The Royal Aero Club (‘RAeC’) began issuing Aviators’ Certificates [‘ticket‘ or ‘brevet‘] in 1910, recognised by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (‘FAI’) of which it was a founder member in 1905. For example, the Certificate of Ronald Buck who completed his tests at Windermere on 30 July 1915, having trained on a hydro-aeroplane from the outset, includes the first line: ‘Fédération Aéronautique Internationale’ and the diagonal handwritten endorsement at top left: ‘Hydro-aeroplane’, with the RAeC details at the foot which on 7 August 1915 issued Certificate No.1542. He joined the Royal Flying Corps and on 20 October 1916 was severely wounded in France.

The RAeC is still the UK representative on the FAI the world air sports federation, albeit pilot licences and ratings have been issued by the Civil Aviation Authority since 1972.

History has come full circle with the successful nomination by the RAeC to the FAI for the award of the Phoenix Diploma for the replica Waterbird.

On 28 January 1913, Captain Edward Wakefield accompanied the representatives of the RAeC, Roger Wallace and Harold Perrin, to an Extraordinary Conference of the FAI in Paris. It was there decided that Aviators’ Certificates should be valid for flights over both land and water. Further, that Certificates should be granted in respect of tests made over water, but that such Certificates should not be valid for flights over land. In the case of aviators who had passed the water tests only, their Certificates would be endorsed accordingly and did not imply qualification for land flights. The holder of a Certificate so endorsed could have it converted into a full Certificate on carrying out the land tests in force.

An illustration of the above requirements can be seen in the documents of Donald Macaskie. Macaskie’s log book of civilian flying includes details of his tests accomplished at Windermere 4-22 September 1915, whilst flying Waterhen, the successor to Waterbird. The extract from his Aviator’s Certificate opposite, issued on 24 September 1915 No. 1788, carries the endorsement of Hydro-aeroplane, meaning he was only licensed to alight on water. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and so would need to re-take his tests on land. He did so at RFC Dover aerodrome, as part of his RFC pilot training. By this stage of World War One, the military were conducting flying tests as well as the RAeC. The summary in his log book of military flying opposite shows that on 22 February 1916 he was awarded what he called a ‘Super Ticket’, as it qualified him for both water and land. On 20 July 1916, he was shot down over France.


The term ‘seaplane’ was coined by Winston Churchill, on 17 July 1913, when he answered a question in the House of Commons as First Lord of the Admiralty.


‘Waterbird provided the vital springboard to establishing a twin centre of technical innovation and flying expertise.’ – Navy Wings

The first British hydro-aeroplane school was set up by the Lakes Flying Company in 1911.

‘Bristol school or Wakefield hydro-aeroplane school to train those pilots that cannot be received at Eastchurch at present.’ – Paper entitled ‘The Development of Naval Aeroplanes and Airships’ by Rear-Admiral (later Admiral Sir) Ernest Troubridge dated 23 January 1912.

The first British Aviator’s Certificate with the RAeC tests taken on a hydro-aeroplane was achieved at Windermere by 2nd Lieutenant John Trotter on 12 November 1912. Trotter was granted full Aviator’s Certificate Number 360; which, being before introduction of the Regulations following the above Paris Conference, entitled him to also land on the ground. The official RAeC observers for the tests were Reverend Sidney Swann, who like Wakefield and Oscar Gnosspelius was inspired by having attended the Blackpool Aviation Meeting in 1909, and Major Robert Brocklehurst who also built an aeroplane. He served in France during World War 1 and was promoted Major, albeit his service record does not include aviation.

The cost of tuition was £75 until the Certificate was obtained. For Officers, it was discounted to £52 and 10 shillings upon signing an agreement, and £17 and 10 shillings on finishing tests. Extra practice was £9 for the first hour and £6 thereafter.

The private Seaplane School was taken over on behalf of the Government, and in May 1916 training at Cockshott and Hill of Oaks became Royal Naval Air Service Unit Hill of Oaks. Large numbers of probationary Sub-Lieutenants were sent to Windermere for basic instruction, most of whom had either already qualified on landplanes or did so afterwards.  In June 1916, the headquarters of the RNAS at Windermere moved from Cockshott to Hill of Oaks, and, with the departure of civilian instructors, the name was changed to RNAS Windermere. RNAS Windermere continued operations until the end of June 1917.

