More Circuses!

As for the 'Aerial Circus', Britain was rather slow to catch on to the American post-WWI 'barnstormers' idea; there are no references in Flight to any 'flying circuses' (apart from WWI von Richtoven's, obviously) until 1929, when Neville Stack at National Flying Services formed his 'circus' - a short-lived formation-flying team of three D.H. Moths:

"For the next event, the N.F.S. 'Heavenly Triplets', Flt.-Lts. Schofield, Wilson and MacKenzie, went up in their 'Moths' and put up some very nice formation flying, including simultaneous loops and concluding with a really excellent format landing"

(ummm ... bit dull ... sorry, Stacko...)


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."

Here are some of the circuses that thrilled the public during the 1920s and 30s

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