Trail 4

West Central Scotland
  • Trail 9 - Western Isles Image
  • Trail 9 - Western Isles Image
  • Trail 9 - Western Isles Image
  • Trail 9 - Western Isles Image
  • Trail 9 - Western Isles Image
  • Trail 9 - Western Isles Image

Aviation Origins

Harold and Frank Barnwell, from Stirling, were Britain's answer to the Wright brothers. They made some of the most significant developments in aeronautical history. They achieved the first powered flight in Scotland in 1909, when they travelled 80 metres over a field in the shadow of the Wallace Monument.

Lanark was the home of Scotland’s first airfield and the racecourse played host to a famous International Aviation Meeting during 6-13 August 1910.


A slipway at what would become RAF Helensburgh was first used during the First World War. William Beardmore and Company, who built seaplanes in Glasgow at this time, used the site to a limited degree for the trials and testing of their aircraft. One of the first Wight Seaplane Admiralty 840 biplanes was also sent to Helensburgh for secret trials and development during the First World War.

Inter War years

Now better known as Glasgow International Airport, Abbotsinch started life as a RAF airfield. It was initially home to No 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron flying Westland Wapitis before these biplanes were replaced by Hawker Harts in 1934 and again by Hawker Hinds in June 1936. Twelve Hinds and their Bessonneau hangars were damaged during a storm on the night of 26 October leading to the aircraft being moved to Kent. 


Throughout the first half of the Second World War Abbotsinch was home to many different types of aircraft for varying lengths of time and roles: these included Supermarine Spitfires, de Havilland Tiger Moths, Bristol Beauforts, Westland Lysanders and Douglas Bostons among others for duties including Army Co-operation and training. In 1943 the airfield was officially handed over to the Royal Navy and became known as HMS Sanderling.

Post War

Plans for Prestwick to serve as an airport had already started during the Second World War. Scottish Airways started operating a number of services after the war and commercial operations gradually increased through the 1960s and 1970s, The United States Air Force (USAF) arrived in 1952, with the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) until 1966. The Royal Navy appeared in 1971 for HMS Gannet to operate alongside the commercial airport. Westland Sea Kings carried out anti-submarine warfare and air-sea rescue missions, primarily through No 819 Squadron, operations continuing with a number of upgrades to these helicopters. No 824 Squadron carried out flying trials with more Sea Kings for around two years from 1987, after which the aircraft were transferred to No 819. The airfield became RNAS Prestwick in 1994 and No 819 Squadron continued to operate until it was decommissioned in 2001. The Search and Rescue Flight, one of the busiest in the UK, continued until February 2016, with the forthcoming retirement of the Sea King and transfer of the Search and Rescue role to the civilian Bristow Helicopters, who continue to use Prestwick for this role.


Glasgow Airport was opened in 1966 and originally flights only operated to other places in the United Kingdom and Europe. Glasgow Airport began to offer flights to other places around the world, flights which previously used Glasgow Prestwick Airport, which was subsequently relegated as the city's secondary airport catering for low-cost airlines, freight and charter operators.


Scottish Aviation was founded in 1935. Originally a flying school operator, the company took on maintenance work in 1938. During the Second World War, Scottish Aviation was involved in aircraft fitting for the war effort. This included maintenance and conversion of the Consolidated Liberator bomber.

The factory building of Scottish Aviation, which still exists today, was formerly the Palace of Engineering at the 1938 Empire Exhibition in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. The building was dismantled from its Glasgow site and reconstructed.

Do you have anything to add?

If you have any additional information or resources regarding this site, or feel that some of the information is not correct, please let us know. You can do so by sumbitting a quick form.

Submit Information