The life and achievements of aviator Howard Pixton were celebrated at a reception at Government House attended by his daughter recently.
The reception, hosted by the island’s Lieutenant Governor Adam Wood, was also to acknowledge the importance of the aviation industry in the Isle of Man today.
In addition to Stella Pixton, there were representatives from many companies in the aeronautical industry, including GE Aviation, Ronaldsway Aircraft Complany, Swagelock and many more.
The occasion also marks the centenary of Howard Pixton’s winning the Schneider Trophy, which was considered an outstandingevent in the history of British aviation.
Speaking of her father, Stella, who owns Jurby Junk, said: ‘He really was a pioneer aviator. He was Britain’s first test pilot and he was the first man to work with AV Roe who was building tri-planes at Brooklands in 1910.
‘These were the very early days of experimental flying.
‘My father spent a lot of time managing his affairs while AV Roe was designing. Later on, he moved to a new company, called Bristol, owned by Sir George White who had made money converting horse trams over to electric operation across the country. During 1911 to 1913 my father worked demonstrating machines to various heads of state in Europe.’
After working there for a time, Howard Pixton left the Bristol aeroplane company and went to work for Tommy Sopwith, who was based at Kingston-on-Thames, and built sea planes.
‘Tommy Sopwith decided he wanted to enter the Schneider Trophy, which was an aeroplane race in Monaco,’ Stella said. ‘He converted a Sopwith Tabloid so it could be used as a seaplane and my father tested it on the Thames. Then it was sent to Monaco where the race took place over 28 laps, and my father won.
‘It was a dangerous job and many of my father’s friends were killed because it was all experimental. They all thought they were going to be next.
She said for the first time Britain was seen as a leading light in the embrionic aviation industry, but sadly the achievement was somewhat eclipsed by the outbreak of World War One just three months later.
Howard Pixton died in 1972 and is buried at Jurby church.
During the reception Stella presented a book about her father to Mr Wood, who also received a set of commemorative stamps.
‘I wrote the book – Howard Pixton, test pilot and pioneer aviator – in the first person so it’s ghost written by me,’ she said.
The Schneider Trophy was designed to promote advances in design and technology for civil aircraft but military aircraft like the Spitfire and Mustang have also benefited from aerodynamic developments and advances in engine technology. The race took place from 1913 to 1931