he 3,500-mile journey
across open ocean seems
effortless, a breeze. British
Airways has refined the
experience and rendered
most of us happily oblivious
to the fact that “crossing the pond” was once
regarded as a formidable feat of aviation.
This year BA celebrates 80 years of service
to Bermuda. The airline’s historic links to the
island span some of the most tumultuous events
of the twentieth century and take us back to
an unaffected, pre-modern Bermuda that had
yet to make its mark on the world. When the
flights began, Bermudian women had yet to be
given the vote, St. David’s was only just being
connected to the rest of Bermuda by the Severn
Bridge and islanders were celebrating, from afar,
the coronation in England of King George VI.
Bermuda joined the dots for British pathfinders keen to open up South America and
the Caribbean to European travellers. Having
boldly spread their wings across Europe,
Africa and southern Asia, Britain’s pioneering civil aviators of the 1930s saw the North
Atlantic as their last great frontier.
“Bermuda was extremely important,” says
BA historian Keith Hayward. “It was one of the
main stops that helped us to extend our flights
south, through the Caribbean and down the
west coast of South America. Bermuda was an
Hayward volunteers at BA’s Speedbird
Centre Heritage Collection at Harmond-
sworth, near Heathrow, which is open to
visitors by appointment. It lovingly preserves
the records and artifacts of British Airways
and its predecessor companies BOAC, BEA,
BSAA and the pre-war Imperial Airways.
It was Imperial that brought Bermuda into
the frame in the summer of 1937—and in
ingenious fashion. It’s Empire Flying Boat,
the Cavalier, could not manage a transatlantic
crossing but was able to make the relatively
short hop between Bermuda and New York. So
its parts were packed into wooden crates in the
U.K., shipped to Bermuda aboard a steamer and
then re-assembled on-island. The Cavalier flew
Bermuda to New York and Imperial teamed up
with Pan-Am, which ran a Sikorsky S- 42 flying
boat service from New York to Bermuda.
The feats of the flying boat pilots remain a
source of inspiration to Keith Hayward. “They
were certainly glamorous,” he says. “They
landed not only in safe harbours, as they did
in Bermuda, but also on lakes and rivers and
What was once a daring adventure is now something
many Bermudians take for granted: transatlantic travel.
As we kick off our shoes on BA’s wide-bodied Boeing
777, tilt the seat back and languidly don eye mask and
headphones, London is a pleasant six hours away.
As British Airways marks 80 years of service to Bermuda,
we look back at pioneering feats of aviation by the “Atlantic
Barons” who connected us to the modern world.