As with all V.806 Viscounts the initial fuselage construction took place at Hurn, (Bournemouth) with G-APIM being the 50th type V.800 started at the factory. The partly completed fuselage had arrived at Brooklands by 21st December 1957 when the main assembly commenced. It was moved to the finishing hanger on 5th May 1958 and GAPIM took to the air from Brooklands on the 4th June 1958. G-APIM received its certificate of airworthiness on 20th June and was delivered to British European Airways Corporation at Heathrow on the 24th June 1958. Two days later 'India Mike' made her first passenger flight, from London to Barcelona. The Captain on that inaugural flight, was one Ray Piercey father of Stephen!
All B.E.A. Viscounts were called 'Discovery class' after famous discoveries G-APIM was named Robert Boyle after the Irish scientist born in 1627, who was the originator of 'Boyles Law' one of the key gas laws of physics.
V.806 Viscount were all built with the powerful Rolls-Royce R.DA 7 MK 520 dart engine, however these were later removed to give the underpowered Armstrong Whitworth Argosy freighters in the B.E.A. fleet more power, and so R.DA 6 MK 510 (as fitted to the earlier V.802 Viscounts) were fitted to "India Mike" and sister ships.
In its original configuration along with all V.800 Viscounts in the B.E.A. fleet "India Mike" carried 42 tourist and 16 first class passengers. In service it was used on B.E.A.s European routes extending as far afield as Tel-Aviv, Moscow and Tripoli from its Heathrow base, G-APIM being used for route proving flights to Budapest and Prague in the early 60s. The classic aviation image of the aircraft below is courtesy of Jürgen Lutz.
After more than ten years with B.E.A. on routes `India Mike' was put into open storage at Cambridge Airport from February to November 1969. returning to B.E.A. service for two years until G-APIM was transferred to an associate airline Cambrian Airways on 2nd November 1971, G-APIM flew to its new home at Cardiff- Rhoose Airport the next day. On 18th January 1972 G-APIM emerged from the paint shop resplendent in the new colours of Cambrian Airways consisting of an orange upper fuselage and tail with a stylised welsh dragon. Another classic image of India Mike from Jürgen Lutz.
A few months later Cambrian Airways was absorbed into the newly formed `British Airways' and G-APIM left the paint shop on 12th November 1973 repainted in B.A. colours with small Cambrian titles. On 7th December 1977 G-APIM was flying as BZ 762 from Aberdeen to Kirkwall upon landing on runway 10 which was wet and slippery `India Mike' skidded off the concrete and ended up bogged down in the grass, the passengers left the aircraft via the starboard rear door slide. Thankfully there were no injuries to anyone on board and `India Mike' suffered only minor damage.
Below can be seen G-APIM in BA colours. The picture was taken by Michel Gilland at Paris, in March 1980.
By 1982 Viscount 'India Mike' was the last of its type to be retired by B.A. and flown to Cardiff for storage pending sale. In 1984 the Southend based Airline British Air Ferries (B.A.F.) purchased G-APIM plus several other Ex B.A. V.800 Viscounts and was ferried with her undercarriage down to Southend on 3rd February 1984. `India Mike' underwent a major overhaul and was ready for service with B.A.F. by July 1984.
In that same year Flight International's Chief Photographer Stephen Piercey was working at the Hanover Air Show when on the 20th May 1984 he was tragically killed as a result of a mid air collision. Stephen had also founded and edited a high quality, quarterly magazine called `Propliner' which was devoted to Piston and Turboprop transport aircraft around the world. Such was his esteem in the Aviation world and amongst his friends at British Air Ferries, that they offered to name one of their Viscounts after Stephen.
Of course the choice of which one was simple, it had to be the one Stephen's father Ray Piercey had flown on its inaugural flight from London to Barcelona, back in 1958 - G-APIM. The honours of naming `India Mike' fell to Stephens parent's Ray and Patsy and you can see a picture of the naming ceremony on the home page of this website. Their son Stephen is pictured below.
In commercial service with B.A.F all the V.800 Viscount fleet was configured for either 76 passengers in an economy layout, or 7 tons of freight, on routes that spanned across Europe. In one of life's little 'twists' "India Mike" returned to Heathrow on the 18th and 19th of January 1985 and operated the British Airways Jersey Service. This was because the BAC1-11 that had replaced the Viscounts at BA, were unable to operate in the heavy snow!
An abrupt and very untimely end to G-APIM's flying career came on 11th January 1988 when `India Mike' suffered major damage. While parked at Southend Airport a taxing Shorts 3.30 (G-BHWT of Guernsey Airlines) lost hydraulic power, leading to a brake and steering failure. The shorts collided with the empty Viscount, destroying the left hand side of the nose and coming to rest with the Viscount lodged under the wing, see the images below.
The Viscount was assessed as being 'beyond economical repair' it was stored and later donated many serviceable parts to other Viscounts in the B.A.F. fleet. The errant Shorts 3.30 was not so lucky however and was transported to Biggin Hill, where it was subsequently scrapped. It is here that the story of G-APIM should have come to an end, were it not for a group of strangers who later became friends and saved `India Mike' for future generation to climb on board