British Midland International - History


The airline dates back to before the Second World War when Captain Roy Harben established Air Schools Limited in 1938 as a school for training pilots of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Captain Harben had been approached by the Derby Corporation to run a new aerodrome under construction near Burnaston, which was planned to eventually become an airport. Sir Kingsley Wood, the Secretary of State for Air, officially opened the aerodrome as Derby Municipal Airport on 17 June 1939. Military flying training continued at the airport throughout the war.

Air Schools Limited formed a parent company, Derby Aviation Limited, in 1946, and Harben died the following year from a heart attack. His wife remained the controlling shareholder of the business and asked E. W. Phillips, who had been involved in running the flying school with Captain Harben, to become the new managing director. The new parent company also incorporated Wolverhampton Aviation, based near Pendeford, which offered ad hoc charter and freight flights with De Havilland Dragon Rapides, as well as aircraft maintenance and brokerage.

Derby Aviation received a licence in 1953 to operate scheduled flights from Burnaston and Wolverhampton to Jersey, and ceased flying training. Flights in each direction were required to land at Elmdon Airport in Birmingham to allow passengers to clear customs. The first flight was made on 18 July 1953, using a De Havilland Dragon Rapide. The following year, Wolverhampton Aviation was merged into Derby Aviation, and the company purchased its first Douglas DC-3, a converted former military transport, in 1955.

International services commenced in 1956 to Ostend and holiday flights to mainland Europe began. The company was also contracted by Rolls-Royce to transport aero engines to customers throughout the world. In 1959 Derby Aviation created Derby Airways as its airline business, and introduced a new livery with the name for its aircraft. Domestic scheduled flights within the United Kingdom were launched in the same year.

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