The Aircraft Manufacturing Company Ltd. was established by George Holt Thomas (1869-1929), a great promoter of flying in Britain, engaging (for instance) Louis Paulhan for exhibition flights. In 1911 Holt Thomas acquired British rights for Farman airplanes, and early in 1912 formed the above-named company. Wishing to establish the firm's own design department he secured, in 1914, the services of Geoffrey (later Sir Geoffrey) de Havilland, who had already achieved success at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Hants. Centered at Hendon, London, the new company made several types of notable military aircraft, more generally known by the prefix D.H. than the strictly correct Airco. These were the D.H.1 and 1A two-seat pushers; D.H.3 and 3A twin-engined pushers; D.H.4 two-seat tractor (representing, as a fast day-bomber, one of the greatest aeronautical advances of the First World War); D.H.5 single-seat tractor with backward stagger; D.H.6 tractor trainer; D.H.9, an extensively developed D.H.4; D.H.9A, an even greater advance; D.H.10 and 10A, built in pusher and tractor forms (notably tractor); D.H.11 twin-engined bomber; and D.H.14 and 15 single-engined bombers.

Early civil transport types were D.H.16 and D.H.18. Other companies controlled by Airco built flying-boats, air engines and airships. After the war Holt Thomas founded Air Transport and Travel Ltd. and The Aircraft Manufacturing Co. was shut down, making way for de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd. Airco name was temporarily revived January 1958 for production of D.H.121 jet transport.

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