The Royal Aero Club
of Great Britain

A Brief History of the Royal Aero Club
by John Blake

In 1901, three wealthy motorists, Frank Hedges Butler, his daughter Vera and the Hon Charles Rolls, had proposed a motor tour, but this was cancelled when Vera's Renault 4.5 caught fire. The lady arranged a balloon flight with the distinguished professional Stanley Spencer, as a distraction.

Over a glass of champagne during the subsequent voyage, they agreed that an Aero Club should be formed and after landing this was done without delay. Due no doubt to the presence and personality of Vera Butler, it was uniquely - for the time - agreed that it be open "equally to ladies and gentleman, subject to election".

The influence of the Club in those early days cannot be over emphasised. Its members included - and trained - most military pilots up to 1915, when military schools took over. The gift of training facilities and aircraft to the Royal Navy by Francis McLean was the real starting point of the Royal Naval Air Service. From 1910 the Club, which had been granted the Royal prefix that year for its achievements and status, issued Aviators Certificates, internationally recognised under the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. As the United Kingdom representative on that august body, the Club was responsible for control in the UK of all private and sporting flying, as well as records and competitions; a function that, through the Aviation Council embracing some dozen national sporting and educational flying organisations, it fulfils to this day. It borrowed heavily from existing sports such as horse racing for its early regulations; the first air racing rules contained the injunction that "No rider shall interfere with another rider on the course".


Acknowledgement:
Images: www.ancestry.co.uk
Text: www.royalaeroclub.org.