Back to looking forward



I’m delighted to share a couple of fantastic film clips from 1960s Britain with you.

Shot on glowing 35mm Eastmancolor film, the Rank Organisation’s Look At Life series was designed as a lighter replacement for traditional cinema newsreels, as TV gave people easier access to visual news.

Flying to work

From 1959 to 1969, Look At Life crews roamed the UK (and beyond) documenting lifestyles, fashions, industry, technology and transportation. In 1964 they looked at the rise of business aviation in the UK, with Flying To Work..

.It’s simply incredible to see how business has developed in the last 50 years. While we think in terms of gleaming Gulfstreams and Citations, business aviation was very much prop driven when this clip was released in December 1964. The very first Hawker-Siddeley 125 had only been delivered in September of that year, and the first Learjet in October.

Naturally the HS-125 is featured, as is conversion of a BAC-111 airliner. But it’s the classically rounded piston singles and twins from De Havilland, Piper, Beech, Cessna and Scottish Aviation that steal the show.

The Big Takeoff

In 1966 Look At Life focused on Britain’s aviation industry, for The Big Takeoff.

With coverage of the 1966 Farnborough Show and aircraft production, it’s a wonderful snapshot of the nation’s surviving manufacturers. Despite the devastation of Defence White Papers and enforced amalgamations the industry was as innovative, creative and optimistic as ever. You’ll see Britten-Norman Islanders; the elegant VC-10 and BAC-111; original biz jet the HS-125; EE Lightning (or ‘Frightening’; Hawker-Siddeley’s new P-1127, soon to be known as ‘Harrier’; and even a Shorts Skyvan for you fans of the ‘Belfast Box’. (You know who you are!)

There’s also a look at Rolls-Royce jet production at Trent, and work on the British Concorde prototype at Filton. Pure plane porn!  Enjoy.

Want more?

Look At Life didn’t stop at just two aviation features. If you watch either of these clips in YouTube you’ll be given plenty of extra options – including City Of The Air, about London’s airports (which were reaching their absolute capacity as far back as 1964, apparently), Air Hostess from 1960, and Ticket to Tokyo from 1959.

The content – and the colour – make them well worth a look.

6 thoughts on “Back to looking forward

  1. It’s sad to see how far the British aerospace industry has fallen since the glory days (for them) of the 1960s. They developed a jet airliner (despite it’s issues) before the U.S. did. Their airplanes were unique (Concorde, Harrier, etc). Today how many airplanes are being built in Britain? Heck, you can barely fly there at all due to the red tape a restrictions. A look at what’s to come in the U.S., sadly, unless something dramatic changes…

    1. British Aerospace was truly amazing in its day – let’s not forget Allison’s first jet engines, the Canberra bomber, the Hawk/Goshawk trainer, small private jets, T-tail airliners and so much more. I’m planning a ‘Whatever happened to…?’ series of articles for airscape and Britain’s industry will definitely feature. Still, it’s not all bad news. Although there are no complete airplanes being made in the UK today they’re still the world’s second (or third) largest. As they feed into all the major consortiums, a cynical 1960’s politician might argue that the enforced amalgamations were simply ahead of their time! As for today’s cynical politicians, I can’t help thinking the constant red tape creation is simply pandering to their constituents by (1) taxing the rich, because the aviation community is clearly gold plated; and (2) responding to largely groundless anxieties about aviation safety. Notice how EVERY airplane crash makes the nightly news, and many spark a renewed frenzy of rule-making. Imagine if they did that with car accidents. (32,719 deaths in the US in 2013, or over 10 per 100,000 people.) I’ve always said that mass media and aviation don’t mix. People have an abiding fear of flying and the news editors feast on it. I don’t know what the solution is, or what sea change we need to create out there, but I reckon “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

      1. Are they really second or third, even today? Without producing any airplanes? I would have thought Brazil and China would be next in line. As for Roosevelt, today I think he’d have to amend that quote to “… fear itself, and The Bureaucracy” 🙂

      2. Yeah, way to freak me out! I would have thought Brazil was right up there too – and apparently they’re No.3 – but not so much China (yet). So anyway, I double-checked and the current wisdom, according to the UK government’s and industry’s Aerospace Growth Partnership, is that “The UK aerospace sector has a 17% global market share, making it the number one aerospace industry in Europe and globally second only to the United States. The sector creates annual revenues of over £24 billion… supports more than 3,000 companies…directly employing 100,000 people and indirectly supporting an additional 130,000 jobs.” [] Now we know. 🙂

  2. Here’s hoping that your efforts to get Airscape Magazine back in the running will pan out. If it will be a subscription based effort, please count me as the first to pony up the $$. I do enjoy reading your blog, but the extended graphic content in your mag was simply awesome.

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