Page last updated at 21:52 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 22:52 UK

Fly-past celebrates first flight

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The BBC's John Simpson looks back at his great-grandfather's 1908 flight

The 100th anniversary of the first officially recognised powered flight in the British Isles was marked by a fly-past at an airport.

Samuel Franklin Cody flew his British Army Aeroplane No 1 on 16 October 1908 at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire.

He reached about 18ft (5.5m) and flew for about 1,400ft (426m). It was the first official flight of a "heavier than air" machine in the British Isles.

A replica of his plane was on show at the Farnborough airport celebrations.

Several historical aircraft, including a Vulcan jet resurrected by volunteers, took part in the fly-past.

Reconstruction of British Army Aeroplane No 1
Volunteers have recreated Mr Cody's British Army Aeroplane No 1

Capt David Rowland, from the Royal Aeronautical Society, watched the fly-past and said: "It's just amazing the progress that's been in the 100 years before today.

"Today we've seen the Vulcan fly by, which was created about halfway through that first century and then the fly-past was completed by the [Eurofighter] Typhoon, the very latest aircraft in service.

"It makes you wonder what Cody and his other pioneers would have actually thought of it. Could they have even imagined it could have gone this way.

"[Mr Cody] must have been very brave when you look at how flimsy and how delicate [the replica] is.

"All the principles of flight are here with the wings and the controls. They have been reorganised and developed over the years.

"The propellers and the power have been changed but you're seeing very much the real birth of aviation."

American Mr Cody claimed to be the son of Buffalo Bill Cody who was a popular wild west show performer in the US.

Samuel Franklin Cody (Photo: FAST Collection)
American Mr Cody has been described as a flamboyant showman

In fact he was not related to him and his real name was Cowdery.

His great-grandson is the BBC's world affairs editor, John Simpson, who was at Farnborough to see Thursday's commemorations. He described Mr Cody as "a remarkable man".

Mr Cody came to England in 1890 and started experimenting with kites and later developed aeroplanes with the backing of the War Office.

He wanted to build on the achievement of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight in 1903 and on 16 October 1908 the Cody Flyer took off on Farnborough Common.

Mr Cody was in the air for just 30 seconds and the machine was damaged at the end of this flight.

He carried on trying to develop new aeroplanes but on 7 August 1913 he was killed when one crashed during a test.

His funeral in Aldershot attracted 50,000 mourners.




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