C D Barnards Air Circus  / C D Barnards Air Tours Ltd / Indian Air Pageants (1931-34)

"The World's First Air Circus"

Charles Barnard formed his 'Air Circus' in 1931 (while Alan Cobham was still flying himself around Africa), obviously aiming to keep himself in the public eye after his long-distance flights with the Duchess of Bedford.

With support from the Daily Mail, he cobbled together a somewhat motley collection of aeroplanes (the old 'Spider', a Spartan 3-seater and an autogiro) and flew in a different place practically every day.

"Included in the programme will be exhibitions of aerobatics and crazy flying, the Daily Mail Aviation Lesson, demonstrations by the "Autogiro", a parachute descent by Mr. John Tranum, a display of aerial marksmanship and daylight fireworks, and other events which fill a programme of 2 1/4 hours."

 March 1931: "Capt CD Barnard commenced his tour of the country with his circus, comprised of the famous old Spider, an autogiro, and a Spartan three-seater. It looked a very curious combination taking off. It is understood that our old friend Mr Eskell has had quite a lot to do with the organisation"

Nottingham Evening Post: "CAPT. BARNARD'S AIR CIRCUS TO VISIT 150 TOWNS. An air circus to tour 150 towns is being arranged by Capt. C. D. Barnard, the well-known pilot. At each town a well-organised air pageant will held, which will provide a spectacular and instructive picture of air progress, including parachute descent, demonstrations by the autogiro (the windmill plane) aerobatics, and passenger flights. The 'circus' will travel by air from town to town, never staying in one spot for more than two days."

June 1931, at the Bristol Summer Meeting: "Barnard's 'Aerial Circus' (which wags have now dubbed 'Barnum's') was in full swing"

July 1931: "Capt. Barnard says:—"My aerial tour of the country has now completed three months' regular flying, and we have travelled practically all over Great Britain holding a pageant in a different town everyday. I have with me six machines of different types, three of which are fitted with Hermes Mark II engines. The first machine fitted with this type, a three-seater Spartan, G-EBJS (sic), has now completed 300 hr. without any trouble. I thought you would be interested to know this, as I consider it most wonderful service considering the extremely hard wear and tear the work entails on an engine. The three engines are standing up to the work wonderfully well and have given absolutely no trouble whatsoever."

October 1931: "Flying in formation, the six Circus machines will arrive at Hanworth next Sunday at 3 p.m. The Circus has increased considerably in size and interest since the tour began last April ... The events in the final display will be supplemented by a number of extra machines, including a formation of three 'Avians' and probably a second 'Autogiro'."



Wednesday April 1st, Luton

Friday May 1st, Newark

May 13-14, Bath:

The Cirvo auto-gyro (sic) attracted the attention of many visitors to Bath's Air Circus at Lansdown, yesterday. (Western Daily Press, 15 May)

May 16-17, Plymouth

May 18, Yeovil

May 29, Blackpool

May 31, Hull

June 4, Grantham

June 7, Tollerton

June 20, Bristol

June 22, Ilfracombe

June 24, Bideford

June 25, Camborne

July 13, Bridlington

August 9, Plymouth again

August 10, Camborne

August 11, Bude

August 12, Camelford

August 13, Teignmouth

August 14, Bath again

August 21, Chelmsford

September 10, St Andrews (Dundee)

September 12-13, Turnhouse (Edinburgh)

September 18, Tullibardine (near Auchterarder, if that helps)

September 19-20, Dundee

A different autogiro in this case (Evening Telegraph, Dundee, 21 September 1931)

September 26-27, Perth


Days in action: 180

Towns visited: 118

Performances: c.370

Total miles flown, all aircraft: c.160,000

Passengers carried, all aircraft: c.60,000

Aircraft engaged: 6 average

plus 8 road vehicles, and 40 staff.

"Barnard' s Air Circus—Final Performance!

CAPT. C. D. BARNARD' S Air Circus, which during the past summer has done so much to arouse interest in aviation in the principal towns in England, Scotland and Wales, will give its final display for the season at the London Air Park, Hanworth, next Sunday afternoon.

During their tour of 6 1/2 months, Capt. Barnard and his fellow pilots have visited 118 towns in 50 different counties, and have given 370 performances. More than a million people have witnessed the displays. In many districts visited the public have been given the chance of seeing and taking flights in modern aircraft for the first time. Approximately 40,000 people have been given flights.

Indian Air Pageants

November 1933: "The B.A.C. "Drone" which is being shipped out to India as part of Capt. C. D. Barnard's Air Circus, has been tested in the workshops and dismantled."

