Capturing the Waterbird in it’s current state, a mere skeleton awaiting it’s fabric covering

In a quiet corner of Lincolnshire an aircraft restorer has been busy recreating one of Britain’s most important historical aircraft – the Waterbird, Britain’s first seaplane.

The original Waterbird aircraft was built in 1911 for Edward Wakefield, of the Lakes Flying School by A.V. Roe of Manchester. It made its first successful flight from Lake Windermere on the 25th of November that year, being the first ever within the British Isles. After many successful flights the Admiralty sent pilot Arthur Longmore to fly it, who confirmed the success of the float plane which led to the Wakefield being awarded a contract to supply floats for Admiralty aircraft.

Today, Gerry Cooper of Vintage Skunk Works, has opened his hangar to some special guests who he hopes will help to publicise the rebuild of this remarkable aircraft and bring in the essential funds needed to complete the return of the Waterbird. These included the grandsons of Arthur Longmore, the great nephew of Edward Wakefield and a TV crew from ITV Borders who have aired a story about their plight this evening. The pressure is on to complete the project this year, and the team behind it hope to raise a further £165,000 so that the aircraft can land on Lake Windermere again in its centenary year.

Gerry has been recreating the Waterbird for the last two years at the request of Richard Raynsford (nephew of Edward Wakefield), in the hope that this replica watches will form the centre piece of a new naval history museum to be based on the shores of Lake Windermere.

The original Waterbird, launching from Lake Windermere. Picture courtesy of the Lakes Flying Co. Ltd.

The original biplane was a two seat pusher aircraft. The outer half of each upper wing carried a pair of ailerons; the larger inner one had a semicircular trailing edge extending well behind the wing trailing edge. Bamboo outriggers fore and aft of the wings supported leading elevators and tail surfaces plus rudder. Both elevator and rudder were operated by bamboo pushrods.

Recreating it has been something of a challenge, as Gerry hopes the aircraft will last for many years to come. This has led to substituting some of the build materials, such as the use of bamboo for aluminum poles.

Joanna White from Primetime Media has been recording the build of this fascinating aircraft and has compiled some highlights for the Lakes Flying Company Ltd., in the hope it will assist in finding additional funds to complete the production.

You can watch the ITV Border’s piece again online, or visit the offical website for the Lakes Flying Co. Ltd. to find out more about the ongoing project.

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