Philip Jarrett

Frank McClean

During aviations pioneering years Francis Kennedy McClean used his vast inherited wealth to help the now famous Short Brothers company become established as one of Britains greatest aircraft manufacturers and, in doing so, he helped the Royal Navys first pilots into the air. In effect, he was Godfather to British naval aviation.But McClean did much more than even that. He was himself a balloonist and pioneer aviator, flying with Wilbur Wright in France in December 1908. He provided the Royal Aero Club with one of the first flying grounds in the UK; personally purchased no fewer than sixteen aeroplanes from Short Brothers before the First World War, and also acted as the companys unpaid test pilot. Convinced that aviation was destined to play a vital role in the nations defence, he made his own aeroplanes freely available for training and ensured that the Navy had a suitable site from which to fly, founding Englands first naval flying school, at Eastchurch in Kent. His flight up the Thames to Westminster on 10 August 1912, during which he flew between the upper and lower spans of Tower Bridge and passed beneath the other bridges, caught the public imagination, but despite all these achievements he remained unassuming, modest and reticent. This is a fascinating and informative account of McCleans great influence on early aviation, and his achievements and significant contribution to naval aviation are revealed here for the first time.
404 printed pages
Original publication



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