Channel Airways won a contract in April 1969 to provide services during the 1970, 71 and 72 holiday seasons. The airline urgently needed additional aircraft – indeed it was a condition of the contract that jet aircraft be made available.
Coincidentally BEA and Olympic Airways were at this time in the process of phasing out 4Bs. Of Olympic’s aircraft – SX-DAK and SX-DAL had been wholly owned by the Greek carrier and SX-DAN and SX-DAO had been on long term lease from BEA. All had been sold or returned to BEA pending their disposal and they were for many months stored at Cambridge.
Channel Airways bought five 4Bs – the 4 aircraft used by Olympic and the ex-BEA G-APMB. It was reported that Channel paid £2 million for the 4Bs – a price that included spares and initial technical assistance.
So as to be ready for the 1970 season the first two Comets were delivered to Channel on 26th January 1970. These ex-Olympic aircraft were re-registered with their original registrations G-APYC and G-APYD respectively. The ex-BEA owned aircraft G-ARDI (once SX-DAO) was delivered in April and G-APZM (once SX-DAN) was delivered in May.
All the Comets were converted to seat 109 passengers but were otherwise little different from their BEA days. Channel even retained the basic livery of British European – only adding the Channel Airways name and painting out the Corporations red squares!
With the ex-Olympic aircraft even less was done – the aircraft had the dark blue fin of Olympic painted out in black.
Channel planned to phase out the Comets after the 1972 season and for their third season of the contract to change their trading title to Air England. The original contract, however, was not renewed and no Comets were to carry the Air England title or livery.
Channel Airways experienced many problems in the spring of 1971 with maintenance and in obtaining spares. So in June 1971 Channel bought an ex-BOAC, ex-Mexicana Comet 4 – G-APDR – which was used for spares. They retired the 4B G-ARDI in September 1971. ‘DR was eventually broken up at Stansted and the fuselage used at Fire Service Training School of the British Airports Authority from June 1972..
Channel ran into financial difficulties and in 1972 the Stansted maintenance base was closed. Channel passed into the hands of the receiver.