The First aero plane flight  made in Britain was made by Colonel Samuel Cody on 16th October 1908 at Laffan's Plane in Farnborough Hampshire. It was this site which evolved into the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

The tree was used by Cody as a tether for his early Aircraft to tune his engine and propeller (pre set Variable pitch) for maximum thrust using a spring balance in the line of the securing rope. Today it is well known monument to Cody and early flying. The original tree was in poor state of Health by the mid 1950's and has since been progressively replaced by a cast aluminium plastic coated replica - appropriately made by RAE craftsmen.

.© IWM (RAE-O 945)

The RAE Apprentice scheme was first recorded in 1910 with three 'lads of trade' as they were then known entering the H.M. Balloon Factory at Farnborough, the precursor of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. The first formal entry, by written examination and interview, took place in September 1918 with 51 Trade Lads entering a 5 year apprenticeship. The last intake of apprentices at RAE Farnborough was in 1992 with 12 apprentices concluding 82 years of continuous training apart from 1920 when there was no intake.

Many different types of apprenticeships were provided from Graduate Engineer, Student and Technical, Drawing Office, and Craft disciplines in Aircraft, Avionics, Electronics/Electrical and Mechanical skills. In all approximately 5000 apprentices have passed through R.A.E. Farnborough alone.

Apprenticeships have also been offered at the various R.A.E. outstations including Aberporth, Bedford, Larkhill and West Freugh. The National Gas Turbine Establishment, N.G.T.E. also provided apprenticeships and many of these apprentices and those from the outstations undertook part of their training at Farnborough.

Famous old boys include the late John Farley, chief test pilot of the Harrier jump jet, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Alcock, and the late Sir Robert Hardingham, former head of the Civil Aviation Authority. R.A.E. apprentices' expertise was employed in many of Britain's and Europe's aviation milestones, including the first swing-wing aircraft and Concorde. Ex-apprentices can be found in all sectors of the Aerospace industry and many other varied industries throughout the world.

Sadly apprenticeships at Farnborough ceased in 1992 although they continued at Aberporth for some time.  Ironically the concept of apprenticeships is being promoted topically as it is something new.  Sadly the facilities and expertise at Farnborough are no longer available to provide the excellent training we all received.

The Establishment's apprentice educational training was started in 1917 and by 1918, the first planned training scheme was inaugurated. In 1944 the "Trade Lads" school title was changed to the R.A.E. Technical School and this subsequently became the R.A.E. Technical College in 1946. During the period 1960 to 1962 the R.A.E. Technical College courses were integrated into the Farnborough Technical College, now the Farnborough College of Technology.

Whats in the name?

Have a look in Farnborough: The story of RAE' by Reginald Turnill and Arthur Reed.  It states in the section on the origins of Farnborough RAE that " Farnborough can be fairly described as the birthplace of military aeronautics.  A balloon factory of the Royal Engineers was transferred here from Aldershot in 1905, and when the Royal Flying Corps was established by Royal Warrant on 13 April 1912, it became the Royal Aircraft Factory.  The HQ of the RFC was formed at Farnborough in 1912, together with Nos 1, 2 & 4 Squadrons, followed by Nos 5, 6 & 7 during the next two years."

There are some records at The National Archives in Kew that will be of interest.  "The Royal Aircraft Establishment has a long history starting in 1878 when the War Office set up the Balloon Equipment Store at Woolwich. In 1892 the Store moved to Aldershot and was renamed the Balloon Factory. Dirigibles were built and flown with variable success. The Factory soon became interested in aeroplanes and after moving to Farnborough was in 1912 renamed the Royal Aircraft Factory. It designed and built many types of aircraft and aircraft engines, but in 1916 the Government decided to transfer this work to industry and to confine Farnborough to research and development. In 1918 the Factory was renamed the Royal Aircraft Establishment in order to avoid confusion with the initials of the Royal Air Force. Early reports of the Establishment may be found in AIR 1 and AIR 5. Detailed plans and drawings of aircraft built by the Establishment are in AVIA 14. Reports by the RAE from 1924 may be found in AVIA 6. Files of various departments of RAE are in AVIA 13."