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 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 his 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 …’.’


  • 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 with a stepped float outside of France and the USA/ the first sucessful 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 successful 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 A W J G Ord-Hume.
  • 14 February 1912. Gnosspelius made the first successful take-off and landing by a hydro-monoplane in Britain, in Gnosspelius No. 2. – 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 in Waterhen (Waterbird’s successor). – 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, 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. – International Women in Science by C M C Haines.
  • 9 September 1912. John Trotter 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 Aviator’s Certificate No. 360, the first person/ Army officer to achieve a British Certificate having trained on a hydro-aeroplane from the outset and with tests accomplished on a hydro-aeroplane.
  • 28 January 1913. Wakefield accompanied the Royal Aero Club’s 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 operated outside of the Lake District. 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 was awarded to Lakes Flying Company pupil James Bland, and 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 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.
  • 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, 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 and the Military Cross for acts of valour on land – between the level of these awards and the Victoria Cross is the Distinguished Service Order.]

Flight Sub-Lieutenant (later Major) 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.


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