger configuration.
Both aircraft were painted in the standard Austrian Airlines livery, of white top to the fuselage with two red stripes under the cabin windows along the fuselage with the company winged bird logo under the cockpit windows and the Austrian national flag in red white and red on the tail fin.
Austrian Airlines titles were painted in red on the fuselage above, the oval cabin windows and the aircraft registration in black on the rear fuselage. The underside of the aircraft, engines and wings were polished metal.
On 6th June 1966 both the 748s were flown to Linz for a ceremony with Christening by the Mayor of Linz Mr. Aigner and a blessing by the Bishop of Kremsmunster.
The H.S. 748s were placed into service on the domestic routes Vienna – Salzburg - Innsbruck and Vienna –Graz – Klagenfurt and some shorter international routes Vienna - Prague, Vienna - Belgrade and Vienna - Zagreb.
During their service with Austrian Airlines, the H.S. 748s were also used to substitute for Viscounts on some other shorter international routes on an ad-hoc basis when passenger loads were low.
The aircraft were also used to replace the DC-3 on the overnight freight route from Vienna to London Heathrow, again with routeings via Linz, Salzburg or Zurich; but as the loads increased on that service, a British Invicta Air Cargo DC-4 was chartered to operate the flights in 1969.
As passenger traffic increased on the domestic routes, the H.S. 748s were replaced by the Viscount V.837 aircraft which had been displaced on the main international routes by the new Sud Aviation Caravelle jet fleet.
With the rationalisation of the Austrian Airlines fleet, in late 1969, the two H.S. 748s were put up for sale after just over three years of front line service. The aircraft had been popular with passengers and enabled Austrian Airlines to establish a viable domestic operation that produced good traffic growth.
OE-LHS (c/n 1589) was sold to Skyways Coach Air Ltd on 15th November 1969 and was registered to that company as G-AXVG on 31st December 1969. The aircraft was flown for many years by a number of operators before ending its days with Northland Air Manitoba as C-FGGE in Winnipeg, Canada in October 1995 with total flying time of 42,528 hours and 47,463 landings.
OE-LHT (c/n 1590) was sold to Philippine Airlines on 3rd September 1970 and was registered PI-C1028. The aircraft was subsequently re-registered RP-C1028 on 1st March 1974 and was tragically written off on 3rd February 1975, when no.2 engine failed on take off from Manila. Total flying time was only 6,449 hours and 8,320 landings.
The Aero Grand Commander 680FL OE-FAV had joined the fleet in 1966 and was used on domestic flights on the route Linz - Salzburg and later Vienna - Innsbruck; it was sold in late 1969 to Viennair.
OE-FAV was tragically written off on 21st May 1970, on take off from Innsbruck Airport on a flight to Munich.
I would like to thank my good friend Fred Froude, for digitising my original colour slides to illustrate the article.