Saturday, 20 September 2014

1919 And All That

The first scheduled daily international airline service in the world left Hounslow Heath (the first international London airport) on 25 August 1919.

The Heath was a large flat area south-east of today's Heathrow Airport. It was initially very popular with airlines because it was one of the first airfields in the country with a full customs facilities. Originally a cavalry training ground, the airfield and the surrounding heath land was owned by the Army, and tensions between it and the civil airlines meant a new airport was rapidly developed at Croydon. Hounslow Heath closed as an airfield in March 1920.

The first flight that took off was a de Havilland DH.4a, with a single pilot and seats (in an enclosed cabin) for two passengers. Flight time to Paris was around two and a half hours. The pilot was Lt EH Lawford, and behind, with a load of luggage (including grouse, clotted cream, leather and newspapers) was a journalist from the London Evening Standard, George Stevenson-Reece. Other journalists followed on a later flight, which they then wrote up as having been the first.