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Pearse’s first NZ flight replicas to be seen in Ma

Pearse’s first NZ flight replicas to be seen in March

A replica of Richard Pearse's 1903 plane, arguably the first to achieve powered lift off in the world, will be seen at Waitohi near Timaru during the Pearse air pageant centenary celebrations on March 31.

The pageant will be New Zealand's most historically significant air show ever staged as it marks the centenary of the feats of pioneer aviator Richard Pearse.

The replica airframe will be fitted with a microlite engine to provide sufficient running time for the display, as the Pearse’s engine did not possess engine cooling. Three of his engine designs will be on display.

The bamboo-framed replica was built by Geoff Rodliffe and supported by Auckland-based Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) enthusiasts in Auckland.

They plan to display the aircraft with a microlite engine installed on Monday, March 31. Much will depend on the weather conditions on the day.

Pearse was a brilliant trail-blazing aviation inventor and was regarded by many as the first person to fly a powered aircraft.

The debate about whether ``Bamboo'' Pearse actually succeeded in flying more than 90 metres at Waitohi, 28km north of Timaru, almost 100 years ago has raged for decades.

He made his first public flight attempt down Main Waitohi Road alongside his farm on March 31, 1903.

Auckland’s Geoff Rodliffe is the authority for the Pearse replica project in Auckland. He has written several books and has been associated with a play called the Pain and the Passion which opens in Christchurch on April 1.

Rodcliffe has constructed previous replicas for display in New Zealand and overseas.

Replica project spokesman Don Fleming said reports have confirmed Pearse generated sufficient thrust to become airborne.

``We are still attempting to replicate his engine performance in terms of running time and power output but have been limited by the tendency of the engine to over heat.

``It is clear that Pearse managed to achieve suitable power for take off but may have overheated a few prototype engines in the process.

We have elected a more cautious approach in the development of a replica engine.

``On December 19 we conducted ground-handling trials which were most satisfactory. We taxied the aircraft up and down a small runway to test rigidity and balance of the structure while not attempting to raise the machine off the ground.

``We are finalising small adjustments to the machine and then plan to conduct another series of short trials before dismantling in readiness for shipping to Waitohi,'' Fleming said.

Pearse's efforts pre-date by nine months what is globally acknowledged as the world's first powered flight by Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk in the United States on December 17 in 1903.

Unlike Wright's attempt, no one at Waitohi possessed a camera or measured the airspeed of the gorse-bound flight.

Pearse's family and supporters have long claimed the South Canterbury farmer beat the Wright Brothers into the air.

They say the New Zealander achieved controlled flight on March 31, 1902 -- well before the Americans.

The Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum has confirmed they are aware of the Pearse claim.

As a tribute to Pearse, both Motat and the South Canterbury Aviation Heritage Centre have built Pearse replica aircraft.

South Canterbury’s replica will be exhibited on March 30 but not flown during the air show. Thousands of people are expected to attend the pageant celebrations.

The Pearse centenary celebrations lift off on Saturday March 29 featuring homebuilt aircraft, microlites, gyrocopters, gliders, aerobatics, many air force planes and warbirds.

The magnitude of Pearse's achievements are featured in a book just Released called The History Makers by Vaughan Yarwood.

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