Engineer and aircraft designer Charles Richard Fairey (1887-1956) left the firm of Short Brothers in 1915 to form the Fairey Aviation Co. Fairey’s main production facilities were established at Hayes in Middlesex, on part of the site of today’s London Heathrow airport. A second factory was established at Ringway in Manchester, now the site of Manchester Airport. Fairey began producing airplanes during World War I, including license-building the Sopwith Baby shipboard aircraft and developing the well-regarded Fairey III reconnaissance seaplane. Fairey continued to focus on naval aircraft after the First World War, but diversified into land-based planes for the RAF as well. Notable planes from between the wars included the Flycatcher carrier-based fighter, the beautiful Fox light bomber, and the Fairey Long-Range Monoplane which in 1933 set a world endurance record of 8,540 km for a non-stop flight from Britain to South Africa.
In the late 1930s, Fairey created the Swordfish carrier-based torpedo bomber which gained fame for its combat exploits in World War II, the Battle light bomber for the RAF, and during the war it produced the Albacore, Fulmar, Firefly and Barracuda carrier-based aircraft. Fairey followed these up with one successful postwar military airplane, the Gannet carrier strike aircraft, and the speed-record-setting Delta 2 jet research plane.
Like most of the great British airplane companies, Fairey was a victim of the UK government’s enforced consolidation of the aircraft industry in the 1950s and 60s, when its aviation unit was merged into Westland. The rest of what was by now a more diversified manufacturing company soldiered on until it went insolvent in 1977.