Since long before Letraset, two state-owned airlines operated in the UK: the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) & British European Airways (BEA).
On April Fool's Day 1974, the two companies combined — resulting in British Airways.
BEA commissioned Goodman Sharp Ltd to produce their in-flight entertainment for kids, which resulted in these Letraset 'Rub-down picture books'. As you'll see, these continued with BA after the merger.
I'm going to lead with the British Airways Skydentikit, even though that's not chronological ordering — & even though it clearly isn't by Letraset. Just for fun.
It's a simple idea; you start with a blank background:
…And you layer these sheets of film over it to make up the two faces. But there isn't really much room for error or creativity!
BEA bought fifteen Trident Twos in April 1968; this picture book would have been produced in 1971.
The text "PR101" on the steps on the back cover has been added from the transfer sheet by the previous owner!
Our scanned copy was unfortunately used, but we've been sent a photo of an unused set:
Twenty-six Trident Threes were bought by BEA, starting service on April Fool's Day 1971.
Having upgraded their fleet, British Airways obviously weren't going to want to keep handing out the old picture books for long. So here's the new 1972 edition!
Robert Crumb checking in, there. Compare this background with the next version…
You can see for yourself that Letraset appeared to have made a bad decision regarding the base plastic for these transfers. I've never seen this kind of brittle damage before or since, so presumably they realised their mistake right away…
It's 1974, & two years after the last picture book, BEA have been absorbed into British Airways — so of course a new edition is called-for. Beric Press is now printing these, but Letraset is still providing the design.
Obviously the background had to be redrawn, but the changes are minimal; clearly the previous artwork was just traced over.
The transfer sheet, however, is more in keeping with current fashions. It's all too easy to make fun of the drawing… I will resist for now.
The same transfer sheet is being used for the TriStar edition (above — probably 1979), & as you can see from the image on the cover below of the woman with a red shirt & black handbag, up to the 1980s.
"Designed and created by Toy Force Ltd", the last British Airways in-flight transfer kit was the same overall size as an Action Transfer set.
Having sold two of these, jackthehank on eBay rummaged around a bit, & he has since found twenty more. "I told you my Dad was a hoarder!" he says. Goodness knows how many trips on Concorde that comes to…*
Eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted right away the remarkable similarity of these transfers to the "Moon City 25th Century" Super Action Transfers from 1974 — six years earlier.
I'll bet you didn't know British Airways had their own Space Shuttle, did you? But facts are facts. Here it is docking with the British Airways Space Station, which somehow has its own gravity for the convenience of passengers.
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives
© Tom Vinelott 2023