The Journal of Aeronautical History is a web-based, peer-reviewed journal containing papers of an historical nature, covering all aspects of aerospace.


I am delighted to start the year with a fascinating paper, in which John Ackroyd explores the development of our understanding of the process by which an aerofoil generates lift. This is followed by Peter Davison’s account of the R.101 accident and inquiry, in which much of the text consists of quotations from original sources. Many of these could have been written today, and bring a contemporary feeling to the tragedy. They expose a number of issues that are not well known, despite the number of times the story has been told. Reading the paper made me think of recent accidents when technical and operational decisions have been over-ridden by other factors. 

The third paper concludes Brian Brinkworth’s analysis of research into spinning and the development of understanding of this phenomenon. As well as showing how a relatively small number of people can make progress in a research area that had large implications for the design and operation of aircraft, it is an excellent example of the value of studying a topic through a combination of theoretical analysis, experimental measurements andfull scale flight tests.

The paper on the aeronautical services offered by Inmarsat is our first on a space topic. It is a splendid example of an account of developments over several decades, told by some of the people who were involved. 

Even as I was thinking about contemporary lessons from the accident to the R.101, Guy Gratton’s paper on just that topic arrived without any prompting. Written by an expert on flight safety, it shows clearly the value of studying history in the hope of not repeating the experiences we would rather avoid.

A number of the papers published by the Journal of Aeronautical History have contained some fairly technical material. As an aeronautical engineer, I have enjoyed them even more because of their exploration of the technical aspects of the subject, and in preparing them for publication I have tried to ensure that they can still be read by those who do not want to follow the technical details. In particular, I have tried to explain the equations for those who are uncomfortable with mathematics, but I may not have been completely successful. The Editorial Board is in full agreement that the history of aeronautical science
and technology is a vital part of the history of aeronautics as a whole, and it is important that there should be a place for it within the Journal of Aeronautical History. As Philippe Jung has commented, “Problem → analysis & understanding → equations → development. All these steps have to be covered in a comprehensive historical work.”

I would welcome feedback from readers about their views on the inclusion of papers of this kind (though the editor’s decision is final).

I would like to thank my Editorial Board, which does an excellent job of reviewing papers and advising me. C P Hall in the USA has provided particular help with the two papers on the R.101, Roger McKinlay with the paper on satellite communications, and Michael Cook with Brian Brinkworth’s two papers on spinning. Their assistance has ensured that the technical content of these papers is correct, in areas where I do not have sufficient technical background. Chris Male and the Publications Department have given constant support through the provision of photographs from the Society’s magnificent collection and by loading the Journal onto the publication web site. 

Dr C G B (Kit) Mitchell FRAeS


Dr C G Mitchell FRAeS