Partial FlightGlobal Archive archives

Flight, 16 January 1909, 31

Since 2007, the FlightGlobal Archive (AKA the 'Flight archive') has been an incredibly useful resource for me, many other aviation historians, and Wikimedia Commons, as it provides online access to high-resolution PDFs (with OCR) of nearly every page of the key British aviation trade magazine Flight (from 1962 Flight International), from the first issue in 1909 up to 2004 -- all for free!1 Or rather it was incredibly useful, because since a FlightGlobal upgrade in late 2019 it has been unavailable, with the following message splashed on the landing page:

As part of the relaunch, the Flight magazine archive is undergoing maintenance to transition to our new web platform. It will be back online as soon as possible.
Thanks for your patience.
In the meantime, why not subscribe to Flight International and get access to the past editions from 2012 through the digital library.

As the Archive been down for over three months, that patience is starting to turn into anxiety, and I think some people have tried contacting FlightGlobal to find out what the story is, but with no luck, as far as I know. My uninformed (but not uneducated) guess is that the original archive depended on a bespoke and probably very spaghetti environment written by some long-gone sysadmin, which was broken by the site upgrade. And precisely because it's free and presumably generating no revenue, there would understandably be little incentive for FlightGlobal to fix it quickly, even with the best of intentions. If that's the case, then considerably more patience may be required. But there's good news, and bad news; and more good news and more bad news.

The good news is that there is a workaround: the FlightGlobal Archive has been archived in the Internet Archive (to be precise, in the Wayback Machine). It's not as user-friendly, and it's s l o w; it can't be searched, but it can be browsed. To start,

click here

That's the page for the 1909 issues, except that it's not the (formerly) live version on FlightGlobal's server, it's an archived version on Internet Archive's server. But it works much the same as the original. If you click on a page thumbnail, you get a PDF of that page -- exactly as before. On the right-hand side there are links to all the other years, so you can use the above link to browse by year and, eventually, find a particular issue and page. The image above, the front cover for the 16 January 1909 issue, is one I downloaded today.

The bad news is that the Wayback Machine's capture of the FlightGlobal Archive is incomplete. In fact, it appears to be very incomplete. Sticking with 1909, for example, I can browse through 9 pages of thumbnails, that is up to 27 March, with no problem. But then when I click to the 10th page, then there's an error, because that page has never been archived. It doesn't appear the rest of the thumbnail pages for 1909 have been archived either (though I didn't look for every last one). If you click through to the PDFs themselves, and navigate forward through there, you can get a little further, but not much. Checking some other years, the same issue seems to arise: you should be able to access issues for the first couple of months in any given year, but that's all.

The other good news is that the FlightGlobal Archive has also been archived in a different part of the Internet Archive, its digitised text collection, as a series of PDFs of complete issues:

click here

Here's 16 January 1909 again, for example. In fact these look like they've been assembled from the FlightGlobal Archive PDFs, as they have the same artefacts and gaps (e.g. half of 1933). In a lot of ways this is easier to use than the original FlightGlobal Archive: the interface is faster, and slicker, and it's nice to be able to see the magazine in something like its original format, with pages side by side. And it's searchable, unlike the WayBack Machine version, and in fact much more usefully searchable than ever before. So this is great!

But the other bad news is that this archive is also incomplete: it only goes from 1909 up to 1935. (But at least it appears to be complete for that period, apart from the aforementioned gaps in the original archive.)

That's all the news, good and bad, I have about the FlightGlobal Archive. But I do have an idea: perhaps the best solution would be to upload the PDFs of Flight and Flight International to the Internet Archive? That would relieve FlightGlobal of the responsibility of having to host the files, and it would ensure they will always be available to everyone interested in aviation history, who in turn would be eternally grateful to FlightGlobal! (It would also open up the possibility of doing some data mining, but that's a topic for another day...)

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  1. '100% FREE ACCESS -- forever. In fact we’re positively encouraging you to link to, copy and paste from, and contribute to the development of this unique record of aerospace and aviation history.' []

19 thoughts on “Partial FlightGlobal Archive archives

  1. Richard

    Thanks Brett. As an infrequent user of the Flight archive I've found it very useful and was unaware of this problem. Your post (and in particular the workarounds) has come an opportune moment, saved me much frustration and my venerable computer a possible trip out of an upstairs window.


    I have a vague memory of being told that the Flight Archive was made available by some kind of Royal Aeronautical Society grant. I will try to find out if this is correct.

  3. Erik Lund

    Flight's banner used to mention that it was the official magazine of the Royal Aero Club and (I think) the Royal Aeronautical Society. Does the RAeC even still exist? Google says that it does, and also that there's a " . . . Royal Aero Club Trust, which is a charity to provide resources for youth involvement, education, promotion of air sport, and the conservation of historically important items related to aviation."

