Donald Campbell's Bluebird to return to water in Scotland test run

Speed hero Donald Campbell's jet-powered boat, Bluebird K7, is to return to the water in Scotland this summer.

Campbell died on January 4 1967 aged 45 when the hydroplane flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted a new water speed record on Coniston Water in Cumbria.

In 2001 Campbell's body - with his race suit intact - and the wreckage of Bluebird were recovered from the depths of the lake and he was buried later that year in the village of Coniston.

Donald Campbell Bluebird 1958
Donald Campbell Bluebird 1958

Volunteers have been working on the hydroplane's restoration under the leadership of Tyneside-based Bill Smith for the past decade and have announced that Bluebird will undergo a test run at Loch Fad on the Isle of Bute in August.

It is hoped that Bluebird will eventually return to Coniston Water and fulfil the wishes of Campbell's daughter Gina.

A statement on the Bluebird Project website said: "After considering various UK bodies of water, the Bluebird Project team decided that Loch Fad would be the ideal location for our crew training exercise.

"We are thrilled that, after extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders on the island, agreement was reached to travel to Bute in August 2018, with assistance from the British Army, to get Bluebird K7 waterborne again and under her own power for the first time in over half a century as an integral part of bringing this iconic craft, along with her historic, educational and inspirational value back to the forefront of the public conscience.

"Her long anticipated resurrection, upon which she will again run at speed for demonstration purposes before going on public display, awaits only an invitation to operate on a suitable waterway, with Coniston Water being the team's first choice.

"But before that she must be thoroughly worked back to fighting fitness along with her operating team."

Donald Campbell's daughter, Gina, on Coniston Water
Donald Campbell's daughter, Gina, on Coniston Water

Steve Tatlock, park management team leader for the Lake District National Park, said: "We are disappointed that the Bluebird team have chosen to undergo proving trials in Scotland and not on Coniston Water.

"The National Park Authority facilitated a change to the Coniston Water byelaws to allow the proving trials of Bluebird K7.

"This wouldn't have been possible without the support of local people and communities and encouragement from others from around the globe.

"The efforts of the Bluebird K7 group to recover Bluebird and her pilot Donald Campbell was the start of a long journey which will hopefully end with Bluebird resting in Coniston just a stone's throw from where Donald Campbell already rests."

Campbell broke eight world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s and remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year.

In his fatal record attempt, the son of Sir Malcolm Campbell, who himself held land and water speed records, had set himself a target of reaching 300mph (480kph) on Coniston Water.

He was posthumously awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct.