From Flying Machines to the Supersonic Jet Age

91 Chapter 6 The Birth of BWIA Britain and the United States. However, those two countries, while allies in WWII, were bitter rivals in the field of commercial aviation. Yerex sought to work with both sides, pursuing American and British support for his hemispheric network. He built a good working agreement with both nations, including cultivating relations with the leading British Ministers in Central America and the Caribbean. That is how, when the time came, he graciously accepted Sir Hubert Young’s invitation to visit Trinidad and assess the potential for starting a new airline. Captain Lowell Yerex was a tall, strongly built, rugged individualist with little respect for obstacles and difficulties. He was moody, charming, stubborn and full of energy. His only anxiety was flying over water and he actually considered using amphibian aircraft, but the idea proved to be too expensive. He flew himself to Barbados a few times, partly to see his sister Betty who lived there and, more importantly, to regularise the essential required route licenses and the official paperwork for the new airline. Betty and her husband, ‘Stevedore’ King, lived in Highgate. ‘Stevedore’ stood out around Bridgetown because he always dressed in an all-white business suit and hat, his trademark attire, long after it was considered fashionable. Yerex set up the new airline with a single, second-hand Lockheed Lodestar (14-seater), which he flew himself from Costa Rica, Registered VP-TAE. He opened a booking office and brought in the first pilots from TACA. He decided to call the new venture airline ‘British West Indian Airways’, reflecting both his own British nationality and the fact that the new carrier was to serve British territories of the Caribbean. In less than six months, Lowell Yerex launched BWIA into the air. Incorporated on 27th November 1939, a shoestring airline had been born that was to grow into the region’s major carrier and last for 66 years, until it was wound up on 31st December 2006. BWIA’s first scheduled flight was on 27th November 1940, from Piarco in Trinidad to Tobago, return to Piarco, then to Seawell in Barbados, and back to Piarco, piloted by Captain Snark Wilson, a close associate and friend of Lowell Yerex.