Dan Air Boeing 737-300 G-SCUH coming to a rest on stand 6 at Newcastle Airport on the morning of Saturday 4th May 1985. (Photo: Ian MacFarlane)
Some of the more exciting and memorable moments for the enthusiast at Newcastle Airport over the last couple of decades have been provided by delivery flights involving factory-fresh airliners, calling in for fuel en-route to their new operators in Europe, the Middle/Far East and even as far away as Australia. These have all almost exclusively involved various variants of the de Havilland/Bombardier Dash Eight, however this issue coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of one delivery flight that remains to this day unique in Newcastle Airport history.
There are of course many factors which dictate just where aircraft on ferry/delivery flights elect to stop for re-fuelling/overnight stops, however aircraft range, and therefore the actual locations of airfields en-route is usually the most significant. For many years new-build 'single-aisle' Airbus' routed through Prestwick as the airport provided the last suitable runway/airfield services prior to the long over-water flight to the North American continent. New Boeing airliners coming in the opposite direction regularly stop at those airports where the carrier to whom it is being delivered to already has a presence in the form of a scheduled service base; therefore aircraft delivered to such carriers as Kenya Airways and Nigeria Airways have passed through Heathrow in the past, while those en-route to Air India and Turkenistan Airways have made their first landfall stop after the Atlantic crossing at Birmingham (although the former now appears to prefer Frankfurt, presumably due to the same reason). Unfortunately here in the north-east such incentives for aircraft looking for suitable en-route stops have never existed - although we were recently very close to seeing the first members of a new and soon to be very large middle-eastern 'lo-cost' fleet. However we were indeed in the right place at the right time all those years ago for one new airliner, still to this day the only factory fresh, jet airliner ever to be delivered through Newcastle Airport.
I had been employed by the owner of this new machine for little over one month, when on the morning of Saturday 4th May 1985, Dan Air's Boeing 737-3Q8 G-SCUH made its first UK landfall at Newcastle Airport on its delivery flight from Seattle. Having routed from Boeing Field to Gander, and then to Keflavik, the aircraft bucked the trend of previous and future delivery flights by visiting Newcastle in order to collect a CAA inspector - who had presumably arrived at Newcastle earlier that morning on the Dan Air scheduled service from Gatwick ? - to complete airworthiness approval on a flight wholly within UK airspace. After one hour and ten minutes on what is now stand 9 at Newcastle Airport (then stand 6), the aeroplane departed on the relatively short trip for a delivery flight, to Gatwick still using the 'DanAir89UH' callsign, and then onwards to Lasham, going into service the following week on the Gatwick-Montpelier schedule. Dan Air had failed by just a few months to be the first UK operator of the new CFM-powered version of the Boeing 737, Orion Air having earlier become the first European operator of what is now called the 'classic' series of 737.
The moment of history caught on film, 'Uniform-Hotel' touching down on Newcastle's runway 07 at 1131 local time on 4th May 1985. (Photo: Mike Humes)
G-SCUH was never too common again at Newcastle Airport, visiting again during 1987 and 1988, however it remained the sole member of the carrier's three-strong 737-300 fleet ever to appear here. The aeroplane was still part of the fleet when Dan Air was 'bought' by British Airways at the end of 1992, but soon after it returned to the USA to become N780MA with low-fare start-up Morris Air in Salt Lake City, Utah, a venture jointly set-up by David Neeleman who went on to set-up jetBlue Airways (and who once took my boarding card at the gate in Orlando the morning after a Tampa Bay-hosted Superbowl !). The airline was to be one of the shortest-lived ventures in US aviation history however, being bought by Southwest Airlines in December 1993, 'Uniform-Hotel' becoming N688SW with the airline generally regarded as the creator of the lo-cost model. The only factory-fresh jet airliner ever to be delivered through Newcastle Airport is still flying to this day in the blue/orange livery of Southwest Airlines.
I was to be re-acquainted with Boeing 737-300 msn 23254 l/n 1107 almost exactly one year after the failure of Dan Air, at the Evergreen Airshow at Marana, Arizona on 10th October 1993.
CREDITS: Mike Humes, Peter Ure.