The document transcribed below was a statement issued by Air Vice-Marshal Bennett at the beginning of January 1947, just after the first anniversary of the inaugural flight :-    


By Air Vice-Marshal Donald Bennett

BRITISH SOUTH AMERICAN AIRWAYS - one of the three Government-owned Civil Air Corporations has just celebrated its first anniversary. On January 1. 1946, the first British air service to South America was inaugurated. Now there are five services a week in each direction, four of them to the East Coast, with an extension across the 23,000 ft. Andes to Santiago. Another service runs to the Caribbean area. In a few days this Caribbean service will be extended down the West Coast, thus completing the circuit of the continent by joining the East Coast route with the West Coast route at Santiago in Chile.
Between Mexico and Cape Horn lies a vast and wealthy area with a population of about 150 million. They are mostly connected racially with Europe and feel strong ties with their mother countries. Moreover, between Europe and this enormous sphere there is an obvious mutual wish to trade. Air travel, therefore, is in great demand and - unlike pre-war British civil aviation - we have answered that demand. Other air lines have also responded. British civil aviation will do well to study the progress of the South American route; it is perhaps the most competitive in the world.
In face of this international competition we of B.S.A.A. were under an obvious temptation to go to extremes. We might have concentrated on speed - and never mind the expense. We might have lavished money on show, ostentatious comfort, advertising and grand overheads. But we have done otherwise. We believe that the best British policy is not loud-mouthed or ostentatious, but rather one of giving honest value for money, based on thoroughly sound operational practice combined with comfort and personal attention. Moreover, we believe that this policy can be carried through without burdening the British taxpayer.

We have therefore adopted certain rules which we consider essential for success. The first is that we use British equipment, not simply because it is British but because we believe it is ultimately the best. The Lancastrian is - in reality as opposed to advertisement - the fastest airliner in the world. It is far from satisfactory, but as a make-do until we obtain our faster types it has proved a wonderful asset. The York combines the reliability and staunchness of the Lancastrian with better passenger space. Our second rule is that only those who are professionally experienced in a particular function are appointed to any position of responsibility. Each man knows his own job, and regardless of his position is not required to control those whose jobs he does not know. It is a policy of "the profession for the professional."

In aiming at the four virtues of safety, speed, comfort, and regularity we naturally put safety first - in a class by itself. The relative merits of speed and comfort are less easy to determine. A survey of passengers' opinions would usually suggest a preference for comfort. An investigation of the successful air lines of the world, however, shows that the fastest service is always the one to which passengers come when they wish to make a booking. Experience is the only useful guide on such points as these.

The value of regularity is, of course enormous, and in this respect our first year's record compares well with that of any similar airline in the world. We have never cancelled a service, and delays at the far end of a 7,000 mile route seldom exceed one hour.

Safety, speed, comfort, and regularity would, however, be improved if we could have all the radio aids, including modern radar, which we desire. To bring the scientific achievements of war-time into practical civil use is a slow process. Not only technical problems but politics and national jealousies are involved. Efforts have been made to secure international agreement, so that the installation of modern aids could proceed. I am sufficiently undiplomatic to say bluntly that I think these conferences have been a shocking failure. At present we have to cut into our payload to the extent of about 1,000 lb. in order to carry all the various types of radio and radar equipment which we consider necessary on our somewhat mixed route.

In studying comfort we do our utmost by personal attention, by the provision of hot meals, adjustable seats, and other features to make our passengers feel at ease, both in body and in mind. Unfortunately there are many factors affecting mental comfort which we cannot control. Passports and visas are a constant source of trouble and vexation. Believe it or not, the United Kingdom still requires transit visas for people proceeding from South America through the U.K. to other points in Europe. The purpose of these transit visas is obscure; they are detrimental to this airline and, I suggest, to this country. Formalities such as customs, immigration checks and the like, are inevitable, but unfortunately they often cause delays which are incomprehensible to the ordinary passenger. Sometimes, when all formalities appear to be finished, passengers are still kept waiting for long, desolate periods.

We take all possible steps to mitigate these trials. We try to avoid early morning departures, and to complete as many formalities as we can on our passengers' behalf. We try also to keep our passengers informed. I would like to stress that most of the officials concerned do their best; but the regulations in all countries, Britain included, are a serious obstacle still to comfortable air travel.

In running an air line there are a million points to watch. A one-year-old air line is hardly mature; there is vast development to be done. But in this great new field of enterprise, vital to Britain's trading prosperity, we in this country have relatively long experience, a temperament bred of sea-farers which makes us air-farers, and I believe, the will to achieve. We must banish our national failing of under confidence and we must be British: then we shall succeed.