THE INSIDE TRACK • July 2022
Two of our in-lounge cocktails are named after a pair of history’s most pioneering aviators. Melissa Lawford raises a glass to their amazing careers.
Travel with British Airways has come a long way since the world’s first commercial international civil flight service began in 1919. Back then, the converted World War I biplane had an open cockpit. Today, not only do planes have roofs, but passengers waiting in the Heathrow T5 lounges have a choice of two special cocktails created by legendary mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, otherwise known as Mr Lyan. The Barton and The Lawford are both made with ingredients from flight-pollinated plants and named after a stand-out aviator.
Captain Eardley H ‘Bill’ Lawford had a historic cargo when he flew from Hounslow Heath to Paris on 25 August 1919. He was piloting a single-engine DH.4 biplane for Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd. It was the airline’s first commercial passenger flight, albeit a small one. Lawford had one ticketed passenger. In the makeshift cabin was stowed an Evening Standard journalist named George Stevenson-Reece, alongside several braces of grouse and pots of Devonshire cream for “the tables of the discerning Parisians”.
A Customs officer grants a clearance certificate to the pilot of an Airco De Havilland DH.16 biplane of British airline Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited, which is about to leave on the company’s inaugural flight from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome (later Heathrow), London, to Le Bourget, Paris, on 25 August 1919. The flight launched the first regular daily international service in the world.
Lawford was an experienced aviator. He learned to fly in 1913 at Hendon, in a French Caudron biplane. After the start of World War I, he joined the Royal Flying Corps and saw action in France. He was very familiar with the route to Paris.
“The Thames appeared like a varnished zinc strip, and unexpectedly close”
Stevenson-Reece was in safe hands, but he still did not have a particularly enjoyable flight. The DH.4 was made of wood, upholstered in linen and had a four-blade wooden propeller. Naturally, the weather was miserable. Pouring rain and terrible visibility meant Lawford employed a tactic known as ‘hedge-hopping’ – flying at very low altitude. According to one contemporary news report, this “made his passenger feel extremely unwell”.
Yet there was a romance to the two hour and 30-minute flight. “Through a rift in the cloud the Crystal Palace showed like a child’s toy. For a moment the Thames appeared like a varnished zinc strip, and unexpectedly close,” read Stevenson-Reece’s Evening Standard report. The flight launched the world’s first regular international service, with daily flights between London and Paris – and was the start of the network that would eventually become British Airways.
A toast to Bill
The Lawford is an alcohol-free cocktail, fitting for any pilot who needs to keep a clear head. Mr Lyan has used Seedlip Garden 108, a non-alcoholic spirit that has savoury notes of pea, hay and hops, combined with elderflower cordial, tonic water, and the staple of any British summer garden – mint.
Captain Lynn Barton always knew that she wanted to be a pilot. As a child, she took a flight in a light aircraft and fell in love. She began to learn to fly at 16, when most British teenagers were only just starting to think about learning to drive.
But at the time there was no clear path for a woman to build a career in aviation. Barton first applied for commercial pilot training while she was studying for her A-levels in 1973, but the scheme at the time did not accept applications from women. Nor did the military or the air squadrons.
British Airways’ first female pilot (in 1987), Captain Lynn Barton was also the first pilot to fly into Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
“Barton became the first woman to be sponsored for commercial pilot training. This was one of many firsts”
But Barton realised that she could still pursue a career in aviation by training to become a flying instructor. She qualified in 1978. Later that year, when British Airways (newly formed after the integration of the two nationalised airlines, British Overseas Airways Corporation and British European Airways in 1974) began recruiting more broadly for its training school, she applied. Barton became the first woman to be sponsored for its commercial pilot training. This was one of many firsts.
After she qualified, there was an interim period when Barton worked for a few years at another airline, until British Airways started hiring. Then, in 1987, she became our first female pilot, joining the Boeing 747 fleet flying long haul.
In 2008, Barton also became the first pilot to land at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, after its £4.3bn construction project, flying the BA026 from Hong Kong on 27 March.
A toast to Lynn
In homage to its pioneering namesake, The Barton is a cocktail that is a fresh take on British traditions. Mr Lyan has mixed Tanqueray London Dry Gin with elderflower cordial, bitters, soda, thyme and a dash of dandelion and burdock – a drink made from fermented roots that dates back to the Middle Ages.