December is an historic month for aviation as it marks the anniversary of the Wright Brothers finally realising mans quest for controlled flight. In the decade or so following that achievement there were of course countless aircraft produced. It was an exciting time of daring pilots and impressive designs as well as being a period of relative peace. Aircraft became the plaything of the rich and in some cases a nations claim to fame.
Old warden remains home to a number of Pre First World War aircraft that they still keep in flying condition. These remarkable aircraft are the closest we will ever come to seeing the likes of the Wright Flyer.
I’ll start with the oldest in the Shuttleworth Collection, the 1909 Bleriot. This Bleriot is in fact the oldest flying aircraft in the world, though these days it is restricted to short hops down Old Warden’s runway it is still an amazing feat.
The aircraft is of course the same design as Louis Bleriot flew the first cross channel flight in in 1909. To see a 105 year old aircraft take to the skies, albeit briefly is an awe-inspiring sight.
Up next is the spindly Deperdussin, a French design built in 1910, like the Bleriot the aircraft only performs short hops when conditions are absolutely perfect but it is still a unique and wonderful sight.
Then comes the jewel in the Edwardian collection for me, the Blackburn Monoplane, built in 1912 I still remember the first time I saw it fly. I had been led to believe that it, like the other aircraft of this age, only made short hops down the runway.
So you can imagine my surprise when the aircraft kept on climbing and performed a series of lazy turns and passes high above Shuttleworth. There is something so blissful about watching the Blackburn do what it does best with the unique sound from its rotary engine filling the air.
The two “common” Edwardians, as in the ones that perform the most, are two replicas built in the 60s for the “Magnificent men in their flying machines” film. Of course now historic aircraft in their own right they are based on similar era designs as the 3 original aircraft.
The Bristol Boxkite was a 1910 design and as you can see it was certainly distinctive. There is a clear design nod to the Wright Flyer in this aircraft, in fact it is probably as similar as you are likely to see fly. The aircraft can often be seen performing extended displays around Old Warden.
The other movie replica is the Avro Triplane, this case a triplane IV. The design also dates back to 1910 and of course features the interesting addition of a third wing. Like the Boxkite this aircraft can often be seen gently flying around Shuttleworth on a summers evening.
This fantastic collection of early aircraft is a truly unique sight and has to be seen to be believed.