I started to build flying machines round about 1909 to 1910 but the Frenchman Bleriot
beat us to it, being the first man to fly the English Channel and receiving £1000
for doing it! The Daily Mail then offered a prize of £10,000 to the first person
to fly from London to Manchester. The race was on, but the prize was eventually won
by Louis Paulhan in 1910.
The R.A.S. Aeroplane Co. Gosport was formed. The company consisted of three London
men, Mr Reader, a barman; Mr Allen, a bricklayer; and Mr Sheffield a chauffeur. We
built the first hangar on Grange Field, now known as the polo field, opposite The
Cocked Hat. I built the monoplane from tubing; the wheels were set into bicycle
forks. The dimensions were; span 32ft 4ins, length 28ft 6ins; the chain driven propeller
had a diameter of 7 ft. I was helped by Mr Crossland, a local furniture maker. Of
course in those days you could not buy an aeroplane engine. We fitted a 24 hp Lascelles
radial engine and a Weiss propeller. In July 1909 experimental runs took place, trials
were conducted on Grange Airfield. During the trials the machine lifted from the
ground and flew across the field but crashed and broke its propeller. The field was
not level, with several large potholes in it; lots of water had laid there, these
conditions contributed to the plane nose-diving on landing. A replacement propeller
was ordered and after many months it was delivered, only to find that it had been
turned with the pitch at the wrong angle and was no use. Winter months passed and
a young lad by the name of Lywood, who was very interested in flying, decided that
he would fly the machine. He took the controls and again the plane lifted and flew
a few hundred yards; mainly due to the lightness of this young lad. This lad later
became Air Vice Marshal LYWOOD.
After about 18 months we gave up testing the machine at Grange Field, we then put
it on show in my garage in Brockhurst Road, Gosport where it was a great attraction.
On the 5 November 1910 it was offered for auction, along with large new hangar, benches,
vices, tools, with complete camp outfit for four persons. Free use of excellent flying
ground with no extra expense, was also included in the asking price. It was put on
offer for £600 or nearest offer.
A man who can justly claim to be one of the pioneers of the aircraft industry, despite
the fact he has never been airborne, is 71-year-old Mr Victor Hutfield, of Chilworth
Grove, Lees Lane, Gosport. ‘I have never tried to fly and I have never wanted to,’
says Mr Hutfield, but nevertheless, he was closely connected with aeroplanes during
their early days.
A relic of those days is the roof of his garage which was once the roof of the hangar
at Grange field Gosport, one of the first airfields in the country. He helped to
build the first aircraft to fly from Grange field, and before he embarked on that
venture, he made the steel work for a flying machine built by Cmd. Porte, who went
on to achieve fame as the inventor of the flying boat.
In 1910, with three other men, Mr Hutfield decided to build an aircraft, the aim
being to win the £10,000 prize offered by a national newspaper for the first person
to fly from London to Manchester.
Powered by a 35 h.p. French Lascelles radial engine, the machine lifted from the
ground, but crashed and broke its propeller. Months later the machine was again ready
for flight. With a young boy named Lywood at the controls because of his light weight,
the machine again flew a few hundred yards only to crash. After the failure of their
attempts to win the £10,000, the aircraft was taken to Mr Hutfield’s garage in Brockhurst
Road, Gosport, where the engine was displayed in the window.
Eventually the machine was sent to London for auction and nothing more was heard
Extract from John Citizen’s Diary published in
The Portsmouth Evening News, Tuesday, 14th January 1958