Captain FA Swoffer, Chief Pilot, Arnholds Aviation, China, early 1930s

Arnhold Aviation Detail Of Capt FA Swoffer In Group Photo At Mukden

Cpt FA SwoffeDJ has

HF: In the spring of 1928 Arnhold & Co, Ltd. decided to start selling aircraft and hired WEF Jones to head the operation. The Arnhold Aviation Department was born on 1 April 1928.

A two-seat de Havilland DH 60 Moth was purchased for demonstrations in Shanghai and arrived early in 1929 and Captain FA Swoffer was engaged as Chief Pilot. Arnhold & Co became representatives of de Havilland and Handley Page, later also Blackburn and Fairey.

The Moth was placed on show in Shanghai and was then demonstrated in the air over the city by Jones. Before leaving the company in 1934 he had sold altogether 150 aircraft, mostly Moths, Puss Moths and Tiger Moths, to Nanking, Mukden, Kaifeng, Chungking, Canton, Shanghai, Taiyouan, Hankow and Changsha.

After leaving Arnhold & Co, Jones became advisor to the Chinese Government.(1)

IDJ has sent all the following images and information and I would like to show my appreciation for his contribution here.

Arnhold Aviation Group At Mukden Image Of FA Swoffer

IDJ suggests that Capt. Swoffer is the man wearing a helmet in front of the propeller. The others are probably Arnholds China staff

The above extracts and images come from the book, A history of Chinese aviation : encyclopedia of aircraft and aviation in China until 1949.

Arnhold & Company + Capt Swoffer, Far Eastern Review June 1931 IDJ

The Far Eastern Review, June 1931.

FA SWoffer Gipsy Moth Sales In China Flight Magazine 11th September 1931

Source: Flight magazine 11th September 1931

Work on Guernsey Airport began in 1937 and it opened for business in May 1939. It took over from the landing site at L’Eree. Although it had served the island well, it wasn’t suited to larger aircraft. There had also been accidents, which had led to calls for something more suitable. The new airport at La Valliaze simplified things greatly, and catered for more suitable planes.

It wasn’t in use for long before German forces landed there at the start of the Occupation, but for that brief period, it was under the authority of a man who knew more than his fair share about aircraft and flying.

Dead man flying

Flight Lieutenant FA Swoffer, formerly of the RAF, had written the book Learning to Fly. He was appointed to the new role at Guernsey Airport at the start of March. He’d been working at the Empire air base at Southampton Water at the time, and was said by the Gloucestershire Echo to be “looking forward to his new job in Guernsey”.

Yet it’s only thanks to the sharp eyes of a nurse, several years before that he was in any state to take it up at all.

Swoffer had crashed his plane in 1916, and very nearly been killed. He’d got into a spin, fallen 60m and crashed into the ground at high speed. Assumed to have expired, he was taken to a mortuary to be prepared for burial. Fortunately, a nurse spotted that he was, in fact, still alive. He was nursed back to good health, and was soon back in the air.

A new airport for Guernsey

The airport was officially opened on 5 May 1939 by Sir Kingsley Wood, the air minister and, technically, Swoffer’s ultimate boss. It had four grass runways, the longest of which was just over 900m, and initially hosted Guernsey Airways and Jersey Airways flights to London, Southampton and Shoreham.

It was obvious that war was on the horizon even as the airport was opened, and four months after the first flights took off, control passed to the RAF Coastal Command. The RAF moved out in the summer as the islands were demilitarised.”(2)

FA Swoffer Announcement Of Death Flight Magazine 1st August 1946

Flight magazine 1st August 1946 Courtesy: IDJ

FA Swoffer Entry In Who's Who British Aviation

Who’s Who in British Aviation publication entry -1936 Courtesy: IDJ


  1. A history of Chinese aviation : encyclopedia of aircraft and aviation in China until 1949, Lennart Andersson, Pub AHS of ROC 2008

This article was first posted on 30th August 2018 and reposted on 16th September 2018.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Captain FA Swoffer, Chief Pilot, Arnholds Aviation, China, early 1930s – Part Two
  2. Arnhold Aviation Dept, subsidiary of Arnholds & Company in Shanghai, aircraft sales throughout China
  3. Arnhold, Karberg & Company – founded in Hong Kong, 1866
  4. Asiatic Petroleum Company Ltd – links to Arnhold & Company
  5. Military aircraft in China 1930s – Arnhold & Company and the Blackburn Aircraft Company
  6. Blackburn Aircraft Limited, aka Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co., represented by Arnhold Aviation in China, early 1930s

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