Cathay Pacific Airways was founded by pilots, Roy Farrell and Sydney de Kantzow, on 24 September 1946 and registered in Hong Kong. In the same year, John - "Jock" - Kidston Swire (1893-1983), became Chairman of John Swire & Sons. Determined to find new opportunities for the firm and recognising that air transport was the key to the future, Jock Swire looked for ways of involving Swire in this industry. In 1947, he used Taikoo Dockyard's engineering skills to develop an aircraft maintenance facility at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airfield. This company, named Pacific Air Maintenance and Supply Company [PAMAS], would merge with rival Jardine Air Maintenance Company in 1950 to form Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company [HAECO] - today one of the world's leaders in its field. In 1948 Swire bought a management stake in Cathay Pacific Airways. By this time, the airline had grown from its original single US Army surplus DC3 (Dakota), Betsy, to a fleet of six DC3s and a Catalina flying boat. From then on, the growth of Hong Kong's airline was to become Jock Swire's special pride. In 1980 Cathay Pacific went international. At the end of a decade of rapid expansion, the airline acquired its first Boeing 747-200 "jumbo jet" and the following year began a non-stop service to London. Cathay Pacific currently holds the title of the world's third largest airline. John Swire & Sons remain a major shareholder today alongside Air China.
The papers held at SOAS reflect the involvement of John Swire & Sons in their capacity as major shareholder in the development of Cathay Pacific. The records consist largely of correspondence sent between John Swire & Sons, London and received from managers and directors of Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong and relate to general management issues and policy, air traffic route development and staffing.
The records that are held in this collection represent what has been created or collected by the London office: the majority of papers relating to Cathay Pacific and its operations are held in Hong Kong where the company is registered by the Swire Hong Kong Archive Service.
All records dated post-1980 closed.