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Anthony Fletcher

(1887 - 1950)

Anthony Archibald Fletcher was born in early 1887 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, the son of Archibald Henry John and Florence Emilie Fletcher. The family was originally from Bath and was to return there a few years later. Educated at Malvern College, ‘Tony’ Fletcher, as he was always known, graduated from Cambridge before becoming one of Frederick Handley Page's first apprentices in 1911. In 1914 he joined Martin and Handasyde as a design draughtsman. He was influential in the design of the Martinsyde S.1 and G.100 Elephant, before an argument with Handasyde caused him to leave and transfer to the London and Provincial Aviation Company Ltd. in 1915.

The London and Provincial Aviation Company was founded in September 1914 running a flying school at Hendon Aerodrome equipped with single seat Caudron biplanes, which it later built under license for use at the school. Fletcher's first design was the School Biplane which first flew in July 1916. On the company moving from Hendon to Colindale, Fletcher produced his next design, a low powered single seat training biplane. Manufacture progressed slowly and by October 1916 all work ceased, whereupon Fletcher resigned from the company.

Fletchers’ career is not recorded again until 1919, when he joined the Central Aircraft Company Limited at Kilburn, London, although at least one source [7] indicates he may have been at Whitehead during the intervening period. During his period with Central he was responsible for the Centaur series of aircraft, workmanlike if uninspiring designs.
In 1921 Fletcher went to Japan, presumably associated with British aeronaval technical mission led by Captain the Master of Sempill sent to Japan in September of that year. There, Fletcher gave the Japanese a course of instruction in aircraft design. He was established at the Naval Aircraft Factory at Yokosuka, and his method of instruction took the very practical form of designing and building several aeroplanes and seaplanes, the pupils following the design and construction step by step, and later on watched the performance of the machines. However, before he could complete his three years' agreement, the Great Kantō earthquake of Sept 1, 1923 devastated the area. Having lost all his possessions as well as his employment in the earthquake, Fletcher returned to England.

His first employment on returning was a something of a change of direction as he joined the Falcon Airscrew Co., of Holloway, London. At that time they were considered a major producer, but the business disappeared by the end of the decade, but before that ‘Tony’ Fletcher had again moved on. In 1925 Fletcher joined Westland in Yeovil. There he became part of a small group of enthusiasts in Westland’s design office who devoted their free time to the task of creating a racer. Eventually this design evolved into the Wizard. The redesign of the Widgeon in autumn 1926 into the Widgeon III was originally undertaken by Fletcher, but the design was, however, eventually taken over by Robert Bruce. This undoubtedly did not sit well with Fletcher and again he moved on.

T. A. Dennis, managing director of A.B.C.. Motors, Ltd., chiefly an aero engine firm, decided some to enter the field of aircraft construction so as to utilise to the full the engines already produced by the firm. In 1929 he secured the services of ‘Tony’ Fletcher as designer, and the result was the little A.B.C. Robin. However, despite high hopes, no production of the Robin ensued and A.B.C. returned to solely producing motors.

In March 1933, the Comper Aircraft Company Ltd moved to Heston Aerodrome near London and Fletcher joined as Technical Assistant, where he worked on the design of the Mouse and the later Streak. Unfortunately by August 1934 Comper had lost control of his own company, it folded and was liquidated. Fletcher was again without a job.
Fletcher’s career from this point to 1938 is uncertain, but a letter in Flight [9] concerning the Miles Peregrine, cosigned by him and A.A. Bage, implies he may have worked for Percival during that time.

In January 1938, Hordern-Richmond Aircraft opened a new factory at Chesham, the nucleus being the staff Lang Propellers, a company which had its works at Peterborough, and had been taken over by Hordern-Richmond on the demise of its parent Aeronca. Lang had been in the airscrew business since 1913. As designer, Hordern-Richmond Aircraft acquired the services of ‘Tony’ Fletcher, who, though previously and primarily concerned with aircraft as a whole, had always been particularly interested in the design of airscrews. Fletcher's basic idea was to design airscrews for maximum efficiency at a machine's cruising rather than maximum speed. It has been found in practice that by using this speed as, so to speak, the datum point, a considerable improvement could be obtained in the take-off, climb, and cruising performance, while the loss of speed at full throttle in level flights forms such a small percentage that it is of little importance except for racing purposes. During the war Fletcher-designed airscrews were used on Tiger Moths, Magisters arid Messengers, Auster IVs and VIs, and Oxfords.

Fletcher retired from Hordern-Richmond in late 1945 or early 1946, but his retirement was not to last long. He formed his own company, Fletcher Airscrews, a division of Philidas, Ltd, the locking nut manufactures and a division of Miles Aircraft, to design and manufacture wooden airscrews particularly on light aircraft types, with offices and factory at the Aerodrome, Reading. However, nothing more seems to have come of this.

Anthony Archibald Fletcher died in Surrey in 1950.

Biography References

  1. The Martinsyde File, Ray Sanger (Air Britain Publications, 1999)
  2. British Light Aeroplanes, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (GMS Enterprises, 2000)
  3. Westland Aircraft Since 1915, Derek N. James (Putnam, 1991)
  4. Air Enthusiast Magazine January/February 2000
  5. Flight Magazine Feb 28 1924
  6. Flight Magazine March 6, 1924
  7. Flight Magazine May 30, 1929
  8. Flight Magazine May 3, 1934
  9. Flight Magazine May 14, 1936
  10. Flight Magazine August 25, 1938
  11. Flight Magazine April 18, 1940
  12. Flight Magazine March 7, 1946
  13. Flight Magazine Aug 8, 1946

 

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