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Hawker Tomtit

Shuttleworth's Tomtit G-AFTA at Old Warden
Role Trainer
Manufacturer Hawker Aircraft
First flight November 1928
Number built 35

The Hawker Tomtit is a British training biplane from the late 1920s.


  • Design and development 1
  • Production and service 2
  • Variants 3
  • Military operators 4
  • Survivors 5
  • Specifications (Tomtit) 6
  • References 7
    • Notes 7.1
    • Bibliography 7.2
  • External links 8

Design and development

The Royal Air Force in 1927 required a replacement for their current elementary trainers, the elderly Avro 504Ns. They specified that the power plant should be an Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose engine, a radial five-cylinder type, and the design should "have regards to the elimination of the Woodworking Fitter trades." In other words: the airframe, though not its covering had to be metal. This led Sydney Camm, then chief designer at Hawkers to design the Tomtit, a single bay biplane whose frame was of steel and duralumin tubes. The spars were made of tubular dumbbell sections, the whole aircraft fabric covered. Automatic slats of the Handley Page type were fitted to the leading edges of the upper wing. It had the standard fixed main wheel and tail-skid undercarriage of its day. The engine was uncowled.

Instructor and trainee sat in open tandem cockpits. The latter, at the rear, was provided with the then-new George Bulman in November 1928.

Hawker also produced five civil registered Tomtits.[1] The first two of these started with Mongoose IIIA engine and the third with an upright in-line 115 hp (86 kW) A.D.C. Cirrus Major. It was thought that this latter, lower power engine choice might appeal more to public sporting owners. Three of this group were later owned by Wolseley, who fitted them with their cowled A.R. 7 and A.R.9 radial motors.

Production and service

Hawker Aircraft's Tomtit in 1954 wearing their dark blue house colours

Between 1928 and 1931, 24 aircraft were delivered[2] to the RAF for evaluation. After the first batch of ten, two more batches of six and eight aircraft respectively were ordered. The competition included the eventual winner, the Avro Tutor. Military Tomtits were sold elsewhere,[3] two to Canada and four to New Zealand.[4] Despite its failure to win the RAF contract, it is probable that more Tomtits could have been sold as it was very well received by their pilots, but Hawkers were heavily involved in the production of the Hawker Hart and its many variants. Consequently, they did not have the capacity to manufacture other aircraft. The Cirrus powered machine had turned out to be both rather underpowered and lacking the control precision of the standard aircraft.

In 1935 some nine ex-RAF aircraft joined the original five on the civil register.[5][6] They were used by individuals and clubs as sports and training machines.

On 04/02/41, three surplus Tomtits were acquired from Leicester Aero Club by the Chief Test Pilot at VACBAF (Vickers Armstrong Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory.) for use as personal transport during the early part of the war up until mid 1942. G-AFIB was destroyed in a night take-off accident during the war. Henshaw sold the remaining aircraft in 1946. The third machine, G-AFVV was destroyed at some point soon after the war. Another, G-AFTA, survived the war and was acquired and restored by Hawkers in 1949. This was donated to the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden in 1960 and is still operated by the Shuttleworth Collection to the present day.


Two-seat training, club, sports and personal aircraft.
Tomtit Mk I
Two-seat primary trainer for the RAF.

Military operators

Hawker Tomtit of the R.C.A.F.
 New Zealand
 United Kingdom


Airworthy Hawker Tomtit at the Shuttleworth Collection

One Tomtit still flies, the ex-RAF K1786 G-AFTA. This, the last RAF machine, completed in January 1931, initially served No. 3 Flying Training School. It joined the U.K. civil register in April 1939. During the war, it was flown by Alex Henshaw and gained a Spitfire windscreen and faired headrest. It was acquired and restored by Hawkers in 1949 where it became the mount of the their test pilot Neville Duke and was painted in the dark blue company colours. In 1960, it was handed over to the Shuttleworth Collection, who returned it to its original RAF colours in 1967.

Specifications (Tomtit)

Hawker Tomtit G-AFTA (K1786) undergoing restoration and displaying construction details at the 2013 Shuttleworth Uncovered event

Data from [7]

General characteristics




  1. ^ Jackson pp268-71
  2. ^ Mason pp. 395-6 (in 1st ed)
  3. ^ Jackson p268
  4. ^
  5. ^ Jackson pp542-3
  6. ^ British civil reg
  7. ^ Thetford pp272-3


  • Jackson, J.J. British Civil Aircraft 1919-72: Volume II. London: Putnam and Company, 1973. ISBN 0-85177-813-5
  • Mason, Francis K. Hawker Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam & Company, 3rd revised edition 1991. ISBN 0-85177-839-9.
  • Thetford, Owen. Aircraft of the Royal Air Force 1919-57 1957. London: Putnam.
  • Hannah, Donald. Hawker FlyPast Reference Library. Stamford, Lincolnshire, UK: Key Publishing Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-946219-01-X.
  • James, Derek N. Hawker, an Aircraft Album No. 5. New York: Arco Publishing Company, 1973. ISBN 0-668-02699-5. (First published in the UK by Ian Allan in 1972.)

External links

  • British civil register
  • Shuttleworth Collection, Hawker Tomtit
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