View Full Version : Imperial Airways- European border overfly disputes

31st Mar 2010, 09:07
In 1934 H Burchall (GM Imperial Airways) gave an address to Chatham House on the politics of International Air Routes and I quote from this article as follows;

“About this time (1929) arrangements had also been made to establish an air connection across the Mediterranean. Italy would not agree however to our entering Italy from France along the coast although the French were using the same route we wished to follow We had therefore to arrange that the India mail and passengers should fly to Basle where they would arrive in the late afternoon, and then travel from Basle in the night train to Genoa where they would resume their flight in a by way of Rome Naples to Corfu. To secure the necessary right to operate to and through Italy and Greece we also had to call at Athens and at Tobruk.

It is the question of why Italy (or if it was Italy) refused aircraft to enter their airspace from France that intrigues me and to which I seek an answer.

Robert Higham in his book Britain’s Imperial Air Routes (p135) puts a slightly differing slant on the dispute stating that the French refused Imperial Airways to fly across France into Italy as Imperial Airways had declined to co-operate with a joint service to the East and this ban attempted to coerce Imperial Airways into participation. This is also supported in Robert Jacksons book “The sky their Frontier” although being published later this may have relied on Higham’s original text.

REG Davies History of World Airlines attributed the British refusal to allow the Italians landing rights at Gibraltar as the reason why the Italians proved difficult indicating he thought that the refusal to allow border overfly was firmly an Italian decision.

The question then is “Was it Italy or France that prevented Imperial Airways flying across the border between the two countries at the start of the Indian Air Service and if so why?”

Certainly later in 1929 Italy caused further upheavals in Imperial Routes after demanding pooled receipts of services to Alexandria but this is well documented. It to the first dispute that my enquiry relates.