I n 2011 we take flying and planes for granted, but I’m sure if one landed on the seafront at Hayling Island today it would cause as big a stir as this one did a century ago.
It was in October 1911 that Mr E Howard Pixton flew his Bristol biplane No 19, from Amesbury, Wiltshire, to Hayling.
He landed on the seafront opposite the Royal Hotel, parked it close to a doctor’s bungalow, and took off and landed several times in the subsequent days.
The Evening News reported several hundred people had waited patiently all day after rumours spread of the plane’s arrival from Salisbury Plain.
At 5pm, it said, ‘a biplane was seen coming from the direction of Havant. It made the descent opposite the Royal Hotel on the seafront’.
Mr Howard Pixton was the pilot and his passenger was a Lieutenant Berney RN. The report added: ‘The object in coming to Hayling is to make some wireless experiments. The biplane was run under the lea of Dr How’s bungalow on the shore, roped round and covered up, and left in charge of some men for the night.’
The next day, a Sunday, an even larger crowd gathered to watch the plane wobble into the air.
The Evening News reporter wrote: ‘About 10.40 Mr Pixton took his seat accompanied by Lieut Berney and started towards the east end of the island, but after going as far as Green’s Tea Rooms, stopped and turned round going in the opposite direction over the golf links, rising opposite the end of the crescent.’
But in the afternoon a storm blew up and the plane was placed in the shelter of the tea rooms and some bathing machines.
In the following days, the plane took off and landed several times after flying out over the Solent to the Nab lightship.
I’m grateful to Mick O’Farrell for the pictures which he spotted on display at the Yew Tree Inn, Havant Road, north Hayling.