British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines

British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (BCPA), was an airline formed by the governments of Australia (50%), New Zealand (30%) and the United Kingdom (20%) to operate 'British' trans-Pacific air services linking Australia and New Zealand with Canada, principally in competition with American airline Pan Am. BCPA was registered in New South Wales in June 1946 with headquarters in Sydney. Its original route was Sydney-Auckland-Fiji -Canton Island-Hawaii-San Francisco-Vancouver. Services included Melbourne from 1953.

Initially BCPA had no aircraft of its own and so chartered all flights from Australian National Airways (ANA), which used its Douglas DC-4s. The inaugural service departed from Sydney on 15 September 1946.

Click on the brochure/timetable image at right to download a full copy of the brochure as a .pdf file. This brochure was printed in Canada in 1947. Also, click here to see a 1947 Equator-crossing card from the ANA-BCPA service.

In late 1948 BCPA took delivery of the first of four Douglas DC-6s, fitted as sleepers. Each aircraft was named for one of the four vessels of Captain James Cook: Resolution (VH-BPE), Discovery (VH-BPH), Adventure (VH-BPG) and Endeavour (VH-BPF). The DC-6s enabled BCPA to introduce pressurised services on the Pacific ahead of rival Pan Am, as the advertisement at the bottom of the page shows.

Sadly, DC-6 VH-BPE Resolution was lost with all 19 on board, including American pianist William Kapell, when it crashed while on approach to San Francisco on 29 October 1953. This accident marked the beginning of the end for BCPA and its operations were taken over by Qantas the following year.

Qantas took over responsibility for trans-Pacific services on 1 April 1954, although services continued to be operated by BCPA DC-6s until 15 May. The remaining three BCPA DC-6s were then sold to the New Zealand airline Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL - later Air New Zealand).

ANA-BCPA brochure

(Poster - BCPA; Brochure & top advertisement - BCPA/CAHS collection; Bottom ad - via Steve Bousfield)

Read about the South Pacific Air Transport Council

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Click to download the ANA-BCPA brochure