The internationally recognised authority and writer on early aviation, Philip Jarrett, spoke to the Association on 14th October. This talk was based on the speaker’s lecture to the Royal Aeronautical Society Historical Group in April 2014 and covered the subject in great detail with copious illustrations, so only a summary can be presented here.
Howard Pixton, born in Manchester in December 1885, the son of a
stockbroker, was educated at Manchester Grammar School before taking up
an apprenticeship at the Simplex Engineering Co. and at the same time
studying at the Manchester School of Engineering. His first job in
aviation, in 1910, was with A V Roe at Brooklands where he learnt to
fly, gaining Royal Aero Club Certificate No 50, and became Roe’s test
and competition pilot and flying instructor.
In 1911 Pixton moved to the Bristol Co at Brooklands initially. He continued test and competition flying but also started Bristol’s flying school and demonstrated their aircraft at home and in Europe resulting in significant sales. In 1913 he joined Harry Hawker at the Sopwith Co at Brooklands and while Hawker was in Australia with his Tabloid on a sales tour took over his Sopwith test and competition flying work. In 1914 Sopwith decided to enter a Tabloid seaplane in the Schneider Trophy international seaplane race to be held at Mont Carlo. Pixton not only won the race easily in the 93 mph Tabloid at 86.7 mph but also set a new world speed record. This was the first international competition win by a British Aircraft and it had a seismic effect on British aviation.After more test and competition flying for Sopwith, Pixton joined the Aeronautical Inspection Department (AID), a new government civilian testing and inspection establishment at Farnborough, where he flight tested aircraft submitted by industry. He subsequently joined the Royal Flying Corps. continuing to test for the AID. This involved going to ‘aircraft acceptance parks’ and to manufacturers all over the country as well as being posted to Newcastle and Dublin.
By the end of the war in 1918 Pixton had flown some eighty types and accumulated 3500 flying hours. After the war he gave pleasure flights in Avro 504 seaplanes from lake Windermere and pioneered newspaper delivery flights to Douglas in the Isle of Man (IoM) for the Manchester Daily News. Howard Pixton retired to the IoM but did rejoin the AID in World War 2. He died age 86 in 1972 and is buried at Jurby, IoM.The vote of thanks for this fascinating lecture was given by David Hassard who had invited Phillip to talk to the Association.