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.

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

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 has flown as a landplane. You can view a photo of the build so far 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.

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 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.


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. Oscar Gnosspelius made the first sucesssful take-off by a hydro-aeroplane outside of France and the USA, in Gnosspelius No. 2.

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. 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.

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. Edward 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, it was being tested for the Admiralty. – Letter to Wakefield from Charles Grey the 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, which flew at 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. Edward 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 Hydro-aeroplane Certificate. Trotter achieved his Certificate by having carried out training on a hydro-aeroplane from the outset.

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

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

20 May 1917. 2 ex-pupils, Flight Sub-Lieutenants Charles Morrish and Henry Boswell, were officially credited with the first aerial sinking of a U-boat. Both were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Windermere: birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes

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Waterbird Float