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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
High hopes for replica plane
Henson and Stringfellow's aircraft
Henson and Stringfellow's Air Locomotive Apparatus
Apprentices at Rolls Royce in Bristol are showing off a replica of the world's first powered aeroplane which was designed and built in Chard, Somerset.

The aircraft is the centre-piece of an exhibition at a Bristol church.

Many believe that the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane in the early 1900s.

But the world's first powered flight took place in Chard in 1848 under the supervision of John Stringfellow.

Stringfellow, a toolmaker born in Sheffield in 1799, moved to Chard to work at a lace mill as a bobbins and carriages maker.

Stringfellow plane
Stringfellow's own design flew 10 feet unaided
He went on to make steam engines, and, with William Henson, tried to design what Henson described as a 'Locomotive Apparatus for Air, Land, and Water' with a 20-feet wingspan.

His construction with Henson was unsuccessful, and Henson eventually gave up after two years.

Stringfellow continued the work, designing his own 10-feet-wide aircraft from scratch using wood, silk and a steam engine carried in a container below the fuselage.

It had two propellers and weighed around 9lbs (4.1kg).

The first flights in 1848 were actually inside a lace mill so as it would not be disturbed by wind.

John Stringfellow
John Stringfellow started as a bobbin maker
Eventually the aircraft flew 10 feet unaided and showed that heavier than air machines could take to the air.

Apprentices on the replica project say they have been as accurate as it is possible to be.

Two replicas have actually been built. The apprentices have been trying to get the second aircraft to fly, though so far unsuccessfully.

But despite a lack of aviation success, even a failed flying machine is an educational tool, according to a Rolls Royce spokesman.

Gary Atkins said: "It is a good apprentice project. It makes apprentices empathetic to the business we're in and also gives them an appreciation of the history of aviation."

Church connection

For St Stephen's Church in Bristol, the replica's presence at the Harvest Bristol exhibition is a continuation of a long association between the church and Rolls Royce.

A church spokesperson said: "Rolls Royce has long been associated with Harvest Bristol.

"The exhibition shows how the company is offering training projects for young people."

The replica aircraft is on display at the Harvest Exhibition until Monday 15 October.

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