The National Aerospace Library is developing a digital sound archive, making the voices of past pilots, engineers and scientists 'alive' once more to inspire and inform current and future generations.

Chuck Yeager with Glamourous Glennis

Sit back and listen

These historic recordings are being released on the Royal Aeronautical Society's SoundCloud site alongside the podcasts of recent main Society lectures

Available to listen so far are extended interviews with Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ BrownChuck YeagerScott Crossfield, Handel DaviesAl White, Bill Humble, Pete KnightDick JohnsonPhilip LucasPeter BuggeCol. Emil ‘Ted’ Sturmthal, Harald Penrose, John Morton, D. P. Davies, John Cunningham and Jeffrey Quill.

A Who's Who of aviation personalities

Handel Davies

Digitalised from the funding received through the Royal Aeronautical Society Foundation, the Library has in addition an archive of over 100 historic sound recordings, representing a real 'Who's Who' of aviation’s personalities and great names over the decades. Some of the archives date back to recordings made in the 1940s stored on old 78 rpm gramophone records, magnetic reel tapes and cassette tape being in many cases the only record which the Society has of a particular speech or lecture.

The first batch of these historic recordings which have recently just been released feature some of the ‘giants’ in aviation history and include Sir Frederick Handley Page’s October 1961 lecture 'The Birth of the World's First Big Aeroplane’, a 1967 recording of Igor Sikorsky and a 1969 interview with Sir Barnes Wallis.

Future planned recordings to be released over the coming months will focus on among many other subjects

* History of the Royal Air Force - including recordings of Sir Dermot Boyle; ACM Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferte; AM Sir Victor Goddard; Gp. Capt. Hamish Mahaddie; Commander G.A Rowan-Thompson

* Endurance Flights - including recordings of Wg. Cdr. Norman Macmillan ‘The First Flight Round the World’; Capt J. C. Kelly-Rogers ‘Atlantic Flying Twenty-Five Years Ago’; John Grierson ‘Polar Aviation’

* Schneider Trophy - including recordings of Fl. Lt. J. Boothman; W. A Cox; Grp. Capt. L.S Snaith; Air Cdre. F. R. ‘Rod’ Banks

* Flight Testing - including recordings of A. W. ‘Bill’ Bedford; Lt. Col. C.E. ‘Chuck’ Yeager; Lt. Col. R. White

* History of British Aircraft Firms - including recordings of Sqn Ldr. John Crampton (Sopwith); Don. L. Brown (Miles Aircraft); H. Knowler (Saunders-Roe); Hugh Burroughes (Glosters); Alan N. Clifton (Supermarine), J. M. Bruce (Martinsyde)

* Aircraft Structures  and Aeroelasticity - including recordings of N. J. Hoff; Professor A. R. Collar; Professor S. Timoshenko

The voices of Theodore von Karman, Sir Victor Goddard, Col. John Glenn, Herr Silvius Dornier, Sir George Edwards and Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor are among the many other famous names included the sound archive for future release. 

For any enquiries about the National Aerospace Library Sound Archive please contact the librarians in Farnborough on +44 (0)1252 701038 / 701060 or via

The librarians would wish to acknowledge the valuable assistance of Mike Stanberry FRAeS for all his work in editing the sound recordings.

Please note that if these recordings or extracts from these recordings are to be reproduced  in any  way  (book,  journal  article,  web-site etc.), acknowledgement should  be  made to  the ‘Royal  Aeronautical  Society  (National Aerospace Library)’  as being  the source of  the original.

Brian Riddle
8 December 2017