A 1903 graduate of the Crystal Palace School of Engineering, he initially pursued a career in the fledgling automotive industry building cars and motorcycles. He worked for several engine manufacturers wherein he designed his first aircraft engine. After marrying in 1909, he began his life-long career of designing, building and flying aircraft.
The first aircraft that he designed crashed during its first flight. As history would show, his subsequent designs were considerably more successful. His second airplane became the first to be honored with a Royal Aircraft Factory distinction. An aircraft he designed set a new British altitude record of 10,500 feet (3,203 meters) in 1912. Aircraft he designed for other manufacturers before and during World War I were flown by the Royal Flying Corp and later by the Royal Air Force.
In 1920, he formed the innovative aircraft design and manufacturing company outside London that bore his name for decades. For the next 40 years, he and his company designed highly successful military and civilian aircraft, many of which are still flown today. One of his World War II aircraft was made almost entirely of wood and is considered the most versatile military aircraft ever. His company designed and produced the world’s first commercial jetliner. Subsidiaries were established in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. He controlled the company until selling it to another world-renowned aircraft manufacturer in 1960. He continued flying until age 70.
The many awards received during his lifetime included the Order of the British Empire and the Air Force Cross. He was knighted by King George VI in 1944.
Two of his cousins were world-famous Hollywood movie stars in the 1930s and 1940s, one of whom shared his last name and played a key character in one of the world’s most popular movies.
His wooden military aircraft was the world-famous Mosquito. His first jetliner was the Comet. The aircraft manufacturer he sold his company to in 1960 was Hawker Siddeley. His subsidiaries eventually became part of Boeing, Bombardier, Hawker Siddeley, Viking Air, and British Aerospace. His movie-star cousins were Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland. The latter played Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind.
He was Sir Geoffrey de Havilland (1882 - 1965).