Should Centennial of Flight Celebration be Held in New Zealand,
On the South Island of New Zealand, on March 31, 1903, Richard
Pearse, they say, made a powered flight of some 110 yards. There
has been periodic discussion of this flight, especially as the
celebration of the Wrights' well-documented achievement gains
momentum, toward December 17.
The Wrights, of course, are just-about-universally credited with
making the "first controlled powered flight of a heavier-than-air
vehicle," one hundred years ago, this December. Pearse's claim to
fame has not, by most accounts, included the word, "controlled."
Although he landed unhurt, he was covered in thorns, having snarled
himself in a hedge on his property near Waitohi.
[We shouldn't neglect mention of Romanian engineer Traian
Vuia, who is generally credited with having made the first
self-launched, controlled, powered, heavier-than-air
flight on March 18, 1906, somewhere near Paris, France; but this
story is about Pearse, not the history of flight! --ed.]
The airplane Pearse made almost-famous has been
replicated by a number of enthusiasts in NZ, and they're planning
to fly more than one, powered by modern engines -- a huge hp/weight
advantage over Pearse's day, and an inestimable reliability edge.
Judging from rumors of the machine's handling, any edge they can
get, will be made good use of.
It's only semi-historical; it's certainly enlightening; and it's
a whole lot of fun.