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Ferguson Monoplane
The exploits of the Wright Brothers fascinated Harry Ferguson and during subsequent years he visited many air shows and exhibitions. Two he attended were Rheims and Blackpool where he took measurements from the aircraft there. On his return to Belfast he persuaded his brother Joe that it would be good for their garage business to build and fly planes.

Throughout 1909 construction took place, with various changes and improvements being made as work progressed, one being the replacement of the original Green engine by an eight cylinder, air cooled 35hp JAP engine.
The day of the first flight attempt arrived and with wings detached and the tail resting in the back of a car the aircraft was towed through the Belfast streets up to Hillsborough Park. First efforts to get off the ground failed due to propeller trouble. It was replaced but again this and bad weather prevented attempts for nearly a week.
Finally, on the 31 December 1909 Ferguson was ready to go. A reporter from the Belfast Telegraph described the scene:

The roar of the eight cylinders was like the sound of a Gatling gun in action. The machine was set against the wind, and all force being developed the splendid pull of the new propeller swept the big aeroplane along as Mr Ferguson advanced the lever. Presently, at the movement of the pedal, the aeroplane rose into the air at a height from nine to twelve feet, amidst the heavy cheers of the onlookers. The poise of the machine was perfect and Mr Ferguson made a splendid flight of 130 yards. Although fierce gusts of wind made the machine wobble a little twice the navigator steadied her by bringing her head to wind, successful initial flight that has ever been attempted upon an aeroplane.

A few unsuccessful attempts, one of which was at Magilligan Sands, the Ferguson monoplane took to the air from Hillsborough. However, while his attempts at Hillsborough and Magilligan are well documented, it is believed that Ferguson tested his plane at the site of what is now Ards Airfield.
Harry Ferguson had thus made the first flight in Ireland and was the first Briton to build and fly his own aeroplane.
The machine was rebuilt and flown in 1911 and 1912.
Allastair Duffin in his Belfast workshop
Allastair Duffin, a Newtownards boatbuilder and woodworker, was building a replica of the Harry Ferguson monoplane commissioned by the BBC. The BBC approached Alastair about with their idea of filming a documentary about Ferguson, which would include flying a replica of the original plane.
There are no original plans and it appears Harry Ferguson marked it out on the floor and said to the men, right, there you are, build it. Plans were drawn up using a model at a museum as its basis. Once completed it is hoped the plane will fly.


Engine: JAP 8-cyl, 35 hp
Wing span: 32 feet
Length: 26 feet
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