Hawker Tomtit prototype J9772
Hawker Tomtit prototype J9772 undergoing trials at Martlesham Heath.


The H.G. Hawker Tomtit was developed on a private venture basis with a view to replacing the Avro 504N in RAF service. It was a clean single bay biplane trainer, powered by an uncowled Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose five cylinder radial engine.


The RAF had also stipulated that the design should 'have regards to the elimination of the Woodworking Fitter trades' which in other words indicated that whilst the covering material was not specified, the frame must be of metal.  This led designer Sidney Camm to a concept built of steel and duralumin tubes with fabric covering with the upper wings which were equipped with Handley Page automatic slots. For all-weather flying training, the instrument panel featured the new Reid and Sigrist blind flying panel (Hawkers’ joint Managing Director Fred Sigrist having an interest in this development). The Instructor and Pilot sat in tandem fashion, in open cockpits with the latter to the rear.


The unmarked first prototype (J9772) was flown for the first time by George Bulman in early November 1928.


Hawker Tomtit G-AFTA air to air
Test pilot Neville Duke flies Tomtit G-AFTA painted in Hawker's racing colours of royal blue with gold trim.


Following successful trial at Martlesham Heath, in which the type’s robust construction and good handling received particular praise, an initial production order was placed for ten aircraft for the RAF.


Two more orders for six and eight aircraft, respectively brought the RAF total to 24 aircraft between 1928 and 1931.


Hawker Tomtit G-AALL
Civil Hawker Tomtit G-AALL was entered by the Prince of Wales in the 1930 King's Cuo Air Race.


Hawker constructed five machines for the civil market with three of these (G-AALL, G-ABAX and G-ABII) being Mongoose-powered, although one (G-ABAX) was later re-engined with a Wolseley AR9 radial.


The second civil machine (G-AASI) was initially flown with a 115 hp ADC Cirrus Hermes II engine. In this guise, it was found to be somewhat underpowered and to lack the precision of handling of the Mongoose-powered machines. It was also later converted to have a Wolseley AR9 engine.


Hawker Tomtit Cirrus Hermes 1930 G-AASI
The sole Cirrus Hermes-powered Hawker Tomtit G-AASI which was first flown in 1930.


The final civil machine (G-ABOD), was used from the outset as a test aircraft for the newly developed Wolseley Motors engine, flying successively with the Wolseley AR2, AR7 and AR9 engines (and the Wolseley Aquarius and Aries).


Hawker Tomtit G-ABAX AR9 1933 Kings Cup
Wolesley AR9 powered Tomtit G-ABAX at Brooklands prior to the 1933 King's Cup Air Race.


All five of these machines were active participants in air races between 1930 and 1936, albeit with only modest success due to their performance being over-estimated by the handicappers.


Two Hawker Tomtit aircraft were supplied to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1930 as serials 140 and 141 and featured a split-axle undercarriage.


Four additional aircraft were supplied to the New Zealand Air Force for training purposes.


Hawker Tomtit Canada 140
140 is one of the two Hawker Tomtits delivered to Canada.


The Hawker Tomtit was replaced by the Avro Tutor in RAF service, with nine ex-RAF aircraft appearing on the British civil register from 1935 onward.


Of these aircraft, the most noteworthy (G-AFTA previously K1786) was the last Tomtit to be built. That particular aircraft was frequently used by Alex Henshaw, the Racing Pilot and Chief Test Pilot at the Vickers Aircraft Castle Bromwich Spitfire factory. After the war however, it was sold and in 1949 was purchased by Hawker Aircraft Ltd and displayed on many occasions by their famous Test Pilot, Sqn Ldr Neville Duke.  The aircraft was donated to The Shuttleworth Trust in 1960 and was restored to its original RAF colour scheme in 1967.


Hawker Tomtit K1786
Hawker Tomtit G-AFTA flies with the Shuttleworth Collection in its RAF colours as K1786.


Total production of the Hawker Tomtit was 36 aircraft, made up of the prototype, 24 production aircraft for the RAF, five civil machines, two for Canada and four for New Zealand.


Variants & Numbers

Prototype                J9772
RAF Tomtit I 24 aircraft
Civilian production 5 aircraft: G-AALL, G-AASI (Cirrus Hermes), G-ABAX, G-ABII, G-ABOD. G-ABOD used for engine test purposes by Wolseley Motors, G-AASI and G-ABAX later re-engine with Wolseley AR9 engines.
Canadian Air Force 2 aircraft with split-axle undercarriage, serials 140 & 141.
New Zealand 4 aircraft for use as elementary trainers
Total built 36 aircraft


Specification (Mongoose IIIC powered)

Powerplant One 150hp Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose IIIC radial engine
Span 28 ft 6.6 in
Empty weight 1,100 lb
Maximum Weight 1750 lb
Capacity  Two crew only, instructor and student
Maximum Speed 124 mph at sea level
Range 350 miles



G-AFTA (K1786)    Maintained in flying condition with the Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden



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