The Type170 Bristol Freighter was a post-war work horse. Designed at the end of the war but produced in the Brabazon era, it was built in two configurations , firstly with a passenger carrying capacity of 32 , (exceeded in very special circumstances) and secondly with its bluff nose hinged to open like a clamshell, thus permitting motor vehicles (3 cars and 20 passengers, or one 3 ton truck) to be driven up into its nose.
We believe this 402 was the one ordered by the Saudi Arabian Air Minister, to accompany a batch of Freighters he had ordered for his Air Force. Silver City operated the famous air-ferry service to France, from Lympne to le Touquet, covering many hops per day allowing for the first time rapid access for the English to the continent. Indeed my wife travelled with her parents and siblings to France with the gigantic family Humber Super Snipe which was squeezed into the freighter’s belly.
Ideal for low speed shorthaul flights, the Freighter did not need a retractable undercarriage. The range had a surprisingly long lifespan, being used for island hopping in the Antipodes until well into the 1990s. But it had also performed tough military roles during its existence, including flood relief in Holland, the Berlin air lift, and it even saw action in Vietnam. During the massacres that followed the partition of India normal regulations were thrown into the wind and over 100 passengers at a time were flown to safety each way across the India Pakistan borders.; standing room only!
The last Freighters were delivered in 1958.
Back in the 1950s air accidents were much commoner than now. 214 Freighters were built and 68 of these were written off in accidents, resulting in the deaths of 385 passengers and crew. While the plane’s long service life went well into the 1990s, many in adverse environments island hopping or operating from bush runways, The majority of these accidents were in the first 10 years of its life. Two Freighters had broken up in the air while on test, one – in May 1949 – being witnessed from the conning tower of a surfaced submarine off Portland Bill.