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British Industrial History

George Holt Thomas

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George Holt Thomas (1870-1929), aviation industrialist

1870 Born on 31 March 1870 at Hampton House, Stockwell Private Road, in south London, the seventh son of William Luson Thomas (1830–1900), founder of the illustrated weekly Graphic and Daily Graphic newspapers, and his wife, Annie Carmichael, daughter of marine artist John Wilson Carmichael (1799–1868).

He was educated privately and at King's College School, London, before spending two years (1888–90) at Queen's College, Oxford. He left Oxford without a degree and joined his father's newspaper business.

In 1894 he married Gertrude Hesley, the youngest daughter of Thomas Oliver FRIBA, of Newcastle upon Tyne. The marriage was childless.

1912 Holt Thomas formed the Aircraft Manufacturing Co (Airco) in 1912 to build Farman aeroplanes at Hendon. These aeroplanes would be used as trainers in large numbers by the Royal Flying Corps and were affectionately known as Longhorns and Shorthorns.

Holt Thomas invited Geoffrey de Havilland to join Airco in May 1914. One of the most gifted designers in aviation history, de Havilland had recently been unhappily employed as an inspector and occasional test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough, and welcomed the opportunity to resume his career as a designer. During the next six years their partnership flourished.

By November 1918 Holt Thomas was the largest and most influential aircraft constructor in Britain, operating factories in many places to build not only a line of excellent landplanes, but also flying boats, airships, propellers, and engines in huge numbers. His factories were equipped with the latest metal-working machinery, and at Hendon he had a wind tunnel and a laboratory for material testing.

By the end of 1921 both the Aircraft Manufacturing Co and Aircraft Transport and Travel his airline had ceased trading.

He died in 1929.

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