The 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 and fabric covering with the upper wings 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.
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 constructed five machines for the civil market. Three of these (G-AALL, G-ABAX and G-ABII) were 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 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.
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 AR2, AR7 and AR9 engines (and the Wolseley Aquarius and Aries).
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 RCAF in 1930 (serials 140 and 141) and these Canadian machines featured a split-axle undercarriage. Four additional aircraft were supplied to the New Zealand Air Force for training purposes.
The 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.
During the war one aircraft (G-AFTA) was 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 in 1949 and displayed on many occasions by their famous Test Pilot, Sqn Ldr Neville Duke. This aircraft was donated to The Shuttleworth Trust in 1960 and was restored to its original RAF colour scheme in 1967.
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
|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|
|G-AFTA (K1786)||Maintained in flying condition with the Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden|