View Full Version : Navigation in the 1930s

tubby linton
21st Feb 2022, 21:51
I was wondering what charts an airline crew used to navigate with on the Empire routes in the 1930s?Also did they have any charts of the airfields or seaplane bases? I would imagine that they must have also carried tide tables for the seaplane bases. Any information gratefully received.

7th Mar 2022, 02:36
Good question Tubby. I have no idea but would be interested in any answer. Perhaps this reply might kick the question back to the top of the list. Regards XYGT

Four Turbo
7th Mar 2022, 11:11
Don't know about the 30s but when I started in 1955 there were no SIDs, STARs or TAPs. I seem to remember that a guy called Jeppesen was makin a few sketches and notes as he flew around the States. RAF EnRoute charts started circa 1961. So I suspect the 1930s were using topographical maps, astro when it was dark and suck-it-and-see on arrival (Look at the signal square). No let down aids either. (Find a gap or keep a very good eye on Safety Alt.) A good reason to use seaplanes on the Imperial route.
Later thought; Don't know when NDBs started?

7th Mar 2022, 11:50
IIRC, there was a furrow ploughed across the Egyptian desert for the Imperial airliners to follow to keep on course.

7th Mar 2022, 13:02
Hello Tubby,

I've got a copy of Bennett's "Complete Air Navigator" first published in 1936.

A quick glance at it shows: Chapter VI - Tides. A complete and fulsome explanation of everything you ever wanted to know about Tides (or so it seems to me!) with section 5. Tide Tables referring to British Admiralty Tide Tables.

It then gives a very comprehensive briefing on how to use them. Another quick glance mentions things like; Standard ports, Secondary ports, Tidal Differences etc. It goes into loads of detail but I have a feeling it also briefs (a Navigator) on not only how to use them, but how to estimate a tide at any intermediate point and what tidal stream may be expected at any point, should one have to put one's "C" class down. Or, should I say "alight upon the sea!"

Somewhere I've also got a copy of Chichester's "Lonely Sea and Sky" in which he describes his navigation over vast stretches of water, in an open cockpit biplane. I'm not sure if it is in his book, but somewhere I've seen a copy of his plotting chart for a Trans-Tasman flight. That book might give a further insight.



tubby linton
7th Mar 2022, 14:46
Having written my original post I found in the back of a forgotten book a small amount of notes for BOAC first officers of C class aircraft issued in 1944.The document mentions collecting the appropriate map from the Station Manager plus a variety of publications including a route book , duplicate navigational logs and the Corporation’s Secret Handbook, which included codes and cyphers.There is no mention of tide tables. No dedicated navigator was carried and navigation seems to have been a case of following roads, railways and rivers and sometimes getting very lost.
Blind landings at Lindi station are discussed in the linked clip below. The man talking was the Imperial manager of the station.
Blind Landings ? the audio ? White Water Landings (http://whitewaterlandings.co.uk/voice-clips/blind-landings-the-audio/)

Yellow Sun
7th Mar 2022, 17:53
A little off topic but I thoroughly recommend Schofield’s “Arctic Airmen” for descriptions of high latitude navigation during WW2. We really do have it easy these days!


7th Mar 2022, 19:52
Here is a scan of AP1234 "Manual of Air Navigation", revised April 1935, reprinted April 1938 that hints at the maps that were available to the RAF at that time. It also has a chapter on charts but that mainly seems to deal with the difference between RAF and Royal Navy nomenclature.

https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/2000x1418/pprune_ap1234_a_3f8ebde9be5420b7bd7dba858bc0149b54bb967a.jpe g

9th Mar 2022, 15:29
I don't know about the 1930s, but those of us of a certain age will remember how we made our way from El Adem to Nairobi in the late 50s. Get round Nasser's Corner, head for the Nile and turn south when you could see the dark vegetation along it, using the dangleometer (made in station workshops) to estimate how far away it was. That should ensure that you passed Khartoum within VHF range to ask for the NDBs at El Obeid and Juba to be transmitting at your ETAs. Turn left at Entebbe.

Coming north the track to Nasser's Corner was more direct, and AFAIR there was a useful escarpment which came to an end more or less on track. If you saw it but couldn't see the end, you were too far east, and if it didn't come up on time you were too far west. The topos were pre-war Egyptian Army OS with info like 'Black Rocks' and 'Crescent Shaped Dunes' (still there), plus the waterholes, and I wish I'd nicked one.

I'll now finish my afternoon nap.

India Four Two
10th Mar 2022, 03:19
IIRC, there was a furrow ploughed across the Egyptian desert for the Imperial airliners to follow to keep on course.

It was in the Iraqi desert, to assist navigation from Cairo to Baghdad.

"Flying the Furrow"

Rutbah Wells features prominently in this article.

It was southwest of Rutbah Wells, that the KLM DC-2 Uiver PH-AJU (second in the MacRobertson London to Sydney Air Race, behind the DH Comet) crashed in December 1934.


11th Mar 2022, 08:11
Wrong desert - but nice to know I was sort of right.

11th Mar 2022, 09:56
It was southwest of Rutbah Wells, that the KLM DC-2 Uiver PH-AJU (second in the MacRobertson London to Sydney Air Race, behind the DH Comet) crashed in December 1934.

Triumph & Tragedy: ~ The story of the KLM DC-2 Uiver (Part 1) (http://www.ephemeraltreasures.net/uiver-part-1.html)
Completely off-topic, but please note that the article linked to above, while interesting, doesn't get the analysis of the accident cause right. It focuses on the bad weather and the possibility of a lightning strike, while the crash was attributed to the combination of the bad weather and the less-than-optimal directional stability of the DC-2 with original fin and rudder, in combination with several other contributory causes.