Mayfly 1-16
Spar joiners (for model;
not necessarily part of
Lilian Bland’s original)
(The frontview shows just the wing assembly with
undercarriage and pilot & engine unit. Omitted for clarity
are the three front sideframes and the two rear ones, as well as
front elevators and rear stabilizers, plus pedals and handlebar
controls with their wires. See other views for these parts.)
Rear spar, top & bottom
Front spar, top wing
Front spar, bottom wing
Sideviews of struts
front & rear overlaid
Rear spar
Outriggers attach
to wing spars
top & bottom
Outriggers attach
to wing spars top & bottom
Front spar
Fuel tank mounted
transverse to secure
fuel flow at low levels
Wires from the
engine mount
back to rear
wing spars
ctrl. wire from
Fore & aft elevator
conn. wires (crossed)
elev. ctrl.
ctrl. wire from
Wires from the
engine mount
back to rear
wing spars
Elevator ctrl. wires
(lower pair crossed)
Front spar
Small filler pieces added
to front spar at each strut
position. Sand to profile.
Wing tip
Front bicycle
type wheel
in fork & with
diagonal supports
Length sitting on ground
Wing span
Wing chord
Elevator front span each
Elevator front chord
Elevator rear span each
Elevator rear chord
ctrl. wire
from backrest
ctrl. wire
Rear spar
27’ 7”
2’ 6”
Spars, ash
38 x 25
32 x 51
2,4 x 1,5
2,0 x 3,2
Wheels x 2, motorcycle
Rudder ctrl. wire pulley
mounted on extension
from lower wing spar
in order for wire to clear
lower wing top cover.
Wing tip
Wing tip skids
attach to wing
spars fore & aft
Main landing gear
motorcycle type wheels
on common axle
Oil tank
with adj. valves
and oil distr. lines
Lower wing center section rib shown
in sideview above. Note spar joiners.
Typical rib below.
The main “outriggers” shown over a page of Lilian
Bland’s own Aviation workbook where she collected
notes and calculations for the build. Measurements
given here used to prepare the model drawing.
(Courtesy Colm O’Rourke,
The three front and two rear
outriggers of the Mayfly were
made of bamboo. Ideally they
should be modeled as round.
Rib cap
Rear rib section
Rear spar
Front spar
The two smaller sketches of the outrigger pivot and
engine are from Flight, Dec. 17 1910, pp. 1025-27.
“Outriggers” front,
3 req.
Spars - ash; curve of wing tip steam bent
Ribs, stanchions - spruce
Outriggers - bamboo
Skids - ash
Engine bed - American elm.
with spark
plug wires;
with fuel line
and throttle adj. wire
The engine drawing represents the particular engine & prop
Lilian Bland personally brought home to Ireland from the
factory in England. It is based entirely on the few photos
available, and many features remain conjectural.
“Outriggers” rear,
2 req.
Wing tip
skid (seen
and wing)
Lilian Bland’s own comments on her flying machine
[As published in Flight ,DECEMBER 17,1910, pp.1025-27, Global Flight Archive pdf-files 1910 ,1027-29, slightly abridged, edited, and commented in places]
Main rib section
[The wheel figures do not tally with the drawings. 24” is more appropriate for the front, bicycle-type wheel]
Prop Avro adjust. pitch dia.
The Edwards-Avro
20 hp two-stroke aircraft engine,
with Avro adjustable pitch propeller
ctrl. & wire
Fore & aft elevator
conn. wires (crossed)
”The balancing planes, which are hinged to the rear stanchions, are controlled by the back of the
seat, leaning to the right pulls down the right hand balancer and vice versa. The vertical rudder is
worked by pedals.
[The way Lilian Bland had rigged her control system is somewhat different compared to later convention. In response to the aircraft banking
(leaning) to the right, she would turn the handlebar in the same direction to correct it. It would have been easy to rig the aircraft more intuitively,
like when you ride a bicycle – just crossing the top wires from the handlebar, instead of the lower pair, would produce a left bank by turning the
handlebar left. Lilian Bland’s way of rigging the controls therefore must have been a conscious choice, and the drawing shows her original rigging.
