On June 23, 1987 a new UK charter carrier, Mediterranean Express, took to the skies from its home base of Luton Airport (LTN).
The carrier purchased a pair of British Aviation Corporation (BAC) One-Elevens from Compañía de Aviación Faucett, more commonly known as Faucett Peru (CF).
The first – G-AZUK – was built in 1971. It was one of the few -475 series One-Eleven built by BAC. The airframe joined the company a few days before operations commenced and was quickly painted into the carrier’s colourful livery.
However, when the second aircraft – G-AYUW – arrived in the UK, it was found to be in very poor condition. It had been ferried from storage in the desert without auto-pilot. Upon arrival in LTN, it was towed into the McAlpine Hanger to be looked at by engineers.
Subsequently, they found the One-Eleven to be beyond economic repair. Despite being painted in full Mediterranean Express colours, the aircraft never flew for the airline and was scrapped at LTN in 1988. The fuselage was later ferried to Bournemouth for use as a test fuselage for water spray mist trials in the cabin.
Taking To The Skies
G-AZUK then took to the skies operating Inclusive Tour (IT) and charter flights. It was frequently sub-charted during the busy summer season for other UK carriers such as Air UK (UK) and British Midland (BD).
It visited numerous airports across the UK, including Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, East Midlands, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Manchester, Southampton, and BAe Woodford.
European destinations included: Barcelona, Bologna, Catania, Cologne, Corfu, Dublin, Faro, Frankfurt, Geneva, Gerona, Hannover, Knock, Liege, Lourdes, Madrid, Malaga, Milan Malpensa, Naples, Ostend, Palmero, Palma, Pisa, Rome (Ciampino and Fiumicino), Tarbes, Turin, Venice and Zurich.
The airline even ferried the ‘Queen of Pop’ Madonna on the European leg of her ‘Who’s That Girl World Tour.’ On one occasion, David Bowie was ferried from Luton to Newcastle.
Despite these high-profile passengers, Mediterranean Express lasted less than a year. Plans for a Boeing 737-300 to join the fleet never materialised, and the airline was grounded permanently on January 11, 1988.
Its assets were later acquired by the new UK subsidiary of Belgium charter carrier Trans European Airways, more commonly known as TEA.
G-AZUK was later taken over by Ryanair (FR) and operated by its newly purchased subsidiary, London European Airways. When this airline folded on May 1, 1991 the airframe was taken over by Ryanair before being leased out to Loganair (LM) and British Air Ferries/British World (VF). It was then sold to Oriental Airlines of Nigeria in May 1996 before being scrapped.
N.B. The author does not own the rights to any of the images included in this article unless otherwise stated.
© Jet Back In Time by Lee Cross