• Joy-Riding

    Joy-Riding Companies


    For some years after WWI, there was a reasonable (if somewhat precarious) living to be made by offering the general public 'joy-rides'.

    And very popular they were too, for a while; in September 1921 Capt A F Muir (of Surrey Flying Services) said that, so far that year, he had taken up over 7,000 people, and the scarlet Avro 504K G-EBIZ owned by Messrs Hill and (Capt Percy) Phillips carried 91,000 passengers between 1924 and 1935.

    It seemed that anyone who could afford an ex-RAF Avro 504 could set up as an individual or a company, and try their luck.

    Capt 'Jerry' Shaw with two little girl passengers whom he took up in his golden D.H.60 Gipsy Moth G-EBQE 'Arom' at Lympne in April 1928

    There was an initial 'joy-riding boom' period in England from May 1919 to March 1920; during this time, 66,785 passengers flying 'for hire or reward' (almost all of them joy-riding) were carried. Over 50 companies set up business, but the slump of 1921 put an end to easy money, and to most of these companies.

    In Australia, things were even more relaxed; up until November, 1920, when the Air Navigation Act was passed, pilots were free to run joy-riding concerns quite unhampered by C. of A. restrictions, or any other restrictions for that matter: "A number of unpleasant crashes was the not unnatural result."

    By October 1925, joy-riding still accounted for the majority of flying in England - 43,766 passengers, more than 3 times as many as the scheduled airlines - and the following year a new record was set, with 67,329 passengers.

    By 1928 the newly-established flying clubs were taking over most of the day-to-day work of offering joy-rides, but even so in 1930 there were still 12 companies offering 'joy-riding' in England; Australia had 6, and Canada 16.

    October 1930: 

    • "Great Britain shows a steady and nearly uniform growth for the past few years and reached a total of nearly 3,700,000 miles in 1929, of which roughly 1,200,000 is on regular air routes.
    • Australia, starting with less than one-third of the British mileage in 1922, had practically equalled it by 1929, reaching a total of nearly 3,500,000 miles, of which 478,000 was on regular air routes.
    • Canada, with less than 200,000 in 1923, did not pass Great Britain's total until 1928, but nearly doubled it last year, reaching a total of 6,284,000 miles, of which 491,000 was on regular air mail routes alone."

    By the mid-thirties, though still popular, 'taxi, school and joy-riding' companies accounted for rather less than 25% of aeroplane ownership.

    June 1936: "A REAL OPPORTUNITY The best position on the South Coast for 'joy-riding' is for sale as a going concern. Includes machine, field (rent paid until October), motor car, and all printing and bill-posting. Pilot and ground engineer available. "

    February 1932: "Although joy-riding is, and has been, the only branch that can show a profit, it unfortunately created a table of false values for this reason. There were pilots, for instance, last year 'on tour' with joy-riding 'circuses,' who were receiving extremely good salaries. In addition to which they received a commission and their expenses. Of course, they stayed at the Grand or the 'Majestic,' made going to bed well under the surface a matter of duty, and generally putting out the boat on a pretty hefty scale. And this isn't romance, it's reality. There are certain people connected with operating companies to-day, unfortunately, who are under the impression that aviation is Nature's excuse for having a good time. Just look back into the history of joy-riding in this country, and what does one see?

    The whole of its field is littered with wrecks of "Aviation" firms. Wrecked for the most part by rank rotten management, and spendthrift policies. The whole trouble has been that the majority of these firms have been inefficiently run by men with little or no business experience. They operated in the blissful belief that "the weather to-morrow will be O.K.," and spent their takings up to the limit. An error of judgment and a write off, or a spell of dud weather, and there was another joy-riding company up a gum tree. Few people can realise how precariously some of these firms exist, and what a struggle it is to see the winter through. Ask some of their engineers and pilots who are given holidays, sometimes lasting from September until the next March ! Do we have to look far to see evidence of this? We do not. A great many of these people " live on the posh " during flying days, and then in the fall and 'til the next spring eke out an existence on bread and jam! Who wouldn't be an airman?"

    April 1935: "with a public that has, for the most part, become inured to the sight of mere flying, or even of aerobatic flying, a modern team of display pilots must be beyond criticism, and a modern display must rival, if in miniature, the great show at Hendon. Furthermore, Sir Alan Cobham's display, designed as it is to encourage people to use the air, must blend the spectacular with the commonplace so that the "circus" element is not too dominant."

    April 1936: "There is no doubt that the opening flying display of the year showed a number of distinctly new possibilities. Not only are the joy-riding rates lower, probably, than they have ever been before, so that more people will be encouraged to discover that there is really nothing very terrifying about this flying business, but the general public is also being shown at least a few types which might eventually appeal to them as private owners, flying lessons are being given and scholarships are being awarded to those newcomers who show the greatest aptitude."

