Monday, 30 April 2012

A/Cdre James George Weir CBE CMG 1887-1973

Air Commodore James George Weir CBE CMG (1887–1973) was an early Scottish aviator and airman. He was a successful industralist who financed Juan de la Cierva's development of the autogyro. Weir was born in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1887 the son of James Galloway Weir.
Weir was commissioned on 24 February 1906 as an officer in the 3rd (Renfrewshire) Volunteer Battalion, Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders). On 1 April 1908 he transferred to the 3rd Highland (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery,
On 27 June 1911 Weir was found guilty of striking and knocking down on 13 April 1911 a former fiancee of his sister after he had broken off their engagement.
Weir was awarded the 24th Royal Aero Club aviators certificate after flying a Bleriot Monoplane at Hendon on 8 November 1910. In 1914 he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He retired from the Royal Air Force on transfer to the Territorial Force.
In 1926 he helped form and became Chairman and Managing Director of the Cierva Autogiro Company.He later, in 1935, became a Director of the Bank of England.He was also deputy director of the engineering company G & J Weir Limited

A/Cdre Andrew G. Board CMG DSO DL 1878–1973

Air Commodore Andrew George Board (1878–1973) CMG DSO DL was an English soldier and airman, a pioneer aviator first gaining a licence in 1910 who later became an Royal Air Force Air Commodore.

Board was born in Westerham, Kent on 11 May 1878 the third son of Major John Board and his wife Mary, his father was a Magistrate. In 1932 he married Mrs Phyllis Agnew at St James's Picadilly on the 18 August 1932.Following a time in the militia Board was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the South Wales Borderers. In 1910 at his own expense he learned to fly at Hendon. On 29 November 1910 flying a Bleriot monoplane at Hendon he was awarded the Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate No. 36. In the 1911 Census he was listed as a Captain of the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderersat at the Artillery Barracks Pretoria, South Africa.By 1914 he had become a flying instructor at the Central Flying School at Netheravon, Wiltshire. On 28 Sep 1914 he became the officer commanding 7 Squadron RFC at Netheravon before moving to the western front in April 1915 as officer comings 5 Squadron RFC. He later commanded the 10th Wing RFC before taking over the control of a 20th (Reserve) Wing in Egypt.With the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918 Broad was awarded a permanent commission as a Lieutenant Colonel, rising to the rank of Air Commodore before he retired in 1931, In 1939 he re-joined the RAF as a Group Captain before retiring again in 1941. In 1943 he became a Deputy Lieutenant in Caernarvon

Captain Edward Keith Davies 1885-1968

First person to fly in India

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

John P. V. Heinmuller 1892-1960

John Heinmuller was famous among those studying early airmail. Heinmuller was an aero-philatelist and past president of the American Air Mail Society. As a past president of the Longines-Wittnauer Watch Co., Inc., he “organized the Timing Contest Board of the National Aeronautic Association in accordance with the chronometric specifications of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, and served as their chief timer.” He officiated for both the 1927 Lindbergh transatlantic flight and other pioneer flights.

Born in Switzerland in 1892, Heinmuller financed part of his first trip to the United States (1912) by selling Bavarian Jubilee issues to a Danzig stamp dealer. His interest in airpost material began in 1909 when, as a seventeen-year-old student in Geneva, Switzerland, a school friend sent him a zeppelin souvenir that had been mailed at the ILA international aviation exhibition in Frankfort-am-Main. Heinmuller eventually collected over 5,000 zeppelin pieces. Some were acquired by purchase or exchange with other collectors; others were acquired by writing Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin directly, asking him to send a postal souvenir from an advertised flight. Part of his acquisitions derived from the well-known Thompson, Steiner, and Luderman collections.

His obsession ultimately led him to research records for all the zeppelin flights. He compiled a list of dates and routes that serves as a catalog of all existing zeppelin covers. Because of his extensive research, he was befriended by von Zeppelin and zeppelin commanders Dr. Hugo Eckener and Ernst Lehman. He actually attended most arrivals of the airships LZ127 Graf Zeppelin and LZ129 Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

He authored a complete chronology of aviation titled ‘Man’s Fight to Fly’ (first published in 1944; revised in 1947), which some have considered “the foremost handbook on aviation records and aero-philatelic information.” In addition, he formed other airmail collections, notably all major flights made by Admiral Byrd.

