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No Wrights Just Pearse

Richard William Pearse


For the best part of a century, the activities of Richard William Pearse (1877-1953) were largely unknown outside the small, close-knit, farming settlement of Waitohi, in the South Island of New Zealand, where he was born and where he flew his aircraft in the very early part of the 20'th century.

Yet this farmer's son, growing up and living far removed from the rest of the world, dedicated his lifetime's energies to inventing things mechanical including the designing and building of a suitable combustion engine and three aircraft, in the first of which he would make a number of short pioneering flights.

Yet he was compelled to work mostly in secret in order to avoid those who opposed him on religious grounds, and others who claimed that he was a lunatic in his attempts to build a flying machine.

His achievements were even more remarkable in that, unlike the Wright Brothers who employed skilled engineers and who later enjoyed the luxury of American Government sponsorship, Pearse designed, financed, and built everything himself. And he did not even have access to a university or library, but gained his knowledge solely through reading the magazines that he subscribed to.