The remembrance of Kingston’s ‘superlative’ and ‘incredible’ Aviation Industry threatens to grind to a halt as COVID-19 forces Kingston Aviation to cease talks, exhibitions and open days. 

Kingston Aviation Joint-Project Leader, David Hassard stated that he was ‘struggling’ with adapting to new, online platforms of communication during the pandemic. He said that ‘undoubtedly there’s a lot of people [...] who don’t know about [Kingston’s aviation industry] who otherwise would have done’, despite Kingston’s ‘extreme’ importance during the conflicts of the 20th century. Kingston designed 45,000 aircraft in just 80 years, and is the only ‘company [...] in the country that have had  aircraft in service for 108 years’ and deserves to be remembered as such.

David Hassard described the significance of the industry in Kingston as being ‘first in so many things and most successful in so many other things.’ He said that Kingston designed ‘the most successful [allied] fighter in the First World War (the Sopwith Camel); [...] the most successful allied fighter in the Second World War (the Hawker Hurricane); the RAF’s mainstream fighter and ground attack aircraft during the Cold War (the Hawker Hunter) [...], [and] the Hawker Harrier [...], the world’s only successful Vertical Take Off and Landing [...] aircraft.’ The industry was also vital in the Battle of Britain, eighty years ago. As David Hassard described it, ‘there were almost twice as many Hawker Hurricanes (designed in Kingston) as there were Spitfires.’ Therefore, ‘the Hawker Hurricanes shot down more German aircraft in the battle of Britain than all the Spitfires and anti-aircraft guns put together.’ David Hassard also admitted that ‘without the Kingston design Hawker Hurricanes, we would have lost the Battle of Britain’. Kingston’s Industry had a huge impact upon many theatres of conflict during the 20th Century, there being ‘many extreme examples of [Kingston’s Aviation Industry] being so important to Britain’s military defence’. And, during November, the month of remembrance and  in 2020, 80 years after the Battle of Britain and 108 years since the factory opened in Canbury Park Road, Kingston’s ‘superlative’ and ‘incredible’ Industry should be remembered for its ‘extreme’ significance. 

The Kingston Aviation project has done a lot to remedy the local community’s ignorance and David Hassard said that, before the project started, ‘unless you actually had a relative who worked there, or worked there yourself, it was not well known’ with ‘most people [knowing] nothing about it’. Since then more and more people have begun to understand the significance of Kingston and the project was ‘able to set up a website and [got] a lot of publicity at the time [so] many [people] became more interested [about Kingston’s] heritage’. The project has been ‘spreading the word’ on three platforms: the international website (, exhibitions and talks. Kingston Aviation has done 224 talks in 8 years ‘to different local organisations, from schools to dementia homes and everything in between’, and has enabled Kingston’s community to grasp the significance of the industry. 

However, the COVID-19 outbreak has halted the remembrance of Kingston’s Industry. The Heritage Open Day Weekend, exhibitions and ten talks have been cancelled, meaning that Kingston Aviation has lost many opportunities for donations, slowing the expansion of their international website, and forcing Kingston Aviation to turn to online platforms, such as YouTube. David described that as being very different from the chatting, questions and socialising of talks and gives only ‘one version’ of Kingston’s ‘massive story’. Furthermore, the pandemic has greatly slowed the development of a new Richmond Road memorial, a full scale Hawker Hunter. The memorial’s progress is now proving to be ‘long overdue and frustratingly slow’, due to the pandemic. David Hassard admitted that Kingston Aviation was ‘trying to keep it going’, despite the lack of donations and socialising. However, David admitted there was no doubt that many people had missed the opportunity to widen their insight into the ‘heritage next door’. 

Kingston Aviation has suffered greatly during the pandemic. There is no doubt that this will be reflected in people’s attitudes towards the industry after the pandemic, with many people still not realising the town’s heritage. Kingston’s Heritage has been thrown into jeopardy, halting the remembrance of one of the most significant Aviation Industries in the country.