Miles Aircraft

Miles Aircraft Ltd
Industry Aviation
Fate aviation interests taken on by Handley Page
Successor F.G.Miles Ltd / Handley Page Reading Ltd / Western Manufacturing Ltd
Founded 1930s (as Phillips & Powis Aircraft)
Defunct 1947
Headquarters Woodley, Berkshire, UK
Key people
Fred, Blossom & George Miles [1] Test pilots included Thomas Rose and Ken Waller.
Products Aircraft, photocopiers, book binding equipment, fasteners (self locking nuts), actuators

Miles was the name used to market the aircraft of British engineer Frederick George Miles, who with his wife (Blossom) and his brother, George Herbert Miles designed numerous light civil and military aircraft and a range of curious prototypes. The name "Miles" is associated with two distinct companies that Miles was involved in, and is also affiliated with several designs produced before there was a company trading under the Miles name.


Miles Aircraft Limited

The M.30 'X Minor' flying aerodynamics testbed

The original company was founded by Charles Powis and Jack Phillips as Phillips & Powis Aircraft after meeting Fred Miles. The company was based on Woodley Aerodrome in Woodley, near the town of Reading and in the county of Berkshire.

In 1936, Rolls-Royce bought into the company and although aircraft were produced under the Miles name, it was not until 1943 that the firm became Miles Aircraft Limited when Rolls-Royce's interests were bought out.

The company needed to increase production of the Miles Messenger and in doing so they took over a former Linen Mill in Banbridge, County Down, Northern Ireland for the production of components of the aircraft. A hangar at RAF Long Kesh was used for assembly of the aircraft and flight testing was carried out at the airfield. The company moved to Newtownards following the end of the war in 1946.

The company opened the Miles Aeronautical Technical School in 1943 under the directorship of Maxine (Blossom) Miles[2] The school had a "Headmaster", Walter Evans.[3]


In 1947, the company entered receivership following bankruptcy proceedings instigated by Titanine Ltd. in the High Court. Titanine supplied Miles with aviation coatings used in the production of the Miles Gemini aircraft, in the Chancery Division.[4] Mr. Justice Wynn-Parry adjourned the petition of Titanine Ltd., for the winding up of Miles Aircraft Ltd., until 19 January 1948, on the grounds that the company had showed prima facie reasons for not yet having formulated a reorganization scheme. The petitioners, creditors for £5,837, were supported by other creditors for £62,000 and opposed by creditors for £200,000. An affidavit put into court showed that subject to audit, a loss of £630,000 had been incurred on 31 October 1947, but that a rescue plan could not be drawn up until the audit was completed. The principal trade creditors were: Blackburn Aircraft Ltd., De La Rue Extrusions Ltd., Smiths Aircraft Instruments Ltd. and the Sperry Gyroscope Co. Ltd. Mr. F. G. Miles announced the payment of the 4% per cent preference dividends out of his own resources of £8,600. After Miles Aircraft had been taken over by financiers in 1947, the design and manufacture of aircraft was ended by the new Board. At this time the company had some £5 million worth of business in hand, including substantial orders for the Messenger and the Gemini.

In 1948 an application by the Board of Trade for the appointment of an inspector to investigate the affairs of Miles Aircraft Ltd., was granted by Mr. Justice Roxburgh. The B.O.T. case was that when a prospectus was issued in March, 1947 (before the accounts for 1946 were published), the directors should reasonably have been expected to know that all was not well with the company, and when, in August, 1947, a dividend of 7% per cent and a bonus of 24% were recommended, they should reasonably have been expected to know that a big loss was being suffered by the company as reported in the Board of Trade Inquiry.[5][6][7]

Charges were brought against Sir William Malcolm Mount and F. G. Miles. They were 24 charges regarding publication of a Miles Aircraft Ltd prospectus with "false and reckless statements". The trial began on 10 May 1950 of at the Old Bailey.[8] After 17 days of sitting, the jury stopped the case against Miles and Sir William, and they were discharged. They had appeared on charges of inducing people to acquire shares in the company by making a misleading forecast and dishonestly concealing a material fact in a prospectus. According to Flight, "Twenty of the original 24 counts were thrown out before the defence was reached. The prosecution alleged that the defendants gave a misleading forecast that for 1947 the profit covering the production of aircraft would have been £75,000, whereas there was a substantial loss. It was alleged that they recklessly made the misleading statement that the company had orders on hand which were sufficient to ensure production for the following two years, and that they dishonestly concealed the fact that a profit for the manufacture of aircraft in 1947 was unlikely." Both men said that they believed every word of the prospectus was true. After the acquittal, an application for costs for £20,000 was disallowed.[9]

