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Aviation: All Airliners Are The Same in the Political Game

The opening line to my book, Heathrow Airport, An Illustrated History (Fonthill Media, 2016), says that I am a passenger - not a pilot or an employee otherwise, either of an airline or airport. I remain so today, yet like many others, I am also an enthusiast of aviation and commercial air transport especially.

The roots of my liking for the air are probably seated deeply in my upbringing. Almost from the day I was born, I have been transported by air from somewhere in the world to somewhere else, yet I am far from being a frequent flyer. Those journeys by air that I have made always had a tendency to be a little repetitive; the now closed RAF base at Lyneham in Wiltshire to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus being an early example. The Royal Air Force and the Bristol Britannia was never the quickest way between the two but it had its more unique aspects - it remains today the only example (at least as far as I know) of an airliner fleet having every seat in the passenger cabin facing backwards.

The option of so doing has always been there and it has also always been recognized as the safest way of seating passengers should anything untoward happen but airlines shied away from the idea, saying passengers wouldn’t like it. Perhaps not but the RAF always did take care of British Services personnel and their families as it flew them from posting to posting. Facing the rear certainly beats sitting sideways in the cavernous maw of a Hercules droning its laborious way to the Falklands. That of course, is now a distant memory, such flights taking place today in the comfort of an Airbus A330 from RAF Brize Norton – with seats arranged in the usual way.

Whichever way the seats are, to most passengers, one aircraft is the same as another and an airport terminal is an airport terminal. There are many of us however, me being one obviously, who are more inquiring as to what we fly on and for that that matter also, why this or that particular aircraft is the one in use. The same questions arise in the minds of many who are enthusiastic about air travel yet for a significant number, some of those questions are never answered. For example, why does any airline buy a particular type of aircraft?