Peter Twiss

Peter Twiss was the first to fly faster than 1,000 mph
Peter Twiss was the first to fly faster than 1,000 mph
30 Battery 16 Regiment Royal Artillery lead the annual St Georges Day parade through Emsworth town centre. Picture Ian Hargreaves (180463-23)

IN PICTURES: St George’s Day parade in Emsworth

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THE first man to fly faster than 1,000mph has died aged 90.

The family of Peter Twiss have paid tribute to a man who lived for speed and was a ‘unique character’.

Mr Twiss entered the record books on March 10, 1956, when he flew the Fairey Delta 2, a supersonic delta-winged research plane, as pictured below, over West Sussex at 1,132mph.

He smashed the previous record by more than 300mph.

He lived in South Street in Titchfield for more than 40 years.

His widow Jane Twiss said: ‘He was a very quiet and unassuming gentleman for someone who had achieved so much – he was a private person. Only those who were close to him got to know what he was really like.

‘He was a very kind man.’

Daughter Sarah Koukoura said: ‘He was a unique character, and he had a great sense of humour, very dry.’

Astonishingly, in light of what would follow, Mr Twiss was rejected by the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot. But when the Second World War broke out, he was accepted as a Naval Airman Second Class, and started at HMS Vincent in Gosport.

He was soon flying missions with the Malta convoys and over North Africa, earning the Distinguished Service Cross and later a Bar.

He flew long-range operations into Germany and developed night fighter tactics. By the end of the war he was a Lieutenant Commander.

In 1946, he joined Fairey Aviation as a test pilot, flying dozens of types of aircraft.

In 1960 he joined Fairey Marine where he was responsible for the development and sales of day-cruisers

‘He decided after leaving the navy that he didn’t want to become a commercial pilot because that would be a bit boring for him – he said it would be like driving a bus, which is why he followed the marine side,’ Mrs Twiss said.

‘He was definitely a man of speed – the power boating side he really did enjoy.’

During this period he developed a career in powerboat racing.

He appeared in Bond movie From Russia With Love in one of his company’s speedboats.

But for someone so devoted to speed, his favourite car was his Mini.

‘He only changed it when his boss decided it didn’t suit his image,’ Mrs Twiss recalled.

In his later years, Mr Twiss joined the Lasham Gliding Society, near Alton, where he taught on a voluntary basis and remained active until well into his 80s.

He also wrote Faster Than the Sun, detailing his exploits and the record-breaking flight.

Mr Twiss died suddenly on Wednesday.

n Lionel Peter Twiss, DSC and Bar, OBE. Born on July 23, 1921, died on August 31, 2011.