A REPLICA of the UK’s first hydro-aeroplane has made its first water-borne take-off from Windermere.

The secret trial flight marked the successful climax of a 13-year project to create an exact copy of the iconic Waterbird, which made her original historic flight on November 25, 1911.

The project has faced delays due to technical issues, weather, the pandemic and safety issues.

Trials in spring 2021 had to be abandoned due to difficulties getting the plane to take off from the lake.

But this week all disappointments were forgotten as it became airborne at the first attempt.

Ian Gee, director of ‘Wings Over Windermere’, said it had taken longer than everyone hoped to achieve this week’s flights.

“I was totally bewildered when it took off at the first attempt,” he said.

“I was lost for words.

“The trials include taxiing across the water, but the pilot combined all the manoeuvres in one go.”

Pilot Peter Kynsey, who runs a seaplane business from Rochester Airport, said: “This is a fantastic project, and I couldn’t wait to take the replica Waterbird into the air.”

The replica has been constructed from Douglas fir, spruce wood, bamboo and wires; the same materials used to construct the original seaplane.

And the 35ft long aircraft, has a wingspan of 40ft and weighs just 800lb.

The original Waterbird was built by Manchester’s A V Roe and Company, and adapted using floats designed by Captain Edward Wakefield which allowed it to take off and land on water.

The Mail: ORIGINAL: The original Waterbird Picture: The Lakes Flying CompanyORIGINAL: The original Waterbird Picture: The Lakes Flying Company

Beatrix Potter opposed the noisy test flights of the seaplanes near her home in the Lake District and started a campaign to have them banned.

Her campaign was over-ruled by the government, including the then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, who regarded the test flights as vital to developing the nation's air forces.

His support ensured planes were available to fight off the Zeppelins during World War I and later played a key part in the development of the Royal Air Force.

The idea of making a replica was first mooted by Richard Raynsford, the great, great nephew of Captain Wakefield, with a letter to The Westmorland Gazette.

But the scheme was defended by Lancaster Solicitor Ian Gee, now retired, who lives in South Lakeland.

Mr Gee, himself a pilot, is director of The Lakes Flying Company, which was set up after blueprints from the original designs were found in A V Roe Company archives and work was started on making the replica plane.

Former RAF serviceman Gerry Cooper started building the replica at Wickenby Airfield in Lincolnshire.

But Mr Cooper, now aged 80, retired and others have had to complete the work of making it capable of taking off from the water.

According to the team, one of the challenges has been to remain faithful to the original construction, while meeting modern health and safety rules.

Mr Gee said that after the 2021 trials were abandoned, the team, which includes local aviation heritage enthusiasts, Kate Tripp, Adrian Legge, Paul Wrobel and Rob Caddick, sought advice from aviation specialists from further afield.

The Mail: SUCCESS: The replica Waterbird in flight on WindermereSUCCESS: The replica Waterbird in flight on Windermere

As a result, the design of the underside of the main float was altered and the angle of attack between the aeroplane and the main float was increased.

“As a result, Waterbird proved to be perfectly balanced, taking off and landing at 35 knots and achieving a speed of 45 knots,” said Mr Gee.

Operating from a temporary hangar on the west shore of Windermere’s south basin, the new Waterbird had to prove it complied with Light Aircraft Association requirements.

It then completed a formal Flight Test Schedule culminating in successful flights on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

A full public demonstration can now go ahead as planned on September 22 and 23 this year.

Recognising the heritage connections with Windermere, special permission for the trials was granted by the Lake District National Park Authority, whose officers provided assistance and guidance, as did staff at South Lakeland District Council, the Environment Agency and South Cumbria Rivers Trust, said Mr Gee.

Precautions against fuel spillage, biohazards and noise pollution were taken.

The ultimate aim of Wings Over Windermere is to display Waterbird in a heritage centre on Windermere’s shore, where it is hoped that regular flights might be arranged.