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Pioneer British Aviator
Aero Engineer Industrialist
His mechanical aptitude and abundant enthusiasm led Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith into the infant aviation scene in 1910. At the venerable age of 92, he was still consulting in the affairs of his company, truly the elder statesman in the world of aviation.
In the years prior to the World War I, he became England's premier aviator and established the first authoritative test pilot school in the world. He founded England's first major flight school, where those who were to lead British aviation in the coming decades received their flying training.
At the beginning of the World War I, airpower was little understood and the aero industry not yet born. The Sopwith Aviation Company responded with a torrent of forward designs and production of more than 18,000 aircraft of sixteen types, an amazing achievement in the age before aerospace mass production, as we know it today. The jewel of this great fleet of airplanes was the famed Camel fighter plane, esteemed by its pilots and historians who regarded its role in air superiority as unique.
Thomas Sopwith reformed his company in the postwar period as the Hawker Engineering Company and assembled a consortium of talent and production which remains active as a major element of the British Aerospace Industry.
Invested 1979 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame
From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984
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Updated: March 12, 2004