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Harry Ferguson replica plane set to be a standout attraction at Air Waves Portrush

Harry Ferguson replica plane set to be a standout attraction at Air Waves Portrush

Wed, August 30, 2017

A star of north coast aviation history will be the standout attraction at this summer’s Air Waves ground display in Portrush on September 2nd and 3rd.

It’s a detailed, full-sized replica of a similar aeroplane which engineering genius Harry Ferguson built and flew from Magilligan Point more than a century ago.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be bringing our aircraft to Air Waves for the first time”, said Ray Burrows, chairman of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS).

And, to complete the festival bill, a special visitor will be “going public” for the first time since he took that replica into the air last year.

He’s William McMinn, the only living pilot to have flown a Ferguson design. He’ll be the guest speaker at a preview event the night before the festival actual begins. His presentation, to include a short video, is jointly sponsored by the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and the Ulster Aviation Society.

Mr. McMinn took the controls for the aeroplane’s only flight, in May of 2016, just a few yards from where Harry Ferguson himself took to the air in a similar machine in 1910.

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councillor, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, said: “We are truly honoured that William will share his unique story with us as a prelude to this year’s Air Waves Portrush. This preview vent is a must for all aviation enthusiasts, as William will provide a fascinating insight in to his experiences as he followed in the footsteps of Harry Ferguson. We are delighted to showcase his beautifully crafted replica plane at Air Waves for the first time – this is living history at its very best.”

The aircraft and pilot McMinn played feature roles in a three-part BBC television series, “The Great Flying Challenge,” first broadcast last autumn.   It was hosted by Northern Ireland’s own Dick Strawbridge, a frequent presenter of BBC special features.

“The whole process was a great drama in its own right,” said Mr. Burrows.  “Here’s a private pilot, batting ideas (and likely banging his head as well) month after month with a full TV crew while helping to build their aeroplane at the same time.  And then he straps himself into a machine that’s never been flown before, and takes off into the sky.”

Mr. McMinn will tell his story Friday, Sept. 1st at the Portrush Atlantic Hotel at 8 pm.  Space at the 80-seat venue is obviously limited, so early arrival is recommended.

Mr. Burrows said the volunteers of the Ulster Aviation Society will have a busy weekend, just judging by the popularity of the group’s large displays in previous years.

“We’ll have at least four aircraft in place, including our replica Spitfire and a couple of helicopters, most of them open so folks can climb inside for photos,” he said.  “They’ll get an idea of the ‘upstairs offices’ confronting those pilots in the air show itself.’

But he’s especially proud that the Ferguson aeroplane will be on display.

“I like to think Harry Ferguson himself will be watching somehow from the past and enjoying the reaction of thousands of visitors,” he said. “They can admire his aeroplane on the ground and imagine him flying over Benone strand, then look skyward and see in the air show the kind of modern aircraft that he could only dream about.”

The replica is only one of about 35 heritage aircraft held in the Society’s collection at its two hangars in the Maze/Long Kesh site, Lisburn.  They are maintained in non-flying, display condition, available to view by tour groups.