VISION

The Lakes Flying Company Limited, a registered charity, has been set up to celebrate and to inform the public concerning the importance of the innovative contributions made to the development of naval and civil marine aeroplanes by Captain Edward Wakefield and by Waterbird® at Windermere.

On 25 November 1911, Waterbird became the first aeroplane to successfully take off from and alight on water outside of France and the USA.

It was the world’s first successful flight to use a ‘stepped’ float, which Wakefield patented  after two years of considerable experiment.

THE CHARITABLE OBJECTS OF THE LAKES FLYING COMPANY LIMITED ARE to advance the education of the public by:-

  1. The establishment and maintenance of a heritage centre, that will tell the story of early powered seaplanes with the emphasis on the history of their early development and their activities in and around Windermere and the Lake District;
  2. The construction, displays and flights of an airworthy replica of Waterbird;
  3. Exhibiting the replica of Waterbird in perpetuity;
  4. Providing historical and technical information regarding the historical context and design of Waterbird.

THE REPLICA WATERBIRD

The replica Waterbird has so far flown as a landplane.

Work is now underway to convert the replica to a seaplane. You can view a photo of the build here.

The prestigious Phoenix Group Diploma for 2018 was awarded to Gerry Cooper and team for ‘their remarkable achievement in building a faithful replica of Waterbird’ by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale – the World Air Sports Federation.

ADOPT A PART SCHEME

We have established an Adopt a Part Scheme, full details of which are here.

QUOTES

‘The combined efforts of designers, aviators, ship and boat builders-turned aircraft manufacturers at Barrow and Windermere during 1908-1914 justify the area’s claim to be the birthplace of British naval and civil marine aviation.’ – Triplane to Typhoon by James H Longworth.

‘It was Captain Wakefield’s Waterbird which made the first successful flight in November 1911 and Windermere thus gave birth to the age of the seaplane.’ – The Great Age of Steam on Windermere by George H Pattinson.

‘The great tradition of innovation and successfully overcoming the severe and unique difficulties of operating aircraft on water all stemmed back to Waterbird and the pioneering designs and spirit that she represented.’ – Navy Wings

‘Edward Wakefield’s ideas were scorned, but he never lost faith in the hydro-aeroplane and Waterbird was a successful expression of that faith.’ – Historic Military Aircraft by J M Bruce.

‘I hope to have shown that in the dawn of flight there was, in another of Mr. Wakefield’s rapturous phrases concerning flight from water, ‘something that beckoned…’.’ – Aeromarine Origins by H F King.

WINDERMERE FIRSTS:-

July 1910. The first aeroplane floats with a step in the world were designed and tested by Oscar Gnosspelius, on Gnosspelius No. 1. – Statutory Declaration, 11 January 1915.

25 November 1911. Gnosspelius made the first successful take-off by a hydro-aeroplane outside of France and the USA, in Gnosspelius No. 2. – The Westmorland Gazette, 21 December 1911.

25 November 1911. Herbert Stanley Adams made the first successful take-off and landing by a hydro-aeroplane outside of France and the USA, in Waterbird. Waterbird ‘had the distinction of being the first successful British hydro-aeroplane’. – Flight magazine, 7 December 1912.

It was the first-ever flight with a stepped float, success being elusive until a second smaller step was added at the stern. – A History of British Waterplanes, Flying Boats, Seaplanes and Amphibians by Arthur W J G Ord-Hume.

14 February 1912. Gnosspelius made the first successful take-off and landing by a hydro-monoplane in Britain. – The Westmorland Gazette, 24 February 1912.

15 July 1912. Gertrude Bacon became the first woman in the world to be taken out as a passenger in a hydro-aeroplane, and the first passenger in a hydro-aeroplane to make a complete circuit of the lake, which lasted forty-two minutes, in Waterhen (Waterbird’s successor). – International Women in Science by Catharine M C Haines.

16 July 1912. Wakefield became the first person in the world to fly as a passenger in a hydro-monoplane, a Deperdussin; having been converted at Windermere from a landplane. – Letter to Wakefield from Charles Grey Editor of The Aeroplane magazine, 17 July 1912.

16 July 1912. Gertrude Bacon became the first woman in the world to fly as a passenger in a hydro-monoplane, the Deperdussin being tested for the Admiralty. It went 70 mph and took fifteen minutes to fly down the lake and up again. – International Women in Science by Catharine M C Haines.

12 September 1912. Wakefield obtained UK Patent No. 27,770 for the means of attaching a float to a hydro-aeroplane.

12 November 1912. Lieutenant John Trotter, the first pupil of the Lakes Flying Company, was granted Aviator’s Certificate No. 360, the first British Certificate with tests accomplished on a hydro-aeroplane.

28 January 1913. Wakefield accompanied the Royal Aero Club representatives, Roger Wallace and Harold Perrin, at an Extraordinary Conference of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale held in Paris, when the Hydro-aeroplane Certificate was established, and also the Schneider Trophy for an annual international seaplane contest was accepted and the rules passed. The tests for Hydro-aeroplane Certificates would be the same as those required for Aviators’ Certificates, subject to modification regarding alighting on water, but passing the tests on water now only qualified for water flights.

18 March 1913. Wakefield obtained UK Patent No. 27,771 for a stepped float for a hydro-aeroplane. After considerable experiment, he had combined features of construction in a novel way. – H Hatfield, Patents Judge.

12 June 1913. The only occasion when a Windermere-based hydro-aeroplane flew outside of the Lake District. Having been transported by traction engine, Waterhen was flown by Adams at Hornsea Mere for Hornsea Horse Show. Passengers were taken on flights at £2 a time. – Hull Daily Mail, 12 June 1913.

30 August 1913. The first British Hydro-aeroplane Certificate was awarded to Lakes Flying Company pupil James Bland, and also on 15 April 1914 the second Certificate to Oswald Lancaster.

13 November 1913. Wakefield obtained UK Patent No.18,051 for a float of a seaplane to support its own weight or the greater part of such weight during flight.

12 February 1914. Gnosspelius obtained UK Patent No.10,801 for a V-shaped float. This gave a sharper angle, reduced drag and was advantageous for structural reasons and for aerial considerations.

5 February 1915. Flying tuition by moonlight was a feature unique to the school. – Flight magazine.

20 May 1917. Two ex-pupils, Flight Sub-Lieutenants Charles Morrish and Henry Boswell, were officially credited with the first sinking of a U-boat by an RNAS aircraft, a Curtiss Large America flying boat. – The Royal Navy’s Air Service in the Great War by David Hobbs. Both were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Grateful acknowledgment is given to author Peter Connon, who was a Director/ Trustee of the Lakes Flying Company Ltd., without whom the story of these pilots would have been lost forever – he gave voice to their testimony.

Windermere: birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes

Want to find out more?

History

Waterbird Float

People

Places