Folland Aircraft was a British airplane manufacturer founded in 1937 by a group of investors and named after Henry P. Folland, the company’s chief executive and chief designer, located at Hamble on England’s south coast. During World War II, Folland was a contract manufacturer producing parts of major aircraft designs. After the war, it created its one and only successful original design, the Folland Gnat. The Gnat was a basic military jet trainer whose design was focused on small size, economy and ease of maintenance. First flying on July 18, 1955, the Gnat served the Royal Air Force as its main primary trainer through 1979, and became famous as the mount of the RAF’s Red Arrows display team.
The Gnat also was adopted by Finland and India, which produced its own version as the Hindustan Ajeet (“unconquerable”). In Finnish and Indian service the Gnat/Ajeet doubled as a light attack aircraft as well as a trainer. Gnats saw combat in the 1965 and 1071 India-Pakistan wars, in which they were credited with destroying several Canadair Sabres of Pakistan’s air force.
Meanwhile in 1959, just as the Gnat was entering service, Folland was acquired by Hawker Siddeley, and Gnats are sometimes referred to as “Hawker Siddeley Gnats.”
Gnats have found their way into the hands of private enthusiasts where their ease of maintenance and high performance have made them favorites.
Gnat T.1 FL528
Built in 1963, this Gnat is now owned by the Spirit of Flight Foundation in Erie, Colorado, and registered N513X.