The British Caledonian story

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Joint-founder John de la Haye, 2nd left

British Caledonian airways was created as Caledonian Airways by Adam Thomson, a post-war pilot, in partnership with a former BEA steward, John de la Haye, in 1961.


De la Haye was a Jerseyman, born in the island on 9 April 1929, serving in the Merchant Navy at the end of the war. He died on 1 August 2003 aged 74.

They raised finance to charter a DC7 on a pay-as-you-fly basis from the Belgian airline Sabena and their first flight was a charter carrying immigrants from Barbados on St Andrew’s Day 1961.

In 1970 the company, still firmly rooted in the charter business, acquired the ailing scheduled airline BUA, and under its new name of British Caledonian, grew to be the ninth largest European airline, with a fleet of 27 jets servicing almost 50 international destinations.

BA takeover

To the regret of most passengers who loved the airline’s proud Scottish image, with tartan-clad cabin crew ("Wish they all could be Caledonian girls," went the jingle, borrowed from the Beach Boys) British Caledonian was taken over by British Airways in 1988.

After the war Adam Thomson joined Newman Airways to fly bi-planes from the Isle of Wight to the Channel Islands. In 1951 he joined British European Airways (BEA) and two years later he became a captain with West African Airways, based in Lagos.

British Caledonian were mainly known in Jersey for operating the service to Gatwick.

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