LARGE crowds gathered as an aeronaut ascended in a hydrogen balloon from the garden of George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh on October 5, 1785.

Italian Vincenzo Lunardi flew over the Firth of Forth and landed at Coaltown of Callange in the Parish of Ceres, in Fife, and had travelled 46 miles. A commemorative plaque marks the site to this day.

In a report from the time by Scots Magazine, it said: “The beauty and grandeur of the spectacle could only be exceeded by the cool, intrepid manner in which the adventurer conducted himself; and indeed he seemed infinitely more at ease than the greater part of his spectators.”

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This was one of the first aviation voyage's in Scotland and was at the very beginning of what would become a fascination with flight and how the country would help and inspire future generations heading for the skies.

Just one year earlier Scot James Tytler became the first person in Britain to fly by ascending in a hot air balloon in 1784 but his achievement was overshadowed by Lunardi.

The location in Fife where Vincenzo Lunardi landed on his 1785 flight

The location in Fife where Vincenzo Lunardi landed on his 1785 flight

From the bravery of those who fought to defend the country from the threat of enemy attack to the research and technology pioneers, the story of Scotland’s aviation history is now being celebrated with the launch of a new website and trail.

The Scottish Aviation & STEM Trail website launched today by the RAF in Scotland with collaboration from Scottish Regional Air Museums and the RAF Museum.

The trail brings together the history of aviation in Scotland and promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities for all ages, using the past to inspire the next generation. There is also input from the likes of the Scottish University Air Squadrons, Air Cadets and the RAF Museum with the Scottish Regional Air Museums and aviation enthusiasts from around the country.

RAF Turnberry who used during both world wars

And it is hoped the trail will eventually be hosted on the main RAF Museum website with veterans, enthusiasts and members of the public being encouraged to contribute to the site to help it develop.

One of the intentions of the site is that famous Scots involved in aviation, the holders of gallantry awards and the role of Scottish industry and academia in creating cutting-edge technology, will be recognised.

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Among those likely to feature is Sir Robert Watson-Watt, widely considered to be the inventor of radar. Born in Brechin and educated at University College, Dundee, Sir Robert pioneered the technology that helped win the Battle of Britain. It was developed as the threat of the Second World War became more acute to warn of enemy planes on the move.

During the conflict, radar arrays gave the Royal Air Force a crucial edge in detecting and repelling the Nazi Luftwaffe.

Through his work as a meteorologist, he used radio waves to locate thunderstorms from his base at the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough in Hampshire. In 1915, Sir Robert was already using radio technology to provide advance warning to airmen.

RAF Turnberry who used during both world wars

RAF Turnberry who used during both world wars

And while it might be the site of luxury hotel Trump Turnberry with its own helicopter landing pad, it’s time as an airfield dating back to the First World War could also be documented.

RAF Turnberry was used in the First and Second World Wars, and reverted back to a golf course and hotel in between. It was initially used by the Royal Flying Corps and the RAF from 1914 to 1919. In the Second World War, the base was also used for training Bristol Beaufighter and Bristol Beaufort crews. Testing of Barnes Wallis's "Highball" bouncing bomb was also performed by 618 Squadron, flying from Turnberry.

Air Vice-Marshal Ross Paterson, Air Officer Scotland, said: “We are delighted to be launching the Aviation & STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Trail and really hope it will be of interest to many people of all ages, celebrating Scotland’s key part in the development of aviation. Scotland has a wealth of aviation history and continues to play a key role today in protecting our nation. Hopefully, schools and young people will not only find our STEM material fun and informative but will also be inspired to look at the huge range of STEM careers that are needed for our future world. The site also promotes our Flying Aces Scheme, offering flight experience to disabled and disadvantaged Scottish youngsters, so we hope we can encourage more to take part in this too.”

Montrose Air Station 1914

Montrose Air Station 1914

AVM Paterson believes aviation is still a relatively young science.

“It is only 117 years since the first ever powered flight – yet today we talk easily of space travel and each of us use satellites and advanced technology every day,” he added. “By linking the past with the future, we hope that people will want to learn more, adding their own family stories via the ‘RAF Stories’ link and then visit and support the Scottish Regional Air Museums as part of this.”

Details of the historic aviation sites and the trail across Scotland can be found on the site which also highlights some of the possible trail stops for people to visit including the National Museum of Flight is Scotland's national aviation museum, at East Fortune Airfield, in East Lotian; the Morayvia Sci-Tech Experience Project formed in May 2011 to preserve the last remaining Nimrod at RAF Kinloss – XV244; the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum located in and around the Second World War-era watch tower at the former RAF Dumfries, and the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre in Angus. Montrose has the distinction of having the first operational military airfield in the UK with its heritage centre is located on the former airfield.

Youngsters on an RAF STEM workshop

Youngsters on an RAF STEM workshop

Ian Brown, curator of the National Museum of Flight, at East Fortune, said: “Scotland’s aviation history dates back to the late 18th century when hot air balloon flights were taking place. James Tytler was the first person to fly in the UK and Lunardi’s achievements seemed to overtake that somewhat. With Lunardi you can visit the site where he landed to this day.

“You could argue that it was Scotland’s role in aviation which played a part in the history of the D-Day landings. There was a maritime airfield in Tiree where meteorological flights took off and it was data which was used from these flights which determined the weather forecast which delayed the D-Day landings for a day.

“Scotland also runs the longest continuously operated air service, Inverness to Kirkwall, which began in 1933 and has the shortest scheduled passenger flight at just two minutes between Westray and Papa Westray on the Orkney Islands. The country has been at the forefront of aviation and this new resource will help people learn more about it.”

Maggie Appleton, chief executive officer of the RAF Museum based in London, said: “It is wonderful to be working with our RAF colleagues in Scotland on such an inspiring project. As well as sharing the stories of the Royal Air Force we are passionate about engaging young minds with science and technology, in order to build a brighter and better future. The RAF itself has always been at the forefront of utilising technological advances as a force for good and we look forward to continuing to develop creative projects like this with them in the future.”

The site can be found at