    December 1937: "Within the past two years, however, the novelty has  worn off the circuses and receipts from this source have dropped considerably."

  • -Company - Aeroplane Services Ltd

    Aeroplane Services Ltd

    Based in Croydon, 1929-34


    - 1929 Avro 504K G-AAEZ

  • -Company - Air Pageants Ltd

     Air Pageants Ltd

    Active 1934-1937


    - Avro 504N G-ACNV (K1808);

    - D.H. 60M Moth G-ACOA (VH-UQA), which crashed Hanworth 1936;

    - Avro 621 Tutor G-ACOV (K1791);

    - Miles M.2D Hawk G-ACPC

  • -Company - Air Transport

     Air Transport 

    May 1932: "At Stag Lane, two members, Mr. G. M. Harris and Mr. D. Peacock, have now formed a joy-riding company with the name of Air Transport, and they are already operating "Spartan" three-seaters at various places on the South Coast."
  • -Company - Air Travel Ltd

     Air Travel Ltd 

    March 1934: "For the coming season Air Travel, Ltd., will be sending their "Silver Trio" round the country on its own and not in conjunction with any other display or aircircus. They will be using the same three Avros ("Mongoose") which they operated with Sir Alan Cobham's display last year, and will be joyriding at a large number of towns in the South and Midlands."

  • -Company - AV Roe

     A.V. Roe & Co. Ltd

    Based in Blackpool, Southport, Manchester, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Waterloo Sands (Liverpool), Rhyl, Douglas and Windermere; Hounslow 1919-21

    1919: "Three Avro pilots have been kept busy all the week. Members of Rhyl Council have led the way in flying."

    "The Avro Northern Stations have now taken up 20,000 passengers, a most remarkable figure. Preston has been licensed, and it is hoped that active operations will soon be undertaken there. A 'travelling circus' has now been established, which will tour various towns in turn, spending a few days at each, to give demonstrations and take up passengers. The dates arranged so far are:— Barmouth: September 15 to 20; Nottingham: September 22 to 24, and Derby: October 6 to 11."

    November 1926: "Mr. Brown was the leading pilot of the Avro joy-ride company in the years immediately following the war. For the last five years he has been the chief instructor at Barcelona".


    - Lt Macrae MC

    - Harold Hamersley

    - Walter G R Hinchliffe

    - Mr Shanks

    - Capt H A Brown

    - Capt F G M Sparks

    - Capt E D C Herne

    - Capt H S Broad


    - 1919 Avro 504M G-EACX (K-134) which was withdrawn from use May 1920;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EADD (K-137) which was scrapped Dec 1919;

    and "about 10" other Avro 504s, probably including:

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EACW which crashed off Southsea Nov 1919;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EADM

  • -Company - Berkshire Aviation Co

     Berkshire Aviation Co / Berkshire Aviation Tours Ltd / Aviation Tours Ltd / Northern Air Lines 


    Based in East Hanney, nr Wantage; Ford; Witney; Hanworth, 1919-1929

     Joy-rides took place all over the Midlands and the Home Counties, and the machines were overhauled in a barn near East Hanney during the winter.

    Feb 1930: "Northern Air Lines, whose directors are Mr. F. J. V. Holmes and J. F. Leeming, are acting as managers for the Manchester Corporation, and Mr. W. Ledlie is the manager on the spot.

    Berkshire Aviation Tours, Ltd., which is a subsidiary of Northern Air Lines, probably holds the largest stock of "Avros" and Le Rhone 110 h.p. engines in the country, and they deal solely with joyriding."

    "Britain's first aerial touring joyriding company"


    - Alan Cobham;

     Fred J V Holmes;

    - J D V 'Jack' Holmes

    - Capt F G M Sparks

    - O P Jones


    Pat O'Hara (parachutist)


    - 1919 Avro 536 G-EAKN which crashed nr Brill Aug 1924;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EAKX;

    - 1920 Avro 504K G-EASF;

    - 1924 Avro 504K G-EBKB;

    - 1925 Avro 504K G-EBKX which crashed Lancs Jul 1934;

    - 1926 Avro 504K G-EBOB;

    - 1927 Avro 504K G-EBQR ex-Western Aviation Co Ltd;

    - 1927 Avro 504K G-EBSL which crashed May 1932;

    - 1927 Avro 504K G-EBSM;

    - 1928 Avro 504K G-EBVW which was dismantled Hootoon Dec 1931;

    - 1928 Avro 504K G-EBXV;

    - 1928 Avro 504K G-EBYW;

