Brief History of the British Aircraft Industry
Depending on how you count them, there were up to 27 aircraft companies in Britain in 1945.
Airspeed part of De Havilland since 1940 Armstrong Whitworth Hawker Siddeley Group Auster Avro Hawker Siddeley Group Blackburn Aircraft Boulton Paul Bristol Aeroplane Cierva Autogiro Co. Cunliffe-Owen De Havilland Hatfield English Electric Fairey Folland General Aircraft Co. Gloster Hawker Siddeley Group Handley Page Hawker Hawker Siddeley Group Martin-Baker Miles Aircraft Percival Portsmouth Aviation Saunders-Roe Shorts Supermarine part of Vickers Vickers Weybridge Westland
Initial attempts made by the Attlee Government to restrict orders to selcted design teams were subsumed by the outbreak of the Korean War. Re-armament meant that by 1955, the number of employees in the industry had risen to 250.000, and only two mergers had occured - General Aircraft and Blackburn, and Cierva and Saunders-Roe (into the Saunders-Roe helicopter division). Cunliffe-Owen had gone out of business in 1948, and Portsmouth Aviation in 1949. Britain actually had more aircraft companies than the USA.
In 1957, a White Paper presented by Duncan Sandys decided that combat aircraft should be phased out in favor of missiles. By this time many major aircraft projects had been cancelled.
In 1946, Ben Lockspeiser of the Ministry of Aircraft Production announced the cancellation of the Miles 52 supersonic aircraft and a ban on any future supersonic projects - all research in this direction was to be carried out using models. In this same year the Bell X1 first flew, which became the first manned aircraft to break the sound barrier. Eventually the first British supersonic aircraft flew in the same year that the supersonic F100 entered service with USAF. The British Air Force received a supersonic aircraft five years later on.
In 1960, a major grouping occured. As follows :-
- British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). The formation of this company was foreshadowed by the award of the TSR2 contract in 1959. It absorbed the following companies
- English Electric
- Hunting : known originally as Percival, taken over by Hunting in 1944 and became Hunting Percival in 1946. Became Hunting Aircraft in 1957.
- Hawker Siddeley Since 1935, it had been composed of
and in 1960, they were joined by
- Armstrong Whitworth
- De Havilland
- also absorbed Bristol helicopter interests
- Auster : became Beagle Aircraft in 1962. Closed 1970.
- Boulton Paul : became part of the Dowty Group in 1961.
- Handley Page : Closed 1970
- Miles : became part of Beagle Aircraft
- Scottish Aviation : became part of British Aerospace in 1977. Had taken over some Beagle and Handley Page projects, e.g. Beagle Pup.
- Shorts : based in Belfast, and was initially largely owned by the British Government.