Tom Sopwith after winning first 'aerial Derby' in a Bleriot monoplane, 1912.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A signed photograph showing Tom Sopwith after winning the first 'aerial Derby' (round London race) in a 70 hp BlEriot XI. Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith (1888-1989) was a famous pioneer pilot, racing car driver, and motorboat champion. His mechanical aptitude and enormous enthusiasm led him first to motor-racing at Brooklands and then to aviation in 1910. He became England's premier aviator and established the first authoritative test pilot school in the world. He also founded England's first major flight school. But perhaps his greatest contribution to progres has been made through designing and manufacturing aircraft , and particularly as head of the Hawker Siddeley Group. Sopwith's chief test pilot was Harry Hawker, who started the Hawker Engineering Company with Sopwith, later to evolve into Hawker Siddeley.