The 100th anniversary of the first time an aircraft touched down on the deck of a moving ship is to be marked.
Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning landed a Sopwith Pup biplane on HMS Furious in Scapa Flow, Orkney, on 2 August, 1917.
It was seen as marking the dawn of aviation from aircraft carriers. He died days later attempting a repeat.
A plaque to mark the landing – which relied on crew members to grab the plane’s wings to stop it – will be unveiled at Scapa.
A flypast by a Hawk aircraft is also scheduled to take place, with a second pass with wheels and wing flaps extended – simulating an aircraft carrier landing approach.
‘All the more poignant’
Lt Cdr Barry Issitt, commanding officer of 736 Naval Air Squadron, said: “The event itself is of particular significance to the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm as it marks the first successful landing of a fixed-wing aircraft on a ship under way at sea; a moment that would be the genesis for the establishment of the pre-eminence of aircraft carriers.
“It is all the more poignant considering the current regeneration of the UK’s carrier capability, with HMS Queen Elizabeth currently conducting sea trials not far from the location of Dunning’s landing, with Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron operating from her flight deck.”
The new plaque has been produced by local craftsman Stuart Wylie.
Making aviation history
On 2 August 1917, Gp Capt Edwin Dunning made aviation history by becoming the first man to land a plane on a moving ship.
The pilot, who was born in South Africa was just 25.
He achieved the feat by landing his Sopwith Pup on the deck of the HMS Furious as the ship steamed through the waters of Scapa Flow in Orkney.
The landing was extremely perilous – whereas now arrest wires would bring a plane to a halt, Dunning was relying on the deck crew of the Furious to grab the wings of his Sopwith Pup to bring it to a halt.
Five days later, the dangers became all too apparent.
While attempting to repeat the feat, Dunning waved the ground crew away.
On approach, his engine stalled and he came down on the deck of the Furious at too steep an angle. Dunning was knocked unconscious, his plane went over the side of the ship and he drowned.
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In 1992, a memorial stone was unveiled at Swanbister Bay in Orkney in recognition of his feat.