Saturday, November 10, 2007

Percy Sinclair Pilcher (January 18662 October 1899) was a British inventor and pioneer aviator who, in one of the big "what if" events of history, could well have become the first person to achieve controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight well before the Wright brothers had he not been tragically killed in a glider accident.

Percy PilcherPercy Pilcher Early life
In 1891 Pilcher began work as assistant lecturer at Glasgow University and took a growing interest in aviation. He built a hang glider called The Bat which he flew for the first time in 1895. Later that year Pilcher met Otto Lilienthal, who was the leading expert in gliding in Germany. These discussions led to Pilcher building two more gliders, The Beetle and The Gull. Based on the work of his mentor Otto Lilienthal, in 1897 Pilcher built a glider called The Hawk with which he broke the world distance record when he flew 250 m (820 feet) at the grounds of Stanford Hall in Leicestershire, England.
Pilcher set his sights upon powered flight: he developed a triplane that was to be powered by a 4 hp (3 kW) engine; however, construction of the triplane put him heavily into debt, and Pilcher needed sponsorship to complete his work.

On 30 September 1899, having completed his triplane, he had intended to demonstrate it to a group of onlookers and potential sponsors in a field near Stanford Hall. However, the engine broke down and, so as not to disappoint his guests, he decided to fly the Hawk instead. Whilst flying, the tail snapped and Pilcher plunged 10 metres (30 feet) to the ground: he died two days later from his injuries with his triplane having never been publicly flown.
He is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.[1]

Renewal of interest

Aviation history#Picking up the pace

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