    I'm not seeing much sign of a swelling of outrage over the broken online archives, however. Brett's scenario strikes me as plausible. We'll have to wait and see whether the archives disappear up into the organisation's own (half-)ass like Google Books or the runs at Grace's Guide. (Which are still up, at a price, as far as I know, but remain as incomplete as ever.)

    In the mean time, I guess this is my chance to gloat once again that my local institution of higher learning has a hard copy run of the magazine, although missing some of the same issues as the online archive. (The crash of R. 101, in particular, is missing from our periodical-based historical memory.)

  4. Thank you Brett for alerting us to this alternate source of the Flight archive. I've been fooling around on the original for years and the last few months have been difficult, as I've been working on a particular project that really needs some pre-1914 stuff.

  5. Post author

    Less than 2 months later, but a whole pandemic-ridden world away, the archive has not yet been restored. So I'm glad others have found this useful -- I've certainly been very grateful to have even just the early issues of Flight available in the Internet Archive!


    That's interesting, did you ever find anything out about that?


    I didn't even know about that Grace's Guide 'archive', which doesn't really seem worth the effort (though it's a fantasic website in general, of course).

    The Aero Club certainly still exists, and they have a really useful archival site (if you're into things like committee meeting minutes, at least). Maybe they or RAeS could be persuaded to help?

  6. John Doe

    I was trying Wayback Machine to retrieve the "Flight International, vol. 122, Oct. 23, 1982, p. 1229-1231" but unfortunately it was not archived. I just came across this blog post while looking for alternatives.
    If anyone has the pdf and can share it on an open dropbox link or something similar, that would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Desmond Markus

    "My uninformed (but not uneducated) guess is that the original archive depended on a bespoke and probably very spaghetti environment written by some long-gone sysadmin, which was broken by the site upgrade. And precisely because it's free and presumably generating no revenue, there would understandably be little incentive for FlightGlobal to fix it ..."

    Perhaps therein lies a solution ie. Flightglobal sells CD versions of the archive.

  8. Pingback:

  9. RossM

    I also miss the Flight Global Archive and I wish The Aeroplane would do something similar. I would even be willing to pay a small subscription for access. I assume the searchable pdf files still exist, it's just the framework that broke. Something less elaborate without the thumbnails but with an ability to step through single issues from an index would work for me if it could be searched from Google and other search engines.

  10. Michael Fox

    I have been a frequent user of the Flight Archives for many years and have even used, with permission from Flight Global, a number of images from the Archives in one of my books. The loss (I hope temporarily) of access to the Archives is a very unfortunate and regrettable state of affairs. Like others, perhaps, I would be prepared to subscribe to the Archives, should they soon become available again.
    I have, over the years, copied many pages (with images) from the Archives that are of interest for me in relation to further books, but they are selected pages. Whether or not I can obtain permission to use the images remains to be seen.
    I'll try the Internet Archive (which I already use for other sources) and see how I get on. It looks promising in the circumstances.

  11. Sigbjörn Hellström

    I recently email flightglobal and i got the responce that the archive hopefully will be up this year. However it will be locked to subscribers.

  12. Thanks for the update Sigbjörn. I'd be happy to subscribe (if I had to!) for access. Fingers crossed. Did you get any other info?

  13. Post author


    Yes, I agree. A good search function would be nice, but in the end I'd be happy if they just whacked the PDF files on the web and just let us download them.


    I hope you found the Internet Archive useful. That goes double if you're the author of To Rule the Winds -- it's an excellent book which I have found to be of great value, so thank you for that!

    Avion Ancien:

    Thanks for the update. It doesn't seem promising -- at best it's clearly a very low priority for FlightGlobal. But we live in hope...

  14. Dave Bush

    I have been told that there is a complete set of Flight Magazines 1909 to 2004, kept at the British Library on microfilm, but this will probably entail a visit to the library in London to view them. I am still in the process of finding out about this but having come across this web site, thought it might be helpful to somebody at this point, if I am correct in my assertion.

    To mention, I am looking for a few issues of Flight from the late 40's and early 50's where my father Peter Wreford-Bush, FRAeS was mentioned. He was the aerodynamicist on the Hawker Hunter, and I think, Sea Hawk. He was also part of Canadair's team who supported Jackie Cochran's record attempt in the Canadair Sabre in 1953 in California.
    I came across the Flight magazines before they disappeared and unfortunately didn't download them. Much gratitude if anybody can help.

  15. Dave Bush

    Edit to above. I should have said that Jackie Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier in this attempt.

  16. Post author

    Unfortunately there's no online alternative that I know of, other than the ones listed in this post (which of course are no use to you). Certainly the BL will have a copy, but there will be other sources around the UK which might be more conveniently located for you? One I do know of is at the National Aerospace Library at Farnborough.

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