Richard Pearse
Overview
Richard William Pearse (3 December 1877 — 29 July 1953), son of Cornish immigrants from St Columb near Newquay, a New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 farmer
Farmer
A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, who raises living organisms for food or raw materials, generally including livestock husbandry and growing crops, such as produce and grain...

 and inventor who performed pioneering experiments in aviation
Aviation
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

.

According to witness statements, Pearse flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903, some nine months before the Wright brothers
Wright brothers
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur , were two Americans credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903...

 flew their aircraft. The documentary evidence to support such a claim remains open to interpretation
First flying machine
There are conflicting views as to what was the first flying machine.Much of the debate surrounding records of early flying machines depends on the exact definition of what constitutes a "flying machine", "flight", and even "first"....

, and Pearse did not develop his aircraft to the same degree as the Wright brothers, who achieved sustained controlled flight
Flight
Flight is the process by which an object moves either through an atmosphere or beyond it by generating lift or propulsive thrust, or aerostatically using buoyancy, or by simple ballistic movement....

.
Encyclopedia
Richard William Pearse (3 December 1877 — 29 July 1953), son of Cornish immigrants from St Columb near Newquay, a New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 farmer
Farmer
A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, who raises living organisms for food or raw materials, generally including livestock husbandry and growing crops, such as produce and grain...

 and inventor who performed pioneering experiments in aviation
Aviation
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

.

According to witness statements, Pearse flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903, some nine months before the Wright brothers
Wright brothers
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur , were two Americans credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903...

 flew their aircraft. The documentary evidence to support such a claim remains open to interpretation
First flying machine
There are conflicting views as to what was the first flying machine.Much of the debate surrounding records of early flying machines depends on the exact definition of what constitutes a "flying machine", "flight", and even "first"....

, and Pearse did not develop his aircraft to the same degree as the Wright brothers, who achieved sustained controlled flight
Flight
Flight is the process by which an object moves either through an atmosphere or beyond it by generating lift or propulsive thrust, or aerostatically using buoyancy, or by simple ballistic movement....

. Pearse himself was not a publicity-seeker and also occasionally made contradictory statements which for many years led some of the few who knew of his feats to offer 1904 as the date of his first flight. The lack of any chance of industrial development, such as spurred the Wrights to develop their machine, seems to have suppressed any recognition of Pearse's achievements.

Early engineering work

In 1902 Pearse built and patented a bicycle
Bicycle
A bicycle, also known as a bike, pushbike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist, or bicyclist....

 with vertical crank gears and self-inflating tyre
Tire
A tire or tyre is a ring-shaped covering that fits around a wheel rim to protect it and enable better vehicle performance by providing a flexible cushion that absorbs shock while keeping the wheel in close contact with the ground...

s. He then designed and built a two-cylinder "oil engine" which he mounted on a tricycle
Tricycle
A tricycle is a three-wheeled vehicle. While tricycles are often associated with the small three-wheeled vehicles used by pre-school-age children, they are also used by adults for a variety of purposes. In the United States and Canada, adult-sized tricycles are used primarily by older persons for...

 undercarriage
Undercarriage
The undercarriage or landing gear in aviation, is the structure that supports an aircraft on the ground and allows it to taxi, takeoff and land...

 surmounted by a linen
Linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

-covered bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 wing structure and rudimentary controls. Although it lacked an aerofoil section wing, his flying machine resembled modern aircraft design much more than did the Wright brothers' machine: monoplane
Monoplane
A monoplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with one main set of wing surfaces, in contrast to a biplane or triplane. Since the late 1930s it has been the most common form for a fixed wing aircraft.-Types of monoplane:...

 rather than biplane
Biplane
A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two superimposed main wings. The Wright brothers' Wright Flyer used a biplane design, as did most aircraft in the early years of aviation. While a biplane wing structure has a structural advantage, it produces more drag than a similar monoplane wing...

; tractor
Tractor configuration
thumb|right|[[Evektor-Aerotechnik|Aerotechnik EV97A Eurostar]], a tractor configuration aircraft, being pulled into position by its pilot for refuelling....

 rather than pusher
Pusher configuration
In a craft with a pusher configuration the propeller are mounted behind their respective engine. According to Bill Gunston, a "pusher propeller" is one mounted behind engine so that drive shaft is in compression...

 propeller; stabiliser and elevators at the back rather than the front; and aileron
Aileron
Ailerons are hinged flight control surfaces attached to the trailing edge of the wing of a fixed-wing aircraft. The ailerons are used to control the aircraft in roll, which results in a change in heading due to the tilting of the lift vector...

s rather than wing-warping for controlling banking. It bore a remarkable resemblance to modern microlight aircraft.

