The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Award of Honour

Awarded for an outstanding and enduring contribution to aviation.


2019 awarded to:  Stuart King FRAeS


Seventy-five years ago, Stuart King had the vision to see that aviation was key to bringing help and hope to people in the world’s poorest and remotest communities.   While still in the RAF he began to build Mission Aviation Fellowship, and on 13th January 1948 with ex-Service colleagues took off for Africa in their first aircraft.  Over the next 40 years Stuart has led MAF through its global expansion, constantly advancing the scope and scale of its operations, modernising its aircraft, and improving MAF’s capabilities.

Today, MAF operates 131 predominantly light aircraft in 27 developing countries around the world, from Mongolia to New Guinea, and Sudan to South America.  Here, where surface routes are often non-existent or impassable due to conflict or weather, MAF operates into some 1,400 of the poorest and most inaccessible locations.  In 2018, MAF flew over 8 million miles, carried 157,000 passengers (430 per day), moved over 6,000 tonnes of freight, and in doing so supported over 2,000 organisations. 001 Stuart King Every 4 ½ minutes, a MAF aircraft lands or takes off somewhere in the world.

However, several factors make Stuart’s brainchild particularly outstanding:


  • Despite its name, MAF is not just about evangelism.  MAF carries aid, medical, education, infrastructure and agricultural experts along with its missionary work of pastors, evangelists and bible translators, and it undertakes many emergency medevac flights.  MAF’s nickname ‘The Good Samaritan’s Donkey’ captures its essential role in enabling so many kinds of good work of others to happen.
  • MAF’s aircraft (robust and simple) are always maintained & flown to highest aviation standards, and pilot training is highly professional, taking full account of the demanding terrain & conditions where they operate. 
  • MAF employs local people for support & maintenance whenever practicable.
  • MAF never uses bribery or illicit payments – though sorely tempted in many regions.  Consequently, they are trusted, and are sometimes the only aircraft allowed to operate in contested zones.
  • MAF costs are fiercely controlled, and flights are charged on an accepted sliding scale based on ability to pay.  Annual turnover of £13.7M (2018) for such extensive operations is a figure most airlines would envy.

Although Stuart is no longer out there conducting operations, it is his vision and his integrity that created the ethos and the professionalism that is MAF today, and it is his fundamental Christian values which guide it to remain the kind of organisation he founded.  Stuart retired in 1987, but he continues as much as he is able to play an active role in the organisation.  Stuart is President Emeritus of Mission Aviation Fellowship International, and whenever possible joins its trustee meetings. 

Stuart King, an extraordinary and visionary man, who over 75 years has done so much to enable aviation bring help and relief to so many of the world’s most disadvantaged people, is a worthy recipient of the Award of Honour for his outstanding and enduring contribution to aviation.

Previous winners:

1999/2000 awarded twice:
     Sir Arthur Marshall
     Sir George Edwards

2000/2001 awarded twice:
     Group Captain John Cunningham CBE
     Wing Commander Roland Prosper Beamont CBE

2002  Not Awarded

2002/03  Squadron Leader Neville Frederick Duke DSO OBE DFC** AFC

2003/04 awarded twice:
     Lionel Peter Twiss OBE DSC* QCVSA
     Joseph Sutter Hon FRAeS

2004/05  Sir Michael Cobham CBE

2005/06 awarded twice:
     Neil Armstrong
     Captain Eric Brown CBE DSC AFC KCVSA MA FRAeS

2006/07 awarded twice:
     Sir Michael Knight KCB AFC
     Albert L Ueltschi

2008  Not Awarded

2009  Not Awarded

2009/10  Sir Maurice Flanagan KBE BA Hon.FRAeS FCILT

2010/11  Duncan Simpson OBE CEng FIMechE FRAeS

2011/12  Wing Commander Kenneth Horatio Wallis MBE

2012/13  Captain James Arthur Lovell USN (Retd)

2013/14  Sir Michael John Marshall CBE DL

2014/15  UK Military Search and Rescue Force

2016  Captain Robert "Hoot" Gibson DSM DFC

2017  awarded twice:
    Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine GCB GBE FRAeS
    John Tribe BSc(Eng)

2018  The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows

2019  Stuart King FRAeS