Far East Aviation Company – Part Two

This article about an almost forgotten company comes courtesy of IDJ’s extensive archives about Hong Kong’s aviation history. If the reader is sufficiently interested in the subject it might be read in conjunction with our earlier article, Far East Aviation Company Ltd. – “British Enterprise in China”, 1934 article, linked below. The first image below has been extracted from the latter article.

“The Far East Aviation Company and the Aircraft (China) The Far East Aviation Company (FEACo) was organised late in 1928 in Hong Kong by F R Smith (ex-RAAF) and Wing Commander R Vaughan-Fowler (ex-RAF), who became the company’s Managing Director.

The company’s headquarters were moved to Shanghai in the autumn of 1931. FEACo were agents for the British firms Armstrong Whitworth, Avro, Saunders Roe and Westland. In 1929 they imported an Avro Avian seaplane, which was allotted the first Hong Kong civil aircraft registration, VR-HAA. It was intended for demonstrations and was to enable FEACo representative Fowler “to get about with greater speed and comfort”, as one local newspaper put it. The company offered a taxi service and late in November sightseeing flights from Kai Tak were advertised.

Far East Aviation Flightglobal 1934 Article Image 1

Mr. A. V. Harvey and two Chinese pilots with an Avro 626 (“Lynx”).

The FEACo sold a large number of Armstrong Whitworth AW 16s, Armstrong Whitworth Atlases, Avro Avians, Avro 624s, Avro 626s, Avro 631s, Avro 637s, Saunders Roe Cutty Sarks and Westland Wapitis, mainly to Chinese warlord air forces. In addition, company pilot A V Harvey apparently acquired an Avian for his personal use, which was registered VR-HBR in December 1932. The FEACo had branches and agencies in South China (Manager A V Harvey), Fukien (Manager G F Jones-Evans), North China (Manager H A Howes) and Canton (Representative A D Bennett). The Spares Department was headed by W F Dudman and the Engineering, Erection and Maintenance Division by V C Higginbotham, H A Mills and W R Hawes.

In 1935 as Imperial Airways was planning the route it would take from Penang to Hong Kong for the first scheduled airline service to Hong Kong, Far East Aviation Co. attempted to become a partner on the route, playing on its expertise in the area. However, Imperial Airways was very parochial and insisted on keeping all its activities “in-house” and rebuffed Far East Aviation Co. The company did however service Imperial’s DH86 aircraft as they arrived and departed at Kai Tak on their scheduled services from 1936 to 1940 under the supervision of an Imperial Airways resident engineer

 

Vaughan-Fowler retired in 1934 and was replaced by Arthur V Harvey. Orders were diminishing and the FEACo concentrated its efforts on selling aircraft to Kwangsi Province, where they also ran a factory and provided advisers. Aircraft (China) Ltd was set up on 1 September 1934 to take over FEACo’s aircraft sales department. Aircraft (China) also represented Gloster and Hawker and took over Fairey from Arnhold & Co, but no new sales were achieved. Competition selling aircraft to China was fierce in the 1930s with companies from the USA, Italy, France, Russia etc all vying to supply warlords with aircraft. Many military aircraft were disguised as civil types to overcome various restrictions on selling military aircraft to China. But, it was a fairly simple matter to fit guns and bomb racks on many types.

A large number of aircraft imports were shipped through Hong Kong and either erected by Far East Aviation Co and flown out to China customers or transported there by Junks or barges and via the Canton-Kowloon Railway

The FEACo remained in business, because on 24 January 1936 an “ex-RAF bomber” piloted by Flight Lieutenant W F Murray, who was referred to as the head of the FEACo in Hong Kong, crashed into the sea near Macao. Both Murray and his passenger were rescued. The aircraft had been chartered to make a business trip to Hanoi. In 1937 two Airspeed Envoys were sold to Kwangsi via FEACo Manager W. F. Dudman who became a prisoner of the Japanese on the fall of Hong Kong. He resumed working with the Far East Flying School after the war, eventually retiring to Australia.

The Far East Aviation Company serviced the airliners of Eurasia and Air France when they commenced scheduled services to the Colony and it had a close relationship with the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) who had many routes in China. The Far East Aviation Company undertook many remarkable rebuilds on CNAC airliners shot down by the Japanese or had crashed in China. Notably the Douglas DC2 Kweilin shot down after leaving Kai Tak and coming down in a waterway near Macau with a great loss of life. Kweilin was recovered from upside-down under-water and full of bullet-holes, by barge to Kai Tak to be rebuilt and fly again.

Far East Aviation Company also dabbled in motors car being involved with marketing British ‘STANDARD’ cars as per attached newsprint advert under the FAR EAST MOTORS banner. A company with longevity in Hong Kong.

 

1947 When Brigadier-General Critchley the chairman of UK based Skyways was the director-general of BOAC he had expounded a doctrine that the corporation must have total control of the feeder services to the Empire trunk routes.