    - 1932 D.H. 83 Fox Moth G-ABUP which crashed Scunthorpe Aug 1933

  • -Company - Brompton Motor Co

     Brompton Motor Co  Ltd 

     Based in the Isle of Wight 1921

    "Altogether it looks like being a busy season on The Island, and the two pilots will have their hands full"


    - Capt A H Dalton

    - Capt R E Dean


    - 1921 Airco D.H.6 G-EAWT;

    - 1921 Airco D.H.6 G-EAWU, which crashed Isle of Wight Mar 1922;

    - 1921 Airco D.H.6 G-EAWV

  • -Company - Cornwall Aviation Co Ltd

     Cornwall Aviation Co Ltd

    Based St Austell, Margate, 1924-1936

     Cornwall Aviation 1   Cornwall Aviation 2

    G-EBNR, I think

    with thanks to John Moody, who found the above 2 photos amongst his father's effects. He told me, however, that "I'm not sure how he would have come across them; he couldn't have taken them himself, as he was born in 1929... So all a mystery."

    G EBIZ

     poster image, with thanks to Terry Sear



    The Bristol Summer Meeting, in June 1932



    - Capt Percival Phillips

    - Jo Cameron


    - 1924 Avro 504K G-EBIZ, registered to 'Messrs Hill and Phillips;

    - 1926 Avro 504K G-EBNR;

    - 1927 Avro 504K G-EBSE;

    - 1928 Avro 504K G-AAAF;

    - 1930 Avro 504K G-AAYI

    and possibly

    - 1930 Avro 504K G-AAUJ which crashed Harrogate Oct 1932

  • -Company - Devonshire Aviation Tours Ltd

     Devonshire Aviation Tours Ltd

    Based in Exeter, 1932


    - Avro 504K G-ABZC which crashed Chard Apr 1933

    - 1930 Avro 504K G-AAYM;

  • -Company - Eastern Air Services

    Eastern Air Services / Eastern Air Transport Ltd (1930-33)

      Michael David Llewellyn Scott

    "M. D. L. Scott, secretary of the Skegness Aero Club, offered to take sun-starved midlanders to be braced up a bit in Skegness; 25 bob return from Nottingham or Leicester, 35 shillings from Birmingham: "Nottingham people will be able to fly to Skegness again this summer at fares which will actually be cheaper than the first-class railway rates. This enterprising venture, which was inaugurated last year, is to be resumed again at Easter on a very much bigger scale... The service is to be conducted Mr. M. D. L. Scott, of Eastern Air Services, Skegness".

    The Eastern Air Transport Company carried 30,000 passengers in the 4 years to 1933 without serious incident.

  • -Company - Goodwin-Chichester Aviation Co

     Goodwin-Chichester Aviation Co (New Zealand)

    April 1929, Flight: "On the occasion when these machines were flying, about 300 people were flown at one guinea each"

    "The club employs four pilots, all ex-service men"


    - Capt Stedman

    - Capt G Bolt

    - Capt Hewitt


    - 1928 Avro 594 Avian IIIa G-NZAV / ZK-AAC;

    - 1928 Avro 594 Avian IIIa G-NZEE / ZK-AAF;

    - 1929 Avro 594 Avian IIIa ZK-AAN;

    - 1929 Simmonds Spartan ZK-ABL;

    - 1931 Avro 616 Sports Avian ZK-ACM

  • -Company - Grahame-White Co

     Grahame-White Co. 

    Based at Hendon, 1919

    "As regards the flying, the Grahame-White Co. had in commission four Avro two-seaters, 110 h.p. Le Rhone engines, which were kept as busy as could be, taking up passengers at 10s. 6d. and one guinea a time. The half-guinea flights were necessarily somewhat short..."



    - Maj R H Carr


    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EAAX;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EAAY;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABA;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABE;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABF;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABG;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABH;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABN;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABO;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABP;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABW;

    - 1919 Avro 504K G-EABX;

    - 1919 Blackburn Kangaroo G-EADE which crashed Hendon Jun 1919;

    - 1919 Blackburn Kangaroo G-EADF which crashed Hendon May 1919;

    - 1919 Blackburn Kangaroo G-EADG

  • -Company - Henderson Flying School Ltd

     Henderson Flying School Ltd

    In 1919, Lt-Col George Lockhart Piercey Henderson offered flights to the general public in an Avro at Hounslow Aerodrome: £1 a head. There was enormous interest; "queues of 50 or more were patiently waiting and the aeroplane could hardly get up and down fast enough".

