The first airplane to make a powered, controlled and sustained flight in Britain took place at Farnborough on October 16, 1908, continuing a tradition that had already made the airfield a center of aviation excellence. To celebrate that event, a full-size replica of Samuel Franklin Cody’s British army airplane Number 1A is making its first public appearance here.
The work of a dedicated group of volunteers, the replica is supposedly even more accurate than the original. Cody kept meticulous records, so initial plans and early detailed photographs were examined and appropriately digitized and turned into a computer aided design (CAD) model. At that point the designers identified and corrected minor discrepancies.
Three months ahead of the original schedule and planned to coincide with the actual date of the first flight, the 40-strong team of volunteers led by project manager David Wilson completed construction of the Cody Flyer in time for the airshow. The computer model proved invaluable in designing the metal, wood and bamboo components of the replica and, although the engine does not work, (there are no plans to fly the replica), it can spring into noisy life under electrical power. To find it, go past the BAE Systems display to the white building beyond where spectators will find not one, but three replicas of different aircraft.
Funding for the Cody replica came from a variety of sources, but Lockheed Martin stood as the only aerospace company to provide sponsorship. That proved appropriate as Cody was born in America and Lockheed Martin has a large facility at Farnborough today, so the replica also reflects a century of U.S.-UK partnership in aerospace and defense.
The Cody project was the brainchild of the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST), which created the museum near Gate A, accessed only from Farnborough Road. Led by its chairman, Richard Gardner, FAST has rescued countless items of historical interest destined for the scrap heap.
Supported by a dedicated group of enthusiasts that has restored many objects to pristine condition, and a small team of ladies who became skilled in the art of preparing and sewing fabric wing coverings, the museum is an Aladdin’s cave of aeronautica. Do take time to drop by–you will be sure to stay longer than you planned.