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Marconi in Avionics

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 5 months, 3 weeks ago





This Wiki traces and documents the avionics business developed by the Marconi Company from its inception in 1909 to the present time although it is regretable that the name is no longer in use. References are made to the companies associated by merger; their businesses are not included in the wiki but references to related activities are given.


This wiki is one of a series recording the history of the Marconi Company from its formation starting from Family



Company milestones relating to avionics 


  1909 Elliott Brothers and Marconi companies both begin to fit avionics to early aircraft  
  1946 Marconi is acquired by English Electric  




Basildon factory opened and firstly housed Aeronautical Division's production unit.  The remaining units were transferred 6 years later to 'A' Building

Closed Circuit Television Division (later renamed Electro-Optical Division) moved from Waterhouse Lane to Basildon's 'D' Building

  1967 English Electric and Elliott Automation merge  
  1968 The new English Electric group is acquired by GEC  
  1969 GEC renames avionics business Marconi-Elliott Avionics Systems Limited, part of the company's defence arm, GEC-Marconi  
  1978 Renamed Marconi Avionics Limited  
  1984 Renamed GEC Avionics Limited  
  1990 Take-over of Ferranti creating GEC Ferranti  
  1998 Renamed Marconi Avionics, part of the renamed defence arm, Marconi Electronic Systems (MES)  
  1999 MES merged with British Aerospace to form BAE Systems. Avionics business becomes BAE Systems Avionics click here for introduction  
  2005 BAE Systems Avionics merged with Galileo Avionica to form SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems  


1 January 2016, the activities of Selex ES merged into Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s Electronics, Defence and Security Systems Sector becoming Leonardo S.p.A..


The development of wireless for airborne use


It is recorded that in 1911 a Canadian, J. D. A. McCurdy, sent a message from a Curtiss biplane flying over Long Island to a ground station via a Marconi spark transmitter in the cockpit, and the Company continued experimental work in air-to-ground and ground-to-air communication. A successful airborne transmitter was designed by R. D. Bangay of the Field Station Department but a receiver suitable for the noisy cockpit environment proved more difficult. At the opening of the war the Royal Flying Corps had little equipment but was able to demonstrate successful and useful methods of artillery reconnaissance. Consequently the Marconi experimental establishment at Brooklands was taken over by the RFC with the staff being seconded - details on Marconi's aviation history can be viewed in the Brooklands Wireless website available here, and also here on the development of wireless for Civil Air Traffic Control post-World War One, linked to the related section in the Radar wiki.


A National Archives piece "Fighting talk - First World war telecommunications" and a modern piece



There were two major divisions within Avionics: Aeronautical Division, later named Airadio, and Closed Circuit Television Division, later named Electro-Optical.  For simplicity the latter nomenclature will be used for this Wiki.  Both divisions were relocated to a purpose-built factory in 1954 at Basildon, Essex.


The activities for each division are summarised below:




Civil and military airborne electronic equipment including; Automatic direction finders; Doppler navigation sensors; navigation computers and displays; VOR/ILS and DME navigation aids; HF and VHF communications equipment; Selcal selective calling system and aerial tuning units.  Digital computer and moving-map display for flight navigation/control, fuel management and analogue computer systems.


An introduction to Aeronautical Division (1969) is available here.





Electro-optical Systems Division (EOSD)


Electro-optical systems for weapon guidance; night viewing television systems; closed-circuit television; educational television equipment; airport flight information presentation.  A more detailed view of their applications (1969) is available here.




This activity started life at Waterhouse Lane as the Closed-circuit Television Department and was renamed Electro-optical Systems Division (EOSD) when it was transferred to Basildon in 1965.  This Wiki addresses products after this date.


Further details of the Electro-Optical Systems Division (1969) are available here, and its structure within GEC in 1975 here.


Details of the Unmanned Air Vehicle or Remote Piloted Vehicle projects here




Marconi have always provided a comprehensive set of services to the airline operators.  These may be viewed below:


1963 click here

1964 click here. 

1965 click here 

1966 click here

1968 click here



Press clippings 


To view a list of press clippings relating to Avionics click here.




Other documents 


The Rochester Archives hold a great deal of information on Avionics history and this can be accessed here.  The ones relating more to the Marconi area have been extracted and can be accessed directly from the following table, and then clicking on the link under Publisher heading.  Note that some of these files are large. 


  Date Title Details  
  1975 Marconi-Elliott Paris Air Show here  
  1979 Marconi Avionics here   
  Into 1980s GEC into the 1980s here  
  1980 Marconi Avionics Review of Activities here  
  1980 Overview of the Basildon Avionics operation here  
  1981 Marconi Avionics Review of Activities here   
  1981 GEC Review of Activities here  
  1981 Facts about Marconi Avionics here  
  1982 Marconi Avionics Sales Directory and Product Guide here  
  1982 GEC Review of Activities here  
  1983 Marconi Avionics Evening Post 83-11 here   
  Into 1983 Marconi Avionics Annual Review of Activities here  
  1983 Marconi Avionics Sales Directory and Product Guide here  
  1983 Marconi Avionics Review of Activities here   
  1983 GEC Review of Operations here  
  Into 1984 GEC Avionics here  
  1984 GEC Review of Operations here  
  Into 1985 GEC Avionics Annual Review of Activities here  
  1985 GEC Avionics Sales Directory and Product Guide here  
  1986 GEC Avionics here  
  Into 1986 GEC Avionics Review of Activities here  
  1987 Marconi Avionics Evening Post 87-10 here   
  Into 1987 GEC Avionics Review of Activities here  
  1987 GEC Avionics Sales Directory and Product Guide here  
  Into 1988 GEC Avionics Review of Activities here  
  Into 1989 GEC Avionics Review of Activities here  
  1990 GEC Avionics Sales Directory and Product Guide here  
  1991 GEC Avionics News Special here   
  ~1993 GEC-Marconi Avionics Vision - issue 2 here  
  1998 Merger of Marconi Electronic Systems into BAE  TBA  
  1999 Avionics organisation here   
  2002 BAE Avionics Management Team here  


The listing of Avionics journals are listed here in the Marconi Family Wiki.  It may be necessary for you to request access but this will be granted if you are an ex-employee of the Marconi group of companies.


Statement of intent





Comments (4)

David Samways said

at 8:32 am on Jul 4, 2016

Note that all links have now been re-established due to the Rochester Archives being restructured. One however is still outstanding.

David Samways said

at 5:30 am on Mar 7, 2017

Added on behalf of Bob Mountfort:
So pleasing and interesting to see RAF Henlow museum. My Father Fl Lt FC Mountfort spent his life in the RAF in Signals which became 90 Group and was stationed at RAF Henlow at the end of his career. He was invalided out of the RAF 2 Days before he died at RAF Halton from pancreatic cancer. He and my mother lived in Bedford. At times he would run from Bedford to Henlow. He was serving at RAF Cardington in 1935 when my twin brother and I were born. He always told me that the Marconi SWB 8 or was it 11 was a great piece of kit.

Alan Hartley-Smith said

at 1:48 am on Jul 28, 2017

Test comment as agreed

Ian Gillis said

at 1:53 am on Jul 28, 2017

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