Monday, 16 April 2012

colva's aeronautical centenary

100 years ago this coming weekend, in April 1912, four days after the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and three days after Harriet Quimby became the first woman to cross the English Channel by aeroplane, Denys Corbett Wilson - courtesy first of a buffeting wind that caused him to drop his compass overboard, necessitating a night's stay in Almeley, near Hereford, and second of taking advantage of this unscheduled stop to do some maintenance on his engine, filling it when he did so with the wrong grade of castor oil - found himself about half an hour into his flight from Almeley with a badly misfiring engine and in pressing need of a flat spot to make an emergency landing. Unfortunately, at that moment he was flying over the hills of Radnorshire where flat spots are a rarity, but nevertheless managed to touch down in a reasonably level field ('the only level bit of ground for miles, only 120 yards long and about 40 wide') in the remote hamlet of Colva, where the plane stayed for three days, awaiting Corbett Wilson's French engineer, Gaston Vial, to arrive and get it back into flying order. If Corbett Wilson had appeared in the Les aviateurs du monde series of postcards that were produced around this time, this - Corbett Wilson taking off from Colva just after dawn on the 21st, watched by the hundreds of onlookers who had come from far and wide before dawn to see this amazing sight - is what it might have looked like.

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