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Replica of first British seaplane being built at Lincolnshire airfield

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: December 06, 2011

  • The construction stage: More money is required to complete the £160,000 project

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A replica of the first British seaplane is being built in rural Lincolnshire and once complete will be the only air-worthy model in the world.

But pilot Gerry Cooper, 70, who is constructing the Waterbird from scratch, says more money is needed to fund the £160,000 project so he can fly it next year.

Mr Cooper, who runs Cooper Aerial Surveys Engineering Ltd at Wickenby Airfield, near Lincoln, has been drafted in by The Waterbird Project, a group that wants to create a museum in tribute to the plane.

It was developed 100 years ago by Captain Edward Wakefield.

Its plans, to which Mr Cooper is staying faithful, were drawn up by engineer Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe.

"I am a very lucky man where my hobby happens to be my job," said Mr Cooper, who is also a commercial airline pilot.

"I was approached to do the work by the Waterbird Project as part of the centennial celebrations and thought 'why not?'.

"It really would be quite exciting to get this aircraft back in the air and to do that maiden flight myself.

"As the airframe is made of wood due to its age, I've been working with a wonderful carpenter called Mike Sales to construct it.

"As well as the original plans there was also a very helpful old book which gave us details on interpreting them.

"We are getting there, we just need some help in funding the project so it can go further."

The aircraft is being built at Wickenby using similar materials to the spruce wood and wires that held the original Waterbird together. Once completed it will have a 46ft wingspan and be 43ft long.

There will also be room for a plucky passenger.

It is hoped that the replica will be ready to fly next year on Lake Windermere, in Cumbria, where the Waterbird took its maiden flight.

When it's not being flown, the aircraft will be housed in The Edward Wakefield Memorial Edwardian Seaplane Centre.

The museum will be set up at Windermere and will include notes and letters home during the period of the flight experiments along with personal material covering his disputes with famed writer Beatrix Potter who did not want the flying tests to go ahead.

Sir Humphry Wakefield, great nephew of Captain Edward Wakefield and patron of The Waterbird Project, said: "This was the golden age for British aviation and we are hoping to capture the magic of those early pioneers."

Anyone who would like to make a donation should email mail@waterbirdproject.com or call Ian Gee on 07786 918176.

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