Aviation pioneer Sir Thomas Sopwith, the adventure-loving creator of the famed World War I Sopwith Camel and Pup airplanes, died Friday, his son said. He was 101.

Sopwith, who taught himself to fly in 1910 and began designing airplanes at age 26, died before dawn at his 19th century manor home near Winchester in southern England, his son Thomas said. "Really he died of old age, but he'd had a marvelous (life)."An accomplished race car driver and yachtsman before he discovered his passion for airplanes, Sopwith set several early flying records.

"We had a lot of crashes in those days, but, bless you, it was fun," he recalled on his 100th birthday.