British Amphibious Airlines Ltd
The name of Flight Lieutenant R. H. C. Monk (later Wing Commander) will long be remembered for the part he played in the story of Manx aviation. He had served with the Royal Air Force (Fleet Air Arm) and later became a pilot with National Flying Services Ltd. based at Blackpool. Here he spent much of his time on pleasure flying trips around the resort and on charter trips which made him a regular visitor to the Isle of Man. It was the demand for the latter that gave Lt. Monk the idea of setting up British Amphibious Air Lines to operate a regular service to the Island. This was not only the first of its kind to the Isle of Man but also the first scheduled internal air service anywhere within the British Isles.
Early in 1932 Lt. Monk was granted permission to use the foreshore at Blackpool, and at Douglas he was allowed to land in the Bay. His intention was to spend the day on pleasure trips over Blackpool and in the evening he would make the return trip to Douglas when the Bay was clear of sailing craft. Should sea conditions be too rough then he would divert to the more sheltered waters of Derbyhaven or make a 'dry' landing on the nearby field at Ronaldsway. The service was advertised and a Saro Cutty Sark was purchased and named 'Progress I ' after the Blackpool motto. The Cutty Sark was a little amphibian powered by two 140 h.p, Hermes engines and was the f first passenger carrying flying boat to appear and this particular one was registered G-ABBC. It could four passengers and had a cruising speed of 85 m.p.h. which enabled it to make the 60 mile crossing from Blackpool in 40 minutes. Passengers were allowed 15 Ibs. of baggage and the single trip cost 35 shillings (£1.65) and a return trip at £3 . Lt. Monk was also prepared to carry letters and small packages to help finance the venture. Actually the first trip was made on March 18th (Easter) 1932. For the summer months from June to September it is recorded that a total of 8,920 miles were flown and 348 passengers carried on the service. Before leaving Blackpool Lt. Monk would telephone the Athol Street office of W. H Chapman, the Island's first travel agency, to indicate his intended point of arrival. Mr. .lack Cretney, to be long associated with the travel company, recalls being often sent to Derbyhaven to arrange for a rowing boat to bring the passengers ashore.
In the same year advertisements appeared in local newspapers announcing a second regular service to the Isle of Man, this time from Speke, Liverpool. The man behind the plan was Captain Campbell Shaw who had taken Flight Lieutenant Tommy Rose into partnership. Tommy Rose was one of the famous racing pilots of the time. They had acquired the prototype Cutty Sark G-AAIP which is historically interesting in that it was the first product of Saunders Roe Ltd. which went on to build some of the great flying boats before the war. The new venture was given the title 'Isle of Man Air Service'. However no details are available as to how regular the service was and the newspaper advertisements disappeared. Flight Lt. Rose seems to have spent most of his time on pleasure flights from Douglas with occasional trips to Liverpool. Engine troubles seem to have been a problem and G-AAIP was spotted down on the River Mersey for a time, Later, during August, it was back in Douglas but one evening it hit some floating timber in the Bay which holed the Cutty Sark's hull, Shortly after this Captain Campbell Shaw left the Island for good, but not before he was fined for storing petrol illegally at Ronaldsway where maintenance had been undertaken. Tommy Rose eventually flew G-AAIP back to Cowes where it had been built in 1929.
Lt. Monk was back again in 1933 but with a reduced service, operating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only. British Amphibious had adopted the very appropriate telegraphic address of 'Webbed Feet'! During the 1933 season 4,000 miles had been covered but only 130 passengers made use of the service. The little 'Cutty Sark' had performed admirably without any serious incident. Lt. Monk then attempted to replace the Cutty Sark with a newer and larger Saro Cloud but this was blocked by Whitehall Securities Ltd. who had gained a controlling interest in Saunders Roe, and who were interested in starting their own service to the Isle of Man through United Airways. The part he had played in the pioneering days of Manx aviation is commemorated in the refreshment lounge at Ronaldsway by a plaque over which is one of the Cutty Sark's propellers.
Manx Aviation in War and Peace published by kind permission of: The Manx Experience