The way the backrest control is described, on the other hand, appears to contain a mistake (at least the way it is printed in Flight magazine):
Leaning to the right will pull down the left balancer (not the right), thus banking the aircraft towards the right. To sum up the way her system
worked: Pushing on the left handle and leaning left at the same time would produce a left bank.]
“The engine controls consist of a butterfly valve which regulates the petrol supply, an air throttle,
and a lever to the magneto, while when starting one cylinder is cut out.
“When the engine starts the draught from the propeller lifts the tail and the tip of the skids off
the ground, and the machine balances on the two wheels; the third wheel in front only comes
into action over rough ground, and the purpose is to prevent the machine from going on to her
nose; it answers admirably.
“The construction of the machine is more or less of the usual type, but the trailing edge and wing
tips are more flexible. Originally steamed ribs were used, but were later discarded, as they did not
keep their proper curve ; the present ribs are cut out solid to the correct curve for the lower
surface of the rib, and are given a flatter curve on the top, while they are bored out for the sake of
[The comment about the wing profile is difficult to interpret. The wing profile as drawn here is just a best guess.]
“The tank and carburettor float are placed across the span of the machine, so that the fore and aft
tilt does not interfere with the petrol supply when the tank is getting empty; tanks are made now
with two cocks leading to the tube, which gets over this difficulty where the fuel is fed by gravity.”
Thus far, Lilian Bland’s own description of her machine. Now for some tips on how to model it.
A note on materials to use for a model
The drawing does not specify any specific material to use. Thin wood cut into stringers can be
used for spars and framework members, if you feel confident to be able to accomplish the bends
required in places. An alternative it to cut and assemble these parts from laminated, suitably
colored, paper or card.
Wires attach here
Flanges for mounting
to fuselage framework
with four bolts
swivel mounted
both ends
Wire pairs
attach here
and here
- lower pair
(All control
bars omitted
for clarity.)
(Top right wing
for clarity. )
Pilot seat &
engine bearers
[Letter to “Flight” magazine from Lilian Bland, published July 16th, 1910]
I have at last got my engine. To hasten matters, I went over to England and brought it back not quite under my
arm, but on two spars; it fitted very neatly into a railway carriage and also on to an outside car. I got it on the
aeroplane and tried it late last night ; but as I have not got my tank yet I tried to feed it out of a whisky bottle,
and the only tubing I could find was my aunt's ear-trumpet. Under the circumstances the engine behaved
better than I expected, it was like a cat-fight on a very enlarged scale. The natives, I hear, thought one of the
mills had blown up, but as the noise continued they put it down to a thunderstorm ; in the meantime I found
the mechanic while deeply interested in the engine was liberally pouring the petrol over the main plane instead
of down the ear-trumpet, and the engine subsided with a sigh. As it was pouring with rain and too dark to see,
the proceedings were terminated and I think I will wait for the tank, and as the engine is English its sense of
humour is not developed sufficiently for these proceedings.
Left & right elevators
move independently;
work both as elevators
and ailerons. They are
connected with crossed
wires to front elevators.
Aft & rear
conn. wires
Wire pairs
ctrl. wires
from pedals
The control system worked out by Lilian Bland was advanced and ingenious; in places quite difficult to understand due to its complexity. As explained by herself in the text at left, it combined elevators and ailerons in a way
that today would be called “elevons”. The two front elevators could be worked together as pure elevators by
pulling or pushing on the handlebar. If you turned the handlebar left or right, the elevators would deflect in
different directions, one side up and one side down. To accomplish this, the elevator control wires running from
the bottom bellcrank of the handlebar were crossed.
