Flying for pleasure and adventure over long distances in the British Empire was part of the individualisation of imperial travel. British-manufactured light aircraft played their part in the late imperial movement. Typical of the young, moneyed and leisured aerial adventurers, Sir Robert Clayton flew his Moth to Egypt in 1932 to take part in an official desert survey. Whether for moral support, company or security, many people embarking on private adventure flights did so with a partner. Partnered flying across the Empire attracted less attention in the 1920s and 1930s than did long-distance journeys flown solo. Amy Johnson was the first, but neither the only nor the last woman to soar solo between the extremities of the British Empire. As in Johnson's case, the clamour surrounding Jean Batten was astonishing. Both women's heroic reception contrasted with the chill which Lorres Bonney felt after her epic flight.
Imperial flying was not just about machines, timetables and routes; it was also about ideas, values and practices. This book focuses on the way airborne mobility itself expressed imperialism. Imperial Airways projected an idealised Britain to the Empire, and interpreted and refracted the Empire to Britons. Passengers in commercial aircraft had adventures in the early days of Empire flying, in a mild way, fleeting, organised overnight stops at foreign places. Writing about and publicising imperial flying in the 1920s and 1930s created the first caricatures of Empire aviation. Words and images about long-distance air journeys, aircraft, landing grounds, passengers, crew and landscapes were necessarily selective and partial. Amy Johnson, in a BBC broadcast, said Great Britain was ready to make a decisive bid for world supremacy in the air. Wealthy people were the passengers (acronym 'PAX' in current airline parlance) on scheduled civil aircraft services in the 1930s on routes between England, Africa, India and Australia. The flying crew and ground staff personified the values of their employer and the Empire. Making the public 'airminded' was certainly part of deliberate acculturation in late imperial Britain; Imperial Airways tapped the Empire for publicity. The virtual mobility, presented by the 1930s texts and images, were enjoyed by earthbound readers and viewers. However, the first life of Empire aviation ended in 1939. In the past six decades, Empire aviation has been actively re-imagined and reincarnated as historical subject, hobby, and period artefact and icon.
remained the sea, he
soon began to introduce elements of the new technology, whether real or
imaginary, into such stories as The Flying Submarine (1912), and
soon began to produce not only more authentic stories of naval warfare
but also of aerialadventure in such books as The Secret
Winning his Wings: a story of the R.A.F. (1919) is
not only a key
not go until it had its morning bath, and he,
straightaway, set his forty-three wives to clean and oil it
Such tasks were probably gestured. A decade after his own concurrent
African aerialadventure in 1920, it was Dr P. C. Mitchell’s
view that there was no need to speak an African language: ‘all
African natives accept the name George and understand such amenities