SC1 gets NI's first Engineering Heritage Award

This archive footage shows the craft's vertical take off abilities being tested

A Belfast-built experimental aircraft has received Northern Ireland's first Engineering Heritage Award.

The SC1, constructed by Shorts, was the first British fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing aeroplane.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) announced the recipient of its 76th award on Thursday. The awards are given in recognition of significant engineering achievements.

Past awards went to the Thames Barrier, the Channel Tunnel and HMS Belfast.

The aircraft, first flown in 1957, is currently on display at Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in County Down,

It became the first British fixed-wing aircraft to switch from vertical to horizontal flight and back again in 1960.

The SC1 and its revolutionary autostabiliser control system were developed in the experimental shops and laboratories of Shorts in Belfast.

It was one of the forerunners of the Harrier Jump Jet family of aircraft and its design, construction and testing provided a great deal of knowledge that could be applied to later craft.

Vertical take-off and landing craft were initially valued by the UK for their ability to operate from ad hoc locations such as carparks or fields and did not need large airbases or runways which would provide easy targets for the enemy. They also proved useful for operating from sea-based carriers.

'Truly magnificent'

Start Quote

A truly magnificent example of engineering which was integral to the research and development of vertical take-off and landing technology”

End Quote Professor Isobel Pollock President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

The results of the SC1 research programme enabled the UK to establish a world lead in the development of vertical take-off and landing technology.

The award was presented by Professor Isobel Pollock, President of the IME to Dr Jim McGreevy, a Director at National Museums Northern Ireland, on Thursday.

Professor Pollock, who is originally from Ballymoney in County Antrim, said she was "particularly delighted" to present the first-ever Engineering Heritage Award for Northern Ireland.

"Engineering Heritage Awards recognise great engineering achievements, with previous winners including Tower Bridge, the E-Type Jaguar and the Falkirk Wheel," she said.

"The SC1 is an equally worthy recipient and a truly magnificent example of engineering which was integral to the research and development of vertical take-off and landing technology."

Dr McGreevy said the Short SC1 plane had a "special place" in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

"We are delighted to be able to showcase the plane and enable local and international visitors to discover this triumph of engineering from a Northern Ireland company."

The IME was established in 1847 by George Stephenson, often called the Father of Railways, and its members have included some of the world's greatest engineers.

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