The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative

The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative


Taking Off - the AAAI blog

6 Feb 2024

Interview with Professor Sir Iain Gray

Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, Sir Iain Gray has 27 years industry experience in the aerospace sector including roles at British Aerospace and BAE Systems.

Archives of IT have interviewed Sir Iain and a transcript will be available shortly.  Meanwhile some excerpts are available here: Professor Sir Iain Gray - Archives of IT (

'As an engineering science graduate, Sir Iain Gray was attracted to the aerospace industry by the prospect of working on Concorde, the Anglo-French supersonic airliner.  Joining the aircraft’s team at British Aerospace’s  Bristol Filton plant “was like a dream come true,” he says.'  

18 Dec 2023
27 Oct 2023

Come Fly With Me: The Archives of Sir Freddie Laker

Rather belatedly, I draw your attention to an Archives Hub feature on the Freddie Laker archive at West Sussex Record Office.  

The archive consists of around 700 files including a vast amount of press cuttings, spanning 1974 to 1983.  The records document the core activities of not just Laker Airways but also subsidiaries including the famous Skytrain Holidays and various other business ventures of Sir Freddie’s such as Aviation Traders.

More at Come Fly With Me: The Archives of Sir Freddie Laker – Archives Hub Blog (

20 Feb 2023
Sir Freddie Laker in front of one of the Skytrain DC-10s
Sir Freddie Laker in front of one of the Skytrain DC-10s

The Laker archive online!

A timely blog from Alice Millard at West Sussex Record Office to mark the opening of the Laker archive

In 2020, West Sussex Record Office was awarded funding by the Business Archives Council to catalogue the archive of Sir Freddie Laker. Documents arrived at the Record Office in bankers’ boxes and lever arch files, ready for repackaging and cataloguing.

The archive itself comprises records of Laker Airways, its subsidiaries, Sir Freddie’s other business ventures, and some personal papers from 1956 to 2015. These records cover key moments in Sir Freddie’s life, such as the landmark antitrust suit brought against major airlines, the launch of Skytrain, the eventual liquidation of the Laker company, as well as a myriad of documents on his other business ventures. The archive also includes personal papers such as awards, invitations, Sir Freddie’s aviation licenses, correspondence, plus material concerning his love of horse racing.

It is a very rich archive and allows us a fantastic insight into Sir Freddie’s life, the founding and management of Laker Airways, and the complexities of its demise in the 1980s.

The catalogue can be viewed through the search facility on the WSRO's website.

15 Feb 2023

February update on the survey of archives of UK airline operators

As part of the Initiative's Networks for Change grant, we are undertaking a survey of archives created by UK airline operators.  This will complement the existing survey into archives of aircraft manufacturers.

Since last year, project volunteers have been undertaking research to identify where archive records created by UK airline operators are known to exist.

We are now able to publish a longlist of airline operators and where archive records have been identified to date.

This can be viewed here

Please do take a look to see if you have information you can add to this.

Even if the ‘materials identified’ column lists a ‘yes’ for an airline we are still interested to learn more about any archive records known to exist.

18 Jan 2023

Meet the Archivist: The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative

Lucy Bonner and Tim Powell will be giving a talk on the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative at the Institute of Historical Research on the evening of 26 January.  Details can be found at

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

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