Wing span: 32 feet
Length: 26 feet
Engine size: 35 hp
No of cylinders: 8
Although the Wright Brothers were the first people to fly (1903) it
was several years before a British attempt took place. The exploits of
the Wright Brothers fascinated the young Harry Ferguson and during
subsequent years he visited many air shows and exhibitions. Two he
attended were Rheims and Blackpool where he took measurements from the
aircraft there. On his return to Belfast he persuaded his brother Joe
that it would be good for their garage business to build and fly planes.
Throughout 1909 construction took place, with various changes and
improvements being made as work progressed, one being the replacement of
the original Green engine by an eight cylinder, air cooled 35hp JAP
The day of the first flight attempt arrived and with wings detached and
the tail resting in the back of a car the aircraft was towed through the
Belfast streets up to Hillsborough Park. First efforts to get off the
ground failed due to propeller trouble. It was replaced but again this
and bad weather prevented attempts for nearly a week.
Finally, on the 31 December 1909 Ferguson was ready to go. A reporter
from the Belfast Telegraph described the scene:
roar of the eight cylinders was like the sound of a Gatling gun in
action. The machine was set against the wind, and all force being
developed the splendid pull of the new propeller swept the big aeroplane
along as Mr Ferguson advanced the lever. Presently, at the movement of
the pedal, the aeroplane rose into the air at a height from nine to
twelve feet, amidst the heavy cheers of the onlookers. The poise of the
machine was perfect and Mr Ferguson made a splendid flight of 130 yards.
Although fierce gusts of wind made the machine wobble a little twice the
navigator steadied her by bringing her head to wind, successful initial
flight that has ever been attempted upon an aeroplane.
Harry Ferguson had thus made the first flight in Ireland and was the
first Briton to build and fly his own aeroplane.