Lakes Flying Company Waterbird
In the summer of 1910 A. V. Roe and Company declared its willingness to build aeroplanes to other people's designs. A Curtiss-type, of the familiar outrigger-tail and front-elevator variety with 50 h.p. Gnome rotary, was built in 1911 to the order of Capt. Edward W. Wakefield of Kendal. He wanted it to follow the basic layout of the USA's Curtiss machine - hence sometimes known as Avro-Curtis. This was never given an Avro designation.
The Lakes Water Bird was built for Wakefield, of the Lakes Flying School, Windermere. It was built as a landplane with the intention of converting it to a seaplane once testing was complete. Wakefield had been interested in water-borne aircraft since 1909 and had performed experiments with different float designs towed at speed across Lake Windermere. Unsticking problems persisted until he visited Henri Fabre in France and got useful advice on float design. The 12 ft (3.66 m) long float for the Water Bird followed Glen Curtiss' three-step float and was built by boat builders Borwick of Bowness-on-Windermere using mahogany reinforced with metal strips and canvas covered by local.
Avro built the aircraft in Manchester, transporting it to Brooklands on 25 May 1911 for its first flight on 19th June. It was a two-bay 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 extending well behind the wing trailing edge. Bamboo outriggers fore and aft of the wings supported leading elevators and tail surfaces plus rudder. Both elevator and rudder were operated by bamboo pushrods. Power was provided by a 50 hp (37 kW) Gnome 7-cylinder rotary engine driving an 8 ft 6in (2.59 m) propeller.
It was operated by the Avro School for a short period before being dismantled on July 7th 1911 and moved to Lake Windermere. At the Avro School during it was flown by F. P. Raynham, R. C. Kemp, F. Conway-Jenkins and Louis Noel. After testing as a landplane at Brooklands in May 1911, the Water Bird was brought to the Hill of Oaks on Windermere and the 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. Once at Windermere it was known simply as Waterbird. It had a Gnome 50hp engine and the successful first flight was on 25 November 1911, with ex-Avro school pilot H. Stanley Adams. The floats were all made by Borwicks at Windermere. The press where invited to an exhibition flight two days later, the favourable description’s in the press seem to lead to the name ‘Lakes Water Bird’ being adopted.
Water Bird was the first consistently successful seaplane in the United Kingdom and during the next few months its fame spread quickly and a considerable waterborne joyriding business was done during December 1911 and January 1912. Sixty flights were made in the first 38 days, the best being of 20 minutes duration up to a height of 800 ft. On December 7, 1911 Stanley-Adams flew the whole length of the lake at a speed of approximately 40 m.p.h. These operations continued throughout the winter, but the night of March 29-30, 1912 brought gales which demolished the lakeside hangar at Cockshott and damaged "Water Bird" beyond repair. Its float, tailplane and rudder (the last still proudly displaying the legend "A. V. Roe and Company, Manchester") are still in the possession of the Wakefield family at Windermere.
Engine: 1 x Gnome et Rhône 7-cylinder rotary, 50 hp (37 kW)