Learn a little more about the history of Portsmouth Aviation
Portsmouth Aviation started out in 1929, when it was an air transport company called Inland Flying Services Limited. The company was then based in Romford, Essex, but only stayed there for a short while before transferring to Apse Farm Aerodrome on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, in May 1930. While here the company name underwent two changes; first becoming Wight Aviation Limited, 1930-1932, and then changing to Portsmouth, Southsea and Isle of Wight Aviation with the company’s expansion to Portsmouth Aerodrome in 1932.
Now operating from Portsmouth, PSIOWA’s operations expanded dramatically and owners, Lionel and Lux, began to build an Aerodrome in Ryde. This new project enabled the company to offer the first air-ferry service on the South Coast and by 1934 a fleet of PSIOWA planes and pilots were flying tens of thousands of passengers between Bournemouth, Brighton, Portsmouth and Southampton, as well as working with rail services to provide transport solutions from destinations such as Cardiff and London.
By the time the Second World War reached Britain, PSIOWA was turning over a reasonable profit, despite offering some of the cheapest airfares [per mile] in the country. Part of this was down to the expansion of the operation in order to offer engineering and maintenance expertise to other aviation companies and authorities. During the war the company supported the MOD, RAF and other armed forces through manufacture of parts (including aircraft wings and Oxford planes) and the refurbishment and repair of war damaged or reclaimed aircraft.
In the early stages of 1940 PSIOWA gave their planes and pilots over to the National Air Communications Service, which was part of the war effort. Amongst the pilots who went, was famous aviatrix Amy Johnson who had been working for the company for several years. She was tragically killed in 1941 while working for the Air Transfer Auxiliary.
PSIOWA’s war-output activity was some of the busiest in the country and as the company owners looked forward to the end of the war they realised how sought after their manufacturing-side skills were. By 1943 they had over 2000 employees, and were one of the biggest employers in Portsmouth after HM Dockyard. It was also in this year that the company was renamed Portsmouth Aviation Limited with the intention that this main body would continue to offer solely manufacturing services. The air-ferry service would resume operations under another name.
Portsmouth Aviation Limited’s success continued and after the war, in 1946 they designed and built the twin-boomed Portsmouth Aerocar. It flew at Farnborough in the SBAC Show in 1948 but, due to a combination of the uncertainties of the post-war period and the nationalisation of rail and air services, production plans were not fulfilled. This also became a deciding factor in the company’s decision to stop offering the air-ferry service, as scheduled services on previous routes became monopolised by the public aviation companies.
Portsmouth Aviation (still a Limited company) has continued to expand, and now offers design, development, manufacture, testing and treatment services to a range of customers across a number of different industries.