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The Air Squadron

Origins: The Air Squadron was founded in London in 1966 by a group of friends who shared a passionate interest in flying light aircraft. The founder members were the Hon. Hugh Astor, Air Cdre Sir Peter Vanneck and the Hon. Anthony Cayzer. Two of the earliest members were Second World War heroes Sir Douglas Bader and Sir Hugh Dundas. Others were Sir Max Aitkin, Tommy Sopwith and Lord Waterpark.

Constitution: It was decided always to limit the size of the Squadron in order to maintain the original intention of being a group of friends with a common interest in flying and all new members have to hold an aviation qualification and preferably to own or have a share in an aircraft (fixed wing or rotary).

Support for British Aviation: From the early days, the Air Squadron wished to support the future of British Aviation in various ways and also to forge close links with the air arms of the three Services. To this end the Air Squadron presents annual trophies for Aerobatics and for the best Air Cadet unit in the country. A sword of honour in memory of Air Squadron member Air Chief Marshal Sir John Thomson is also given to the best individual Air Cadet at an annual ceremony at RAF Cranwell. Cadets are also given flight experience in the aircraft belonging to Air Squadron members.

Charity support: The Air Squadron has its own charity, the Geoffrey de Havilland Flying Foundation, which continues to support aviation and help young people to fulfil their ambition to be able to 'reach for the sky'.

Overseas Expeditions: Starting with regular trips in the UK and to France, the Air Squadron has undertaken ever more ambitious trips overseas often at the invitation of foreign governments or their air forces. These required meticulous planning and daring execution, hall marked by adventure and good ambassadorship.

In the past two decades they have flown their aircraft to Russia, Jordan, Tanzania, Pakistan and Morocco. In 2000, the Air Squadron flew across the north Atlantic in order to tour the length and breadth of the USA as far west as Alaska. In Washington, a millennium sword of honour was presented to the United States Air Force. The sword is kept in the Pentagon and awarded to the top Air Force cadet each year.

In 2003, the hundredth year of powered flight was commemorated by the Air Squadron flying to Cape Town, a round trip of 16,500 miles. A ceremonial sword was presented to the South African Air Force which is awarded every six months to the top passing out officer cadet.

Looking forward: The Air Squadron - limited to 100 active members - continues to embrace the principles of friendship and adventure among dedicated aviators. Its members represent every facet of British aviation, from military to civil, fixed wing to rotary, war-birds and classic aircraft to home-builts.