Ferguson Family Museum - museum of tractors, farm machinery, aircraft and racing cars.  Based in Freshwater, Isle of Wight

1911 Ferguson monoplane

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 engine.

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:

The 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.

 size replica model of monoplane
1/4 size replica model of monoplane

Flying at Magilligan Sands
Flying at Magilligan Sands

Crashed in a cornfield!
Crashed in a cornfield!

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