Record-breaking Bluebird’s return to Coniston Water delayed

Record-breaking hydroplane Bluebird K7 will not return to Coniston Water this summer, it has been announced.

The jet-powered boat was to provisionally undergo trials in the Lake District between July 19 and 28, the Bluebird Event Working Group said last year.

However, a statement issued by the Bluebird Project, a team of volunteers working on the hydroplane’s restoration under the leadership of Tyneside-based engineer Bill Smith, said it had been informed by email that the proposed dates were not going ahead “due to unforeseen circumstances”.

Bluebird’s pilot Donald Campbell died on January 4 1967 aged 45 when it flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted a new water speed record on Coniston Water.

Bluebird K7
Donald Campbell on his Bluebird K7 at Lake Coniston, Cumbria (PA)

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.

A statement on the Bluebird Project (BBP) website read: “We at the BBP have no idea what these ‘unforeseen circumstances’ may be at this time and it is regrettable that the planned and long-awaited return to Coniston Water will not happen in 2019.

“But we are equally committed to displaying Bluebird this year and have thus maintained options on alternate venues against this eventuality and therefore hope soon to announce when and where you can see this iconic machine in action in 2019, as well as enjoying a richer range of educational and inspirational activities on offer during our second crew training exercise.

“In addition, we have also formally invited the Ruskin Museum as co-owners of K7 and our long-term partners to be an integral part of this so as to further cement Bluebird’s eventual return to and display in the village of Coniston between outings.”

Bluebird K7
The restored Bluebird K7 tool to the water for the first time in more than 50 years last August at the Isle of Bute on the west coast of Scotland (David Cheskin/PA)

Last August, Bluebird – fitted with a new jet engine – hit speeds of around 150mph during successful tests and crew training on Loch Fad on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

An application will need to be submitted to the Lake District National Park Authority for a proving trial event at Coniston to permit an exemption to its 10mph speed limit byelaw.

The authority says it also requires a “thoroughly considered public event plan”.

Steve Tatlock, park management team leader at the Lake District National Park, said: “We are disappointed to hear the Bluebird Event Group will not be bringing Bluebird K7 back to Coniston Water this summer, however we remain committed to supporting the return of Bluebird at some point in the future.

“We will continue to work in partnership with Coniston Parish Council and the Bluebird K7 project team, offering advice and guidance towards realising this ambition.”

Campbell broke eight world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s.

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.

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