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Gordon Pirie

Making the public 'airminded' was certainly part of deliberate acculturation in late imperial Britain. In view of the relatively few people who did fly on Empire services, advertising the new airway to and from Empire may have burnished imperial sympathies more than it boosted Imperial revenues. In the mid 1930s, once the Empire air routes and services had acquired better definition, Imperial's advertising increased. 'Speedbird', the name given to the new signifier of Empire aviation, appeared on posters, tickets, advertisements, luggage tags, stationery and aircraft fuselages from 1932. A lot of Imperial Airways advertising was on its own account, but the airline and the imperial spirit benefited by a considerable amount of free publicity. In the autumn of 1934, Imperial Airways and The Times banded together to mount an exhibition entitled 'Flying over the Empire'.

in Cultures and caricatures of British imperial aviation
Passengers, pilots, publicity
Author: Gordon Pirie

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.