Blackburn First Monoplane stbd side view
A side view of Blackburn's First Monoplane, showing its general layout.
The pioneer designer and engineer Robert Blackburn initially experimented with flying from the beaches at Marske, Saltburn and then at Filey in North Yorkshire.
His first design, constructed with Harry Goodyear, was a rectangular, high-wing of only 24 ft span in which the pilot was sat low down on a platform with a reverse tricycle undercarriage. It featured a 35 hp water-cooled Green engine, mounted ahead of the pilot.
The engine drove a slow-running 8ft 6in diameter propeller mounted at the wing leading edge, chain-driven using a 2:1 reduction gear. An open box girder served as a fuselage to support a fixed tailplane, behind which was a cruciform triangular set of movable control surfaces, mounted on a universal joint.
Blackburn patented a new control system for this machine, which he described as a ‘triple steering column’. This was controlled by a steering wheel on an articulated column and rotation of the wheel left and right provided rudder movement. Translation up and down provided the necessary elevator input whereas side-to-side motion controlled the wing warping.
The aircraft was built at Benson Street, Leeds and by April 1909 it was ready for testing on the stretch of sands between Marske and Saltburn on the Yorkshire Coastline. Fast taxi trials demonstrated (by the tyre marks) that the aircraft was able to make short hops, dismissively described by Blackburn as ‘sand scratching’.
On 24th May 1910, an in-flight turn was attempted which resulted in the aircraft 'side-slipping' and eventually digging its port wing tip into the beach. With a damaged wing and broken propeller further attempts at flight meant that the aircraft was returned to Blackburn’s new factory at Balm Road, Leeds.
At the factory the lessons learned from these early attempts was translated into the design of the more successful Blackburn second monoplane which pointed the way to the series of Mercury one and two-seat monoplanes.
Blackburn First Monoplane initial trials at Marske 1910
Blackburn's First Monoplane undergoing initial trials at Marske in 1910.


Variants & Number Built

One only: tested in 1909 and 1910, but failed to achieve sustained, controlled flight.


One 35 hp Green engine
24 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
800 lb
Pilot only
Maximum Speed
60 mph (estimated)



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