Flights

Pearse made several attempts to fly in 1901, but due to insufficient engine power he achieved no more than brief hops. The following year he redesigned his engine to incorporate double-ended cylinders with two pistons each. Researchers recovered components of his engine (including cylinders made from cast-iron drainpipes) from rubbish dumps in 1963. Replicas of the 1903 engine suggest that it could produce about 15 horsepower
Horsepower
Horsepower is the name of several units of measurement of power. The most common definitions equal between 735.5 and 750 watts.Horsepower was originally defined to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses in continuous operation. The unit was widely adopted to measure the...

 (11 kW).
Verifiable eyewitnesses describe Pearse crashing into a hedge on two separate occasions during 1903. His monoplane must have risen to a height of at least three metres on each occasion. Good evidence exists that on 31 March 1903 Pearse achieved a powered, though poorly controlled, flight of several hundred metres.

Pearse himself said that he had made a powered takeoff, "but at too low a speed for [his] controls to work". However, he remained airborne until he crashed into the hedge at the end of the field.

With a 15 hp engine, Pearse's design had an adequate power-to-weight ratio to become airborne (even without an aerofoil
Airfoil
An airfoil or aerofoil is the shape of a wing or blade or sail as seen in cross-section....

). He continued to develop the ability to achieve fully controlled flight. Pearse incorporated effectively located (albeit possibly rather small) "ailerons". The design's low centre-of-gravity provided pendulum stability. However, diagrams and eye-witness recollections agree that Pearse placed controls for pitch and yaw at the trailing edge of the low-aspect ratio kite-type permanently stalled wing. This control placement (located in turbulent air-flow, and close to the centre of gravity) would have had minimal, possibly inadequate, turning moment to control the pitch or yaw of the aircraft. The principles of his design, however, accord precisely with modern thinking on the subject. The Wright brothers, in comparison, successfully applied the principles of airfoil wing-profile and three-axis control
Flight dynamics
Flight dynamics is the science of air vehicle orientation and control in three dimensions. The three critical flight dynamics parameters are the angles of rotation in three dimensions about the vehicle's center of mass, known as pitch, roll and yaw .Aerospace engineers develop control systems for...

 to produce fully controlled flight, although their design, using wing-warping and forward mounted stabilizer, soon became obsolete.

Pearse's work remained poorly documented at the time. No contemporary newspaper record exists. Some photographic records survived, but undated, with some images difficult to interpret. Pearse himself made contradictory statements which for many years led the few who knew of his feats to accept 1904 as the date of flying. Unconcerned about posterity and in remote New Zealand, he received no public credit for his work during his lifetime. The Wrights had considerable difficulty in getting their accomplishment recognised, despite better documentation and witnesses; a "Fliers or Liars?" debate continued for quite some time after Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk or Kittyhawk may refer to:Places*Kitty Hawk, North Carolina*Kitty Hawk, is an area of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base*Kitty Hawk Air Society, an Honor Society for the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programAirlines...

, and it took highly public demonstrations before the Wright brothers gained wide recognition. Although Pearse patented his design, his innovations — such as ailerons and the lightweight air-cooled engine — did not succeed in influencing others.

List of witnessed flights

  • 31 March 1903 - First powered flight. Estimated distance around 350 yards in a straight line, barely controlled.
  • March ? 1903 - A distance of only about 150 yards.
  • 2 May 1903 - Distance unknown: the aircraft ended up in a gorse hedge 15 ft (4.6 m) off the ground.
  • 11 May 1903 - Pearse took off along the side of the Opihi River, turned left to fly over the 30' tall river-bank, then turned right to fly parallel to the middle of the river. After flying nearly 1,000 yards, his engine began to overheat and lost power, thus forcing a landing in the almost dry riverbed.

Later activities

Pearse moved to Milton
Milton, New Zealand
Milton is a town of 2,000 people, located on State Highway 1, 50 kilometres to the south of Dunedin in Otago, New Zealand. It lies on the floodplain of the Tokomairiro River, one branch of which loops past the north and south ends of the town...

 in Otago
Otago
Otago is a region of New Zealand in the south of the South Island. The region covers an area of approximately making it the country's second largest region. The population of Otago is...

 in about 1911 and discontinued his flying experiments due to the hillier country there. Much of his experimental equipment got dumped in a farm rubbish-pit. However, he continued experimenting and produced a number of inventions. He subsequently moved to Christchurch
Christchurch
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's second-largest urban area after Auckland. It lies one third of the way down the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula which itself, since 2006, lies within the formal limits of...

