BA launches aviation poster book

British Airways has released a compilation of some of the most iconic posters throughout the history of British aviation, from the early days of passenger flights through to the launch of jet airliners and routes to the furthest reaches of the Commonwealth.

British Aviation Posters: Art, Design and Flight compiles nearly 200 images – most of them sourced from the British Airways Heritage Collection – along with accompanying text documenting the rise of the British aviation industry.

The book contains many iconic posters, including the vibrant Abram Games-designed images from the 1950s promoting BA predecessors BOAC and BEA, and the 1970s launch of the Boeing 747 jumbo, accompanied with the strapline “more sitting room in the sky”.

Authors Scott Anthony and Oliver Green have trawled the archives to collate posters dating all the way back to 1909, with the staging of England’s first Aviation Races at Doncaster, taking in the rise of air postal services, and the creation of Imperial Airways in 1924.

Comfort in the Air
Designer: Tom Purvis
Imperial Airways poster, c1931

The book serves both as a history of British aviation and as a documentation of changes in art and design over the decades, from Futurism and Modernism to Art Deco and Surrealism. It also takes in significant events of the 20th century, from the 1948 London Olympic Games to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Beatlemania and the launch of Concorde.

Indeed one of the most iconic posters in the book is a 1985 shot of Concorde flanked by the Red Arrows, with nothing but the ocean and QE2 below – no words, just the British Airways logo across the bottom of the poster.

Showing just how far aviation has come in the last century, early posters promote an “aerial derby around London”, while a 1935 image advertises flying “from England to India in 6 days, via Egypt and Iraq”, and a 1958 poster depicts a bikini-clad, surfboard-holding blonde below the words “Australia – Fly there by BOAC and Qantas”.

Australia – Fly There by BOAC and Qantas
Designer: Hayes
BOAC poster in association with Qantas, c1956

One poster from 1938 proclaims that “Every Imperial Air Liner has 4 engines for security”, an interesting precursor to Virgin Atlantic’s “4 engines 4 long-haul” slogan (which itself is now defunct since the launch of the carrier’s A330 aircraft).

Many of the images promote BA (or its predecessor’s) flights to the Commonwealth including Africa, India, Jamaica, Australia and Pakistan, and links with fellow British stalwart Rolls Royce also feature frequently.

There are reminders also of BA’s recent consulting of archives during the relaunch of its new First cabins – a 1936 poster designed by Fougasse depicts the winged waiter which has been reintroduced on First menus and amenity kits.

This book is an engrossing and enlightening look back at the history and promotion of British aviation, and one which can be flicked through at leisure or delved into in more detail.

British Aviation Posters: Art, Design and Flight is published by Lund Humphries, RRP £35 in hardback.

Visit ba.com.

Mark Caswell

BEA – Olympic Games, London
Designer: Abram Games
BEA poster, 1948
Credit © Estate of Abram Games

Coronation Year – Come to Britain in 1953
Unknown designer
BOAC poster, c1953


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