Hawker Tomtit (K1786) [@ Shuttleworth Collection]
Due to the success of the Avro 504 series the RAF had no requirement for a new trainer for twelve years after the end of WW1. The Tomtit was designed as a replacement and became the first Hawker biplane to enter service with the RAF. The Tomtit was one of the pace-setters in the change-over from wooden to metal construction, with a steel tube fuselage of a pattern that became the Hawker norm.
In 1929 Tomtits were issued to No.3 Flying Training School at Grantham and to the Central Flying School at Wittering. A Tomtit on the strength of No.24 (Communications) Squadron at Northolt was flown regularly by the then Prince of Wales. The type was withdrawn from service in 1935 and several were sold to civilian owners. Six Tomtits were flying at the outbreak of the WW2 and all became camouflaged but they were all kept on the civil register for use on communications duties.
K1786 was the last Hawker Tomtit to be built and is the only survivor! It was retired from the RAF service before WW2 and was registered as G-AFTA, during WW2 it was flown by Alex Henshaw of Spitfire fame. He used it to commute to the Spitfire production facilities at Castle Bromwich and had a headrest and Spitfire windscreen fitted to the Tomtit. After WW2, the Tomtit was used to tow gliders before being purchased by Hawkers chief test pilot, Neville Duke. During this period the Tomtit was a familiar participant in many races and air displays. It was then purchased by Hawker Aircraft in 1950 to form the Hawker House trio, with a Hurricane and Hart, and was painted in a smart dark blue and gold paint scheme. Hawkers donated the Tomtit to the Shuttleworth Collection in 1956 and in 1967 Hawker-Siddeley repainted the aircraft into its original service markings. Following a landing accident due to rough ground at Mildenhall in May 1985, there was considerable difficulty in obtaining the correct engine/propeller harmonisation. Several propellers were made and tested but were not suitable. However, Hoffman propellers from Germany designed a special high-rigidity propeller using composite woods and carbon-fibre. The Tomtit flew again on 25th June 1992.