On 17 April Jim Preston spoke an enthusiastic audience on 'Aviation
in North Kent' from the earliest days.
In 1909 Short Brothers began manufacturing Wright Flyers under
licence in a makeshift factory at Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey.
The next year they moved to Eastchurch and started building their
Twin-engine aircraft soon followed, and then a plane that could
take off from a ship but had to land in the water and be hauled
In the War, after a move to Rochester, they built the very successful
S.184, a float plane for the Admiralty for naval recognizance.
The S.184 was also the first plane to attack a ship with a live
Meanwhile, closer to home, Vickers of Crayford, prompted by Hiram
Maxim, an early enthusiast, began to take an interest in aviation.
In 1911 Vickers purchased land on the Dartford Marshes to test
The site they chose, near to the embankment of the Thames, was
bordered on the west by the River Darent and on the east by Joyce
This airfield was in use throughout the War during the production
of an armed biplane (the Vickers Gunbus) and a twin-engine bomber,
later adapted to commercial use.
Vickers moved to Surrey after the War and the airfield reverted
North Kent also saw the manufacture of flying boats at Strood,
airships on the Isle of Grain, and gliders at West Malling; and
in the 1930s Amy Johnson was associated with the ambitiously named
'Gravesend London Airport'.