Pilots are an “Honourable Company”

For a long time Master Mariners have been recognised as an Honourable Company, but finally air pilots and air navigators have been accorded that privilege.

About time.

This is how the accolade has been announced: “The former Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators has unveiled a new name, reflecting the notable honour bestowed upon it by Her Majesty the Queen. The leading independent organisation promoting the highest levels of safety, training and best practices for pilots around the world will in future be known as ‘The Honourable Company of Air Pilots’.

Master of the Air Pilots, His Honour Judge Tudor Owen FRAeS, has said: ”As an active 21st century organisation we are privileged to receive this rarely-bestowed historic title.”

To put it all in a historic context: “The ‘Honourable Company’ status is a rare distinction, which is in the gift of the monarch and has only previously been granted to three companies; ‘The Honourable Company of Master Mariners’ (by King George V, when their Master was Edward Prince of Wales), ‘The Honourable Artillery Company’ (in 1656) and “The Honourable East India Company” (now defunct).”

My grandfather was one of the early British pilots, serving in the Royal Flying Corps in the Great War as commander of No 22 Squadron. His first licence was issued 100 years ago. Taking that particular pilot as a tangible (to me anyway) representative of the first generation, he has been followed by three more generations of pilots since his day.  It is time that professional aviators were honoured.

Air navigators are still included in the Honourable Company, as they were in GAPAN, but – perhaps in recognition of the demise of the aviation sextant and the rise of GPS – they are recognised invisibly.

Being a Guild was already a fine thing, but my heartiest congratulations to the Master, and to the members of the new Honourable Company of Air Pilots.


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