BRITISH WORLD AIRLINES (BWA) is now the largest operator of Viscounts, with eight active at the end of 1995. At one stage, BWA and its predecessors operated 18 of the aircraft.

Of the eight left, five have been converted to freighters and three soldiers on in passenger guise, largely on a North Sea contract for Shell Oil. That contract has just been renewed, but the Viscounts are to be replaced by ATR 72s which, according to BWA's sales director Mike Sessions, will burn about half the fuel that a Viscount does. Two of the three passenger aircraft will then be turned into freighters, for which most of the work is overnight parcels carrying for UK mail operator Parcel-force.

Sessions says that, while the Viscounts "...cost nothing to own" and make the airline a good profit, they are extremely maintenance-intensive - engines cost around £100,000 each to overhaul, and propellers £20,000. G-APEY flown here (although V810 G-BFZL was used for pictures) went in for a ten-day 400h check after our flight. Sessions says that some of BWA's machines still have 2,500-3,000h remaining life, which will take them well into next century at a freighter utilisation of around 500h/year (they were accumulating 1,500h/year on North Sea passenger service). The real problem for BWA is that there is nothing else in the 8t-payload class with which to replace the Viscount economically when those hours are used up.

Source: Flight International