The Man Who Built the Swordfish: The Life of Sir Richard Fairey, 1887-1956

The Man Who Built the Swordfish: The Life of Sir Richard Fairey, 1887-1956

by Adrian Smith


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Sir Richard Fairey was one of the great aviation innovators of the twentieth century. His career as a plane maker stretched from the Edwardian period to the jet age - he lived long enough to see one of his aircraft be the first to break the 1000mph barrier; and at least one of his designs, the Swordfish, holds iconic status. A qualified engineer, party to the design, development, and construction of the Royal Navy's state-of-the-art sea planes, Sir Richard founded Fairey Aviation at the Admiralty's behest in 1915. His company survived post-war retrenchment to become one of Britain's largest aircraft manufacturers. The firm built a succession of front-line aircraft for the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm, including the iconic Swordfish. In addition, Fairey Aviation designed and built several cutting-edge experimental aircraft, including long-distance record-breakers between the wars and the stunningly beautiful Delta 2, which broke the world speed record on the eve of Sir Richard's death in 1956. Fairey also came to hold a privileged position in the British elite - courting politicians and policymakers. He became a figurehead of the British aviation industry and his successful running of the British Air Commission earned him a knighthood. A key player at a pivotal moment, Fairey's life tells us much about the exercise of power in early twentieth-century Britain and provides an insight into the nature of the British aviation manufacturing industry at its wartime peak and on the cusp of its twilight years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781788313360
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 06/30/2018
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Adrian Smith is Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the University of Southampton, and previously taught at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the University of Kent. An established author, broadcaster and jourbanalist in the fields of modern British political, social and cultural history, his books include Mountbatten Apprentice War Lord and The City of Coventry: A Twentieth Century Icon (both I.B. Tauris), Mick Mannock, Fighter Pilot: Myth, Life and Politics and The New Statesman: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-1931. In researching and writing The Man Who Built The Swordfish he worked closely with the family of Sir Richard Fairey and the National Museum of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Table of Contents

List of Plates ix

Foreword and Acknowledgements xi

List of Acronyms xxi

Chapter 1 Early Life 1

Chapter 2 Aviation Apprenticeship 27

Chapter 3 World War I and the Founding of Fairey Aviation 51

Chapter 4 Great War and Great Expectations 77

Chapter 5 Twenties Bust and Boom 111

Chapter 6 Into the Thirties, 'This Age of Crooners and Safety First' 147

Chapter 7 Through the Thirties, That 'Low Dishonest Decade' 183

Chapter 8 Wartime in Washington - the British Air Commission 221

Chapter 9 Charging to an End, at Supersonic Speed, 1946-56 271

Chapter 10 Conclusion 305

Appendix: My Father, Sir Richard Fairey 321

Notes 327

Bibliography and Filmography 411

Index 427

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