"CAPT. C. D. BARNARD has recently organised a flying circus which he is taking to India. He himself will be flying out his Fokker (Bristol " Jupiter XIa "), the Spider, as it is now known, and is leaving on Saturday, November 11. With him will go Mr. R. L. Palmer and Mr. J. B. Pugh, both on " Fox Moths " (" Gipsy Majors "). The rest of the pilots will follow by boat, arriving at Bombay on December 8. They will be Messrs. J. Mackay, E. R. Andrews, W. A. Burnside, and J. R. Hatchett, flying a " Tiger Moth " (" Gipsy Major "), Spartan three-seater (" Hermes IV "), Segrave "Meteor " (two "Gipsy III") , and a "Fo x Moth" (" Gipsy Major ") respectively. From Bombay the wholeparty will go to Delhi and Calcutta, and before they finish at the end of next April will have visited some 70 towns, where displays will be given and, it is hoped, many thousands of people taken up for flights. Among the attractions of the Display there will be two parachutists, Messrs. C. E. Longmore and R. Wyndham ; both will be using Irvin Chutes for their daily display drops.

The " Tiger Moth " which Mr. Pugh is flying is fitted for inverted flying, and on this machine aerobatic displays will be given. Mr. A. H. Dalton, of Furlough Cars, Ltd., is Capt. Barnard's partner, and he is already in India with the advance party. A circus like this one demands the attendance of a fairly large ground staff with transport, particularly as it is operating away from England. Considerable material must therefore be carried with them all the time, and for this purpose a fleet of Vauxhall cars and Bedford motor trucks is being taken, while for the fuel and oil for both ground transport and aeroplanes the organisations of Shell and Wakefield are being relied upon."

December 1933: "The Barnard Circus off to India. FLYING in his Fokker monoplane Spider ("Jupiter"), Capt. C. D. Barnard left Heston on Saturday for India. Capt. Barnard has planned a six months' tour with his "circus" of eight aircraft, on which he will visit between 60 and 70 different centres. This means that over a million people will see formation and stunt flying who have never seen such a thing before, and the visit should do much to create air-mindedness in India. Accompanying Capt. Barnard in the " Spider " are his wife, Mr. J. Mackay, the second pilot, a parachutist, a mechanic and an announcer. The trip to India should take about ten days."

"Mr. A. Auping, who took his licence last year, has bought a "Fox Moth" and is on his way to India to join Capt. Barnard's circus." (no record - suspect this was R L Palmer)

Jan 1934: "During the four days' exhibition at Dum Dum aerodrome, Calcutta, of Capt. Barnard's Air Circus, Mr. Longmore crashed a "Drone" into a tank. He was removed to hospital suffering from a fractured arm and other injuries."

May 1934: "During a visit by the Barnard "Circus" to Patiala, an Indian friend of the Maharajah, who had been deaf for many years, went up with Mr. McKay. On returning to earth he astounded everyone by claiming that his hearing had been restored."

October 1934: "A "Fox Moth" left Heston for India last Thursday, piloted by Fit. Lt. Sullivan. The aeroplane is going out to join Capt. Barnard's air circus, with which it will carry out joy-riding Two passengers are travelling in the cabin, one of whom is the ice-hockey international, F/O. H. E. Mayes. The party is travelling via Rome, Cairo, and the Persian Gulf. "


(l to r) J R King, Neville Stack, R A C Brie, G Hill, E Cumming, A C Stace (sic), C D Barnard (Evening Telegraph, Dundee, 21 September 1931)

- C D Barnard

- Mr F S Crossley

- Mr E D Ayre (Spartan)

- Mr R A C Brie (autogiro)

- Mr L H Stace of Henlys (Avian)

- Mr C E F Riley (Spartan)

- Capt E Cummings (Ladybird)

- Mr W F Parkhouse (Gipsy Moth)

- Neville Stack

- Jim Mollison

- Mr. R. L. Palmer (Fox Moth India 1933)

- Mr. J. B. Pugh (Fox Moth India 1933)

- J. Mackay (Tiger Moth India 1933)

- E. R. Andrews (Spartan three-seater India 1933)

- W A H B Burnside (Segrave Meteor India 1933)

- J. R. Hatchett (Fox Moth India 1933)

- Mr A Auping (Fox Moth India 1933)?

- Mr C E Longmore (BAC Drone India 1933)


- 1927 Fokker F.VIIa G-EBTS 'The Spider';

- 1931 Spartan Three Seater I G-ABJS;

- Cierva C.19 Autogiro G-AAYP

later joined by:

- 1930 Avro 616 Sports Avian G-AAXH belonging to Henlys Ltd;

- Desoutter

- 1931 Potez 36.17 'Ladybird' F-ALJC / G-ABNB


- 3 Fox Moths (India 1933), one of which presumably was 1933 D.H. Fox Moth G-ACKZ belonging to R L Palmer;

- Tiger Moth (India 1933)

- 1933 BAC Drone (India 1933) VT-AEU which crashed Calcutta Jan 1934

- Tiger Moth (India 1933)

- 1930 Segrave Meteor G-ABFP belonging to Mrs F S Burnside (India 1933)

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