Thu, May 31, 2012
Winston Churchill Was Aboard On Original Aircraft's First Flight In 1911
As First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill was one of the driving forces behind the creation of a pre-WWI seaplane dubbed "Waterbird." When the airplane made its first flight in 1911, Churchill joined Edward Wakefield, who designed and built the Britain's first seaplane, on board.
A group in England is now building a replica of the Waterbird, and hopes to be able to make a dozen sightseeing flights per year from the surface of Lake Windermere in the U.K. Lake District using the aircraft. But according to a report on the newspaper The Mail, there is still a hitch that has to be overcome.
In 2005, a group of activists successfully campaigned to have the speed limit on the lake set at 10 miles per hour. The move was, they said, intended to "restore the tranquility of England's largest lake." The Waterbird needs to reach a speed of 30 mph to get on the step and then airborne.
The group building the replica has asked the government to give them a waiver on the speed limit so that they can make their sightseeing flights, and the Lake District National Park Authority is backing the request. A spokesman for the national park says it could become a significant tourist attraction, and feels confident the waiver will be granted.
The original Waterbird made 60 flights before it was wrecked by a storm. Some of the parts survived until 1961, according to the UK newspaper The Times. The success of the aircraft is credited with leading to the formation of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. (Photo of first flight taken in 1911)
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