    October 1928: "After luncheon the flying events commenced... the crowd, by the way, ran to 20,000, according to one report... there were also joy-riding machines if any wished to try their luck. Col. Henderson was very busy with his Avros"

    June 1930: "Lieut.-Col. Henderson is doing a roaring trade on his Junkers "13"—joy-riding.The monoplane evidently takes the public fancy, for it is never on the ground more than 10 minutes together"


    - Lt Col G L P Henderson


    - 1921 Avro 548 G-EBAJ which crashed Brooklands Apr 1928;

    - 1923 Avro 548 G-EBFM which crashed Weybridge Sep 1928;

    - 1927 Avro 548 G-EBRD scrapped in South Africa June 1928;

    - 1927 Avro 548 G-EBSC which crashed South Africa May 1928;

    - 1927 Avro 548 B-EBVE scrapped Nov 1928;

    - 1928 Avro 548 G-EBWH scrapped Jul 1928;

    - 1928 Avro 548 G-EBWJ;

    - 1928 Avro 548 G-EBWO which crashed Reading Apr 1929;

    - 1928 Avro 504K G-EBYE;

    - 1929 Avro 504K G-AAFJ.

    - 1930 Junkers F.13ge G-AAZK belonging to the Walcot Air Line. Lt Col Henderson was killed in this aircraft on 21 July 1930.

  • -Company - Hillmans Airways Ltd

     Hillmans Airways Ltd

    August 1934: "The Ards Airport, Newtownards, the first civil aerodrome in Northern Ireland, is to be officially opened on August 31st...Hillman's Airways will also be carrying out joy-riding with three D.H. "Dragons"

  • -Company - Imperial Airways Ltd

     Imperial Airways Ltd

    In 1927 and 1928, much to the disgust of Flight: "The most astonishing feature of the Bournemouth meeting was the presence of the Handley Page 'Hampstead' with three Bristol 'Jupiter' engines, which was used for the undignified task of taking holiday crowds for 'joy-rides' over Bournemouth and surrounding districts. ... why should such a monopoly company come along and start competing with our 'joy-ride' concerns, who receive no subsidy whatever? Already plenty of difficulties face our struggling 'joy-ride' concerns, who are doing splendid propaganda. For a monopoly company to cut in is in the worst of taste, and we trust that there will be no more 'Imperial Joy-riders.' "

    They took no notice, of course:

    May 1930: "the Imperial Airways Silver Wing "Argosy" air-liner City of Glasgow will fly up to Renfrew today, and will take up passengers."

    April 1932: "Another wet week-end spoilt business for the joyriding firms. In spite of the weather, Imperial Airways had a large party of between 200 and 300 visitors on Saturday afternoon, and a large number of them took flights in one of the Handley Page 42's."

    - 1925 the H.P. 9a Hampstead G-EBLE 'City of New York' later re-registered in Australia as VH-ULK

    - 1925 A.W. Argosy I G-EBLF 'City of Glasgow'

  • -Company - Irish Air Lines

     Irish Air Lines 

    May 1932: "IRISH AIR LINES, with headquarters at Waterford, commenced operations as a joy-riding "circus" at Arklow, County Wicklow, last week, and had a very good send off. Equipped with Avro 504K aircraft they are to tour the country giving joy-rides, and demonstrations of crazy flying and wing-walking. Already arrangements have been completed for visits to thirty-six towns in Ireland, and a director of the company told our Dublin representative that negotiations for other sites are in progress. The touring party, consisting of four pilots and two ground engineers, will be entirely independent of hotels, as all their kit is being carried in a motor trailer caravan."


    (both ex Northern Air Transport)

    - 1932 Avro 504K EI-AAM (ex G-AAYH);

    - 1932 Avro 504K EI-AAN (ex G-ABHP)

  • -Company - Jubilee Air Displays Ltd

     Jubilee Air Displays Ltd

    jubilee air display 1935   Jubilee Airshow 1935 Lt Cathcart Jones Monospar a via Joss Mullinger


    May 1935: "Jubilee Air Displays, led by Lt. O. Cathcart Jones, will be giving a show on Saturday, May 11 , at 2.15 p.m. Flights will be available in the ''Comet ' flown by Scott and Tom Campbell Black in the MacRobertson race. On Empire Air Day the aerodrome will be open to the public from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at a charge of 3d. The first hundred "joy" flights will be given at half price."

  • -Company - London Air Circus

     The London Air Circus

    August 1932: "PLYMOUTH AIR WEEK In order to popularise flying in Devon an "air week"  has been arranged by Capt. Dean, Plymouth Air Port Officer, to commence on Monday, August 22, and to last for six days.

    The London Air Circus, recently formed at  Broxbourne aerodrome under the leadership of Fit. Lt.  Bannister, has been engaged to give aerobatics, displays
    and joyrides."

  • -Company - Luffs Aviation Tours Ltd

     Luffs Aviation Tours Ltd

    Based in Weybridge, 1930


    - Avro 504K G-ABAA which is in the RAF Museum

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