Aeroplanes used for instruction were: Waterhen, Lakes MonoplaneBlackburn Improved Type 1, Nieuport VI.H’s, F.B.A.’s and Short 827’s.

The first 2 holders of UK Aviators’ Certificates endorsed ‘Hydro-aeroplane’ were Windermere-trained. Joseph Bland was granted Aviator’s Certificate No. 614 on 30 August 1913, and Oswald Lancaster No. 765 on 15 April 1914.

Subsequent Certificates, bringing the grand total to 22:-

21/08/1914 Petchell Murray No. 881. Joined RNAS, Flt Sub-Lt, killed in accident at Central Flying School Upavon 04/11/1914.

11/02/1915 Ralph Lashmar No. 1076. Killed in accident at Isle of Wight 07/09/1916.

30/07/1915 Samuel Sibley* No. 1596. 

07/08/1915 Ronald Buck* No. 1542. 

24/09/1915 Donald Macaskie* No.1788

04/10/1915 Harry Slingsby* No. 1818. 

04/02/1916 John Coats No. 2404. Joined Royal Flying Corps, Maj, Air Force Cross.

04/02/1916 Henry Reid No. 2416. Joined RFC.

12/02/1916 David Robertson* No. 2460. 03/06/1916 gave 1st lesson at RNAS Hill of Oaks

17/03/1916 Francis MacIntyre No. 2590. Seaplane pilot in RNAS and Royal Air Force.

17/03/1916 Joseph Ridgway No. 2593. Joined RFC, Lt, severely injured 24/03/1917, Distinguished Conduct Medal.

18/03/1916 Noel Lawton* No. 2595. Joined RFC.

02/04/1916 Harry Robinson No. 2694.

06/04/1916 Herman Shaw No. 2702.

06/04/1916 Arthur Salton No. 2703.

14/06/1916 Flt Sub-Lt Paul Gadbois No. 3067. 1st pupil of RNAS Hill of Oaks to be awarded Certificate. Seriously injured in accident at RNAS Calshot 09/07/1916.

21/06/1916 Flt Sub-Lt William Wallace No. 3117. Died following accident at RNAS Calshot 21/07/1916.

23/06/1916 Flt Sub-Lt Victor Bessette No. 3125. Qualified as Curtiss flying boat pilot, RNAS and RAF, Capt, Distinguished Flying Cross.

16/08/1916 Edward Haller No. 3420. Joined RFC, 2nd Lt, killed in action 03/06/1917.

* For more about these pilots, click here


1. Passenger flights to get used to being in the air.

2. Pupil allowed to hold control lever under instructor’s hand.

3. Pupil given free control of lever.

4. Pupil in pilot’s seat given full control of lever and rudder with instructor behind.

5. Solo taxiing to learn control of engine and art of acceleration.

6. Solo take-off to long ‘straights’.

7. Full practice for Certificate.

8. Certificate tests.


1. Candidates must accomplish the three following tests, each being a separate flight:-

A and B. Two distance flights, consisting of at least 5 kilometres (3 miles 185 yards) each in a closed circuit, without touching the ground or water; the distance to be measured as described below.

C. One altitude flight, during which a height of at least 100 metres (328 feet) above the point of departure must be attained; the descent to be made from that height with the motor cut off. The landing must be made in view of the observers, without restarting the motor.

2. The candidate must be alone in the aircraft during the three tests.

3. Starting from and alighting on the water is only permitted in one of the tests A and B.

4. The course on which the aviator accomplishes tests A and B must be marked out by two posts or buoys situated not more than 500 metres (547 yards) apart.

5. The turns around the posts or buoys must be made alternately to the right and to the left so that the flight will consist of an uninterrupted series of figures of 8.

6. The distance flown shall be reckoned as if in a straight line between the two posts or buoys.

7. The alighting after the two distance flights in tests A and B shall be made:

(a) By stopping the motor at or before the moment of touching the ground or water [‘vol plané‘];

(b) By bringing the aircraft to rest not more than 50 metres (164 feet) from a point indicated previously by the candidate.

8. All alightings must be made in a normal manner, and the observers must report any irregularities.

9. Each of the flights must be vouched for in writing by observers appointed by the Royal Aero Club. All tests must be under the control of, and in places agreed to by, the Royal Aero Club.

Windermere: birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes

Waterbird Aviators
Waterbird Aviators