Bridgnorth Airship Pioneer Inducted as Aviation Living Legend

Bridgnorth airship and ballooning pioneer, Mike Kendrick, has been inducted into the prestigious Living Legends of Aviation, joining the likes of John Travolta and Buzz Aldrin.

Mike Kendrick from Bridgnorth has been inducted into the prestigious Living Legends of Aviation. Photo: Mirja Geh
Mike Kendrick from Bridgnorth has been inducted into the prestigious Living Legends of Aviation. Photo: Mirja Geh

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

Mike, 72, was officially inaugurated at a ceremony in Salzburg, Austria, conducted by Airbus Chief Executive, Tom Enders, and joins the coveted group of 97 worldwide, which also includes Elon Musk, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford and Sir Richard Branson.

He was inducted into the Legends group after nomination from Sir Richard and following a lifetime in the balloon and airship industry, which started in the early 1970’s 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.

It was in 1988, in partnership with Sir Richard, when Mike formed the Virgin Airship and Balloon Company (VABC) in Telford. VABC would quickly grow to become the world’s largest aerial advertising agency, operating over 180 aircraft in some 30 countries, with clients such as Goodyear, Budweiser, Met Life and Sanyo. Mike 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.

Mike is now spearheading work with his company – Straightline Aviation – on the introduction of a revolutionary heavy-lift hybrid airship, designed to transport cargo and passengers to remote parts of the world and engineered to use less fuel, emit less carbon dioxide and eliminate the need for costly ground-level infrastructure.

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

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

Tom Enders said: “The contribution to aviation made by Michael Kendrick is truly remarkable, and inspiring, particularly in the lighter than air sector and we welcome him to the Living Legends of Aviation.”

As a keen balloonist himself, Mike has set several aviation world records, and project managed many of Sir Richard’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,” Mike added, “and have a determination to succeed, push boundaries and take risks.”