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Lakes Water Bird Aircraft Information

Lakes Water Bird

Water Bird

National origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: A.V. Roe Ltd
Designed by: (float) E.W. Wakefield
First flight: (as seaplane) 25 November 1911
Number built: 1
Developed from: Glenn Curtiss design

The Lakes Waterbird, sometimes known as the Avro Curtiss type is remembered as the first consistently successful British seaplane, developed by the Windemere based Lakes Flying Co, during 1911.


Large bodies of water appealed to several aviation pioneers in the first two decades of the 20th century; they offered generous, uncluttered space for take-offs and emergency landings. Builders also anticipated Naval interest. It emerged that one of the main problems was getting the floats to leave the water, that is to "unstick". The first seaplane to fly, on 28th March 1910 at Martigues, France was built by Henri Fabre, though the machine built by Glenn Curtiss and first flown on 26th January 1911 was the first practical seaplane. In England A.V.Roe & Co had put the first Type D on floats and it left the water on 18th November 1911 at Barrow-in-Furness using stepped floats, but dropped back into the water and was damaged. It flew successfully in April 1912, though always underpowered.

The Water Bird had a complicated parentage. At that time Avro would build other manufacturers designs for customers and in 1911 E.W. Wakefield ordered a Curtiss type machine, to be built as a landplane but with the intention of seaplane conversion once testing was complete. He had been interested in water-borne aircraft since 1909, constructing and testing many experimental floats. These were loaded with sandbags to simulate the aeroplane and towed at speed across Lake Windermere, logging the results. Unsticking problems persisted until he visited Henri Fabre in France and got useful advice. The successful float that followed was built of mahogany reinforced with metal strips and canvas covered by local boat builders Borwick of Bowness-on-Windermere. It was 12 ft (3.66 m) long, with three of the under-surface steps critical to unsticking.

Avro built the "Curtiss-type" in Manchester, transporting it to Brooklands for its first flight on 19th May 1911. It was a two seat pusher biplane with wings of unequal span. The outer half of each upper wing carried a pair of ailerons; the larger inner one had a semicircular trailing edge protruding well behind the wing trailing edge. Bamboo outriggers fore and aft of the wings supported leading elevators and tail surfaces plus rudder respectively; the pitch and yaw surfaces were operated via bamboo poles. Power was provided by a 50 hp (37 kW) Gnome 7-cylinder rotary engine driving an 8 ft 6in (2.59 m) propeller.

After testing as a landplane from May 1911, Water Bird was brought to the Hill of Oaks on Lake Windermere and the single float fitted in place of the wheeled undercarriage. A pair of cylindrical floats was mounted below the wing-tips for lateral stability on the water. The successful first flight was on 25 November 1911, with ex-Avro school pilot H. Stanley Adams.

Operational history

Water Bird flew intensively during December 1911 and January 1912. logging some 60 flights. The longest was for 20 miles, reaching 800 ft. Joyriding passengers were carried through the Winter, but in March 1912 Water Bird was destroyed in its lakeside hangar by a storm. Remnants of the aircraft (float, rudder and tailplane) survived until at least 1961.

Water Bird was succeeded by the Lakes-built Water Hen, their first complete product. It was initially almost identical to its predecessor apart from straight edged ailerons. Larger, later modifications removed much of the similarity between the two aircraft, the later Water Hen having a much wider central float.


Data from Jackson 1965, p. 34

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Capacity: 1
Length: 36 ft 5 in (11.10 m)
Wingspan: 41 ft 0 in (12.50 m)
Wing area: 365 ft (33.9 m)
Empty weight: 780 lb (354 kg)
Gross weight: 1,130 lb (513 kg)
Powerplant: 1 x Gnome et Rhxne 7-cylinder rotary, 50 hp (37 kW)


Maximum speed: 45 mph (72 km/h)
Service ceiling: 800 ft (244 m)


Jackson, A.J. (1965). Avro Aircraft since 1908. London: Putnam Publishing
"The Water Hen.". Flight (7 December 1912): pp.1133-7.

Lakes Water Bird Pictures and Lakes Water Bird for Sale.

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Source: WikiPedia

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