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Aircraft Co & AirCo

AirCo produced thousands of aircraft for the British military forces during World War I.

The Aircraft Company 

The Aircraft Company was formed by George Holt Thomas on 6th June 1911, combining The Aeroplane Supply Company of St Stephens's House, Westminster with Airship Limited of Merton.

After initial use of the former skating rink at Merton, the company occupied a disused bus/tram depot (previously used by the Metropolitan Electric Tramway and Omnibus Company) at The Hyde, ½ mile south of Hendon.

The Aircraft Company held the sole rights in the United Kingdom for the building of Henri and Maurice Farman aeroplanes, a deal secured by Mr Holt Thomas in early 1912. (The Farman Brothers works were at 167, Rue de Silly, Billancourt, France).

Airco Ad 1913
In April 1912, the first advertisement for The Aircraft Company appeared announcing that the company held ‘Sole rights to Henri and Maurice Farman designs, and Gnome Motors will shortly be constructed in England. Flying ground Hendon and St Stephen’s House, Westminster’.

In May 1912, the company name was changed to The Aircraft Manufacturing Company Limited (often known as AIRCO, this style being subsequently adopted by the company itself).

The Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) 

 
Airco logo
Hendon was fast becoming a hive of aeronautical activity with Grahame-White Aircraft and Handley Page established on and close to the new Hendon Aerodrome.  
 
Following a chance meeting at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Captain Geoffrey de Havilland joined the company in May 1914 as Chief Designer - his machines (denoted DH) accounted for 30% of all British and US aircraft in the war years.
 
 
AirCo Advert 1919 Portrait
In 1916, the RFC started flying from the North London Airfield and the newly formed AirCo 50 people working in numerous buidings along the Edgeware Road, ready to supply their needs.  By the Armistice on 11th Novemebr 1918, AirCo employed 4,400 and the factory area had increased seven-fold.
 
However, after the First World War the aviation industry suffered a slump and de Havilland found himself out of work.  Owner George Holt Thomas sold AirCo to BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Company) in 1920 before it was liquidated a year later.
 
Holt Thomas subsequently funded de Havilland in buying the AirCo assets with which he formed The De Havilland Aircraft Company Limited.

Genealogy

1911 The Aircraft Company Limited
1912 Aircraft Manufacturing Company Limited (AirCo)
1920 BSA Limited
1920 De Havilland Aircraft Company Limited
1963 Hawker Siddeley Aviation
1977 British Aerospace
1999 BAE Systems

 

Aircraft

1915 Airco DH1 / 1a 1917 Airco DH9 / 9a / 9c
1915 Airco DH2 1918 Airco DH10 - Amiens
1916 Airco DH3 / 3a 1919 Airco DH11 - Oxford
1916 Airco DH4 / 4a / 4r 1919 Airco DH16 - Arras
1916 Airco DH5 1920 Airco DH18
1916 Airco DH6    
 

More Information