The company was formed in November 1931 as Hillman's Saloon Coaches and Airways Limited by Edward Henry Hillman who was a coach operator in Essex. His previous business had been sold to London Transport following a change in government rules on the expansion of bus routes. The airline's first service was a charter flight on 25 December 1931. It started a scheduled service on 1 April 1932 between Romford and Clacton using a de Havilland Puss Moth and a de Havilland Fox Moth; with a fare of £1 return it was operated every three hours due to the popularity. A de Havilland Dragon was bought to operate an international service between Romford and Paris Le Bourget.
From 1 December 1934, the airline was given a contract to fly air mail between London, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast formerly operated by the Railway Air Services. Following the award of the contract Hillman changed the legal name from Hillman's Airways Limited to Edward Henry Hillman Limited and the airline extended its services to continental Europe, including Ostend and Brussels. On 1 June 1934 the airline moved its operating base to Stapleford Aerodrome.
Accidents and incidents
- On 2 October 1934, de Havilland Dragon Rapide G-ACPM crashed into the sea off Folkestone causing the death of the pilot and the six passengers.
- On 26 January 1935, de Havilland Dragon Rapide G-ACPO, operating a mail flight from Aldergrove Airport, Belfast to Stapleford Aerodrome, Abridge, Essex via Speke Airport, Liverpool, Lancashire crashed at Derbyhaven, Isle of Man, whilst attempting to divert to Ronaldsway Airport during bad weather.
- On 21 February 1935, two sisters forced open the door of a de Havilland Dragon Rapide in flight and jumped from the aircraft and were killed in the fall. The sisters Jane and Elizabeth were the daughters of the American consul in Naples, Court Du Bois. Both women had been engaged to be married to pilots killed in the crash of a Royal Air Force flying boat off Sicily on 15 February 1935.
- de Havilland Dragon (6)
- de Havilland Dragon Rapide (8)
- de Havilland Express (3)
- de Havilland Fox Moth
- de Havilland Puss Moth
- Bluffield 2009, pp. 115-116
- Bluffield 2009, pp. 138-139
- "Channel Air Disaster Crash Into The Sea, Seven Dead, Pilot's Signal For Bearings". News. The Times (46875). London. 4 October 1934. col A, p. 12.
- Poole, p. 12.
- Bluffield 2009, pp. 152-153
- "Leap from 'plane / Sisters' Suicide". Sydney Morning Herald. 26 February 1935. p. 11.
- Bluffield, Robert (2009). Imperial Airways - The Birth of the British Airline Industry 1914-1940. Hersham, Surrey, England: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 978-1-906537-07-4.
- Doyle, Neville. 2002. The Triple Alliance: The Predecessors of the first British Airways. Air-Britain. ISBN 0-85130-286-6
- Moss, Peter W. October 1974. British Airways. Aeroplane Monthly.
- Pirie, G.H. 2009. Air Empire: British Imperial Civil Aviation 1919-39. Manchester University Press ISBN 978-0-7190-4111-2
- Poole, Stephen (1999). Rough Landing or Fatal Flight. Douglas: Amulree Publications. ISBN 1-901508-03-X.