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Bluebird returns to water more than 50 years after Donald Campbell’s fatal crash

The jet-powered boat successfully floated in a loch on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

Bluebird, the hydroplane that reached record-breaking speeds, has returned to the water for the first time in more than 50 years after it crashed killing its pilot, Donald Campbell.

The jet-powered boat successfully floated in a loch on the Isle of Bute in Scotland on Saturday, in an operation watched by his daughter Gina.

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Gina Campbell with the restored Bluebird (David Cheskin/PA)

Campbell died aged 45 on Coniston Water in January 1967 when the boat, travelling at more than 300mph, flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted to beat his own record.

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Donald Campbell on his Bluebird (PA)

Scenes were tense as the team struggled to get the Bluebird K7 into the water at Loch Fad, but the renovated craft was afloat before 4pm.

Project manager Bill Smith, who has worked on bringing up the wreck and restoring it for 22 years, hailed the achievement.

“It was like someone was making a Donald Campbell movie and they’d left a prop bobbing around – it was pretty good,” he said.

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The Bluebird took to the water off the Isle of Bute on the west coast of Scotland (David Cheskin/PA)

“I had a big jump up and down, a clap on the back, but I wasn’t going to burst into tears or any silliness like that.”

Campbell’s body, with his race suit still intact, was pulled from the Cumbria lake along with the wreckage from the depths in 2001.

Volunteers have worked to restore the boat to near its original state, but they said the engine had to be replaced.

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Donald Campbell was killed in 1967 in the Bluebird (David Cheskin/PA)

The team hopes to make full displays in a fully-completed vessel a year later following Saturday’s flotation test.

Having broken eight world speed records on water and land in the 1950s and 1960s, Campbell was attempting to break his own water speed record of 276mph when he was killed.

Campbell, the son of speed record breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell, was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.

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