The front elevators, in turn, were coupled to the moving sections of the rear stabilizers, also with crossed wires, so
that when you pulled on the handlebar the front elevators went “up” and the rear ones “down”, working together
to make the machine’s nose turn upwards. It should be noted that the aileron and the elevator functions of front
and rear elevators were coupled, so that both functions could be activated by, e.g., pushing and turning the
handlebar at the same time. The ordinary aft rudder was actuated by foot pedals.
In addition, there was a backrest control, so that if the pilot leaned left in responce to an imbalance towards the
right, the “balancer” between the wings on the right side (what we today would call aileron) was pulled down to
make the right wing rise and the machine level out. According to the practice of the era, these ailerons hung
down when the machine was at rest on ground, while the airflow in flight would keep them horizontal until one
of them was pulled down by leaning left or right.
ctrl. wires
ctrl. wires
from pedals
Rudder ctrl. wire pulley
mounted on extension
from lower wing spar
in order for wire to clear
lower wing top cover.
Upper handlebar
elevator ctrl. wires
Handlebar ctrl.
Crossbracing wires
from top to bottom
of vertical members
of fin.
Left & right elevators
move independently;
work both as elevators
and ailerons. They are
connected with crossed
wires to rear elevators.
Front & rear elevators
thus work in opposite
directions to enhance
elevator effect.
of stab.
for clarity
Fore & aft
conn. wires
The entire control system demonstrates the degree to which Lilian Bland had studied the various approaches
taken by airplane designers of her day, and fruitfully applied them to her own machine. The exact running of
some of the many control wires required remains conjectural, due to the difficulty of interpreting existing
photos. The same goes for many pulleys and fittings which have been deduced. As an example, the drawing
represents a best guess for how the rudder wires from the foot pedals, and the “balancer” (aileron) wires ran.
like the rear outriggers,
but two sections L & R
Covering could be made by tissue (classic method), or thin vellum (sketching) paper. The covering may be tensioned by cautiously spraying with water or Pride (floor polish, diluted acrylic
varnish). The builder may want to experiment with water soluble varnish tinted with water colors
such as gouache. Several layers of lightly tinted varnish could be applied, until the right nuance of
varnished linen & wood is achieved.
The "Mayfly," with its 20-h.p. Avro
engine in place. Miss Lilian
Bland, its designer and owner, is
seen in her businesslike working
[Above, original caption, Flight, July 16th
1910. Below, excerpts from Lilian Bland’s
covering letter:]
The two pages from Lilian Bland’s Aviation workbook
underlying the undercarriage top- and sideviews at left
contain detailed sketches and notes about the SiemensBosch aircraft engine magneto, and prestanda of the main
aircraft of her day.
(Courtesy Colm O’Rourke,
Suggested order of assembly of the model
The undercarriage framework, as well as the pilot & engine bearer framework, can be built as
separate, stand-alone units (except for the engine bearer rear diagonal supports). Engine, fuel
tank assembly, as well as the pilot’s seat and control columns (minus the propeller) can be added
while this unit is built separatly. The undercarriage framework, likewise can be built separately
(main wheel axle and wheel to be added last). Wings, too, can be built and assembled with struts
and crossbracing rigging as a separate unit. In the lower wings, make sure to leave the two slits
between the outer sections and the center section uncovered, in order to make space for the
pilot & engine unit framework.
Other pages contain meticulously collected data for the
strength, weight, and resilience of various kinds of timber.
Data was collected by writing to magazines and experts in
the field. The workbook bears witness to how deeply and
carefully Lilian Bland prepared her design.
Wing tip skids
2 req.
Mount the pilot & engine assembly inside the wing assembly, on top of the lower wing spars, in
the two slits of the wing left uncovered. Mount this whole unit (wings & pilot-engine unit on to
the undercarriage framework. Add missing rigging for these units. Now add front side framework
(3 pcs.) with front elevators to the wing section. Do the same for the two rear side framework
sections, with the rear horizontal and vertical stabilizers & rudders. Rig these parts, and add the
control wires. Finally, mount the main wheel axle with wheels, and the center front wheel with its
fork and diagonal supports.
These horizontal crossbars
were not part of Lilian Bland’s design.
