Today in History

Pearse_aeroplane_replica,_South_Canterbury_Museum-2
On this day, in 1903, it is claimed that Richard Pearse made his first sustained, powered, controlled flight, some 9 months prior to the Wright Brothers achieving the same feat at Kittyhawk in the United States.

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The flight, of about 350 meters, took place near Temuka, in Otago.
Unlike the Wright brothers plane, Pearse?s plane actually bore a closer resemblance to todays aircraft, in that is was a monoplane rather than a biplane, and the propeller was forward mounted as a ?tractor? rather than behind as a ?pusher?.? Pearse’s craft also featured flight control surfaces built into the wing, rather than the wing warping employed by the Wright brothers.?? Pearse?s craft is said to have many similarities with modern microlight aircraft.
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Archaeological digs from the site where Pearse is known to have dumped his prototypes have recovered engine components and wing sections that indicate that the engine Pearse built had sufficient power to enable flight, and the aircraft would have been stable to a point, but the placement of some of the wing control surfaces was not aerodynamically optimal, and may have led to some in flight instability.
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Pearse was unconcerned about issues of posterity, his accomplishments unrecognised in his lifetime.?? When he moved to Central Otago, which had too many hills to ensure a safe landing, he discontinued his flight experiments, but continued to tinker. ? Some years later, he moved to Christchurch, bought a couple of houses and lived off the rentals.?? He continued to experiment and draw up plans, including a vehicle intended to be either driven on roads, or flown like a rudimentary gyrocopter. ? In his later years, he became a paranoid recluse, and was eventually committed to a mental institution in Christchurch, passing away in 1953.
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