published in Air NORTH Vol.50 No.12 December 2010

Those of you who frequent the major internet airliner photo sites will have seen images recently of British Airways Boeing 757 G-CPET which, to mark the departure of the type from the BA fleet, was re-painted into the original livery worn by the type upon its entry into service with the carrier in the early '80s. The first time I saw such an image of 'ET' in its 'new' livery (one that it had of course never worn, having entered service in 1998 in a later version of a BA colour-scheme, wearing one of the controversial 'World Tails'), I was immediately reminded of the slide reproduced above, one of my favourite and most memorable photographs, and one of the first of what would become the almost 'trademark' night-shot for me.

The first British Airways Boeing 757 to land at Newcastle Airport did so on Bank Holiday Monday, 29th August 1983, a visit connected with a more well-known type in the BA fleet at the time, although the '57 involved was significant in itself in more ways than one - G-BIKG was the machine arriving at 2145 as BA5458 from Heathrow, a substitution on the regular BA 'night-stopper' that day, owing to a greater than normal passenger load, bolstered by those lucky enough to have departed Newcastle Airport earlier that evening on Concorde G-BOAA for a charter flight which concluded at the London airport. Interestingly this had been 'KG's very first revenue service, having only been delivered to Heathrow the previous day.

BA 757s were to visit sporadically over the ensuing years, although were not truly regular until the end of 1986, when the carrier flew a one-month trial of the type on the Heathrow-Newcastle scheduled service, beginning on 16th November 1986, to investigate the suitability of the type on the route. Up to three daily rotations were flown by the type up to the end of the trial on 12th December 1986, at which point the full implementation of the type on the route failed to materialise. I am sure I'm not alone in proclaiming the Boeing 757 as one of my favourite airliners - such a simple yet very attractive airframe - and I saw this at the time as a superb opportunity to, rather cheaply, get the type added to my list of those flown on. Thursday 27th November 1986 therefore saw me fly down to London-Gatwick on the 'DA101' operated by BAC One-Eleven G-ATPJ on a rebated staff ticket - something that was done regularly in those days to have a day-trip at LGW & LHR - althought this particular day was to be cut shorter somewhat, in order to leave LHR (and not as had become the norm, to take the bus back to LGW to catch the '108') on the mid-afternoon Newcastle departure, BA5454, flown on that day by G-BIKH. I remember being one of only 40-50 passengers on the aeroplane, and I grabbed a window seat on the left-hand side of the aircraft (one of the first three windows just behind door 2 in the photo above) for the forty-three minute trip back home. The shot above shows the aeroplane, after I had disembarked and made my way up onto the terminal roof viewing deck, on what was then stand 2 at Newcastle Airport, on what was then of course the international side of the passenger finger (note still ground level only) - too big to be accomodated on British Airways' usual stand 9 directly opposite on the domestic side of the pier, the trial saw the Boeing 757s park on what would ultimately become their usual lair, stand 3, upon the type's full introduction on the Newcastle route, and after the domestic and international 'sides' were reversed at Newcastle. 'KH' was also (fortunately for the sake of this piece!) still in its original 757 livery - many of the aircraft to take part in the trial during November/December 1986 already wore the Landor-designed livery which was to replace it.

The Boeing 757 ceased to be programmed equipment on the British Airways Newcastle-Heathrow route with the end of the 2007 summer scheduled timetable, G-BPEK flying the final 757-operated SHT12Q/13L on Saturday 27th October 2007 - there were to be only a further five BA 757 appearances, the final one occurring on Tuesday 7th July 2009, when G-CPER flew the mid-morning SHT12H/13F rotation.

G-CPET was rolled out at Heathrow on 4th October in the original '757 livery', and flew as such for the rest of the month, flying the last BA 757 revenue scheduled service from Edinburgh-Heathrow on 30th October, followed by a charity flight from/to Heathrow on 6th November - sadly its final 'tour' of BA 757 destinations failed to see it grace Newcastle's tarmac with the livery worn by 'KH' way back in 1986.

Acknowledgements: Peter Ure and the 'old Air Norths'.

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