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®.   

On 25 November 1911, at Windermere, 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 was patented by Wakefield 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, and
  4. Providing historical and technical information regarding the historical context and design of Waterbird.


The replica Waterbird has so far flown as a landplane.

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



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


‘The combined efforts of designers, aviators, ship and boat builders-turned aircraft manufacturers at Barrow-in-Furness 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 J 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 G H Pattinson.

‘The first person in the British Empire to make true flights from water was Herbert Stanley Adams in Waterbird, on 25 November 1911.’ – Pioneer Aircraft: Early Aviation before 1914 by P Jarrett.

‘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.

By way of an introduction to the book Aeromarine Origins, H F King, MBE formerly editor of Flight magazine, chose 4 quotations. From Sir George Cayley in 1809, Lawrence Hargrave in 1902, Dayton Daily News in 1907 and from Wakefield in 1912 when he described Waterbird:

‘… like a fine bird, between water and sky in the changing lights.’

And also within the text of this book:

‘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 …’.’

‘Bristol school or Wakefield hydro-aeroplane school to train those pilots that cannot be received at Eastchurch at present. … Order two non-rigid airships to be built by Messrs. Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness’. – A paper on The Development of Naval Aeroplanes and Airships by Rear-Admiral (later Admiral Sir) Ernest Troubridge, 23 January 1912.

‘I believe that scouting by hydro-aeroplane will shortly become a necessity for the safety of this island. I can now offer a successful British hydro-aeroplane, to adapt it for use on the sea, for carrying an observer, a wireless installation etc.’ – Letter by Wakefield to The Times, 11 January 1912.

On 16 April 1912, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, confirmed in the House of Commons that ‘arrangements are being entered into for the conversion of aeroplanes into hydroplanes by a private contractor at Windermere. The present intention, so long as his works are at Windermere, is to carry out preliminary tests on the lake.’

On 26 October 1913, Churchill circulated a Minute on the Admiralty’s air policy recommending three types of new aeroplane: ‘an overseas fighting seaplane, to operate from a ship as base, a scouting seaplane, to work with the fleet at sea and a home-service fighting aeroplane, to repel enemy aircraft’.


