Marshal of the Royal Air Force (RAF), Lord Douglas of Kirtleside (1893-1969), was one of the great names in both civil and military aviation. He was a much decorated fighter pilot, civil aviation pioneer, forthright wartime leader of the Royal Air Force and finally the Chairman of British European Airways (BEA), a forerunner of British Airways.
The young Lieutenant-Colonel William Sholto Douglas, Royal Flying Corps, served with distinction during the 1914-18 war, commanding two squadrons of fighter aircraft, Nos. 42 and 84, and being awarded both the Military and Distinguished Flying Crosses. With the Armistice, civil aviation began finding its feet and when, in September 1919, the world’s first regular service to Paris was started, it was Sholto Douglas who was at the controls of the first Handley Page aircraft. The following year he was appointed Handley Page’s Chief Pilot.
With the onset of the second World War, Sholto Douglas undertook many high-ranking duties in the Royal Air Force (RAF), as Air Officer Commander in Chief, first for Fighter Command and later for Middle East and Coastal Command. By 1945, he became Air Commander in Chief British Air Forces of Occupation in Germany and the following year Commander in Chief and Military Governor, British Zone in Germany. Promoted Marshal of the RAF in 1946, Sholto Douglas was created a Baron on his retirement from the Royal Air Force in 1948.
Back in civil aviation again, Lord Douglas was briefly a Director of British Overseas Airways Corporation (1948-49) before becoming the impressive Chairman of BEA (1949-64). During those years he built BEA from a small, faltering company flying second-hand wartime aircraft with a limited network, into an international, profitable airline in the forefront of technical innovation, most notably pioneering “blind landing”.
Previous Sholto Douglas Lecture
The first RAeS Heathrow Branch Sholto Douglas Lecture was held on 14th February 1980. It was delivered by Sir Peter Masefield, who intended to speak on his 50 years in aviation. In the event he only covered 25 years, returning to make up the remainder two years later.
As the principal lecture in the Heathrow Branch calendar, the annual Sholto Douglas evening has been supported by many major names in aviation. Taking airline and transport management as its theme, lecturers have included Prothero Thomas, Lord King, Bob Crandall, Sir Michael Bishop, Sir John Egan and Sir Alistair Morton.
List of speakers at the Sholto Douglas Lecture:
- 1980 – Sir Peter Masefield
- 1981 – cancelled
- 1982 – Sir Peter Masefield (part II)
- 1983 – W Krauss – LTU Lufttransport-Unternehmen GmbH
- 1984 – Karle Ledeborge – KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- 1985 – Lord King, Chairman – British Airways
- 1986 – Norman Geary, Chief Executive – Air New Zealand
Chairman – International Air Transport Association (IATA)
- 1987 – Stewart John, Deputy Chairman – Cathay Pacific Airways
- 1988 – Bob Crandall, Chairman & President – American Airlines
- 1989 – John Ward, Deputy Chief Executive, Qantas Airways
- 1990 – Reinhardt Abraham, Deputy Chairman – Lufthansa
- 1991 – Martin Mason – Saatchi & Saatchi
- 1992 – Sir Michael Bishop, Chairman – British Midland Airways
- 1993 – Sir John Egan, Chief Executive – BAA PLC
- 1994 – cancelled
- 1995 – Sir Alistair Morton, Chairman – Eurotunnel PLC
- 1996 – Hugh Welburn, Economic Adviser – Virgin Atlantic Airways
- 1997 – Wong Po-Yan, Chairman – Hong Kong Airport Authority
- 1998 – Air Marshal Sir Roger Austin & Robert Key [MP]
- 1999 – John Borkowski – Vulcan Associates
- 2000 – Lord Marshall, Chairman – British Airways
Topic on Alliances in the 21st Century
- 2001 – David Learmount, Ooperations & Safety Editor – Flight International Magazine
Topic on Aviation Into the Future
- 2002 – Chris Tarry, City Airline Analyst – Commerzbank
Topic on Challenge, Change and Opportunity
- 2003 – Adrian Hunt, Chief Executive Officer – Deutsche BA
Topic on Deutsche BA – The Inside Story of an Airline
- 2004 – Dr Mike Steeden – Greener by Design
Topic on Sustainable Aviation – The Next Challenge
- 2005 – Ray Webster, Chief Executive Officer – easyJet
Topic on Taking the Frill Out of Flying – Running a Low Cost Airline
- 2005 – Jim French, Chairman – FlyBe
Topic on The Low Cost Market and Emergence of the Third Way
- 2007 – Kevin Hatton, Managing Director – GB Airways
Topic on Differing Cultures in the Airline Business – From Family to State Ownership
- 2008 – Stuart Powney – Atlantic Airlines
Topic on The UPS and Downs of Atlantic Airlines
- 2011 – Tim Jeans, Managing Director – Monarch Airlines
Topic on The Last Man Standing – Managing Risk Where Others Have Failed
- 2013 – Amanda Stainer, Commercial Director – Farnborough International Ltd.
Topic on Farnborough Airshow – Behind the Scenes
- 2013 – Keith Williams, Chief Executive Officer – British Airways
Topic on Introducing Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 into British Airways Fleet