1919 – Instone Air Line was Founded

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Instone Air Line was founded in 1919 by Cardiff-based S. Instone and Co, a company operating both coal mines and ships. Bills of lading were generally sent by post, often taking up to 10 days to arrive in France, while the ships were unable to discharge their cargo. To resolve this, the company sought government approval to carry its own letters and documents by air, enabling ships to unload immediately on arrival. Their first flight operated in October 1919 using a DH4.

The company rapidly increased its fleet to some 10 freighter and passenger aircraft based at Croydon Airport, operating scheduled services to Brussels, Paris and Cologne. 

S. Instone and Co first became involved in aviation in August 1910 when they sponsored a Willows gas-filled airship, ‘City of Cardiff’, from South Wales to London and France. This was the first successful crossing of the Channel by any airship. The company operated a mixed fleet of aircraft, including the legendary ‘City of London’ G-EASI.

Many famous aviators were involved with Instone Air Line, including Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, who joined the company having just completed the transatlantic crossing in a Vickers Vimy with Sir John Alcock. Pilots included O.P. Jones and Franklin Barnard, the winner of the first King’s Cup Air Race. The company was highly innovative and was the first airline to provide uniforms for its air crew, in similar livery to the crews on the Instone ships.


Instone Air Line carried out many interesting pioneering flights including:

  • Newspapers to the French Riviera during the railway strike of 1920
  • Jockeys to and from races
  • Rainmaking experiments
  • Printing and developing photographs in the air for the Press
  • Announcing news and sports results by using coloured signals
  • Ambulance flights
  • First grouse by air from Scotland to London
  • First Press air photographs of London
  • First joy rides over London
  • The first company to relay a symphony concert to their passengers in flight

The company also carried the first racehorse ever to be transported by air in 1921.

Eventually the airline was amalgamated with Daimler Airways, Handley Page Transport and British Marine Air Navigation to form Imperial Airways, which eventually became BOAC.

They operated a variety of aircraft including DH4A, DH16, DH18, DH34, Vickers Vulcan, Vickers Vimy and Westland Limousine.

Instone Air Line was the first airline to give names to their aircraft which included ‘City of Cardiff”, ‘City of Antwerp’, ‘City of New York’, ‘City of Chicago’ and the famous ‘City of London’ Vickers Vimy G-EASI.

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