Gordon Pirie
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in Cultures and caricatures of British imperial aviation
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In the twilight of the British Empire, flying imperially was one last expression of the reach of British overseas ambition and style. By securing administrative, cultural and trade ties in the Empire, flying also had a politico-strategic purpose. Moreover, for Imperial Airways passengers, and for private purchasers of British light aircraft, flying imperially was also patriotic. Flying imperially was an experience, an expression and always partly an act of imagination. The dreams began after the First World War. Demobbed airforce pilots sought new victories, frontiers and exhilaration by flying first, furthest, fastest or highest. The business of creating an imperial air passenger market in the 1930s drew heavily on selling novelty, sensation and status. Aviation may not have prolonged Britain's historically maritime Empire, but it did give imperialism new dimensions, meanings and significance.

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