STELLA Pixton, daughter of pioneer aviator Howard Pixton, recently attended a centenary gala dinner at Farnborough, arranged by the Royal Aeronautical Society to celebrate the first officially recorded powered flight in Britain in a British-built plane.
There were 400 guests, including a number of high-ranking politicians. Sir Peter Norris, a past president of the society who spoke at the inaugural Howard Pixton Lecture at the Isle of Man branch of the Aeronautical Society, was also present.
Jurby Junk boss Stella, who was accompanied by Nigel Macknight, Britain's contender for the World Water Speed Record, and sponsor Geof Whitnall, said: 'It will always be debatable as to who was first to fly in Britain — A. V. Roe or S. F. Cody.
'In my father's day, both men claimed they were the first: Roe in June 1908 and Cody in October that same year. To complicate matters, the first man credited with being the first to fly in Britain is JTC Moore Brabazon who, two years later, when licences were issued, was given licence No 1 — but he'd flown a French plane.
'It seems to me that the Royal Aeronautical Society favours S. F. Cody as being the first man to fly a "sustained flight" in Britain, albeit he was American. He was working for the British Army at the time. But my father told me A. V. Roe always stated and advertised that he was "First off the ground, first off the water!".'
The gala event was opened by President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Captain David Rowland and during his brief account of the beginnings of aviation in Britain in 1908 he announced Stella's presence and of her father's friendship with both A. V. Roe and S. F. Cody.
Principal speaker, Lord Brabazon of Tara, grandson of JTC Moore Brabazon, made reference to how aviation took place more on the ground than in the air in those early days.
Representing the future of aviation, Libby Dover, an Utterly Butterly wing-walker who performed at the 2005 Jurby Air Show, spoke of unmanned air vehicles, the exploration of space, and fare-paying passengers going to the edge of space.
Early pictures were flashed on to a screen in a looped rotation and included Howard Pixton in A. V. Roe's first successful bi-plane, which he tested in 1910 and 1911.
Stella said: 'Roe never looked back after that, but in 1913 Cody crashed in one of his own machines and was killed. He was known as Papa Cody and everyone was devastated, he was much loved.' The dinner ended with a toast to the Queen and to all the aeronautical pioneers of the past 100 years.
Entertainment afterwards was by Leslie Garrett CBE, whose selection of songs and arias included Dream the Impossible Dream.
The next day, Stella was among the crowd that watched the Cody Centenary Flypast, a fantastic display featuring aircraft spanning 80 years, ending with a Vulcan landing at the famous Black Sheds at Farnborough – a fitting conclusion to the celebration.