  • 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 1913.
  • 25 November 1911. Gnosspelius made the second successful take-off by a hydro-aeroplane outside of France and the USA/ the second-ever successful take-off with a stepped float/ the first successful take-off at Windermere, 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/ the first successful take-off and landing at Windermere, in Waterbird. – Kendal Mercury and Times, 1 December 1911.
  • It was ‘the first-ever flight with a stepped float’. – A History of British Waterplanes, Flying Boats, Seaplanes and Amphibians by A W J G Ord-Hume.
  • 20 January 1912. Lieutenant Arthur Longmore became the first member of the Royal Navy to successfully take off and land a floatplane/ the first member of the Royal Navy to fly at Windermere/ the only person other than Adams to fly Waterbird, when he test-flew Waterbird for the Admiralty, his arrival having been kept a secret – he became Air Chief Marshal Sir. On 11 November 1916, Flight Sub-Lieutenant William Dickson began his pilot training at Windermere – he became Marshal of the RAF Sir.
  • 14 February 1912. Gnosspelius made the first successful take-off and landing by a hydro-monoplane in Britain/ the first person at Windermere to design and fly a hydro-aeroplane, in Gnosspelius No. 2. – The Westmorland Gazette, 24 February 1912.
  • 3 May 1912. The first passenger to fly at Windermere was Wakefield in Waterhen (Waterbird’s successor). – Flight magazine, 11 May 1912. By the end of 1912, more than 100 fare-paying passengers had been carried in over 250 flights.
  • 15 July 1912. Gertrude Bacon became the first woman in the world to be taken out as a passenger in a hydro-aeroplane/ the first passenger in a hydro-aeroplane to make a complete circuit of the lake, in Waterhen. – International Women in Science by C M C Haines.
  • 16 July 1912. Wakefield became the first person in the world to fly as a passenger in a hydro-monoplane, an Admiralty Deperdussin; having been converted at Windermere from a landplane in compliance with an Agreement which was subject to the Official Secrets Act. – 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. – International Women in Science by C M C Haines.
  • 19 July 1912. An Admiralty representative came to Windermere to observe a new method of transmitting wireless messages from air to surface.
  • 9 September 1912. Second Lieutenant John Trotter Royal Field Reserve Artillery, received the first lesson with the Lakes Flying Company, the first British hydro-aeroplane school.
  • 12 September 1912. Wakefield obtained UK Patent No. 27,770 for the means of attaching a float to a hydro-aeroplane.
  • 12 November 1912. Trotter was granted an Aviator’s Certificate by the Royal Aero Club (‘RAeC’) No. 360 – this image is of the RAeC’s index card. Trotter was the first person/ member of the Army to achieve a British Certificate with tests accomplished on a hydro-aeroplane. ‘A letter from Wakefield, of 21 February 1912, with regard to Hydro-aeroplane Certificates was read. At the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (‘FAI’) Conference held in Paris on 15 and 16 March 1912, the suggestion of the RAeC that Aviators’ Certificates should be issued in respect of flights made on hydro-aeroplanes under the existing rules was adopted.’ – Minutes of Executive Committee of the RAeC, 19 March 1912.
  • 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 operated outside of the Lake District, save for flights in 1919 to/ from the Isle of Man. Having been transported by traction engine, Waterhen was flown by Adams at Hornsea Mere, near the Yorkshire coast, for Hornsea Horse Show. Passengers, on the first ever flights from the Mere, were taken up at £2 a time. – Hull Daily Mail, 12 June 1913.
  • 30 August 1913. The first British Hydro-aeroplane Certificate No. 614 was awarded to Lakes Flying Company pupil James Bland, and on 15 April 1914 the second Certificate No. 765 to Oswald Lancaster. On 28 January 1913, Wakefield had accompanied the RAeC representatives at an Extraordinary Meeting of the FAI held in Paris. ‘The FAI decided that ordinary Aviators’ Certificates should not be valid for flights over both land and water. It was further decided that Certificates should be granted in respect of tests over water, but that such Certificates should not be valid for flights over land.’ – Minutes of Executive Committee of the RAeC, 4 February 1913. Also at that Conference, the Schneider Trophy for an annual international seaplane contest was accepted and the rules passed.
  • 13 November 1913. Wakefield obtained UK Patent No.18,051 for a float of a seaplane to support its own 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. The V shape is used on almost every float manufactured today.
  • 5 February 1915. Flying tuition by moonlight (drawing by Clifford Fleming Williams) was described as a feature unique to the school. – Flight magazine.
  • 21 October 1915. The first flight to land on Esthwaite Water, by John Lankester Parker with pupil John Coats.
  • 18 March 1916. The first flight to land on Coniston Water, by Parker with pupil Henry Reid. – Blackburn Aircraft since 1908 by A J Jackson.
  • 20 May 1917. Two ex-pupils, Flight Sub-Lieutenants Charles Morrish and Henry Boswell, were the pilots of Curtiss H-12 Large America 8663 flying boat near Flushing in the North Sea when bombs were dropped on a U-boat. ‘This was the first submarine sunk by the Royal Naval Air Service.’ – The Royal Navy Day by Day by L Phillips. Both were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. On 31 August 1917, Adams (then Squadron Commander, later Lieutenant Colonel) was awarded the DSC for services in the Eastern Mediterranean. Flight Commander Guy Price, an instructor November-December 1916 at Windermere, was awarded the DSC on 22 February 1918 and Bar on 16 March 1918 [a gap of only 22 days], an ace having downed 12 enemy aircraft. Flight Lieutenant John Hume began his training at Windermere in May 1915 and was posthumously awarded the DSC on 17 May 1918 for services in Mesopotamia.
  • 3 June 1918. The first list of recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross included not only ex-pupils Captain Harold Gonyon for bombing a U-boat near Dunkirk on 3 April and Captain Victor Bessette for services over the North Sea, but also Captain Cooper Pattinson from Windermere for shooting down a Zeppelin over Heligoland Bight on 10 May. [The Distinguished Flying Cross was instituted after formation of the Royal Air Force as the equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross for acts of valour at sea – between the level of these awards and the Victoria Cross is the Distinguished Service Order.]
    Flight Sub-Lieutenant James Ferrand was awarded the Distinguished Service Order being pilot of the first seaplane (F.B.A. No. 3113) to shoot down a seaplane (Albatros) on 28 November 1915 off Ostend. He was posted to Windermere as an F.B.A. instructor July-November 1916.
  • 4 August 1919. The first flight carrying newspapers to the Isle of Man, by Howard Pixton. The Daily News was overprinted in red ‘Seaplane Edition’.
  • 8 August 1919. The first fare-paying passenger from or to the Isle of Man, flown by Pixton.


For a map depicting associated places at Windermere, click here


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

Windermere: birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes

Edward Wakefield described flight from water as ‘Something that beckoned …’

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Waterbird Float