H.King Aeromarine Origins (Putnam)
A remarkable British aeromarine contrivance of 1908/9 was the Humphreys Waterplane, built at Wivenhoe, Essex. A contemporary description ran:
'Amidships and incorporated in the lower plane is fitted the most original feature of this machine in the shape of a kind of coracle hull of very thin wood, in which the navigator sits. The reason for this is that Mr Humphreys has elected to start his aeroplane from the surface of the water, thereby eliminating practially all the danger attendant upon experimental flights from land in an untried machine. For a fall from a considerable height need have no terrors with water below, and none of the fears of hedges, ditches, telegraph wires and disturbing air currents due to inequalities in the ground. Further, it is possible to skid on water, whereas land running gear would break or, at least, prove unresponsive to side influences.'
This could, in fact, have been the first amphibian, for it was intended to be 'capable of arising from and alighting on both water and land'.
M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
The single-seat pusher Humphreys Waterplane was designed by Jack Humphreys and built by Forrestt during 1908. The machine was a sesquiplane of very low aspect-ratio mounted on a coracle-style hull. The engine was an eight-cylinder 35 h.p. J.A.P. which drove twin propellers. The triangular tailplane was universally pivoted and incorporated flexible surfaces, having an effective dihedral angle when neutrally loaded. Fin and rudder were absent but triangular ailerons were fitted to the wing-tips. It was intended to display the Waterplane at the 1909 Olympia Aero Show, but it could not be manoeuvred through the entrance into the hall. When tested in April, 1909, on the River Colne at Wivenhoe, Essex, the hull filled with water and the machine sank at its moorings. It was salvaged intact and later attained 10 knots on the water when taxying, but never flew. Span, 45 ft. Length, 13 ft.
G.Duval British Flying-Boats and Amphibians 1909-1952 (Putnam)
Wyvenhoe Flier (1909)
Historically important as the first serious attempt to produce a flying-boat in Britain, work commenced upon the Wyvenhoe Flier in October 1908, supervised by its designer, Mr J. E. Humphreys, construction being carried out in a small hangar between Forrestt’s boatyard at Wyvenhoe and the river bank opposite Rowhedge, in Essex. Humphreys, a dental surgeon, was by no means an amateur regarding aerodynamics, having experimented with bird flight and structure since 1902, and had actually flown two of his own gliders from the cliffs at Fowey, Cornwall.
The Flier was built by local skilled marine craftsmen, with the co-operation of Mr (later Sir James) Bird, managing director of Forrestts.
In many ways advanced for its time, the machine was a biplane, with the wings mounted above the hull and the engine and propellers in mid-gap, thus anticipating a design layout for flying-boats that endured for a quarter of a century. For the first time in aviation history, extensive metal skinning was employed, both mainplanes being covered with light-gauge aluminium sheet. The coracle-type hull had a double skin of thin cedar planking, with varnished silk interposed, with a small scuttle in the bows serving as protection for the pilot. No water rudder was fitted. The lower wing was secured to the hull gunwales, its multiple spars as extensions of the hull ribs and curved downwards to the tips, which formed full-chord ‘air boxes’ for lateral stability on the water. A wheeled undercarriage consisting of two pairs of cycle-type wheels mounted in tandem on bamboo poles, and arranged to make use of the natural spring thereof, was designed to fit up under the lower wing, but was never used in practice. The upper wing, supported upon tubular steel interplane struts and wire braced, had large drooping tip extensions of triangular shape built up of long narrow sections covered with strips of rubber-impregnated cotton silk. These extensions were similar in function and appearance to the wing-tip feathers of a bird. Strut-mounted on the lower wing trailing edge was a bird-like tailplane/rudder, universally jointed, and of the same ‘feather’ construction as the wing tips. The control surfaces were completed by a triangular elevator, carried forward of the hull and wing structure on outriggers. Elevator and tailplane were both operated by a single control.
A 35 h.p. J.A.P. Vee-eight air-cooled engine was transversely mounted on steel tubular bearers in mid-gap behind the pilot, driving two 8-foot diameter metal pusher propellers through shafts, bevel gears, and centrifugal clutches. The propeller blades were curved rearwards towards the tips, with the idea of concentrating the slipstream into a ‘jet wake‘ to assist thrust.
The first launching was made on 3 April, 1909, in rather marginal conditions of wind and tide. Inevitably, a gust canted the machine, and it sank. Humphreys, aboard at the time, extricated himself from the numerous bracing wires with some difficulty. The Flier was salvaged at midnight, and returned to its shed. Repairs having been completed, the second launching took place on 15 April. Again bad fortune attended, for one of the propeller drive gears sheared. At a third launching on the 18th, everything appeared to be in order, and the machine was towed down river by steam tug to a point between the Alresford and Fingringhoe Banks, cast off, and the engine started. It was immediately apparent that the wing-tip air boxes created impossible water drag, and that with the engine stopped, directional control was nil. The machine was towed back for alterations to be made, these consisting of canoeshaped wing-tip floats with controllable water rudders at the stern.
In the evening of 14 May, 1909, the Flier was towed to the swing bridge at Alresford Creek, and started up. This time, directional control proved excellent, the Flier skimming the water beautifully at a speed of 10 to 12 knots, but resisting all Humphreys’ efforts to ‘unstick’.
Financial considerations precluded further development, and the Flier was abandoned. Its engine finally did take to the air, being sold to Mr E. T. Willows, who used it to power his little dirigible airship on her memorable flight from Cardiff to London.
Power Plant: One 35 h.p. J.A.P. Vee-eight air-cooled engine, with Bosch magneto
Main metal-clad wing section - 21 feet
Wing-tip extensions - 10 feet 6 inches each
O.A. Span - 42 feet
Length, O.A.: 26 feet (Hull - 17 feet)
Height: 12 feet
Weight Loaded: 1,750 pounds
Total Area: 1,100 square feet