Michael John "Mike" Lithgow, OBE (30 August 1920 – 22 October 1963) was a British aviator and chief test pilot for Vickers Supermarine who became the holder of the World Absolute Air Speed Record in 1953 flying a Supermarine Swift. He died when the prototype BAC One-Eleven airliner crashed in 1963.

Michael John "Mike" Lithgow
Lithgow beside the new Vickers Supermarine 508 twin jet experimental naval fighter. 24 May 1952
Born(1920-08-20)20 August 1920
Died22 October 1963(1963-10-22) (aged 43)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1939-1945
RankLieutenant Commander
Battles/warsWorld War II

Early lifeEdit

Mike Lithgow was born on 30 August 1920 and educated at Cheltenham College.

Second World WarEdit

Joined Fleet Air Arm March 1939-December 1945
Lieutenant Commander HMS Ark Royal Flew Swordfish torpedo bombers, was one of the pilots attacking the Bismarck[1]

Test PilotEdit

World Air Speed Record diploma

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

In September 1946 he took part in the Lympne high speed air race, flying a Supermarine Seafang, competing against Bill Humble in a Hawker Fury, Geoffrey de Havilland in a D.H. Vampire and G.H Pike in a D.H Hornet[2]

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). He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club and the Geoffrey de Havilland Trophy in 1953[3]

He did extensive test flying on the Supermarine Attacker, Swift, Scimitar and later the Vickers Vanguard and BAC 1-11.[3]

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 too.[3]




  • Autobiography: Mach One. (Oct 1954). Allan Wingate Ltd. ASIN: B0000CIZSW
  • Editor: Vapour Trails. (1956). Allan Wingate Ltd. ASIN: B0000CJFFQ
  • "World's Fastest Air Race". Flight: 236. 5 September 1946.
  • "The One-Eleven Accident". Flight International: 708–709. 31 October 1963.

External linksEdit