Isle of Man Aviation Pre 1930s
Island Images
1902 - 1919   Aviation arrives in the Isle of Man
In 1902 the first aerial vehicle was to be seen in the Isle of Man when a Royal Navy gas balloon measuring 60 ft high by 45 ft diameter, was flown from Peveril Square in Douglas for a free flight ending in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. The following year, on December 17th 1903, Orville Wright conducted the first ever flight by a powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA.
There was to be no further aerial activity in the Isle of Man until July 1911 when a temporary aerodrome was established in Nobles Park, Douglas  for demonstration flying by two early flying machines, a Farman and a Bleriot, the aircraft having been shipped to the island by the IOM Steam Packet.  In the event only the Farman actually took to the air, as the Bleriot had been damaged in transit.  In August 1912 the Nobles Park aerodrome was activated again when Gustave Hamel conducted demonstration flights in a Morane Saulnier, including the island's first 'Air Mail' flight, from Douglas to Peel!
Farman Biplane
Bleriot Monoplane
In August 1914 an aerodrome was established on Queen's Promenade, Douglas, with a Bleriot monoplane using the beach for takeoff and landing and an Avro 504 float plane operating from the water, being hauled up on to the promenade at the end of the day. Both these aircraft gave pleasure flights to the public which proved a great success. As with the previous visiting aircraft, they arrived to and departed from the island courtesy of the isle of Man Steam Packet. During World War One, great strides were taken in the development of aircraft and the first flight 'across the water' were made to the island, by Short 184 seaplanes operated by the Royal Navy. They operated from Lake Windermere in Cumbria and carried mail whilst also looking out for German U-Boat activity in the Irish Sea. After the war the first flight to the island by a Manxman was carried out by Captain Elgie Jefferson who flew a Bristol Fighter from Hooton Park in Cheshire, landing at Great Meadow near Castletown in January 1919 before continuing the next day to Stranraer, Scotland.
Avro 504 Float-plane
Royal Navy Short 184 Seaplane
In the Spring of 1919 the Queen's Promenade aerodrome was active again for pleasure flying with Avro 504s and in July of that year Captain Howard Pixton made what is regarded as the first commercial flight to the island. Using an Avro 504 float plane he flew copies of the 'Daily News' from Windermere for sale to holidaymakers. Flights continued for two weeks and passengers could be carried for the price of 10 guineas. The following year there was more pleasure flying from Douglas beach but after objections and a petition signed by 20 people, permission was withdrawn and there was to be no more flying from the island until 1925 during the TT races when a de-Havilland DH9 flew copies of the 'Motorcycle News' over, landing on Douglas Head. This became a regular event over the next few years.
Avro 504s on Queen's Promenade in 1919
1928 - First flights at Ronaldsway
The first use of Ronaldsway as an aerodrome occurred on June 5th 1928 when Captain Olley, flying an Imperial Airways Handley Page HP27 Hampstead, G-EBLE, landed in a large field on Ronaldsway farm bringing in the 'The Motorcycle' for TT visitors. The Hampstead was a large three motor biplane and after delivering the papers, was made available for pleasure flying from Ronaldsway. The aircraft had a wingspan of 75 ft and at 60 ft in length could carry up to 14 passengers in its cabin. As was usual in those days, the pilot and mechanic sat outside and braved the elements! During TT the following year Ronaldsway was used again for both 'The Motorcycle' and also the 'Daily Mail' during the TT race period, the latter being flown in by a DH61 Giant Moth. The Summer of 1929 also saw the arrival of Sir Alan Cobham who was touring Great Britain to promote aviation. He arrived at Ronaldsway in DH61 Giant Moth G-AAEV 'Youth of Britain' on August 2nd from Blackpool, and carried out a series of demonstration flights, mainly to young people from the island. He also encouraged the establishment of a permanent aerodrome for the Isle of Man. In April 1933 two famous aviators visited Ronaldsway, Amy Johnson, flying DH60G Moth G-ABVW 'Jason 4' and her husband Jim Mollison, flying DH80A Puss Moth G-ACAB 'Desert Cloud'.
Handley Page HP27 Hampstead G-EBLE
de-Havilland DH61 Giant Moth G-AAEV
Manx Aviation and ATC in the 1930s
An Island Images webpage © Jon Wornham