The aviation assets were purchased by Handley Page as Handley Page Reading Ltd. Handley Page produced the Miles-designed M.60 Marathon as the H.P.R.1 Marathon. The Miles Aeronautical Technical School was taken over by the Reading Technical College. Other products in which Miles had interests, such as photocopiers became Copycat Ltd, which was acquired by the Nashua Corporation in 1963. The Philidas locking nut unit became an independent company.[10] The bookbinding machinery and actuator production were taken over by a specifically formed company, the Western Manufacturing Estate Ltd, the name "Western" referring to its location on the Woodley aerodrome.[11] This company later merged with the Adamant Engineering Company Ltd. to form the Adwest Group. Miles also manufactured ballpoint pens designed by László Bíró through an associated company, the Miles Martin Pen Co. Ltd.

F. G. Miles Limited

In 1948, Frederick Miles founded F. G. Miles Limited, which continued to produce aircraft under the Miles name. The company was based on two sites, Redhill Aerodrome and Shoreham Aerodrome. In 1961, the aviation interests were merged with Auster Aircraft Limited into British Executive and General Aviation Limited (Beagle Aircraft), initially as Beagle-Miles Ltd. with George Miles as Chief Designer and Technical Director.[12]

The company adopted a group structure with subsidiary companies as follows:- Meridian Airmaps Ltd (whose collection of aerial photographs forms part of the English Heritage Archive,[13]), Miles Development Products Ltd., Miles Electronics Ltd., Miles Marine & Structural Plastics Ltd. and Jet Tanks Ltd.. The group was initially based at Redhill, but moved to Shoreham in 1953,[14] and Marketad Ltd.[15]

Miles Electronics was involved in the manufacture of flight simulators, this division merged with the UK arm of the Link Trainer flight simulator company and was later acquired by the Singer Corporation. In 1975 Hunting Associated Industries acquired a controlling interest in F. G. Miles Engineering and all its subsidiaries. The company was renamed Hunting Hivolt and Jeremy Miles, the son of Fred Miles (who founded the firm), became a non-executive director on the board.[16] Other companies included:- Miles HiVolt Ltd. and Miles-Dufon Ltd. (this company went into administration on 15 April 1980)

Design work between F. G. Miles Ltd., and the French company, Hurel-Dubois, resulted in the HDM.105, basically, a standard Miles Aerovan fitted with an Hurel-Dubois high-aspect-ratio wing. This work led to the Hurel-Dubois HD.34 and the Short Brothers Skyvan series of aircraft.

Aircraft designs

Miles Master trainer in flight during the Second World War.
M38 Miles Messenger G-AKBN photographed circa 1951

Their aircraft include the Hawk Trainer and its military variant, the Magister, as well as the Messenger and the Gemini. During the Second World War, they produced the Master advanced trainer, as well as the Martinet and Monitor target tugs.

The aircraft designed by Miles were often technologically and aerodynamically advanced for their time; the M.20 emergency production fighter prototype outperformed contemporary Hawker Hurricanes, despite having fixed landing gear. The X Minor was a flying testbed for blended wing-fuselage designs, although the large commercial transport intended to be produced from this research never entered production. The gigantic Miles X Airliner was to seat 55 and have eight engines buried in the wing, driving four sets of contra-rotating props and achieve a range of 3,450 miles.[17]

The Miles Libellula were tandem-wing designs for a fighter and a bomber. Having two wings, one each end of the aircraft, movements of the centre of gravity due to fuel or ammunition use were less of a problem.

The Miles M.52 was a turbojet powered supersonic research aircraft project that was cancelled before completion.


The following table lists the company number, name, year of first flight and number produced of all Miles aircraft.

