The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative

The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative


Taking Off - the AAAI blog

3 Nov 2022
'Early impression of the completed Establishment' (NAE Bedford)
'Early impression of the completed Establishment' (NAE Bedford)

Cataloguing the wind tunnel photographs from NAE Bedford

Jack Garside, Archivist at the Science Museum, reports that John Coppen, a Science Museum volunteer, has recently completed the listing of the photographs recording the construction and operation of the wind tunnels at the National Aeronautical Establishment (later the Royal Aircraft Establishment), Bedford.

There are 3,400 images in 14 albums and are dated between 1948 and 1959.  These haven’t been digitised yet but the list has been published online at

There is more on the fascinating history of RAE Bedford on the Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group website

19 Oct 2022

Aerospace Bristol is five!

Aerospace Bristol, which some may remember as the super venue for the AAAI's first conference in 2020, celebrated its fifth anniversary last night with a well-attended birthday party.

After years of planning and fund-raising, the museum, a partnership of the Bristol Aero Collection Trust and the Concorde Trust, officially opened its doors on 17 October 2017.  Since then it has been highly successful, despite the COVID pandemic and other challenges.

Guests had a chance to see the new Bristol Fighter exhibit, and after speeches, an opportunity to see inside the conservation workshop, dominated by the fuselage of a Bristol Freighter in RNZAF colours, or admire once again the iconic Concorde.

To mark this special year Aerospace Bristol launched its new appeal, Engineering Futures, which aims to raise £500,000 this coming year to support its award-winning Learning Programme, which has reached over 50,000 school children and young people since October 2017.  More at

So Happy Birthday Aerospace Bristol, here's to many more!

8 Jul 2022

The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative (AAAI) needs you!

Work towards the survey of archive records created by airline operators has launched!

The first stage of the survey process is identifying where archive records created by airline operators are currently held – this could be in a record office, with a successor company or with current and former employees, and so on.

Initial work has begun on identifying archive records and the AAAI is now putting a public call out for information.

Do you know of the whereabouts of any archive records created by airline operators? If so, we’d be pleased to receive this information. Please forward any information to

20 Apr 2022

£15,000 Grant to the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative

We are delighted to report that the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative has been awarded a grant of £15,000 by The National Archives.  This grant, from the Collaborate and Innovate Networks for Change strand, will enable us to work on three distinct areas:

  • A survey and guide for archival records of airline operators to locate and provide information on the location of, and access to, archives material. Given the detrimental impact of the  coronavirus pandemic on the airline sector, a survey and guide to where its archives are held and the ability to identify archives at risk is timely.  This will complement our survey and guide to archives of aircraft manufacturers at
  •  A professional website re-design to make the AAAI’s work more visible and easier to navigate and to give the network a more stable long-term platform on which to share resources and best practice guidelines.
  • A conference to further raise the profile of the AAAI and serve to develop and enhance connections between individuals and across organisations. It will also be an opportunity to promote the use of archive material for research, enthusing historians and academics to get back into archives following the pandemic.

See more at

10 Mar 2022

New resources added to the online Guidance!

We have added some further resources to our Guidance for Custodians of Archival Resources.  At the request of members we have provided links to a number of good practical and accessible video guides to some aspects of the curation of archives, such as digitisation procedures and tips.

These are all listed in the Resources section of the Guidance and links are also in the appropriate places of the sections of the document.

As more resources of this kind are provided, we shall add to this list.

19 Jan 2022

New structure for the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative.

Following its last meeting, the AAAI has adopted a governing document to formalise certain arrangements and manage business more effectively.  This governing document will allow the Initiative to pursue a more pro-active policy in areas such as fund-raising.  
7 Dec 2021
Tridents at Heathrow
Tridents at Heathrow

It's Civil Aviation Day!

To mark Civil Aviation Day 2021, I go back 50 years to 1971, and the introduction of the Trident Three airliner into the BEA fleet.

As a plane spotter in my childhood, I have happy memories of travelling with school friends across London (Walthamstow to Heathrow, a long trip), bag packed with my marked up copy of Civil Aircraft Markings, pens and notebook, a thermos and packed lunch.  Almost invariably the first thing we went to see on arrival were the rows of Tridents, in the earlier days some still retaining BEA colours, others repainted in the newish British Airways livery.

The Hawker Siddeley Trident 3B had entered service with BEA on 1 April 1971, supplementing its fleets of Trident 1s and 2s.  It had a range of around 2,100 miles and carried 180 passengers.  The most significant difference to its predecessors, however, was its fourth RB 162 engine.  This small turbo-jet provided the heavier Trident Three with an extra 15% thrust for take-off.

There are still a few around.  One with clipped wings at the Aviation Viewing Park at Manchester Airport, another at the Science Museum store at Wroughton, Wiltshire, and a ‘cockpit’ at the Jet Age Museum in Gloucestershire.

It probably wasn’t, as a Chinese source claimed, the 'best aircraft the west had ever produced' ( but I have very fond memories of it.

26 Apr 2021

Yesterday's Papers: Aviation Archives Conference

Practical ways of preserving and promoting the heritage records of Britain’s Aerospace and Aviation Industries, 11th May 2021, 14:00-16:30

Following on from the successful Aviation Archives Conference at Aerospace Bristol in February 2020, this free on-line half-day conference is for everyone who cares for the sector's paper-based and electronic heritage collections in museums, both large and small, and are looking for guidance and suggestions on the way forward.

It aims to highlight the importance of these records and inspire practical ways forward in preserving and promoting them to a wide variety of new and established audiences.

Speakers include:

 Mike Rogers - “What’s in that box?” - an introduction to cataloguing.

Peter Davison – “Vapour Trails need Paper Trails” – examples of successful cataloguing.

