History Extra logo
The official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed

Pilot recreates 1913 Circuit of Britain flight

Published: August 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm
Try 6 issues for only £9.99 when you subscribe to BBC History Magazine or BBC History Revealed

A pilot today took to the skies to recreate the 1913 Circuit of Britain flight.


In honour of the aviation pioneers who 100 years ago took part in the first major British competition for seaplanes, Jeff Boyling is tracing as closely as possible the 1,600-mile route.

At the helm of Britain’s oldest airworthy seaplane, the 70-year-old Catalina G-PBYA, Boyling will over five days replicate the flight embarked upon by pilot Harry Hawker and mechanic Harry Kauper.

Flying a Sopwith Waterplane Hawker and Kauper started and finished at Southampton Water. According to Flight magazine the Australian duo flew over Ramsgate, Yarmouth, Scarborough and Aberdeen, as well as Cromarty, Oban, Dublin and Falmouth.

Their first attempt ended at Yarmouth as a result of a cracked cylinder head and pilot exhaustion. They started again on 25 August and managed to fly to just north of Dublin, but crashed in the sea when Hawker’s foot slipped off the rudder while landing.

The aircraft was destroyed in the crash, which also saw Kauper break his arm. Hawker was unharmed.

While the airspace in 2013 is more restricted than a century ago, the Catalina crew intends to follow the 1913 route as closely as possible, hoping to succeed where Harry Hawker and Harry Kauper did not.

Having taken off from the Imperial War Museum Duxford on Wednesday morning they will fly over Kingston, where the Sopwith Factory was based; Hook in Chessington, where Harry Hawker is buried and Brooklands Aerodrome - now Brooklands Museum - where Harry Hawker learnt to fly and tested aircraft for use in the First World War.

The Catalina will also circle the Classic Boat Museum at Cowes, which has on display a 1/8 scale replica of the Bat Boat tested by Harry Hawker in 1913.

“Flying the Catalina G-PBYA is a huge privilege and honour,” said pilot Jeff Boyling.

“It is wonderful that this historic aircraft can pay tribute to a great aviator who was a real pioneer. May the memory of Hawker live on.”


Imperial War Museum Duxford will track the Catalina’s progress on its Facebook page and Twitter feed.


Sponsored content