Here we take a brief overview of the early days of flight at Filey and there is now no doubt that groundbreaking aeronautical work was undertaken at Filey. The Wright brothers had electrified the world with their first heavier-than-air powered flight at Kitty Hawk and there was a drive to develop this new mode of transport commercially. At about this time the aircraft designer Robert Blackburn recognised the potential for Filey's golden sands for the design and development of early aircraft.
Prior to this, in 1910 there was a successful application by a Mr Tranmer from Scarborough for permission to the Filey Urban District Council to build and operate a flying school and concrete ramp at Primrose Valley, south of Filey. From that time, Northern Aerial Transport Co. Ltd operated a 'Flying School' near Filey.
An aircraft hanger and bungalow were constructed to the south of Filey and two Bleriot monoplanes were brought over from France and these were delivered by rail to Filey. The Flying School was officially opened on 25 July 1910 and when the flying started, the first pilot to fly was a Mr J House. It is believed that Mr Tranmer was not successful with his enterprise and an advertisement was placed in the Magazine "Flight".
Robert Blackburn responded to this advertisement and agreed to rent the enterprise and the aeroplanes, after which he renamed it the Blackburn Flying School. This allowed him to assemble and fly his second design, known as the Light type Monoplane. Bleriots were still flying from the sands at this time while the new Monoplane was being constructed in the hanger. In around 1910 to1911 the up and coming pilot B C Hucks came to Filey and although a very experienced pilot, he was unlicensed. On 8 March 1911 he undertook a test flight of the Blackburn and in this aircraft he flew at a height of about 50 feet. While making a slow left turn, he "slipped into the sands" and crashed, he walked away from the crash and the aircraft was later repaired.
Blackburn's next aircraft was the Mercury 1 and eight of these aircraft were produced. Hucks qualified in front of Aero Club officials on 18 May 1911 after the previous day in which he had completed a record breaking flight to 1200 feet, almost a world record at the time. On the day of his examination, Hucks was asked to complete the flight to clear up a technical point and this was when the propeller sheared off the aircraft and he was injured in the subsequent forced landing. Hucks was also credited as being the first man to fly across the Bristol Channel and back and he also completed a night flight round trip from Filey, to Bridlington and Scarborough landing back at Filey guided by bonfires lit on the beach. As a popular attraction at aviation shows, he would loop the loop over Filey and it is believed that he was the first English aviator to fly upside down. These were truly exciting and ground breaking days.
When Hucks left Filey to pursue other aeronautical matters, Hubert Oxley commenced his duties on the 3 September 1911 and adapted the Mercury 1 so the front passenger seat was turned around and faced backwards. The "Blackburn Patent Triple Steering Column" was introduced at this time and this consisted of a car type of steering wheel that operated the rudders.
The three seated Mercury III made its maiden flight in November 1911 with Oxley at the controls, but in a flight on 6 December 1911, Oxley and his passenger, Robert Weiss were killed in a steep dive at a speed of about 150 miles an hour. Oxley had been the only Pilot In Charge of the Mercury III and had a habit of diving to the earth at full power and levelling out prior to landing whereas the normal method of landing was to cut the engine and glide to land.. This habit had overstressed the machine and had caused the wings to break up and a verdict of accidental death was recorded at the inquest.
Jack Brearley was the next Chief Flying Officer at the Blackburn School Flying and he occupied this position until the School of Flying moved to Hendon in September of 1912. However, flying continued at Filey continued with several more Mercury III's and the aerodrome at Primrose Valley proved that Robert Blackburn could design and build practical aeroplanes of excellent quality.
Blackburn's connection with Filey did not end at that as a hanger was built as Scalby Mills, north of Scarborough for the "Blackburn Type L", with which Robert Blackburn had designed in conjunction with the 1914 Round Britain Air Race. The "Type L" remained at Scalby Mills after the outbreak of World War I and armed with a light machine gun, it carried out a number of patrols along the coast. In the end it struck the top of Speeton cliffs in a sea fret and although the pilot R Ding was not injured, the aircraft was written off.
At Primrose Valley the old Blackburn hanger was used for military storage engaged in coastal defence duties until finally being purchased by a Hunmanby Engineer.
The company that Robert Blackburn started is now more commonly recognised under its present name, British Aerospace, Brough.
It's Filey, It'sYorkshire, It's a British Company and it started HERE
The Webmaster freely acknowledges the late Cecil Mowthorpe of Hunmanby and an excellent short article by Dave Newbury as the source for this short "primer" to flying at Filey. In addition to this, the aviation investigative work of Lee Norgate and the Filey Bay Initiative must also be recognise
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aerospace, filey bay, hucks, weiss, merlin, bae