Caroline Bendix – “Volunteering in archives and libraries” - your valuable role in conserving our heritage

Tony Pilmer – “Conserving and protecting archives” - some practical ideas

The conference will also introduce the Aerospace and Aviation Archives Initiative (AAAI) and its work. The AAAI comprises representatives from organisations, museums and corporate collections and aims to promote the preservation of, and access to, Britain’s records relating to aerospace and aviation.

To book your place, visit Eventbrite and order your ticket now.

Click Here to order

Instructions on how to join the Zoom conference will be sent to all attendees on 10th and 11th May

11 Feb 2021

Rochester Avionics Archives presentation on Youtube!

For those of you who missed it or would like to see it again, Chris Bartlett's talk on Rochester Avionics Archives is now on Youtube, here
8 Jan 2021

Webinar on Rochester Avionics Archive

Please save the date and join us for a webinar on 2 February, 2pm-3.30pm, to discover more the creation, management, and future plans of the Rochester Avionics Archive.

Places are free

Note that you will not be sent the log-in details until a few days before the event (so please don’t worry if you only receive an email confirming your booking when you register now!).  

About this event:

This event is organised by the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative. It will begin with a pre-recorded talk given by Chris Bartlett of Rochester Avionics Archive, located at BAE Systems’ Rochester site. Chris will tell the story of the establishment of the collection of objects and archival material by a group of ex-employees, who now manage both on a voluntary basis. He will also discuss how they have become an important resource supporting the company and business of BAE Systems. The talk will conclude with a showcase of some of the highlights of the collection. 

Chris will then be live in discussion with Tony Pilmer, Librarian and Archivist at the Royal Aeronautic Society, to talk more about Rochester Avionics Archive and to take questions from the audience. There will also be a chance to hear about the latest activities of the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative.

About Rochester Avionics Archive:

The BAE Systems site at Rochester has gone through many changes of name and can trace its ancestry back to the original company founded by William Elliott in 1804; to many people the site is still known as ‘Elliotts’. The large collection of avionic hardware items together with an archive of films, documents, videos, brochures and newspapers goes back to 1950 but was brought together in 2005.

About Chris Bartlett:

Chris joined BAE SYSTEMS in 1972 and was involved in the design, development and programme management of avionics. His final position with BAE Systems was as Chief Technologist with responsibility for the strategic development of technologies into current or new business areas. He is a chartered engineer and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Medal from the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He took early retirement in 2005 and led on the establishment of Rochester Avionics Archive, where he is now Curator.

2 Dec 2020
Armstrong Whitworth Argosy II, City of Edinburgh, of Imperial Airways at Croydon Airport. Image courtesy of NAL/RAeS
Armstrong Whitworth Argosy II, City of Edinburgh, of Imperial Airways at Croydon Airport. Image courtesy of NAL/RAeS

International Civil Aviation Day, 7 December 2020

 It’s International Civil Aviation Day!  And what better way to mark it in 2020 than with the hundredth anniversary of the opening of London Terminal Aerodrome - Croydon Airport.  

More here

21 Oct 2020

Allied Forces Heritage Group

The new Allied Forces Heritage Group website,, which went online on Saturday, is a wonderful resource with some fascinating stories from the aviation history of the World Wars.

Its ‘Projects’ section offers an initial first 16 of a series of ongoing research, stories and projects which will grow into a useful resource for modern history, bringing together personal experiences, often in the words of those who experienced them, within the historical context of the world-shaking events going on around them.

12 Aug 2020

Sir Freddie Laker's archive wins cataloguing grant

On 7 August the Business Archives Council announced that a business archives cataloguing grant had been awarded to West Sussex Record Office for the Sir Freddie Laker Archive.  The archive documents the rise and fall of Laker Airways and Skytrain and provides important insights into the UK’s aviation and social history in the 20th century. The grant will allow the archive to be fully catalogued and for that catalogue to be made available to researchers online.

Founded in 1966, Laker Airways was a small independent aviation firm which owed its success to its charismatic owner, Sir Freddie Laker. Laker Airways paved the way for budget airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet and challenged the dominance of long-haul flights by such giants as British Airways and Pan Am. Laker’s innovative Skytrain concept, launched in 1977, did not require advance reservations and provided low-price flights which proved hugely popular. Laker Airways went bankrupt in 1982, but went on to pursue a successful antitrust suit against some of the large airlines, arguing that they had slashed their fares to below-cost levels to drive Laker Airways and Skytrain out of business.

The archive dates from 1956 to 2004 and includes Freddie Laker’s appointment diaries (1962-83), a collection of press cuttings (1966-82), annual reports and accounts (1970s-80s), Laker’s office filing (1970s-80s), hundreds of letters sent to Laker following the collapse of his company, and legal documents relating to the antitrust case brought against British Airways, Pan Am, TWA and others in 1985.

The Business Archives Council, which awarded the cataloguing grant, was established in 1934 to promote the preservation of business records of historical importance; supply advice and information on business archives and modern records; and encourage the study of business history and archives. A registered charity led by archive professionals and academics, the Council produces a quarterly electronic newsletter, organises an annual conference, awards a business history prize and archive cataloguing grants, maintains the Managing Business Archives website (at and supports the national business archives crisis management team.

For more information on the award of the grant see:

24 Jun 2020

Aviation Archives guidance online!

We are delighted to be able to launch our archives guidance.

It has been written primarily for the benefit of non-professional archivists who care for archival material relating to any aspect of aviation and aerospace: manufacturers, operators, heritage bodies, enthusiasts and researchers alike.

The guidance was prepared by Dr Mike Rogers of The National Archives, with the assistance of the other members of the AAAI Documentation Subcommittee (Malcolm Fillmore, Barry Guess and Andrew Lewis). 

More here.

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