Reflections on Aden Airways: A Nostalgic Journey

The photos and names on your website triggered a rush of memories for me, a bittersweet journey back to my youth in Aden – a place marked by its scorching heat, dusty streets, and a certain desolation that often hung heavily in the air.

I fondly recall the hours I spent at Khormaksar Airport, eyes wide with wonder at the sleek, gleaming aircraft of Aden Airways. I dreamed of soaring through the skies in those magnificent machines. With aspirations high, I applied to Aden Airways, then part of BOAC, hoping to train as a pilot. Sadly, my repeated applications were met with unwavering rejection.

Watching the pilots navigate the DC3s and Argonauts to destinations like Mukeiras, Asmara, Bahrain, and beyond, I felt both awe and envy. The arrival of the state-of-the-art VC10s and the colossal V bombers for hot weather trials at RAF Khormaksar only intensified my yearning. These warplanes, towering over the modest Aden Airways DC3s and RAF Hawker Hunters, seemed to mock my grounded dreams.

It baffled me why my applications were turned down. I was performing well at Aden College in Dar Sa'ad, studying English Language and Literature among other subjects, and came from a family where English was a common tongue.

The pilots and air hostesses of Aden Airways epitomised elegance and success, donning crisp uniforms and driving new cars. They lived lives of privilege, enjoying their private beach at Goldmoor in Tawahi and residing in exclusive quarters, a world apart from the local community.

Aden Airways operated like an elite club, where connections and British citizenship seemed to be prerequisites for employment. This exclusivity, I assumed, contributed to the airline's commendable service and safety record in the hinterland.

With the dawn of the Federation of South Arabia, a wave of 'arabisation' began, urging companies to promote local nationals or 'watanis' for the impending transition of power from Britain to the Local Government. Aden Airways participated, hiring English-speaking local women as air hostesses and educated Arabs in clerical roles. However, no strides were made to include locals in the pilot cadre.

I often pondered the reason behind this exclusion. Was it related to the border troubles with Republican Yemen or the security challenges the British forces faced with nationalist groups? After all, Aden Airways was essentially British Overseas Airways Corporation in disguise.

By the time a local national was finally sent to the UK for pilot training around 1967, it was too late. The colonial structure had already begun to crumble.

Decades have passed since then, and though Aden Airways no longer graces the skies, its memories remain etched in my mind. It transported me safely to various destinations and provided experiences that were truly unforgettable. My best wishes to the management and staff, wherever they may be today.

~ Story from Mr. Mahboob Sattar