International Aeradio Ltd. – IAL

In 1947, four major UK airlines formed International Aeradio Limited (IAL) to provide ground communications and navigation services along the routes they served. It was mainly targeted toward the fast-developing civil air routes between Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and Africa. The company quickly expanded to providing air traffic control services in the years thereafter. During the 1950s, …

The Phonetic Alphabet

The letters of the alphabet can be difficult to discriminate, particularly over a limited bandwidth and noisy communications channels like early telephones or radio. To overcome this, unambiguous substitute names for use in electrical voice communication such as telephone and radio were adopted. A large number of spelling alphabets have been developed over the past 100 years. Often, each communications …

The Landing “T”

One of the very first tools to provide information to aircraft from the ground was to indicate the direction in which they should land. Dating back to 1910, this information was particularly relevant, as surfaced runways would come much later. The landing “T” rotates to indicate wind, obstacles, or inclination/slope of the landing area. Prior to WW1, each country had …

Madrid Cuatro Vientos Tower (1919)

Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos airport (LECU) is some 8 km outside the city. Established in 1911 on a flat plain, the name translates to “four winds”, which is a Spanish expression for an open area. Initially, it was intended for military airships but the first fixed-wing aircraft landed there as early as March 1911. By 1919, the decision was made to …

Douglas Commercial DC-1

1933, USA Following the 1931 crash of a TWA Fokker F.10 Trimotor, in which a wooden wing failed, the Aeronautics branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce placed stringent restrictions on the use of wooden wings on passenger airliners. Boeing introduced the all-metal 247, a twin-engine, but their production capacity was reserved to meet the needs of United Airlines. TWA …

Australia’s First Towers

In 1921, former military servicemen created the first Australian domestic airlines. One of these was the “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service”, which still exists today as Qantas. Airline operations in those days were rudimentary affairs. The aircraft were based on WW1 designs, constructed of wood and fabric, and with low performance and payload. Aerodromes were basic, meteorology was in …

The Aldis Lamp

In 1922, one of the regulations imposed after the first collision in North of France was that aircraft carrying passengers should be equipped with radio. This was far from evident since radio equipment in those days was heavy, difficult to use and notoriously unreliable. At and around airports, light signals remained a main means of communication. The principle was taken …

Japan’s First Airports

The first operational airfield in Japan was Tokorozawa, some 30 km from Tokyo. From 1911, the Japanese flew their Farman III’s using the airfield as their home base. From March 1922, operations moved to the newly constructed Tachikawa airfield. Initially used for military operations only, in 1929, Japan Air Transport inaugurated the country’s first commercial scheduled air service between Tachikawa …

The Kollsman Altimeter

The first rules of the air, agreed in 1919 by CINA in Versailles (France) after WW1, already mentioned 300 m vertical separation. The first “flight altitudes“ were defined as 400, 700 and 1000 metres above ground, so using QFE rather than QNH. The initial altitude of 400m was chosen to ensure clearance from obstacles (trees, chimneys, etc.) and compensate for …

Jimmy Jeffs – UK

George James Horatio “Jimmy” Jeffs is acknowledged to be the first licenced air traffic controller. Born in 1900, he held UK Air Traffic Control Certificate No 1, issued in February 1922. After leaving the Royal Naval Air Service, Jimmy joined the Air Ministry and was posted to Croydon airport as a radio operator. In 1922, Jimmy became a Civil Aviation …