Pilots recreate historic round-Britain flight 100 years on

Jeff, Rod and Stuart the crew of the Catalina

Jeff, Rod and Stuart the crew of the Catalina - Credit: Archant

IT was an historic moment at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford on Wednesday morning as a classic aircraft took off on the first leg of the recreation of the 1913 Circuit of Britain flight.

Harry Hawkers grandchildren and great-grandchildren

Harry Hawkers grandchildren and great-grandchildren - Credit: Archant

The Catalina takes off to start the Circuit of Britain flight

The Catalina takes off to start the Circuit of Britain flight - Credit: Archant

The plane, called The Catalina, is attempting the 1913 Circuit of Britain flight, which was originally flown by pilot Harry Hawker and mechanic Harry Kauper, both Australians, in a Sopwith Waterplane.

Jeff Boyling, the pilot of the Catalina, gives the thumbs up for take-off.

Jeff Boyling, the pilot of the Catalina, gives the thumbs up for take-off. - Credit: Archant

The Catalina celebrates its 70th birthday this month, making it the oldest UK-based airworthy amphibian.

In 1913, the Circuit of Britain Race was the first major British competition for seaplanes. It was supported by Lord Northcliffe, the proprietor of the Daily Mail, who was a great fan of aviation races.

Shell Aviation provided the lubricants for the original race and will be doing the same 100 years on.


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The route in 1913, as reported by Flight magazine, started and finished at Southampton Water, with eight control points en route. T

While the airspace in 2013 is somewhat more restricted then 100 years ago, the crew of the Catalina intends to follow the 1913 route as closely as possible.

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The crew took off from Duxford on Wednesday morning and plan to complete the 1,600 mile route over five days.

They will be flying over some key historic sites, including Kingston, where the Sopwith Factory was based; Hook in Chessington, where Harry Hawker is buried and Brooklands Aerodrome, where Harry Hawker learnt to fly and tested aircraft for use in the First World War.

The Catalina will also orbit the Classic Boat Museum at Cowes, which has on display a 1/8 scale replica of the Bat Boat tested by Harry Hawker in 1913.

The Catalina crew aspires to succeed where Harry Hawker and Harry Kauper did not.

Harry Hawker was the chief test pilot for the Sopwith Aviation Company, while Harry Kauper was an experienced mechanic and foreman of works at Sopwith.

Although four aeroplanes were originally entered for this aerial challenge in 1913, of their competitors, Samuel Cody was killed in a flying accident on August 7, while F K McLean withdrew his Short S.68 aircraft due to engine trouble.

The Radley-England Waterplane was withdrawn for the same reason. Only the two

Harrys took off on the day of the race.

Their first attempt ended at Yarmouth with a cracked cylinder head and pilot exhaustion. They started again on August 25 and managed to fly to just north of Dublin, but crashed in the sea when Harry Hawker’s foot slipped off the rudder while landing.

The aircraft was destroyed and Harry Kauper broke his arm. Harry Hawker got a soaking, but was otherwise unharmed.

The 2013 Catalina commemoration is led by pilot Jeff Boyling, who, like Harry Hawker, was born in Australia and shares a passion for aeronautical adventure. By marking this occasion, Jeff hopes to inspire younger generations with the wonder of flying and to keep the golden era of aviation alive today. Jeff said:

“Flying the Catalina G-PBYA is a huge privilege and honour. It is wonderful that this historic aircraft can pay tribute to a great aviator who was a real pioneer. May the memory of Hawker live on.”

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