From the archive, two December 1955: Learning geography from the air

4 weary-hunting schoolboys came off the landing-field at Manchester Airport final evening, 1 of them even now a small the worse for air-sickness but conscious, like his companions, of being a pioneer in British European Airways’ 1st “flying geography lesson.”

The lesson had lasted significantly longer than had been planned. The 32-seater Pionair aircraft doing the Manchester-Liverpool-Isle of Guy run was to have left them at Liverpool and picked them up on a return journey. But a thick mist more than Liverpool in the morning prevented them from landing, and so the boys had to exchange a tour of Liverpool’s dockland, University, Cathedral, overhead railway, and other places of interest for a go to to the Isle of Guy, which incorporated a journey along the T.T. course and a meeting with the famous rider, Geoffrey Duke.

The notion for the flying lesson came initially from Mr Gordon Erridge, the area manager of B.E.A. for England and Wales. The airways frequently have empty seats in the winter, and Mr Erridge presented them at lowered prices to schools. Yesterday’s 1st “class” came from Lily Lane Boys’ School, Moston, near Manchester and the boys’ headmaster, Mr E. W. Blackburn, was as interested in creating his pupils more “air-minded” as in giving them visual aids to their lessons.

The party was to have been composed of seven boys but two had to drop out due to the fact they had been as well youthful to be insured. One more boy failed to turn up and that left only 4 – Andrew Wood, Raymond Walker, David Kenyon, and Paul Nally. At Manchester Airport they were capable to see a assortment of aircraft that had been diverted in the course of the night from other fogbound airports, but in the air they could see “just mist.”

None of them on their return had any ambition to be a pilot – specifically the two who had been airsick – but all wished to have one more related geography lesson. Mr Blackburn was a minor concerned about the fuss that was manufactured of them – a going to Hollywood film star would have been flattered by such consideration from reporters and photographers – and he took the boys house as quickly as he decently could. Asked if he was going to get the boys to create an essay on their experiences, he replied: “Certainly not. I’m not going to spoil it for them.”

As an alternative, the class will make a scrapbook of their mementoes of the journey, which consist of Geoffrey Duke’s autograph and a Press Association message beginning “To-morrow’s geography lesson for 7 pupils of Lily Lane County School, Manchester, will be the most exciting of their lives.” And so the prophecy proved appropriate – for 4 of them. It had price them 7s 6d each and every for the flight, and the rest of the costs came to well underneath £1 a head. The college has booked other journeys, as have a quantity of schools in the North-west.

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