​​​​

Miles taught 'Blossom' to fly at Shoreham and they were later married.  'Blossom' was a very talented lady and she helped Miles in his next venture, which was to design the Satyr, a very small and highly aerobatic biplane. This was built by George Parnall & Co of Yate in Gloucestershire. In 1932, Miles met Charles Powis, a motor engineer from Reading, Berkshire, who had formed an aviation business nearby at Woodley.  During the course of conversation they agreed that what was really needed was a cheap but modern, light aeroplane for the private owner and aeroplane clubs.  The outcome of this discussion was to become the Miles M.2 Hawk, a low wing Cantilever monoplane of wooden construction, which would sell for the remarkably low price of £395.  The prototype Hawk was first flown, by F G Miles, from Woodley, on 29th March 1933. 

Miles M.2 Hawk Prototype                                              

Miles M.2H Hawk Major G-ADMW, Southampton 26 July 1959                                           

Courtesy: Jerry Hughes

A better precis of the story of Miles Aircraft than that written by Thurstan James in Aeropsace, when he reviewed Don Brown's book Miles Aircraft since 1925 (published by Putnam in 1970), would be hard to find. His views mirror mine so I, therefore, have much pleasure in reproducing this review below: 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 publications 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 II,  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 razor-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!
Miles then decided that he really ought to learn to fly, so he enlisted the help of Cecil Pashley to teach him in his Avro 504K. Having eventually obtained his "A" licence, Miles lost no time in persuading Pashley to help him to operate a joy riding business along the south coast.    
Following the acquisition of an Avro Baby biplane, a number of Avro 504K's and other assorted airframes, Miles then decided that the Baby could be suitably modified to make a really aerobatic, sporty, machine and this became the Southern Martlet. The aerobatic displays given by the Martlet at many major air meetings in the early 1930s created quite a sensation and the sixth and last Martlet to be built was for The Hon Mrs Inigo 'Blossom' Freeman-Thomas the Viscountess Ratendone. Just one Martlet survives to this day and this is owned and maintained in flying condition by The Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden in Bedfordshire.
Avro 504 G-EBJE at Easter Field, Cecil Pashley, centre, F.G. Miles on the right

Gnat Under Construction

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 designed and built his own aeroplane, which he called the Gnat. This was a diminutive 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.

A very brief history of Phillips & Powis Aircraft Ltd/Miles Aircraft Ltd, Woodley, Reading, Berkshire.

Scroll to the bottom of the page for suggestions on further reading


Jean Fostekew's biography of Maxine (Blossom) Miles, 1998. Available from the Museum of Berkshire Aviation at Woodley.

Kites, Birds & Stuff by P D Stemp 2011.

Poorly reviewed on Amazon, seemingly a scrapbook of recycled, previously published material, printed on poor quality paper. Two cover versions shown.

Miles Aircraft since 1925, Don L Brown, Putnam 1970. 

HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER


Further reading

The number of books about Miles aircraft is limited, we would recommend those below:-

Tommy Rose nonchalantly reading a newspaper before the start of the 1935 King’s Cup Air Race, in which he romped home in first place at 176.28 mph. For the record, The first, second and third places were gained by two Hawk Trainers and fifth place was gained by the sole M.3C Falcon Six at 167 mph.
In September 1947, however, things started to go seriously awry financially at Woodley, through, it must be said, no fault of the Directors of the Company, in the so-called ‘financial collapse’ of Miles Aircraft Ltd.  All the Directors were forced to resign and Miles lost control of the Company.  The goodwill, that had been steadily built up over the previous years was also lost, literally overnight.    
However, ever resilient, Miles bounced back and formed a new company at Redhill Aerodrome in December 1948. This he called F.G. Miles Ltd, and from there he started all over again, moving to larger premises to Shoreham in 1952. The wheel had turned the full circle to where he had begun 27 years before.  From this small beginning the business developed into a very successful number of specialist firms, which became known as the Miles Group of Companies but that, as they say, is another story.  Peter Amos November 2013

The successor company to F G Miles Ltd created by the takeover, in 1960, by Pressed Steel Ltd of both Miles and Auster, the former operated as Beagle Miles Ltd until 1962 when they were merged into Beagle Aircraft Ltd. The full story of the company is told in this 2015 book by Tom Wenham, published by Air Britain.

Miles Album, Rod Ward​, an overviews of Miles aircraft, 2012

The superb three volumes of Peter Amos's definitive history of Miles Aircraft published by Air Britain in 2009, 2012 and 2016 respectively, Will there be a Volume 4?

Order from www.air-britain.co.uk


Miles Aircraft, Rod Simpson (Archive photograhs), 1999.

Milstones by Don Brown, published by Miles, three volumes 1944, 1945 & 1946.

​Plus later reprints

A line up of brand new Miles Magisters at Woodley The first monoplane elementary trainer for the RAF.
In 1943, a most impressive list of the firm's laurels was published as shown below:  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 Air Race. 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
​These are our laurels but -
MILES AIRCRAFT LTD ARE NOT SATISFIED TO REST ON THEM!
With regard to his last paragraph, where indeed could you have found another company then - and certainly none now - whose Chairman and Managing Director, their Chief Designer and his Personal Assistant, could not only all design very advanced, innovative and practical aircraft, but who could also fly them as approved and highly qualified test pilots as well - nowhere.  

Winged Shell by Hugh Scanlan, now out of print, contains details of Miles Hawk Major G-ADCF used by Shell Aviation for research purposes. The book gives a fascinating account of the oil giant's aviation activities worldwide from the 1920s onwards.

Also available:

Miles Magister, GHR Johnson, Newark Air Museum 1970, also a second edition with revised survivors list.

Excellent.

The first Southern Martlet G-AAII                                                

Commissioned by Peter Amos and published in September 2016 by Crecy, Tony Buttler tells the true story of the Miles M.52 based on the information accumulated by TMAC.

Complementary to Peter's Volume 3 above.

Miles Magister, Michal Ovacik & Karel Susa 4+ Publications 2001. Aimed primarily at model aircraft builders.

Wings over Woodley, Julian C Temple 1987.

History of Woodley, P&P, Miles and the Adwest Group.

DON'T BE FOOLED IF YOU SEE THIS BOOK ON AMAZON. A SPURIOUS FAKE CONCOCTED WITH NO AUTHORITY.

The Book of Miles Aircraft, A H Lukins, 1943;  Second  Edition 1946. Hardback and Paperback. History of the Company, descriptions of the aircraft with 1/72 3-view plans. Second edition has Gemini and Aerovan added.

​ ​   F.G. Miles posing in front of Miles M.1 Satyr G-ABVG at Woodley