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Narrative:On 1 January 1911, Vickers, Sons and Maxim (which would be renamed Vickers Limited later that year), entered into a license agreement to build aircraft and aero-engines designed by the Frenchman Robert Esnault-Pelterie (hence R.E.P.), and sell them in Britain and its Empire. Following the agreement, Vickers purchased a French-built R.E.P. monoplane for use as a demonstrator together with an R.E.P.-built rear fuselage. This became the Vickers Type 1 (or R.E.P. 1)
|Date:||Monday 13 January 1913|
|Type:||Vickers Type 6 Monoplane|
|MSN:|| R.E.P. 6|
|Fatalities:||Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2|
|Aircraft damage:|| Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||River Thames, Long Reach, Erith, near Crayford, Kent -
|Phase:|| En route|
|Departure airport:||Joyce Green Airfield, Dartford, Kent|
|Confidence Rating:|| Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources|
The design was redrawn from metric to imperial measurements by Vickers, while the first example was built at the Vickers factory at Erith, Kent (now part of Greater London), using the French-built rear fuselage and a French-built engine, but was otherwise the rest of the components were Vickers-built. It made its maiden flight from Vickers' new airfield at Joyce Green, near Dartford in July 1911, piloted by Captain Herbert F. Wood, the manager of Vickers' aviation department,
The first five monoplanes were basically similar, and were powered by R.E.P engines, with the fifth one having a deeper fuselage. The sixth aircraft, (the Type 6 or R.E.P. 6) built for the 1912 British Military Aeroplane Competition was noticeably different, with side-by-side seating for its two crew, a shorter wingspan (35 ft (10.67 m) rather than 47 ft 6 in (14.5 m) for the earlier aircraft), while a 70 hp (52 kW) Viale radial engine was fitted. This aircraft crashed during a test flight on January 13, 1913 killing both person on board.
According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Cheltenham Chronicle" - Saturday 18 January 1913):
"TRAGIC DEATH OF TWO AIRMEN,
An airman and his mechanic, flying in a monoplane on Monday afternoon, fell into the Thames near Crayford, Kent, close to the Kent shore, and were drowned. A few minutes previously they had been heard singing. They were Mr. L. F. Macdonald, an engineer, and Harry England, mechanic, who left the flying ground of Messrs. Vickers at Joyce Green, near Dartford, for a short trial flight in a 70-h.p. Gnome-engine Vickers monoplane.
In the course of a few seconds they were seen flying over the Long Reach Tavern, and were, in fact, heard singing. After flying for a few minutes at a height of a few hundred feet, trouble with the engine caused them to make a rapid descent while they were above the river. The monoplane fell gently and floated for about a minute. One man was seen climbing along a wing before the machine sank. He then swam a few yards and disappeared. He was presumably the mechanic, for Mr. Macdonald could not swim, and evidently went down with the machine.
The accident was seen through a telescope three-quarters of a mile away by Mr. H. G. Ticehurst, manager of the Thames Ammunition Works, on the Essex shore. "They were flying at a height of about a hundred feet and making for the Essex shore when I first saw them," he said. "I could distinctly hear the engine, and it seemed to be running steadily. They seemed unable to keep the head properly elevated, and gradually it dropped and the machine descended into the river. Just before it touched the water I heard a loud explosion. I saw the man on the wing let go and swim for about ten yards before he sank. His companion I did not see. Two boats started from the Essex shore, but could not get to the spot in time to give assistance."
Mr. Macdonald was a young airman of experience, in the employment of Messrs. Vickers as an engineer. Two years ago, shortly after getting his certificate, he went to Australia for the Bristol Aeroplane Company and gave exhibition flights there. Last summer, with a Vickers monoplane, he flew in the military trials at Salisbury Plain. England was also employed by Messrs. Vickers."
The publican of the Long Reach Tavern (and retired waterman) Richard Salmon (1843-1915), witnessed the accident and gave evidence at the inquest in Dartford. The Coroner concluded that the accident had occurred as a result of a sudden loss of power to the engine. The incident didn’t deter Richard from flying as he later experienced a joyride from Joyce Green Aerodrome, at age 69/70
There was a post-script to the incident, reported in a local newspaper ("Western Daily Press" - Thursday 6 February 1913):
"SEQUEL TO AEROPLANE TRAGEDY
The Vickers biplane, which sank in the Thames, at Long Reach, more than three weeks ago, carrying with it the Bristol pilot Macdonald and his mechanic England, was found at 12.30 yesterday afternoon, not far from where she sank by two Gravesend fishermen. She is now beached at Crayford Ness. The body of neither of the ill-fated airmen has been recovered".
1. The Birth of Military Aviation: Britain, 1903-1914 page 306 By Hugh Driver
2. Andrews, C.F. and Morgan E.B. Vickers Aircraft since 1908. London:Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-815-1.
3. Cheltenham Chronicle - Saturday 18 January 1913
4. Western Daily Press - Thursday 6 February 1913
The Vickers R.E.P. Type Monoplane Douglas Mawson bought to take on his Australasian Antarctic Expedition, at Brooklands on 1 August 1911
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||Dr. John Smith
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||Dr. John Smith
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