Tuesday, August 25, 2009
At precisely 9:10 AM on 25 August 1919, an Airco DH4A single-engine biplane owned by Aircraft Travel & Transport (a predecessor of British Airways) left Hounslow Heath, a few miles east of Heathrow Airport, bound for Le Bourget Airport, Paris. It was the beginning of the world's first regular daily scheduled international commercial passenger, goods and mail service by air.
Piloted by Lieutenant EH "Bill" Lawford and carrying just one passenger - London Evening Standard journalist George Stevenson - plus a cargo of newspapers, several brace of grouse and "a considerable number of jars of Devonshire cream", this pioneering flight took two hours and 40 minutes, covering the journey non-stop at almost 100 miles an hour.
The DH1A was powered by a single Rolls-Royce Eagle engine. For the crossing of the English Channel, the aircraft climbed to an altitude of 5,000ft, which was considered a safe height for a single-engined aircraft that had been in military service.
These days, a BA Airbus will travel from Heathrow to Paris Charles de Gaulle in just 70 minutes, whereas the Eurostar train service via the Channel Tunnel takes 2 hours and 20 minutes (that's 20 minutes less than the 1919 flight).
It's amazing to think what a difference 90 years have made to the way we travel.
This post was based on an article of the same title in the August 09 issue of High Life, BA's inflight magazine.