 in the 1920s, where he built three houses and lived off the rentals.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Pearse continued to work on constructing a tilt-rotor flying-machine for personal use — sometimes described as a cross between a windmill and a rubbish-cart. His design resembled an autogyro
Autogyro
An autogyro , also known as gyroplane, gyrocopter, or rotaplane, is a type of rotorcraft which uses an unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller, similar to that of a fixed-wing aircraft, to provide thrust...

 or helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

, but involved a tilting propeller/rotor and monoplane wings, which, along with the tail, could fold to allow storage in a conventional garage. Pearse intended the vehicle for driving on the road (like a car) as well for flying. However he became reclusive and paranoid that foreign spies would discover his work. Committed to Sunnyside Mental Hospital
Sunnyside Hospital
Sunnyside Hospital was the first mental asylum to be built in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was initially known as Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum, and its first patients were 17 people who had previously been kept in the Lyttelton gaol...

 in Christchurch in 1951, Pearse died there two years later. Researchers believe that many of his papers were destroyed at that time.

Claims

On his death, the Public Trustee
Public trustee
The public trustee is an office established pursuant to national statute, to act as a trustee, usually where a sum is required to be deposited as security by legislation, where courts remove another trustee, or for estates where either no executor is named by will or the testator elects to name...

 administered Pearse's estate. Fortunately for posterity, the trust officer given the task of disposing of his personal effects recognised the significance of his aeronautical achievements and brought them to wider attention. As a result, aviation pioneer George Bolt
George Bolt
George Bruce Bolt OBE was a pioneering New Zealand aviator.He formed the Canterbury Aero Club in 1910, helping to make and fly gliders on the Cashmere hills...

 saw Pearse's last flying machine. In 1958, Bolt excavated the South Canterbury dump site and discovered some components, including a propeller. His research in the 1960s (among eyewitnesses, most of them schoolchildren at the time of Pearse's early achievements) produced strong evidence for flight in 1903: people who had left the district by 1904 remembered the events, and recalled a particularly harsh winter with heavy snow.

During filming of a television documentary in the 1970s, crew attached a replica of Pearse's 1902 machine by a rope to a team of horses. When the horses bolted, the machine took to the air and flew, indicating that the design could fly. Unfortunately, this did not get filmed, as the crew had packed away their cameras at the end of the day's shooting. Fate seems to have conspired against any of Pearse's machines achieving recognition.

In the mid 1980s, a MOTAT staff-member expressed the opinion that Pearse himself, having seen that "history had already been written" stated in his later years that though he had in fact flown in March 1903, he had said "1904" because the Wright brothers at Kittyhawk had become part of history, and that therefore Pearse declined to appear to posterity as a disputatious claimant to the first controlled powered flight. Certainly the opinion expressed makes sense, though the aircraft itself, admittedly "short-coupled" in terms of control, appears to have had the ability of controlled flight. Adding some confusion to the issue, the tilt-propeller aircraft Pearse later worked on bears a very close resemblance to the original aircraft, and the remains at MOTAT, though presented as parts of a single machine, may very well come from three separate machines:
  1. the "original" March 1903 machine
  2. a later version of the same with a tilt-propeller
  3. the original March 1903 motor, in sadly decayed state, along with the motor mounted in the MOTAT replica, which derived from the remains of at least two motors from the Pearse farm "dump site".


Despite close examination, a definitive determination may have become impossible.

The South Canterbury Museum in Timaru
Timaru
TimaruUrban AreaPopulation:27,200Extent:Former Timaru City CouncilTerritorial AuthorityName:Timaru District CouncilPopulation:42,867 Land area:2,736.54 km² Mayor:Janie AnnearWebsite:...

 includes display material relating to Pearse and to his contribution to early aviation.

Legacy

At the dawn of the 20th century, a number of enthusiasts in several countries advanced towards powered heavier-than-air flight — a fact easily overlooked in the wake of the first practical controlled flights by the Wright brothers, who gained international fame during their public flight demonstrations of 1908. Pearse, as one of several pre-Wright designers, advanced some distance towards controlled flight. However, unlike many of these other pre-Wright aeronauts, Pearse had little influence on his successors, because details of his ideas and experiments went unpublished.

