The Company was established as a Guild in 1929 in order to ensure that pilots and navigators of the (then) fledgling aviation industry were accepted and regarded as professionals. From the beginning, the Guild was modelled on the lines of the Livery Companies of the City of London, which were originally established to protect the interests and standards of those involved in their respective trades or professions. In 1956, the Guild was formally recognised as a Livery Company. In 2014, it was granted a Royal Charter in the name of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.
The majority of its members are, or have been, professional licence holders, operating aircraft in the airlines, corporate aviation and all branches of Her Majesty's armed forces. There are also many private licence holders, who are not full-time professional airmen, flying in every area of general aviation, sporting aviation and recreational flying.
Today, the principal activities of the Company are centred on sponsoring and encouraging action and activities designed to ensure that aircraft are piloted and navigated safely by individuals who are highly competent, self-reliant, dependable and respected.
The Company fosters the sound education and training of air pilots from the initial training of the young pilot to the specialist training of the more mature. Through charitable activities, education and training, technical committee work, aircrew aptitude testing, scholarships and sponsorship, advice and recognition of the achievements of fellow aviators world-wide, the Company keeps itself at the forefront of the aviation world. This, together with an entirely apolitical outlook and a constitution which forbids it from engaging in trade union activity, enables the Honourable Company of Air Pilots to form and to promote a truly unbiased, professional and experienced view on operational aviation matters.
To establish and maintain the highest standards of air safety through the promotion of good airmanship
To maintain a liaison with all Authorities connected with licensing, training and legislation affecting pilot or navigator whether private, professional, civil or military.
To constitute a body of experienced airmen available for advice and consultation and to facilitate the exchange of information
To assist air pilots and air navigators in need through the Benevolent Fund
To promote the Company as an active Livery Company of the City of London
Taken from an address given by the (then) Grand Master, and now Patron, His Royal Highness, the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
"The Guild (now Company) is concerned with every technical aspect of flying from safety to navigational aids, from airport facilities to training methods and in particular with new developments in aircraft and their handling. It's a unique organisation, as its upper membership is restricted to qualified pilots and navigators and therefore it can truly claim to bring together the views and ideas of people who control aircraft in the air. Perhaps, the most important function of the Guild (now Company) is to help set and maintain standards of conduct among flying people.
"The Guild (now Company) is not intended to be a lobby or pressure group and it does not function in the same way as the Airline Pilots' Associations. However, that doesn't mean that it will never offer considered advice if it thinks it necessary, and of course it is always ready to offer an opinion if asked for."