Air operators at Portsmouth Airport...

This page provides information on a handful of the air operators known to have conducted commercial operations at Portsmouth airport.

Portsmouth, Southsea and Isle of Wight Aviation

In 1932, the year of the airport's opening, the first commercial air services were conducted by Portsmouth, Southsea and Isle of Wight Aviation (PSIOWA) using a range of small aircraft including a three-engined, eight-seater Westland Wessex.  Initially occupying just one of the two hangers, PSIOWA conducted commercial operations across The Solent to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Popularity grew as the company was able to offer high-frequency services between the Isle of Wight and other airfields in Southern England. The company also enabled passengers to connect with coach and rail sercvices from London and Cardiff. With the advent of WWII the company's aircraft were taken over by the Air Ministry and the company was forced to concentrate on the manufacture and repair side of the business which had been a rapidly expanding area for PSIOWA. In 1946 the company changed its name to Portsmouth Aviation Limited (which is still in existence today) in order to expand the aviation and manufacturing sides of the business.

From Michael Dawes and Bjorn Larsson collections

PSIOWA aircraft from the 1930s (Moth and Puss Moth top, Envoy and Dragon bottom)

International Airlines and Provincial Airways

In August 1933 International Airlines Limited was operating air services on a 'Western Air Express Service' between Croydon and Portsmouth, as well as Southampton and Plymouth, using two Monospar ST-4 aircraft built by General Aircraft Limited (GAL). However, these services were very short lived, lasting less than a month.  The assets of International Airlines were duly taken over by Provincial Airways in October 1933. The new company operated similar routes carrying mail but in the end only two return flights between Croydon and Plymouth via Southampton in November 1933 were conducted using De Havilland Fox Moths. In March 1934 Provincial Airways began a weekday service on the London to Plymouth route (using the Fox Moth and later the De Havilland Dragon) and by 1935 they were operating a twice-daily service between Croydon and Penzance with stops at Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth and Plymouth. In February 1935 a new route between Plymouth and Hull started. Despite these offerings, they never proved to be a financial success and Provincial Airlines went out of business jon 10 December 1935.

Monospar and Dragon aircraft types similar to those operated by International Airlines and Provincial Airways

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Jersey Airways

In December 1933, Jersey Airways Limited started scheduled commercial air services between Jersey in the Channels Islands and Portsmouth using De Havilland Dragon aircraft.  Due to the lack of a proper airport on Jersey the aircraft used St. Aubin's beach at West Park, St. Helier. Jersey Airways had its maintenance base at Portsmouth, although this moved to Southampton airport in 1935.

A Jersey Airways De Havilland Dragon in December 1933

On 1 December 1934 Channel Island Airways was registered as a holding company for Jersey Airways Limitedand its subsidiary Guernsey Airways Limited (which had been formed a week earlier). On 10 March 1937 Jersey Airport opened, meaning that Jersey Airways was able to operate a fixed schedule that did not rely on state of the tides. In addition, this also meant that the airline could carry mail and freight as well as conduct flights at night.

With the outbreak of WWII in 1939 flights to the Channel Islands ceased and by the middle of 1940 scheduled air servicves between to the UK and the Channel Islands were suspended. Services resumed after the war and by 1947 the British government's decision to nationalise UK airlines led to Jersey Airways becoming British European Airways (BEA). All of Jersey Airways' staff, aircraft and routes became part of BEA.

Channel Airways

In the early 1950s, Channel Airways (formerly East Anglian Flying Services) established scheduled operations from Southend and Portsmouth to Paris, as well as from Portsmouth to Jersey.  Initially services were offered on Dakota aircraft, although these were later superseded by Hawker Siddley 748 turboprop aircraft - two of which were involved in separate accidents on the same day in 1967 at Portsmouth airport.

By the early 1970s, despite fleet modernisation that had takjen place through the previous decade, Channel Airways was facing a deteriorating trading position and growing financial difficulties. These led to the closure of the company in February 1972.

Jersey Ferry Airlines

Following the Channel Airways accidents in 1967, the Portsmouth airport was predominantly devoid of commercial operations.  Even a glimmer of hope in the early 1970s through a new service offering from JF Airlines (later Jersey Ferry Airlines ) - with aircraft iunbcluding Heron and Twin Pioneer types - was not enough to lift the airport out of the financial quagmire that it had fallen into. Jersey Ferry Airlines folded barely a year after getting off the ground and Portsmouth airport officially closed on 31 December 1973.

A Jersey Ferry Airlines Heron from 1973 (image by Tony Exelby)

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