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)
Macfie Empress Biplane
In spite of his unhappy experiences with his monoplane, during 1909 and the beginning of 1910, Robert F. Macfie determined to continue with his experiments. From 3rd until 28th February, 1910, he travelled the provinces looking for a flying-ground and searched London for a suitable constructor of a new single-seat pusher biplane which he had designed. At the same time he made arrangements for the supply of a 60 h.p. J. A.P. engine for the machine. W. H. Tothill undertook the work of fabricating the parts for the Empress, spending just over three weeks on the job, from 21st March until 15th April. During this time, Macfie managed to obtain the use of a shed at Portholme, Hunts., and the parts of the biplane were sent there on 15th April, 1910, for assembly. Yet another disappointment for Macfie was the non-appearance of the engine on order, and he had to resort to using the 35 h.p. J. A.P. salvaged from the wreck of the old 1909 monoplane. Short flights were made with the Empress on 12th May, but, on the same day. Lord Sandwich withdrew permission to use Portholme owing to trouble with the Promoting Company. Macfie was determined to try the machine once again before moving, and was in the air making straight flights the next morning at 3.20 a.m.
On 11th June, 1910, he left for Brooklands, the biplane arriving on 16th June. It was re-erected straight away, and on 18th June was flying straight and managing quarter turns, but its lack of power precluded really successful flights. James Radley was interested in taking the Empress to Wolverhampton for the meeting being held there, and it was hurriedly altered into a Farman type in time for him to take it there on 27th June, the day on which the event opened. The meeting continued until 2nd July, but by then the Empress had been damaged by the weather, and it arrived back at Brooklands on 6th July.
Further damage was caused by burning, but rebuilding started on 9th July to Macfie's original specification. By then Macfie had gone into partnership with James Valentine, and went to Paris from 1st until 18th September in order to obtain a 50 h.p. Gnome for the machine. It was hoped that the extra power would give the aircraft a chance to show its capabilities. Other modifications included attention to the tail booms, which were made shorter; the undercarriage was much lower, and two large rudders were fitted instead of the former single small one. The performance was greatly improved when, from 18th September until 9th November, 1910, circular flights were being made at Brooklands. The machine was so successful that Valentine was enabled to gain his Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 47 with it on 17th January, 1911, while Macfie used it to obtain Certificate No. 49 a week later on 24th January. Oscar Morison, a Bleriot pilot at Brooklands, used the machine for his first experience of biplane flying, but landed it in the infamous sewage farm near the aerodrome. After salvage it was sold to Herbert Spencer, who rebuilt it once more on Farman lines and flew it successfully in the spring of 1912.