Michael John 'Mike' Lithgow, OBE (30th August 1920 22nd October 1963)

The above photo shows Mike, aged 19 at Gravesend, 1939

Mike mentions in his autobiography, 'Mach 1', that the only memorable event at Gravesend was spinning the Tiger Moth, which made him violently ill.
The above entry in Mike's logbook for July 6th 1939, confirms that he carried out his spinning exercise on N-5490.
Mike flew 14 different Tiger Moths at Gravesend, but often flew N-5490 with his instructor Pilot Officer Porter.

Mike Lithgow was born on 30 August 1920 and educated at Cheltenham College.  He joined the Fleet Air Arm in March 1939
and undertook his ab initio flying training at 20 ERFTS, Gravesend.

His wartime flying career was distinguished. Among other operations, Mike took part in the Fairey Swordfish attack on the Bismarck
which crippled the ship, enabling HMS Dorsetshire to sink her, finally avenging the sinking of HMS Hood.

Fairey Swordfishes of 820 Sqn attacking the Bismarck

The sinking of the Bismarck as reported by the Daily Mail, 28th May 1941

Lithgow retired from the Fleet Air Arm and moved to Vickers Supermarine as a test pilot in January 1946
and became the company's chief test pilot two years later.

On the 28th May, 1946, Lithgow acquired his civilian pilot's license number 21236 from the Royal Aero Club

Lithgow's father's pilot's RAeC license record dated 14th February 1913

Captain E. G. R. Lithgow's pilot's license record, dated 4th February 1913

Lithgow secured the 100 km closed-circuit record for Britain in 1948 at 565 mph in a Supermarine Attacker

On 26 September 1953, flying the Supermarine Swift F.4 prototype WK198, Lithgow broke the World Air Speed Record
near Tripoli in Libya, reaching a speed of 735.7 mph (1184 km/h).

Lithgow's FAI World Air Speed diploma

Lithgow published his autobiography in 1954, which was reviewed in Flight magazine, 5th November 1954

On Wednesday 24th November 1954, a Royal Aero Club dinner was held to honour Mike Lithgow and Sqn Ldr Neville Duke.
Lithgow's autograph can be seen at lower right.  Among the other autographs is John Cunningham.

Lithgow performed extensive test flying on the Supermarine Attacker, Swift, Scimitar and later the Vickers Vanguard and BAC 1-11.

Lithgow died test flying the prototype BAC One-Eleven G-ASHG from Wisley airfield on 22 October 1963 when,
during stall tests, the aircraft entered a deep stall and crashed near Chicklade, Wiltshire.
Six other BAC flight test team members were killed.

From Flight magazine, 31st October 1963

Return to the Pilots page

Click here to return to the top of the page