The Squadron is an association of friends with a common interest in all forms of private light aviation, whose objectives are to promote and support aviation in the United Kingdom and to develop and maintain aviation links around the world.
Since its early days, these objectives have included:
a significant ambassadorial role in developing and maintaining links with air forces and aviation bodies outside the United Kingdom
support for the armed services in the United Kingdom (Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, Parachute Regiment, SAS and Army Air Corps); and
charitable activities in support of aviation and aeronautical engineering (primarily through the Geoffrey de Havilland Flying Foundation), including support for careers for young people in these and related fields.
The Squadron was founded in 1966 by three members of the Royal Yacht Squadron who considered that a similar organisation was needed for aviation. These founder members were the Hon. Hugh Astor, Air Commodore The Hon. Sir Peter Vanneck and the Hon. Anthony Cayzer. Sir Douglas Bader, James Baring, Ivor Faulconer, Professor John Houlder, the Earl of Verulam and Lord Waterpark joined them as the six Founding Members.
Other early members included (other) Battle of Britain veterans – Sir Hugh Dundas, Sir Max Aitken and Air Commodore Whitney Straight – and Sir Thomas Sopwith.
Initially, activities involved flying visits to a number of locations in the United Kingdom and France, particularly Le Touquet, with which the Squadron formed especially close connections. From the 1990s onwards, these visits developed into major expeditions to such countries as Russia, Jordan, Tanzania, Pakistan, Morocco, USA, South Africa, Poland, The Balkans, Ukraine, and the Baltic States.
The membership of the Squadron has always been limited in order to maintain the essential friendship of the members. The current limit is 100 active members.
Membership is by invitation with candidates being considered through an election process involving all members.
The Honorary Air Commodore of the Squadron is HRH the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The Squadron also has a number of other distinguished Honorary Members including members of the Royal family, the current Chief of the Air Staff and some heads of air forces of countries outside the United Kingdom to which the Squadron has flown.
Activities and Flying Visits
The Squadron arranges about 10 events each year. These events include members’ dinners, lectures, the annual presentation of Squadron trophies, visits to units of the armed services and other UK and international flying visits.
The visits usually focus on the UK and Continental Europe with a longer overseas expedition being held every few years. Within Europe the visits range from one day to a grass airstrip to a visit of 10 days or more to several locations.
Support for Aviation
Following the first award, in 1995, of the Sir John Thomson memorial sword to the top air cadet in the Combined Cadet Force, swords of honour have been awarded annually to cadets in the USA and South Africa and, from 2016, will be awarded in Ukraine and Estonia. In Britain, a Squadron Trophy is awarded each year to the best Combined Cadet Force and cadets from all over the United Kingdom are honoured for their individual achievements.
The Squadron Trophy for aerobatics has encouraged the sport and is competed for annually.
The Squadron has established a very close relationship with the UK armed and special forces; visits to units on land and at sea are paid each year, not only bringing the services closer to a community whose membership is predominantly civilian but enabling many young servicemen and women to fly in Squadron aircraft thus gaining flying experience not otherwise available to them. Squadron members regularly arrange events for armed forces charities and the Squadron supports the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.
The Parachute Regiment is recognised with the presentation of a poignard to Red Devils who make more than 1000 jumps.
The Geoffrey de Havilland Flying Foundation is the charitable arm of the Squadron and has for many years, assisted young people to gain flying scholarships and develop an interest, and pursue careers, in aviation.
In the fifty years since its foundation, the Squadron has established a reputation in the United Kingdom and abroad for skilled, professional and adventurous flying whilst supporting widely air mindedness in young people. The Squadron continues to embrace the principles of friendship and adventure among dedicated aviators. Its members represent every facet of aviation – from military to civil, fixed wing to rotary, war birds and classic aircraft to home-builds.