In 1913 the common aviation engine oil was a simple castor oil. The flight today will use the modern AeroShell100, part of Shell’s extensive range of high-quality oils capable of protecting technically-advanced engines operating at extremes of temperatures and speeds.

Xinsheng (Sheng) Zhang, Vice-President of Shell Aviation, said: “We are pleased to support the centenary flight of the 1913 Circuit of Britain Race. Historic milestones like this allow us to remember our past, while we look to the future. In the last 100 years Shell has been involved in many of the innovations that enable flight as we now know it - and we will continue to innovate for tomorrow’s aviation.”

The 1913 Circuit of Britain Race was the first major competition for seaplanes. It was part of a series of awards given by Lord Northcliffe to encourage the development of aviation.

It was flown by Harry Hawker and his mechanic Harry Kauper in a one-off Sopwith Waterplane. As this aircraft is no longer airworthy, today’s flight around Britain will take place in the oldest flying seaplane in the UK – a historic Catalina based at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. 

The flight will take five days and follow the race’s original route as closely as possible, giving a number of aerial demonstrations along the way.

Jeff Boyling, pilot and organiser of the centenary flight, said: “I would like to thank Shell for providing AeroShell 100 for this flight. Today’s flight celebrates the early pioneers of the aviation industry, the Circuit of Britain Race and Harry Hawker himself, who was a great aviator, test pilot and engineer. It is also an opportunity to show off the historic Catalina at venues around Britain.”

Aviation technology has come a long way since its first tentative steps in the early 20th century. Then, engines using castor oil could only operate for about 10 hours before needing a service.

Today Shell’s performance engine oils help modern engines fly at speeds unimaginable in 1913 for thousands of hours, before the need of an overhaul.

Over the last 100 years, flight has become an irreplaceable part of society, bringing people together and creating opportunities for trade and tourism. Shell Aviation has been involved in the development of modern aviation every step of the way and this will continue into the future. Examples of Shell’s innovation include developing the first high-octane aviation fuel (avgas) in the 1930s, which allowed more powerful and faster flight.

In the following decades, Shell supported the development of the jet engine, formulated a synthetic engine oil specifically for the Concorde’s supersonic engines and fuelled its first flight. More recently Shell has developed the high-performance AeroShell Ascender engine oil, designed specifically for the latest jet engines. Shell Aviation has also developed a cleaner burning jet fuel made from natural gas.

Shell Aviation is proud of its long heritage and will continue to invest in new products for modern aircraft and fuel efficiency, today and into the future.


Shell Aviation: James Forth +44 20 7934 1249 /

About Shell Aviation

Shell is active across the full aviation value chain. We produce aviation fuels and lubricants (across a range of grades); market, sell and distribute them - as well as offer further related services to customers.

Shell Aviation is a leading global supplier of aviation fuels and lubricants with a heritage of over 100 years. We supply fuel at 800 airports in approximately 40 countries, including John F. Kennedy in New York, London Heathrow, Changi International in Singapore and Hong Kong International. We refuel a plane every 12 seconds. Our customers are airports and airlines, big and small, plus private customers such as corporate jet operators and flying clubs.

We have one of the world’s most extensive fuelling networks and have a strong supply chain. We have a portfolio of world-class brands and products and continue to invest in technical innovation. We have strong working relationships with OEMs, put the customer at the heart of what we do and respond to industry opportunities and challenges.