Pilot - - AIRMAIL EXTRA - Richard Rid­ing by email

I read with in­ter­est the item ‘The right to (sky)write’ in Oc­to­ber’s

Pi­lot and was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in Mike Jer­ram’s note, re­mind­ing read­ers that the prac­tice of sky­writ­ing has not al­ways been il­le­gal in the UK, and that Ma­jor Jack Sav­age built up a fleet of 33 sky­writ­ing Se5as (not all air­wor­thy) op­er­at­ing in Bri­tain and else­where.

I have re­cently ac­quired a cou­ple of dozen orig­i­nal glass plates de­pict­ing the Ma­jor’s SE5A fleet at Hen­don c1927. On 3 De­cem­ber 1935 my late fa­ther wrote to Sav­age ask­ing per­mis­sion to take pho­to­graphs of the last sur­vivors of the fleet, which in­cluded two of the ex­am­ples pre­served to­day. He vis­ited Hen­don on 6 De­cem­ber. where Ma­jor Sav­age per­son­ally pre­sented my dad with prints made from the neg­a­tives that I now pos­sess.

The Per­sil photo is an­other ex­am­ple of the sky­writer’s hand­i­work. Taken in 1927 Per­sil’s ad­ver­tis­ing lit­er­ally reached new heights, re­mind­ing ev­ery­one that Per­sil washed whiter.

Mike men­tioned see­ing a pair of Ger­man-reg­is­tered Har­vards sky­writ­ing over the south coast. Cy­cling to work at El­stree aero­drome one day, c1959, I was con­fronted by the sight of a sky­writ­ing North Amer­i­can AT-6A Texan, reg­is­tered D-FGAL. The large ex­tended ex­haust pipes caused great won­der­ment, but sadly the air­craft’s ear-split­ting take­off was not fol­lowed by a demon­stra­tion. I be­lieve this air­craft, or its com­pan­ion, was re­spon­si­ble for writ­ing ‘Su­per­mac’, coined by car­toon­ist ‘Vicky’, in the skies above Southend prior to Harold Macmil­lan be­com­ing Prime Min­is­ter af­ter the 1959 Gen­eral Elec­tion. I heard that D-FGAL, now reg­is­tered N13FY, is cur­rently based at Hil­ver­sum, Hol­land.


Sky­writ­ing SE5A G-EBIB at Hooton Park aero­drome in March 1936, still sport­ing smoke pipes, with Sid­ney St Barbe in the cock­pit. Pre­sented to the Lon­don Sci­ence Mu­seum in July 1939, G-EBIB has been re­stored to its sky­writ­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion com­plete with ex­tended sky­writ­ing ex­haust pipes North Amer­i­can AT-6A Texan D-FGAL at El­stree aero­drome c1959

Ma­jor Jack Sav­age’s let­ter of 3 De­cem­ber 1935 giv­ing E J Rid­ing per­mis­sion to visit the com­pany’s premises at Hen­don aero­drome to pho­to­graph the com­pany’s re­main­ing SE5S. The com­pany logo at the top of this let­ter gave me the idea for the head­ing art­work to Aero­plane Monthly’s cor­re­spon­dence pages when I started the mag­a­zine in 1973

Two views of an im­pres­sive line-up of Sav­age’s sky­writ­ing SE5S at Hen­don c1927 show­ing pi­lots ready for ac­tion and me­chan­ics stand­ing by. G-EBQB was first reg­is­tered in March 1927

For­mer sky­writer SE5A G-EBIC at Hen­don in De­cem­ber 1935, mi­nus its long ex­haust pipes. Af­ter dis­posal by Jack Sav­age it be­came part of the Nash Col­lec­tion and in April 1950 was moved to RAF Col­erne for restora­tion, emerg­ing and mas­querad­ing as SE5A B4563 be­fore ac­quir­ing F938, its orig­i­nal RAF se­rial num­ber. It re­turned to Hen­don in 1972 to be­came one of the RAF Mu­seum’s orig­i­nal ex­hibits and can still be seen there PHOTO : EJ RID­ING

Per­sil ad­ver­tis­ing writ large in 1927

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