They have been added to the model for
rigidity and ease of assembly.
If you wish to use real rubber rings when making the wheels, try O-rings, 2 each of 23,4 x 3,53
mm, one 33 x 2,62 mm (inner diameter x material diameter).
ctrl. wire
from backrest
like the rear outriggers,
but two sections L & R
Paper is certainly a most attractive alternative for ribs (laminate), engine, and other details such as
the fuel & oil tanks. Additional design efforts are required from the builder, whichever method is
Spoked wheels are difficult to model, but very impressive if you manage it. The very experienced
model maker may want to attempt it. Search the model building literature for descriptions., where this drawing was developed, is recommended.
valve, this side only
“The engine bed is a separate chassis set across the main spars to which it is clipped; stays run
from the rear spar to the chassis, which is also wired out to the upper and lower spars. Carries the
tank and the pilot's seat, the latter being slung by four straps. In front , the bar for the elevator
control. The whole chassis can be removed in one piece either with or without the engine, which
is held in place by four bolts.
“The controls consist of a bicycle handle bar which rocks and turns. Turning the handle to the
right raises the right hand elevator and depresses the left, the connecting wires being crossed.
The elevators are connected to the horizontal tail planes, which work in the opposite direction to
the elevators ; all controls are double, wire and strong waterproofed whipcord.
Exhaust ports,
no manifolds
or silencers
I find mechanic's overalls are the
best things to wear; skirts are out
of the question with all the wires,
etc., not to speak of oil. The
boxwood wheels on end of skids
are only for running the machine
along the road. The motor is a
20hp Avro, and the propeller an
Avro, adjustable pitch, 6 ft. 6 in.
diameter; the engine is beautifully balanced, but all the same
the vibration is enormous, and I
find that all the nuts dance
themselves loose; however, I can
double-nut most of the bolts. I
had the engine running nicely on
Saturday, and as soon as I have
got everything so that it will not
shift, I shall take the machine up
to the flying ground I have been
lent. It is a fine place, 800 acres,
but it also contains a loose bull,
and if it gets annoyed and
charges I shall have every
inducement to fly!
The Mayfly version shown in the photo at right, and the one at the
far right, is slightly earlier than the one drawn, and in the upper
photos. The fuel tank is still positioned fore-aft instead of across, as
well as more elevated. The photo does provide unique details of the
Edwards-Avro 20hp engine and adjustable propeller. Note the
complicated lubricating system, the magneto in front, the spark
plugs, and possibly also a decompression valve for ease of starting.
Lilian Bland’s 1910 “Mayfly”
The first woman in Great Britain, and the second person
on Ireland, to design, construct and fly an aeroplane.
Scale 1:16
The drawing will print in full size on
A2-sized paper, or reduced in size
on smaller formats.
Based on best available documentation from Flightglobal
archive 1909-10 and Lilian Bland’s own workbook notes.
Drawn & compiled by Leif Ohlsson. Drawing intended
as a basis for building a scale model in paper & wood.
Lilian E. Bland preparing to fly the Mayfly 1910
at Lord O'Neill's park at Randalstown.
Sources: The main - and virtually only - source for this early aircraft is the invaluable online pdf-archive of the complete editions of “Flight”
magazine, available at The issues used for compiling this drawing is from 1909-10, and in particular December 17th
1910 (pdf-archive files No:s 1027-29). The two photos of the aircraft, the two sketches, and the three-view drawing, plus Lilian Bland’s own
account of the “Mayfly” are all from this issue. They are published here with their original 1910 captions. The portrait of Lilian E. Bland is a
cut-out from a photo published in a later memorial published in Flight 1964 (pdf-archive files No:s 0207-08). The high-resolution photo to
the left has been graciously made available by Colm O'Rourke,, who also extended me the great privilege of full access to
Lilian Bland’s own “Aviation Workbook” with all her notes and sketches of the Mayfly design through its various stages. Warm thanks!
- Leif Ohlsson
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