Company number Name Year Produced Type of aircraft
Southern Martlet 1929 6
Metal Martlet 1930 1
M.2Hawk193355 two-seat light monoplane
M.2F-THawk Major 1934 64 Hawk successor with de Havilland Gipsy Major engine
M.2E,L,U Hawk Speed Six 1934 3 racing version of Hawk Major with de Havilland Gipsy Six engine
M.2W,X,YHawk Trainer25 Two-seat touring and racing monoplane
M.3AFalcon Major193419
M.3BFalcon Six193517
M.3EGillette Falcon19441 Modified M.3B Research for the supersonic M.52
M.9AMaster I1939900 advanced trainer
M.11Whitney Straight193650
M.14 Magister 1937 1,293 basic military trainer
M.14 Hawk Trainer III 1937 52 Magister for civil and export sales
M.15M.1519392 Air Ministry Specification T.1/37
M.16Mentor 1938 45 three-seat training and communications monoplane
M.19Master II19391,699 advanced trainer
M.20M20/219402 prototype low-cost fighter
M.22A design only designed to F.18/40 specification for a turret-equipped night-fighter
M.24Master Fighter 1940 26 emergency conversion of trainer design to fighter, retrospectively numbered M.24[18]
M.25Martinet19431,724 target tug
M.26 "X"0 planned 55-seat trans-Atlantic airliner
M.27Master III1940602
M.28Mercury19416 training or communications
M.30X Minor19421 small-scale prototype for Miles X airline design
M.33Monitor194422 twin-engined target tug
M.35M.35 Libellula19421 tandem-wing design fighter
M.37Martinet Trainer19462 two-seat trainer
M.38Messenger194280 Liaison and private owner aircraft
M.39BM.39B Libellula19431 scale aircraft of tandem-wing M.39 fast bomber design
M.42 and M.43 not built designs tendered for an "Army Direct Support Aircraft" (i.e. a ground attack aircraft). Both tandem wing, one with twin Merlin, other with single Griffon engine.[19]
M.44 not built another design for the ground attack specification, conventional design with twin Merlins[20]
M.48Messenger Development19451
M.52 M.52 0 supersonic research aircraft design
M.50Queen Martinet 1944 65 unmanned target drone version of Martinet
M.57Aerovan194548 STOL transport
M.60Marathon I194542 civil airliner design – would become Handley Page Marathon
M.63B not built Tandem wing jet mailplane[21]
M.65Gemini1945170 private small aircraft
M.68Boxcar19471 transport with detachable cargo container
M.69Marathon II 1949 1 Mamba turboprop powered project
M.71 Merchantman 1947 1 4-engined development of Aerovan layout
M.75 Aries 1951 2 development of Gemini with more powerful engines
M.76 M.76 1953 1 development of 2-seat glider for the British Gliding Association
M.105 H.D.M.105 1957 1 aerovan conversion with Hurel Dubois wing


See also



  1. "Blossom." Retrieved: 2 August 2012.
  2. "Miles Aeronautical Technical School." Flight, 18 April 1946, p. 398. Retrieved: 24 April 2012.
  3. "Miles Aircraft School Issue Title Is Pathe ... 1947." 24 April 2012.
  4. "Gemini." Flight, 1947. Retrieved: 24 April 2012.
  5. "Miles Aircraft." Flight, 13 May 1948.
  6. "Miles Aircraft Ltd: alleged issue of false and misleading prospectus: 1947-1950 Reference: MEPO 3/2875." The National Archives (United Kingdom) records.
  7. "Miles Aircraft, Limited: HC Deb, vol. 447, cc298-9W." Hansard, 23 February 1948.
  8. "Gemini." Flight, 1947. Retrieved: 24 April 2012.
  9. "Miles Case Acquittals." Flight, 8 June 1950 p654 Retrieved: 29 April 2012.
  10. "Philidas." Retrieved: 2 August 2012.
  11. "Actuator." Flight, 2 August 1945. Retrieved: 24 April 2012.
  12. Masefield, Peter. "The Beagles are Coming.", 23 March 1961. Retrieved: 1 January 2010.
  13. "Aerial photographs." Retrieved: 24 April 2012.
  14. "New Miles Directors .", 8 May 1953. Retrieved: 1 January 2010.
  15. "Royal Visitor to Shoreham.", 30 May 1958. Retrieved: 1 January 2010.
  16. Flight International, 27 November 1975.
  17. "Eight-engine, 55-seat plane to have a 3,450-mile range." Popular Science, August 1944, p. 38.
  18. "British Aircraft of World War II – Miles Master." Retrieved: 1 January 2010.
  19. Buttler 2004, pp. 67,71.
  20. Buttler 2004, p. 71.
  21. "Jet Mail Project." Flight, 16 May 1946, p. 492.
  22. Flight Trials of a Rocket-propelled Transonic Research model: The R.A.E.-Vickers Rocket Model. London: HMSO, 1954.


  • Amos, Peter. Miles Aircraft – The Early Years: The Story of F G Miles and his Aeroplanes, 1925–1939. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, 2009. ISBN 978-0-85130-410-6.
  • Amos, Peter. Miles Aircraft - The Wartime Years, 1939 to 1945. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, 2012. ISBN 978-0-85130-430-4.
  • Brown, Don Lambert. Miles Aircraft Since 1925. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1970. ISBN 0-370-00127-3.
  • Brown, Capt. Eric. "Miles M.52 - Gateway to Supersonic Flight". Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7524-7014-6
  • Buttler, Tony. Secret Projects: British Fighters and Bombers 1935 -1950 (British Secret Projects 3). Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-85780-179-2.
  • Temple, Julian C. Wings Over Woodley – The Story of Miles Aircraft and the Adwest Group. Bourne End, Bucks, UK: Aston Publications, 1987. ISBN 0-946627-12-6.

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