He died July 11, 1960, in New York City. He was 68 years old.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Leslie Mitchell 1905-1985

Leslie Mitchell was born in Edinburgh in 1905, He was famous as the first voice heard on BBC Television at its inception on 2 November 1936, and also for making the first announcement on Associated-Rediffusion, the first ITV company, on 22 September 1955. His voice was perhaps most recognised, however, from his long association with British Movietone News, for whose newsreels he was commentator during the Second World War and for many years afterwards with the SBAC Farnborough Air Displays.

Sir Peter Masefield 1915-2006

Sir Peter Masefield played a major part in developing Britain's aircraft industry and airports. His crowded life included wartime bombing raids in a US Army Air Force B17 Flying Fortress. His outspokenness led first to Lord Beaverbrook of the war cabinet and then Lord Douglas, chairman of British Eureopean Airways (BEA), picking him out for rapid promotion.

His career started slowly. The eldest son of a surgeon, he was educated at Westminster school and Chillon College, Switzerland, and studied engineering at Jesus College, Cambridge. He also took flying lessons there which helped him gain his pilot's licence in 1937, which he held for the next 40 years.

Despite designing the undercarriage of the Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bomber in his first job as a junior draughtsman at Fairey Aviation, he found life there too dull, and took to journalism. He soon became air correspondent of the Sunday Times, and when war came was sent to France to cover the RAF's advanced strike force. The RAF had turned him down as a pilot because of a slight vision defect, but the USAAF, less exacting , let him qualify as co-pilot and air gunner. Although a journalist, he flew on B17 operations. In a daylight raid on Le Bourget in 1943, his Fortress was hit by enemy fighters and the nose blown off. Masefield was lucky to survive a crash-landing in East Anglia.

His career took off shortly after, when Lord Beaverbook, lord privy seal, was impressed by a scathing article by Masefield on ministry of aircraft production. He made Masefield his personal adviser and secretary of the war cabinet committee on postwar civil air transport. In 1944 Beaverbrook took Masefield to Washington for talks which led to the creation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

This led to Masefield being appointed in 1945 as the first civil air attaché to the British embassy in Washington. He flew himself around in his own Percival Proctor light aircraft, and was a signatory of the 1946 Anglo-American Bermuda Agreement on civil air rights.

Back in Britain as a senior civil servant, he was appointed director-general of long-term planning and projects at the then ministry of civil aviation. He was still only 35 when in 1949, Lord Douglas, chairman of BEA, made him chief executive and a board member. His job was to control a staff of 6,400 at a salary of around £3,000. While there he ensured the success of the Vickers Viscount turboprop airliner by ordering it for BEA off the drawing board. He was always opposed to the merger of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and BEA into the one giant airline that became British Airways, believing that long haul and short haul operations were more focused if run separately.

Masefield sought relief in air racing, and my own first encounter with him was when, as a recently-appointed BBC air correspondent, he invited me to act as his navigator in the King's Cup Air Race. It was his great ambition to win this race, but, heavily handicapped, our Chipmunk came in second. His disappointment was mitigated when his son Charles won it eight years later.

More frustration followed in 1960 when he became head of Beagle Aircraft, with the task of reviving British production of small aircraft. He had organised the takeover of some smaller companies and set up a production system when the government withdrew its support.

His biggest challenge followed when made chairman of the new British Airports Authority (BAA) in 1965. In five years he took over the running of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Prestwick from the civil service. Passengers rose 62% to 20 million, with cumulative trading profits of £38m. But he was caught up in the rows over the siting of a third London Airport, and when he made it plain that he thought government plans for an airport at Maplin or Foulness were lunacy, there were calls in the Commons for his dismissal. Against the run of opinion, he insisted that Stansted must be developed and provided with a second runway.

He was not dismissed, but he was not offered a second term at BAA. He was made deputy chairman of British Caledonian, a developing independent airline, and was busy with many other activities such as becoming president of the Royal Aeronautical Society and chairman of the board of trustees of the Imperial War Museum, when the next big challenge came.

In 1980 Sir Horace Cutler, leader of the then Greater London Council, asked him to become chairman of London Transport, and give the benefit of his BAA marketing policies to London's bus and underground passengers. He took on the job for one year, but stayed for two. His motto - not an epitaph he said - was that the passengers were the purpose of the business, not an interruption of the work. They must be conveyed with courtesy and consideration.

Masefield was knighted in 1971 - an honour conferred on Charles only five years later - and remained active on trusts, committees and museums until his health began to fail a year ago. He was president of Brooklands Museum at Weybridge, Surrey, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Croydon Airport society. To the last he was much in demand as a lecturer. His book about the R101 disaster, To Ride The Storm, was published in 1930.