It is thanks to Sir George White that Bristol has such a rich aviation heritage and an aerospace industry that continues to this day. His initial interest in flight may have been kindled as early as February 1904 when the Bristol Daily Mercury printed an image captioned “The Aerostat in mid-air”.
Later, Sir George witnessed the Wright Brothers flying and in August 1909 he was said to have attended the Rheims Air Meet. On February 19th 1910, when all his plans were in place, Sir George announced the formation of his aviation company: the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company (later the Bristol Aeroplane Company), setting up a production line in two bus sheds in Filton. Within a few months, the factory was building the Bristol biplane known as the Boxkite. Sir George continued to expand the business and, since then, there has been over 100 years of continuous aerospace production in Filton.
While he could not claim to have been an early pioneer of flight in Great Britain, Sir George did pioneer the aircraft industry, being the first to set up a large-scale manufactory with a substantial financial base.
Born and raised in Bristol, Sir George made his money through sheer determination and hard work, but returned much of it to the city through an admirable range of philanthropic activities, including support of Bristol Royal Infirmary.
Sir George’s life will be celebrated by Aerospace Bristol, the new industrial heritage museum due to open in Filton in summer 2017. Aerospace Bristol will mark the occasion by welcoming Sir George’s great grandson, also named Sir George White, who has recently accepted the chairman’s and trustees’ invitation to be a Vice Patron of the museum. Together with Aerospace Bristol’s young volunteers, who are currently restoring a wing for exhibition, they will explore the early records of Bristol's world-class aerospace industry and look ahead to the next 100 years of aerospace engineering.
Sir George will travel to St Mary Magdalene Church in Stoke Bishop, driving a 1903 Panhard-Levassor that has been passed down through the family since 1903, and lay a wreath in memory of his great grandfather. Meanwhile, a procession of vintage Bristol buses will make their way through the city as a tribute to the Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company chairman.