Personal Experiences

Air show pilots

From 1909 aviation weeks, meetings and air shows were organised in the United Kingdom. The displays at Hendon drew large crowds.

Hendon air show souvenir programme, 1912

Hendon air show souvenir programme, 1912

Many of the pilots who flew in front of the spectators were instructors at the civil flying schools. Delighting their audiences with daring aerobatics, the aviators became household names and celebrities in their own right. Autograph book entry for pioneer aviator Jules Nardini, 1912

Air show visitors

The public could also take to the skies. Passenger flights were often available at the various air shows.

With some misgivings, Lt Col Charles Edward Stewart took his first flight at Hendon in 1912. A passenger in a Maurice Farman S7 Longhorn he recalls that: Edouard Baumann, famous pilot at Hendon air shows and respected flying instructor

“There’s nothing like your first flight! …

I climbed… into the thing and saw my seat… was a plank with… wickerwork sides and back. The pilot’s body would come between my legs and his shoulders would be level with my knees so that if the thing’s nose dipped suddenly I should probably fall on top of him… I told him I felt most insecure. In September 1911, Gustav Hamel flew the first aerial mail flight from Hendon to Windsor

With many pops and bangs, which almost cracked my eardrums the beastly engine started and the infernal machine commenced shuddering like a ship going full astern on both engines. I… turned to look at the engine hoping that in its efforts to free itself from its cage, it might fall off and postpone the flight..”

Lt Col Charles Edward Stewart's memoir

Lt Col Charles Edward Stewart’s memoir
recalling his first flight

Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté

The cost for taking flight at the Hendon air show, circa 1912Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté was jointly responsible for the first RFC reconnaissance flight of the First World War in August 1914. He learnt to fly in 1912.

He recorded in diary at the time that on 26 July 1912 he

“Had two rides, on each occasion holding the joystick for short periods” and that they were “Great fun”. ACM Sir Philip Bennet Joubert de la Ferté, circa 1942

On 24 August 1912 he took his

“first figure of eight and then went for the first half of brevet. Got that all right and then tried for second half, but a slight misunderstanding about the landing not unconnected with Vickers No.3’s wreck spoilt that.”

The next day on 25 August 1912, he had

“finished [his] brevet [and] In the afternoon went joy riding” ACM Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté diary entries, 1912ACM Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté diary entries, 1912