British Airship Pioneer Inducted as Living Legend of Aviation

British airship and ballooning pioneer, Mike Kendrick, has been inducted into the prestigious Living Legends of Aviation, joining the likes of Buzz Aldrin and Sir Richard Branson.

 Living Legends of Aviation celebrates remarkable people of extraordinary accomplishment in the aerospace industry, including astronauts, entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders, record breakers, and pilots who have become celebrities, as well as celebrities who have become pilots.

Kendrick, 72, from Shropshire, UK, was officially inaugurated at a ceremony, held on July 26 in Salzburg, Austria, and joins the coveted group of 97 worldwide, which also includes Elon Musk, Felix Baumgartner, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, and John Travolta.

Mike Kendrick. Photo Credit: Mirja Geh

The ceremony was conducted by Airbus Chief Executive, Tom Enders, who praised Kendrick’s contribution to aviation as truly remarkable, and inspiring, particularly in the lighter than air sector.

On receiving the award, Kendrick said: “It was a true surprise. I’m honoured and deeply humbled to be recognized in this way.”

Kendrick was inducted into the Legends group after nomination from Sir Richard Branson and following a lifetime in the balloon and airship industry, which started in the early 1970s, when he brought about a change in the law to allow advertising on aircraft. This gave birth to the global aerial advertising market and the familiar sight of advertising balloons and airships seen worldwide today.

In partnership with Branson, Kendrick also formed the Virgin Airship and Balloon Company (VABC) in Telford, in 1988. VABC grew quickly to become the world’s largest aerial advertising agency, operating over 180 aircraft in 30 countries, with clients such as Goodyear, Budweiser, Met Life and Sanyo.

L-R Mike Kendrick, Tom Enders. Photo Credit – Mirja Geh

Kendrick also introduced balloons and airships to many places that had never seen them before, including the first passenger flights over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Now, Kendrick leads work for his company Straightline Aviation, on a heavy-lift hybrid airship, designed to transport cargo and passengers to remote parts of the world. He says that he is committed to ensuring that the commercial success of hybrid airships is combined with a commitment to make the planet a better and less toxic place to live. “We intend to use our new aircraft for the good of all communities, particularly in remote places for those in need of help, in keeping with the spirit of the Living Legends movement,” said Kendrick.

His company has attracted interest from the oil, gas, and mining industries following its announcement that it would be buying 12 Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airships for $480 million (£330m).

As a keen balloonist himself, Kendrick has set several aviation world records, and project managed many of Branson’s high-profile ballooning world record attempts, including a crossing of the Pacific and an attempt to fly around the world.

“You’ve got to be a certain type of individual to run balloons and airships,” Kendrick added, “and have a determination to succeed, push boundaries, and take risks.”

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