July 29th Richard William Pearse (Death)

The son of St. Columb – born parents, Richard William Pearse (1877 – 1953) was, by occupation, a New Zealand farmer but was, by enthusiasm, a pioneer of aviation.

Pearse flew for a short distance, and then landed, a powered heavier-than-air machine on March 31st, 1903, a full nine months before the Wright brothers flew their aircraft. Pearse did not, however, develop his aircraft much further and left the claim to fame to the Wright brothers.

Nevertheless, Pearse was very innovative and was the first to invent ailerons and the first to use a lightweight, air-cooled, engine but he was unsuccessful in persuading anyone else of the utility of these innovations.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Pearse worked on a tilt – wing aeroplane, with a helicopter – style rotor for personal use which could be switched between a car and a plane but which was described by some as resembling a cross between a windmill and a rubbish cart.

In later life, Pearse developed mental health issues and was committed to Sunnyside Mental Hospital in Christchurch in 1951 where he died on this day in 1953.

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