A Brief History
The airline was formed
in 1979 as Jersey European from a merger between Jersey based Intra Airways
and Bournemouth based Express Air Services, initially operating mainly
wartime surplus C47 (DC3) Dakota aircraft. In 1985 it merged with
Blackpool based Spacegrand Aviation, who were operating Isle of Man services
and the airline operated isle of Man services from then until it's demise
in 2020. In 2000 it was renamed as British European with a slight change
of livery but that incarnation didn't last long before it was re-branded
as FlyBe in 2002 with a completely new colour scheme. In 2006 it
took over most of the BA Connect operation, which had originated from Manx
Airlines, further cementing its Isle of Man base. However by 2019
it was suffering financial woes and in February was purchased by a consortium
of Virgin Atlantic Airways and Ireland based Stobart Air, the new airline
to be rebranded as Virgin Connect. However, it seemed to continue
operating as before with no signs of a re-launch and went into administration
on the 5th March 2020.
The following pictures
are intended as a tribute to the airline that served the Isle of Man for
many years and are ones that I have taken since my arrival in ATC at Ronaldsway
in 1990, up until the end of FlyBe operation in March 2020. Any views
expressed on the following pages are purely my own.
'Still in Service in
2020' denotes aircraft operated by FlyBe as of 5/3/20. 'Last know'
is information I could find out in March/April 2020. I have put some links
on pages where aircraft have left the fleet and I've traced their further
operators, these are all external so press 'return' to come back here.
Jersey European and British
European 1990 - 2002
What might have
been - The Avro RJX
A development of the
RJ versions of the original BAe 146 with new, higher efficiency engines
giving a claimed 15% lower fuel burn and 20% lower maintenance costs.
A twin engined version
was considered, but development costs deemed to high. British European
was one of the lead customers and ordered twelve with eight options. The
first prototype, RJX85 G-ORJX flew in April 2001 and the second, RJX100
G-IRJX in September 2001. The first production aircraft, an RJX100
for British European flew in January 2002 under test registration G-6-391
but BAe had already decided to cancel the program in November 2001 and
the aircraft only made five flights in total and was broken up in 2004.
G-IRJX has been preserved at the Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park
and the fuselage of G-ORJX is a training airframe at Prestwick.
The FlyBe Era
2002 - 2020
2014 saw the decision
by FlyBe management to close the Isle of Man crew base and operate all
flights with UK based crews. From three based aircraft and crews,
they went down to two aircraft night stopping every night with crews being
accommodated in hotels. Island based crew members were either re-assigned
to other bases or made redundant. During the year a rebranding exercise
took place with aircraft being repainted into a purple colour scheme and
new purple uniforms being issued to staff. 2014 was also the year
I retired from ATC at Ronaldsway, so not so many pictures to choose from
for future years.
In September 2018 a
rebranding exercise was commenced with a new livery appearing on Q400 G-JECP.
At the time it was reported that all of the Q400 and Embraer 175s would
be repainted at the rate of around 10 aircraft a year, to be completed
by 2025. As far as I can tell, only 'CP was in fact repainted.
In February of 2019
FlyBe was sold to a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Air.
The intention was to rebrand and operate as Virgin Connect. Normally
when these things happen there is a re-launch of the airline with much
publicity and aircraft appearing in a new colour scheme. Somewhat
ominously from an outside observer's point of view, nothing much actually
seemed to happen, although rather strangely, Stobart Air closed their Ronaldsway
base in March and FlyBe opened one of their own again, with the ATR72s
being replaced by Dash8 Q400s.
2020 started with still
no sign of the promised Virgin Connect, however the FlyBe Dash 8 base at
Ronaldsway that had only been re-opened the previous March, appeared to
be going to be closed with Stobart Air ATR72s taking over again.
The initial Stobart aircraft to arrived ( a former FlyBe operated one)
was painted plain white, presumably ready to receive the new Virgin Connect
livery. By March there was still only one Stobart ATR at Ronaldsway,
the other FlyBe services being covered by a based Dash 8 or aircraft based
in the UK. On March 4th, while many FlyBe flights were still in the
air, it was announced that the the airline would be going onto receivership
the following day and that once all flights had landed that evening there
would be no more. Most airports where FlyBe operated were owed money
for landing fees and took steps to impound aircraft on the ground.
At the start of April when I was finishing this page, there seemed to be
no change in the situation, the wholesale cancellation of flights world-wide
due to the Covid-19 virus has further complicated matters. At Ronaldsway,
Loganair have take over some of the former FlyBe routes, maintaining vital
air links to Liverpool and Manchester. They are also flying to London
on behalf of British Airways.
have been - Virgin Connect
It seemed strange
to me that in over a year of the new operating company's existence there
was apparently not a single aircraft painted in the new colour scheme and
there are relatively few illustrations of what FlyBe and Stobart aircraft
would have looked like. However Jake Wright has produced one for
the excellent Majestic Software Dash8-Q400 available for the FSX and P3D
Flight Simulators. I've used this for the illustrations below.