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Location: Stratford, CT.
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Post #40141, posted on 11-29-2011 GMT-5 hours
By the early 1970's new One-Eleven orders were difficult to find, though it wasn't like the BAC sales team weren't still trying. In January 1972, the 'i's were dotted and the 't's were crossed on a contract for (3) One-Eleven '536's with Air Rhodesia. There was only one slight problem......Rhodesia was still an 'illegal' nation!
The 'Rhodesian problem' can be traced back to post-WW1, when Britain took over control of Southern Rhodesia in 1923, having been formed in the 1890's when Cecil Rhodes created a mining concession (The British South Africa Company).
Unlike other British colonies, Southern Rhodesia's white settlers were granted 'responsible self-government' status. Southern Rhodesia created it's own airline after WW2. The new Central African Airways was based in Salisbury and would be joined by (2) new partners in 1953, when Britain created the Central African Federation. The other (2) colonies, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland never really had much input in the CAF, nor the airline. This would lead to eventual independence for both colonies in 1964, as Northern Rhodesia became Zambia & Nyasaland became Malawi. For it's part, Southern Rhodesia refused to accept 'one man-one vote' and was not allowed it's independence. In May 1965, Southern Rhodesia's Prime Minister, Ian Smith, declared Rhodesia an independent nation (only South Africa and Portugal ever recognized 'Rhodesia'!)
The Central African Airways corporation would continue 'officially' until 1967 but the new Air Rhodesia name began to appear in late 1964, using the local Zimbabwe bird as their new logo.
In 1965, the 1st Air Rhodesia DC-3 began to appear, still wearing the basic C.A.A. color scheme.
In 1967, Central African Airways was 'officially' abolished and new Air Rhodesia color scheme was created for the (5) ex-C.A.A. Viscounts and DC-3's.
The Zimbabwe bird would remain but in a much slimmer version!
In 1968, after talks broke down between Britain and Southern Rhodesia (continued resistance to Black majority rule), British and UN sanctions were imposed. Air Rhodesia began to lose routes as newly independent nearby African nations began to halt Air Rhodesia service. By 1970, Air Rhodesia's Viscounts couldn't compete with S.A.A.'s 727's and began looking for Jet A/C.
As new peace talks began in 1970, so did aircraft sales prospects, with MDC, Boeing & BAC. The British had the inside track, as they had their Viscounts already in the fleet and C.A.A. had ordered (2) One-Eleven 200's in 1962 (more on this in an upcoming "LS" Update). Unfortunately, as the talks broke down, so too did the deal for (3) One-Eleven 536's (top image). Air Rhodesia would have to somehow do an end run around economic sanctions if they were to get their Jets! For Air Rhodesia flight crews it was business as usual, the Air Rhodesia Flight Attendants wore a Blue uniform w/hat & gloves
In April 1973, Air Rhodesia had found their 'new' Jets, actually 3rd-hand! (3) Calair Boeing 720-025's had been parked at Basle Airport in Switzerland, since the German charter airline went bankrupt.
What was to take place would sound more like a TV movie script; A front organization was created in Paraguay, which bought the (3) 720's for cash in US dollars. Boeing-qualified freelance crews were hired to fly the (3) to Las Palmas (Canary Islands) for a refueling stop, paid in cash and filed a flight plan across the South Atlantic for Paraguay. Leaving at night, the (3) 720's used fictitious position reports, sent by HF radio, as if the A/C were over water. In the early morning hours of April 13, 1973 (Easter holiday weekend), the 720's arrived at Air Rhodesia HQ in Salisbury! The other part of the plan had been started earlier with Air Rhodesia Pilots being reportedly trained by South African Airways and TAP, using their 707's. The 'sanction-busting' caught the rest of the world by total surprise! Once word had gotten out, it was assumed that Air Rhodesia's current colors would be used on the 'new' 720's.
A 1973 published book on Airlines even created a profile of the expected Air Rhodesia 720! But in fact, Air Rhodesia decided on keeping the previous Calair color scheme as their own (a 'throwback' to the 1950's when it was common for 2nd-hand propliners to keep their O/C's with their new operators!)
The 'new' Air Rhodesia 720 made it's 1st flight on a charter from Salisbury to Bulawayo & Durban, on June 6, 1973. The new color scheme required a redesign of the F/A uniform.
While running an airline, Southern Rhodesia was busy fighting a real war with (2) Black African groups; ZANU-Zimbabwe African National Union and ZAPU-Zimbabwe African Peoples Union. Increased military 'call-ups' were having an effect on Air Rhodesia crews.
(interesting half-sleeve stripes on the co-pilot?)
With the arrival of the 720's, Air Rhodesia was able to retire their DC-3 in '73.
The Air Rhodesia route system was soon to be reduced even further in 1975, when Portugal lost it's 'Colonial War' in Angola & Mozambique.
The 'noose' was tightening around Southern Rhodesia by 1978.
Between September 1978-February 1979, (2) Air Rhodesia Viscounts were shot down by Soviet SA-7 shoulder fires missiles. There were survivors in the 1st shoot down that were sadly killed at the scene........Air Rhodesia painted the remaining Viscounts in an over-all Gray 'Anti-Terrorist' scheme.
Finally in January 1979, the interim State Of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia was named with 'One Man-One Vote rule. The new Nation of Zimbabwe 'officially' began on April 17, 1980. With a new nation, a new airline would take shape. Ex-Lufthansa 707-330B's would be the 1st to wear the new colors in 1983.
Air Zimbabwe's 1st real 'new' A/C were to be (2) F28-4000's scheduled for arrival, in 1985. These would become 'instant "LS"s however as the airline canceled the order just prior to delivery!
(going instead with a leased Maersk 737-2L9)
For Air Rhodesia, it was to be their 'sanction-busting' 720's that would be best remembered............John3 (Thanks to www.imprimus.com.au/Viscounts In Africa, newrhodesian.net, Northwest Air News.com-nwan.co.uk, Flight International.com, Airliners.net, Bjorn Larsson/Timetableimages.com, Veteranrhodie Flickr Album & Chuck Gowing/Airlinecolors.com. Photographers: John M. Wheatley, Martin Oertle & Harry Sievers).