aircraft database
certified aircraft database

history and gallery
M 4 Merlin
M 5 Sparrowhawk
M 6 Hawcon
M 7 Nighthawk and M 16 Mentor
Whitney Straight & M11C
M 12 Mohawk
M 13 Hobby
M 14 Magister
M 17 Monarch
M 18
MM 28 Mercury
M 38 Messenger & M 48
M 65 Gemini & M 75 Aries


Miles aircraft history, performance and specifications

history
Peter Amos

The story of Miles Aircraft started at Shoreham, in the county of Sussex, in 1925, where, from very small beginnings, Mr. F.G. Miles, one of the sons of a laundry owner at nearby Portslade decided that his future was to be in aviation. He then decided to design and build his own aeroplane, which he called the Gnat. It was a small biplane and was built in the workshop of the laundry with the help of a few friends but it was destined never to be flown.

Miles then decided that he really ought to learn to fly, so he enlisted the help of the now legendary Cecil Pashley to teach him in his Avro 504K. Having obtained his 'A' licence, Miles lost no time in persuading Pashley to help him to operate a joy riding business along the south coast.

Miles then acquired an Avro Baby biplane, a number of Avro 504K's and other assorted airframes, and then decided that the Baby could be suitably modified to make a really aerobatic, sporty, aeroplane this became the Southern Martlet, one of which survives to this day in flying condition, at Old Warden with the Shuttleworth Trust.

His next venture, after he had met and married 'Blossom', was the Satyr, a very small and highly aerobatic biplane, which was built for him by George Parnall & Co. of Yate in Gloucestershire.

In 1932, Miles met Charles Powis, a motor engineer who had formed an aviation business, Phillips & Powis Aircraft (Reading) Ltd, in 1929, at Woodley, near Reading in Berkshire. During the course of conversation they agreed that what was really wanted was a cheap but modern, light aeroplane for the private owner and aeroplane clubs. By then MIles had decided that the way forward was with low wing, cantilever, monoplanes, to be built of wood and so the Miles Hawk was born - the prototype making its first flight, from Woodley, on 29th March 1933.

Thurstan James, who reviewed Don Brown's book 'Miles Aircraft since 1925', which was published by Putnam in 1970, for 'Aerospace'. His views are very similar to mine and a better precise of Miles Aircraft would be hard to find:

No phenomenon of British aircraft construction deserves closer study than the outburst of the Miles efflorescence in the twenty years between 1928 and 1948. In that time 47 different types of Miles aeroplane were flown and a total of 5,644 were built between 1929 and 1946. The story is told in this book. It tells how a young man (F.G.Miles) without training or money but blessed with unique talents and energy, coupled with those of his wife (Blossom), the aid of a gifted brother (George) and certain enthusiastic adherents (among whom the author of this book was one) revolutionised the look of British light aviation, grew big enough to go into partnership with Rolls-Royce and became a fully fledged member of the S.B.A.C.

The protagonists learnt to fly before they learnt to design. They test-flew their own aircraft.

It was a long time before Miles aircraft were built by a firm bearing that name. In the beginning was the Gnat Aero Company. This grew into Southern Aircraft Ltd. For what was perhaps the firm's finest hour it was known as Phillips and Powis Aircraft of Reading - Charles Powis of that company played no small part in the Miles story, more than appears in this book. As one of Putnam's pubilcaions devised to give maximum data about aircraft types and projects, this volume succeeds in full measure. Out of ninety separate types dealt with, half are projects - but what projects!

Outstanding was the Supersonic Project literally built round a Whittle turbine. DesIgned during the closing stages of World War lI, it had been ordered by the Government with the object of attaining the hitherto unbelievable speed of 1,000 mph. After the War ended, chicken-hearted Authority lost its nerve and cancelled the razer-winged projectile before completion so that the Americans, whom the same chicken Authority enabled to study the design, got there first.

Subsequent tests with the air-launched rocket-propelled models showed that the straight-winged Miles design could have achieved its goal. Its success full-scale might have altered the whole pattern of Britain's post war aircraft progress.


Another Miles design, two versions of which flew but was also rejected by Authority, was the remarkable Libellula tandem-wing concept. This promised much by virtue of its extended c.g. range between the trailing edge of the leading wing and the leading edge of the rear wing, though some people might find something worrying in the idea of a tandem-winged aircraft in a tightly banked turn. A design, which still has potentialities over twenty years later, is the Miles M.68 Boxcar with its mobile detachable container, able to be towed by road to the aerodrome and latched into place on the airframe.

The essential rightness of Miles designs is shown by the fact that though Miles Aircraft closed down in 1948, there were in 1969 still 59 Miles designs on the British Register. It seems designers who can build and test-fly their own designs have a certain something!

With regard to his last comment, where indeed could you have found another company then (and almost certainly none now), whose Chairman & Managing Director, Chief Designer and his assistant, could not only design and build a most remarkable range of very advanced, innovative and practical aircraft, but who were also qualified to test fly them as well.

In December 1948, Miles formed a new company. F.G. Miles Ltd, at Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey, and from there he started all over again. In 1952 he started to move back to Shoreham, where it had all begun 27 years previously, and from there, over the ensuing years, the business developed into the Miles Group of Companies - but that, as they say, is another story.

From an advertisement by Miles Aircraft Ltd, published in 1945:
HERE ARE SOME OF OUR PAST LAURELS

1933        Miles Hawk was FIRST modern aircraft to sell for under 400.

1934        FIRST manufacturer to fit split flaps as standard.

1935        FIRST, second and third in King's Cup.

1936        FIRST to introduce monoplane training in the R.A.F.

1937        Miles Kestrel trainer FASTEST in the world -  296 m.p.h.

1938        Miles Master wins LARGEST contract ever placed for a trainer.

1940        Miles M.20 was FIRST and only modern fighter to be built in 9 weeks.

1941        Miles M.28 was FIRST aeroplane to carry four people at 160 m.p.h.
                and over 20 m.p.g.

1942        Miles Libellula - MOST successful unorthodox aeroplane.

1943        We must not say, yet - but be assured that

MILES AIRCRAFT LTD.
ARE NOT SATISFIED TO REST ON THEM!