“The history of aeroplaning in this country will date from 31st December 1909”

Harry Ferguson 1909 monoplane

The Irish Times reports that the Royal Irish Automobile Club (RIAC) are commemorating the centenary of “the first powered flight of an Irish aircraft” – the National Aero Club are to take to the skies at Weston Airport, Dublin. The event they’re celebrating, as the Belfast Telegraph notes, is Harry Ferguson’s maiden flight on New Year’s Eve 1909 in Hillsborough, Co Down, in the monoplane pictured above – Ferguson is to the left of the propeller. The BBC report adds

The daring aviator was Harry Ferguson a talented engineer and inventor who is best remembered for his advances in the development of the tractor. Only six years after the Wright brothers had piloted their flyer over the sands of Kitty Hawk the Irishman was emulating their feat in a field just 13 miles from Belfast. The aircraft, a monoplane, was made in Belfast, with the exception of the 8 cylinder English made J.A.P. engine.

Ernie Cromie of the Ulster Aviation Society said that he had essentially designed and built his own plane in a year. “The engine was 35 horse power even for a car nowadays that isn’t much, but no-one was building engines specifically for planes,” he said. “Harry tuned and worked with that engine so that it would have enough power to get his aircraft up.”


The Belfast Telegraph reported on the first flight in its issue of 1 January, 1910 noting that the plane travelled about 130 yards or so on land belonging to the Marquis of Downshire.

The sound of the engine was described as being “like a Gatling machine-gun” due to its absence of a silencer.

“The history of aeroplaning in this country will date from 31st December 1909 a date that should be easily remembered,” the paper said.

In 1910 the first public flight was made on Newcastle beach in County Down and the Harry Ferguson Memorial group intend to mark the event.