Pearse's designs and achievements remained virtually unknown beyond the few who witnessed them, and they had no impact on his contemporary aviation designers. However, his concepts had much in common with modern aircraft design, and others later implemented these concepts without knowing of Pearse's efforts. As a result some have described Pearse as a man ahead of his time. (So far ahead of his time, in fact, that the second New Zealand flight did not occur until 5 February 1910 when Vivian Walsh
Vivian Walsh (aviator)
Vivian Claude Walsh was an engineer. Vivian and his elder brother Leo Austin Walsh were pioneers of New Zealand aviation.Vivian and Leo built a British Howard Wright biplane, which Vivian first flew on 5 February 1911...

 flew an aircraft he had built himself.)

Many New Zealanders have made up their minds that Temuka was the site of the world's first powered flight. Wanaka
Wanaka
Wanaka is a town in the Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand. It is situated at the southern end of Lake Wanaka, adjacent to the outflow of the lake to the Clutha River. It is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Wanaka is primarily a resort town but has both summer and winter...

 has a line of tiles mounted on the sidewalk by the lake listing important world and New Zealand historic events. The 1903 tile says that the first powered flight in history occurred in Timaru (with some emphasis), and at the bottom of the tile for 1903 the Wright Brothers were listed as having also flown that year. However, Pearse himself stated in a 1915 newspaper, "Pre-eminence will undoubtedly be given to the Wright brothers of America when the history of the aeroplane is written, as they were the first to actually make successful flights with a motor-driven aeroplane."

Much controversy persists around the many competing claims of early aviators. See first flying machine
First flying machine
There are conflicting views as to what was the first flying machine.Much of the debate surrounding records of early flying machines depends on the exact definition of what constitutes a "flying machine", "flight", and even "first"....

 for more discussion.

Popular culture

Film and the stage have commemorated Dick Pearse's remarkable achievements over the years. Three plays centred on Pearse: The Pain and the Passion, by Sherry Ede, Too High the Sun by Stephen Bain and France Hervé, and Pearse, by John Leask, which was performed during the Dick Pearse Century of Flight 1903–2003 celebrations in Timaru. In the 1970s, New Zealand's TV One produced a television movie about Pearse and his first flight. The film focused on Pearse's reclusive manner and his small town's perception of his eccentric activities.

Forgotten Silver
Forgotten Silver
Forgotten Silver is a New Zealand film mockumentary that purports to tell the story of a pioneering New Zealand filmmaker. It was written and directed by Peter Jackson and Costa Botes, both of whom appear in the film in their roles as makers of the documentary.-Synopsis:Forgotten Silver purports...

, a 1995 mockumentary
Mockumentary
A mockumentary , is a type of film or television show in which fictitious events are presented in documentary format. These productions are often used to analyze or comment on current events and issues by using a fictitious setting, or to parody the documentary form itself...

 by filmmakers Costa Botes
Costa Botes
Costa Botes is a New Zealand writer, director and cinematographer.-Movie-making career:Botes is best known in New Zealand for Forgotten Silver , a documentary he co-wrote and co-directed with Peter Jackson...

 and Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Robert Jackson, KNZM is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, known for his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , adapted from the novel by J. R. R...

, purports to uncover a long-lost segment of motion picture film, which with digital enhancement of a newspaper seen in one shot, "proves" that Pearse successfully flew in March 1903, predating the Wrights' achievement by several months.

In 2006, New Zealand composer Ross Devereux made Pearse the subject of a two-act rock opera
Rock opera
A rock opera is a work of rock music that presents a storyline told over multiple parts, songs or sections in the manner of opera. A rock opera differs from a conventional rock album, which usually includes songs that are not unified by a common theme or narrative. More recent developments include...

, entitled The Planemaker — A Richard Pearse Story.

A memorial to Pearse's attempts at powered flight stands near Pleasant Point
Pleasant Point, New Zealand
Pleasant Point is a small country town in southern Canterbury, New Zealand, some 19 km inland from Timaru. A service town for the surrounding farming district, it has a population of 1,222 and one of its main attractions is the heritage railway, the Pleasant Point Museum and Railway, which...

 in South Canterbury.

The Museum of Transport and Technology
Museum of Transport and Technology
The Museum of Transport and Technology is a museum located in Western Springs, Auckland, New Zealand. It is located close to the Western Springs Stadium, Auckland Zoo and the Western Springs Park. The museum has large collections of civilian and military aircraft and other land transport vehicles...

 (MOTAT) in Auckland
Auckland
The Auckland metropolitan area , in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with residents, percent of the country's population. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world...

 displays a replica of Pearse's aircraft. For the centenary of Pearse's alleged flight, a replica motor was also made. The two, combined successfully, became airborne, albeit very briefly. Visitors to the museum can also see Pearse's last flying machine and the scant remains of his first aircraft.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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