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Page last updated at 19:33 GMT, Thursday, 21 October 2010 20:33 UK
Hull University commemorates pioneer Robert Blackburn
Professor Robert Blackburn and Janie Rayne
Professor Robert Blackburn and Janie Rayne, daughter of Robert Blackburn senior, unveil the commemorative plaque

In May 1910, Yorkshire man Robert Blackburn made aviation history when he flew his self-designed monoplane. A hundred years on and the pioneering aviator's first flight is celebrated by the University of Hull.

Professor Robert Blackburn, grandson to the late Robert Blackburn, delivered a public seminar on his grandfather's aviation success at Hull University.

The law professor also opened the university's newly refurbished entrance to the Robert Blackburn Building, home to its departments of engineering, computer science and physics, unveiling a commemorative plaque of the aviator's career.

"I'm honoured to be invited to give a talk," said Professor Robert Blackburn of King's College in London.

Robert Blackburn ©Robert Blackburn private collection and BAE Systems
Robert Blackburn ©Robert Blackburn private collection and BAE Systems

"I have a large personal collection of him: information and memorabilia and photographs about granddad. It's obviously wonderful to be able to share these with people who are actually interested in the early flying days, and in the life and times of Robert Blackburn."

After crash-landing his first flight on to a beach near Saltburn in North Yorkshire, Leeds-born Robert Blackburn attempted another flight of his redesigned monoplane, the Mercury, in April 1911 and this time with success. He flew along the beach at Filey, 50 feet above the ground with an average speed of 50mph.

He later went on to find the Blackburn Aircraft Company, which designed and built over 80 different aircrafts including the Mercury and Buccaneer. The company was also the main manufacturer of the Swordfish, which was used during the Second World War.

Monoplane at Filey
Monoplane at Filey ©Robert Blackburn private collection and BAE Systems

With the original base in Leeds, an additional workshop was established in Brough in 1916. After Robert Blackburn's death in 1955 the company was then acquired by Hawker Siddeley, which then merged into British Aerospace and is now BAE systems.

"I think he is an inspiration, certainly to the staff and students that I've spoken to," said Professor Blackburn.

"When granddad set about his designs for his first aircraft, nobody really took aviation terribly seriously; no-one knew what it might be for… So perseverance, energy and imagination this is what all great inventors need of course and hopefully the new generation will be inspired by those virtues."

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