Richard William Pearse spent much of his lifetime building light, powerful aero-engines and constructing aircraft for his numerous attempts at powered flight.
His most spectacular flights were those made after the turn of the 20th century using a horizontally opposed twin-cylinder engine fitted to a high-wing mono-plane; both plane and engine were built by Pearse using materials available in the locality.
The last of his planes with its unusual engine is now on view at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, but only parts of two earlier engines remain; these were recovered from a rubbish dump after being buried and lost for many years.
A considerable amount of research has been undertaken during the last ten years to ascertain the size and shape of the first aircraft, and it has now been possible to construct a plane which we believe closely resembles that used by Pearse during the years 1902-1903, when he made many hops and small flights. This replica is on view at M.O.T.A.T.
A question often asked is: "Did this man, a farmer's son with no technical training and with severely limited facilities and funds, really succeed where so many others had failed?" The proof can be seen in the advanced design of his engines and aircraft, which had many original features not then found elsewhere; and although many of his ideas were never developed to their full extent nevertheless his engine produced more than adequate power for the purpose of getting his plane airborne. The motor car did not appear in his locality until some years after Pearse had built and run his petrol engine; his design was based on the steam engines and early oil engines in use in the district, supplemented by information gathered from engineering books...
It is probably now impossible to establish without doubt if Pearse flew before the Wright Brothers. However, there is no doubt that Pearse's definition of flying was far more rigorous than that of the Wright Brothers, and that flights he made prior to the Wright's attempts were never classified by himself as, "actually flying". Pearse invented the aileron and variable pitch air-screw many years ahead of others researching control surfaces.
His Patent Specification was years ahead of its time, and features the improvements he felt were truly revolutionary.
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