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