In Hong Kong, the arrival of BOAC with its associate Hong Kong Airways backed by the UK government’s intent on nationalising everything for the State caused Cathy Pacific, Skyways, the Far East Aviation Co. and others to review their situation. Their aim being to protect their common interests and create a joint local airline to operate four-engined airliners. These discussions failed, mainly because the colonials, especially the American and Australian founders of Cathy Pacific could not stand the overbearing and patronising manner of the Skyways chairman, Brigadier-General  Critchley who arrogantly assumed they would bow to his obvious superiority. They feared he would destroy everything they had worked so hard to develop and absorb their remains into Skyways of London. They took great delight in baiting him at every opportunity which raised his blood pressure considerably. However, the BOAC doctrine he had promoted when with the company, came back to bite Critchley when Skyways were forced by the UK government from competing with BOAC’s flying boats on the lucrative long-distance routes and they left the Far East scene.

After WW11 the trading company Wheelock-Marden took over the Far East Aviation and Far East Flying Training School companies.

With the post-war presence of JAMCO and PAMCO later merging into HAECO, the Far East Aviation Company appears to have ceased involvement in major aircraft maintenance.

Research into post-war Wheelock-Marden may reveal more about its relationship with the Far East Aviation Company.

Wheelock-Marden was further absorbed into the Hutchinson Group of companies in the 1960/70s????

 

Vaughan-Fowler retired in 1934 and was replaced by Arthur V Harvey. Orders were diminishing and the FEACo concentrated its efforts on selling aircraft to Kwangsi Province where they alao ran a factory and provided advisers. Aircraft (China) Ltd was set up on 1st September 1934 to take over FEACo’s aircraft sales department. Aircraft (China) also represented Gloster and Hawker and took over Fairey from Arnhold & Co but no new sales were achieved. Competition selling aircraft to China was fierce in the 1930s with companies from the USA, Italy, France, Russia etc ll vying to supply warlords with aircraft. Many military aircraft were disguised as civil types to overcome various restrictions on selling military aircraft to China. But it was a fairly simple matter to fit guns and bomb racks on many types.

A large number of aircraft imports were shipped through Hong Kong and either erected by Far East Aviation Co and flown out to China customers or transported there by junks or barges and via the Canton-Kowloon Railway.

The FEACo remained in business, because on 24 January 1936 an “EX-RAF bomber” piloted by Flight Lieutenant W F Murray, who was referred to as the head of the FEACo in Hong Kong, crashed into the sea near Macao. Both Murray and his passenger were rescued. The aircraft had been chartered to make a business trip to Hanoi. In 1937 two Airspeed Envoys were sold to Kwangsi via FEACo Manager W. F. Dudman who became a prisoner of the Japanese on the fall of Hong Kong. He resumed working with the Far East Flying School after the war, eventually retiring to Australia.

The Far East Aviation Company serviced the airliners of Eurasia and Air France when they commenced scheduled services to the colony and it had a close relationship withe China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) who had many routes in China. The Far East Aviation Company undertook many remarkable rebuilds on CNAC airliners shot down by the Japanese or [which] had crashed in China. Notably the DOUGLAS DC2 Kweilin shot down after leaving Kai Tak and coming down in a waterway near Macau with great loss of life. Kweilin was recovered from upside-down under-water and full of bullet holes, [taken] by barge to Kai Tak to be rebuilt and fly again.

Far East Aviation Company also dabbled in motor cars being involved with marketing British ‘STANDARD’ cars as per attached newsprint advert under the FAR EAST MOTORS banner. a company with longevity in Hong Kong.

Far East Motors Advert IDJ

Courtesy: IDJ

1947 When Brigadier-General Critchley the chairman of UK based Skyways was the director-general of BOAC he had expounded  that the corporation must have total control of the feeder services.

In Hong Kong the arrival of BOAC with its associate Hong Kong Airways backed by the UK government’s intent on nationalising everything for the State caused Cathay Pacific, Skyways, the Far East Aviation Co. nd others to review their situation. Their aim being to protect their common interests and create a joint local airline to operate four-engined airliners. These discussions failed, mainly because the colonials, especially the American and Australian founders of Cathay Pacific could not stand the  overbearing and patronising manner of the Skyways chairman, Brigadier-General Critchley who arrogantly assumed they would bow to his obvious superiority. They feared he would destroy everything they had worked so hard to develop and absorb their remains into Skyways of London. They took great delight in baiting him at every opportunity which raised his blood pressure considerably. However, the BOAC doctrine he had promoted when with the company came back to bite Critchley when Skyways was forced by the UK government from competing with BOAC’s flying boats on the lucrative long-distance routes and they left the Far East scene.

After WW11 the trading company Wheelock-Marden took over the Far East Aviation and Far East Flying Training School companies.

With the post-war presence of JAMCO and PAMCO later merging into HAECO, the Far East Aviation Company appears to have ceased involvement in major aircraft maintenance.

Research into post-war Wheelock-Marden may reveal more about its relationship with the Far East Aviation Company.

Wheelock-Marden was further absorbed into the Hutchinson Group of companies in the 1960/70s????”

Source:

  1. Hong Kong Historical Aircaft Association archives

This article was first posted on 18th November 2017.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Far East Aviation Company Ltd. – “British Enterprise in China”, 1934 article
  2. Imperial Airways – including first scheduled flight into Hong Kong 1936
  3. First Air Mails from Hong Kong by the Imperial Airways Service
  4. Far East Flying Training School Ltd, Part 1
  5. Far East Flying Training School Ltd, Part 2
  6. The Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd (HAECO) photographs
  7. The Aircraft Maintenance Industry in Hong Kong – post WW2

 

 

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