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Folland Aircraft Limited

Manufacturer of the Gnat, the first aircraft utilised by the RAF Red Arrows.

 Folland Aircraft

Hawker logo
The origins of Folland Aircraft lie with British Marine Aircraft Limited, formed in 1936 to produce Sikorsky Flying Boats under licence in the UK.
Based on the Hamble Peninsula with a slipway into Southampton Water, British Marine Aircraft became financially unviable during the mid-1930’s and despite failed attempts to merge with companies such as Westland, the liquidators appointed a new Board of Directors in 1937.
They renamed the company Folland Aircraft Company after Henry P. Folland, the new owner and Managing Director.  
Aircraft designer Folland had started at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough in 1912, alongside the likes of Geoffrey de Havilland.


Whilst at Farnborough, Folland designed the SE5a biplane fighter for the Royal Flying Corps before joining Nieuport & General Aircraft in 1917.

When Nieuport failed in 1920, he moved to the Gloucestershire Aircraft Company where he was responsible for many type designs including the Grebe, Gamecock, Gauntlet and Gladiator.  Folland decided to leave Gloster after it was taken over by Hawker, feeling that his designs would not take precedence over the designs of the new owners.  

With the capital he had accumulated, he started Folland Aircraft Limited, manufacturing aircraft components on the Hamble which included 35,000 major assemblies for a wide range of British military aircraft.  Sub-contract work also involved the manufacture of ailerons for the Supermarine Spitfire as well as various sub-components for the DH Mosquito and Vickers Wellington bomber. Folland also supplied about 16,000 tail portions for the Spitfire from Hamble .

The first true Folland type to fly was the FO108 although it was ultimately designed as a flying test bed which earned the nickname the ‘Folland Frightful’ due to its unusual appearance.  Further designs were then tendered to meet research requirements of investigating the issues of landing aircraft on sea-borne carriers.

Henry Folland left the company through ill-health in 1951 and was replaced by WEW ‘Teddy’ Petter, designer of the EE Lightning and Canberra and he immediately set about the design and production of the Folland Midge, a lightweight jet fighter which first flew in 1954.   

This was followed by Follands most famous aircraft, the Folland Gnat, which became synonymous with the RAF Display Team the Red Arrows.

Folland Aircraft diversified during the 1950's with ventures into 'cushioned air' products such as the Germ hovercraft and inventions such as a hover-barrow for construction sites and even a hover-trolley for the movement of injured soldiers on rough battlefield areas.

Folland Gnat Prototype G-39-2 on take off run in 1955 Folland Gnat Prototype (G-39-2) on take off run in 1955

In 1959, Folland was absorbed into the Hawker Siddeley Group who eventually dropped the Folland name by 1963.  

Latterley, the facilities on The Hamble became part of British Aerospace (Aerostructures) concentrating on fuselage design and construction.  

Today, the airfield has closed and whilst the former Folland facility is now part of General Electric.


  British Marine Aircraft Limited
1937 Folland Aircraft Limited                                                                  
1963 Hawker Siddeley Aviation
1977 British Aerospace
1999 BAE Systems


1940 Folland FO 108 (F43/37) 1955 Folland Gnat                    
1954 Folland Midge