Press Release

Chocks Away as Early Royal Aero Club Flying Records Launch Online

‘Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates’ collection reveals the names and faces of Britain’s magnificent men (and women) and their flying machines

The Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950, now available online for the first time at leading social and family history website Ancestry.co.uk, contains over 28,000 records and 13,000 photographs of men and women who qualified as pilots in the golden age of British aviation, as powered flight went from science fiction to reality.

Originally founded by Frank Hedges Butler, one of the earliest owners of a motor car in the UK, the Hon. Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce fame, and also Frank’s daughter, the socialite Vera Hedges-Butler, the Royal Aero Club (RAeC) was the first organisation responsible for licensing and controlling flying at the dawn of the aviation era.

The collection, which is fully indexed and includes original images, is comprised of 28,000 index cards of early RAeC pilots, which reveal details about their flying lives and exploits. The collection is searchable by name, date of birth, location and rank or profession as well as the plane they qualified on, where and when.

Famous flyers recorded in the collection include:
  • John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon (Certificate #1), later Lord Brabazon of Tara, is credited with making the first authenticated powered flight in Britain. Moore-Brabazon also made the first live cargo flight after tying a pig to a bucket beneath his plane, proving that pigs can indeed fly.
  • Founder pilot Charles Rolls (Certificate #2) of Rolls-Royce fame made the first non-stop double crossing of the English Channel and also became the first Briton to be killed in an air crash when the tail broke on his plane at Bournemouth in 1910.
  • Hilda Hewlett (Certificate #122) was the first woman to gain a licence and eventually went on to manage a successful flying school.
  • Thomas Sopwith (Certificate #31) became a household name after designing and building the Sopwith Camel, an early bi-plane.
  • Amy Johnson (Certificate #8662) was the first female pilot to fly solo to Australia. Johnson was killed during a transport flight in 1941 after her plane went off course during poor weather.

While the records feature predominantly British fliers, early aviators from as far flung as Poland, Russia and America also appear.

The collection also includes 13,000 photographs of RAeC pilots across 34 albums; the majority of these photographs will never before have been available to the public.

Ancestry.co.uk Managing Director Simon Harper comments: “This collection is a fantastic record of a golden age in British aviation history and is a great opportunity for people to discover more about these adventurous men and women, many of whom gave their lives in the pursuit of their passion.

“For the descendants of these early aviators, the records contain both details of their flying ancestors’ aviation careers, and also photographs which they may never before have seen, making this an invaluable family history resource.”

RAeC Trust spokesperson Andrew Dawrant comments: “The RAeC is thrilled to be able to share its historical archive and in the process help to promote Britain’s rich aviation history, particularly in the year which marks the 90th anniversary of the creation of the RAF.

“There has been a long held interest in both our pilots and their early aviation achievements, which the online launch of this collection provides the opportunity for all to explore.”

The Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950 collection is available to Ancestry members and through a 14-Day Free Trial.

The Royal Aero Club Trust
Registered with The Charity Commission 
No. 1068451