British Civil Aviation in 1919 – Part 1

10 January
No.2 (Communications) Squadron start regular passenger and mail services between London and Paris, mainly to benefit the peace conference held at Versailles.

13 December – 16 January
Squadron Leader Maclaren, Lieutenant R. Halley and others begin the first flight from England to India, flying in a Handley Page V/1500 heavy bomber. They arrive in Delhi on January 16th having flown via Rome and Baghdad.

Aircraft Transport & Travel Ltd (AT&T) start an express parcel air-service between Folkestone and Ghent, to carry food, clothing and military resources to Belgium.

12 February
The Department of Civil Aviation is established.

17 February
Short’s airship factory at Cardington is nationalised and renamed the Royal Airship Works.

13 April
The Vickers Vimy Commercial aircraft makes its first flight.

23 April
The North Sea Aerial Navigation Company is formed as a domestic airline, using surplus military Blackburn RT1 Kangaroo Torpedo Bombers. Each aircraft can carry seven passengers, flying between Hounslow and Leeds.

30 April
Civil flying in Britain is formally restored with the issue of Air Navigation Regulations 1919, which authorise civil flying from 1 May.

The Duke of York (later King George VI) becomes the first United Kingdom Royal pilot when he begins instruction at Waddon Aerodrome, where his instructor, Lieutenant Coryton, recorded that the Duke showed little aptitude for flying.

The de Havilland DH16 four-seater passenger airliner enters service with Aircraft Transport & Travel and flys to Amsterdam in July for a demonstration at the Dutch First Air Traffic Exhibition.

18 May
Harry Hawker and Lieutenant Commander K.F. Mackenzie-Grieve attempt a non-stop transatlantic flight between Newfoundland and the United Kingdom. They land on the sea the following day, approximately 1,000 miles east of Newfoundland and are picked up by a Danish vessel. The Daily Mail Newspaper rewards them £5,000 for their attempt.

24 May
Avro Civil Aviation Service begins the first domestic airline service in Britain, offering daily flights between Manchester, Southport and Blackpool. The service lasts 4 months.

7 June
British Airline Daimler Air Hire is established and later becomes known as Daimler Airway.

14 June
Handley Page Transport establishes its first service, flying between Cricklewood and Bournemouth.

14-15 June
Captain J. Alcock and Lieutenant A. Whitten Brown make the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic, flying in a Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John’s in Newfoundland to Clifden in County Galway in Ireland. After a total flying time of 16 hours 27 minutes they crash land in a bog at Clifden Station, mistaking soft ground for hard. Both Alcock and Brown are Knighted for their achievement.

25 June
Gordon Selfridge, founder of the Selfridge’s department store in Oxford Street in London, becomes the first businessman to charter an aeroplane exclusively for business use. He hires a de Havilland DH9 from Aircraft Transport & Travel, for an urgent trip to Dublin. Leaving Hendon after lunch, he arrives at RAF Baldonnel 3 hours 15 minutes later.

1 July
London’s first airport, Hounslow Heath is completed and opens for business. The airport includes a Customs hall and a de Havilland DH9 of Aircraft Transport & Travel makes the first flight.

2-6 July
Airship R34 makes the first airship crossing of the Atlantic, flying from East Fortune in Scotland to New York.

9-13 July
Airship R34 leaves Mineola in New York for Norfolk in England and arrives 5 days later, having made the first two-way crossing of the Atlantic.

15 July
Airport Transport and Travel undertakes an experimental airline flight to Le Bourget in France.

25 August
A de Havilland DH16 belonging to Aircraft Transport and Travel begins the world’s first scheduled daily international airline service, flying from Hounslow to Le Bourget in France.

25 August
Handley Page Transport makes a Press flight from Hounslow to Le Bourget in France, using an 0/7 ten passenger airliner, with regular services beginning later, on 2 September.

26 August
Handley Page Transport carries the first two women to fly on an airline service, between England and France.

London to Paris services by No.2 (Communications) Squadron are discontinued after a total of 749 flights.

2 September
Handley Page Transport begins a regular London to Paris airline service.

13 September
Airship R33 returns from a 20 hour trip over Belgium and the Netherlands, during which the luxurious facilities of the airship are demonstrated. During the flight, a five-course lunch is served and a ship’s newspaper is published.

28 September
Supermarine Aviation Company inaugurates a flying boat service to Le Havre.

30 September
British Aerial Transport inaugurates a short-lived domestic airline service between London and Birmingham, and a London to Amsterdam service is also flown for a short time.

7 October
The first purpose built civil airliner, BAT FK26, enters service and flies from Hendon to Amsterdam.

11 October
The first airline meals are served by Handley Page Transport, when passengers are offered a pre-packed lunch-box, costing 3 shillings, on their London to Paris service.

13 October
The first company executive aircraft enters service. S. Instone & Company (shipping line) operate the de Havilland DH4A from Hounslow to Cardiff and Hounslow to Paris.

10 November
Air Transport & Travel begin regular airmail services by between Hounslow and Paris. The service is available at a rate of 2s 6d an ounce, but the cost deters many users and only 45 letters per day are delivered during the first few weeks.

The Handley Page W8 is introduced on the London to Paris route and becomes the first civil airliner with a lavatory to be used on a regular passenger service.

18 December
Sir John Alcock, who made the first non-stop transatlantic airplane flight on 14-15 June, is killed in a flying accident at Rouen in France, while flying the Vickers Viking amphibian aircraft to the Paris Air Show.