Saturday, December 19, 2020

Sabena: New York to Brussels to Paris via Hélicoptère, c.1957


A lesser-remembered chapter of the old Belgian flag-carrier Sabena is the airline's experiment with helicopter services. The handsome poster above is surely from the late 1950s, showing the DC-7 which arrived in 1957 to serve the airline's long-haul routes but was supplanted only three years later in 1960 by the Boeing B707. 

Details of Sabena's unique rotor-craft network is reprinted from the Sabena website


SABENA operated helicopter services from 21 August 1950 when it used Bell 47D aircraft on an experimental postal service between Brussels and extending domestically to cities like Antwerp, Liege and Turnhout. It was begun in co-operation with the Belgian Post Office.

The Bell 47s were replaced with the larger Sikorsky S.55 allowing the service to extend to internationally to Maastricht. This was the world's first international helicopter service.

SABENA intended using helicopters on an international rotary-wing passenger service as a feeder service for it's fixed-wing international/European services. This was started on 1 September 1953 using the Sikorsky S.55 aircraft, which could carry eight passengers.

SABENA flew international services with Sikorsky S.55 SABENA began international passenger services with the Sikorsky S.55

By October 1956 the service had new helicopters, the twelve-seat Sikorsky S.58 and SABENA's fleet of eight S.58 helicopters inauguated the service to Paris in 1957!

Sikorsky S.58 SABENA improved the helicopter services with eight Sikorsky S.58s

By 1960 this international passenger helicopter service from Brussels flew to Rotterdam, Antwerp, Lille, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Liege, Paris, Dortmund, Duisburg, Cologne and Bonn. It served Holland, France, Germany and Luxembourg internationally.

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