Powered Flight

John Stringfellow 1848

Pioneer John Stringfellow
John Stringfellow
Born6 December 1799
Died13 December 1883 | Age 84

The 'first' aircraft to fly under its own power was flown by its inventor, 'John Stringfellow' (1799-1883), in Chard Somerset England in '1848'.
Powered Flight Chard
Powered Flight Chard

The fixation of man to want to fly like a bird eluded mankind until the Wright brothers flight of 59 seconds in 1903. But there were many men before this event who all contributed to achieve this goal, notably Frenchman Chanute, German Otto Lilienthal and NZ Richard Pearse. Below are the main British aviators.

George Cayley 1804
George Cayley
George Cayley
Died1857 | Age 84

Cayley from Scarborough Yorkshire was an early aviation pioneer who experimented with gliders. In 1799 he set in place the concept of the modern aeroplane as a fixed-wing flying machine.
He experiments led him to develop an efficient cambered airfoil and the first person to identify the four vector forces that influence an aircraft: thrust, lift, drag, and gravity.

He successfully flew a gliding aircraft in 1804 and later there are reports that he transported his butler across his land on his glider.

"About 100 years ago, an Englishman, Sir George Cayley, carried the science of flight to a point which it had never reached before and which it scarcely reached again during the last century."
Wilbur Wright.

William Samuel Henson 1843
William Samuel Henson
William Samuel Henson
Died1888 | Age 76

Long before the Wright brothers aviation engineer and inventor Henson, born in Nottingham England, Henson worked in Chard lace-making business.

In 1842 he designed a large passenger-carrying steam-powered monoplane, with a wing span of 150 feet, which he named the "Henson Aerial Steam Carriage". He received a patent on it in 1843 along with John Stringfellow.

Stringfellow designed and built a model monoplane. It had a 10 feet wingspan with a wooden frame covered in silk. Its wing was 2 feet wide at its widest part tapering to a point at the tip with a rigid leading edge and a slightly curved upper surface.
Stringfellow design
Stringfellow design

Henson, Stringfellow, Frederick Marriott, and D.E. Colombine, incorporated as the Aerial Transit Company in 1843 in England. Henson married and emigrated in 1849 to the United States, while Stringfellow continued to experiment with aviation.

Steam powered flight
Model of Stringfellow aircraft in Chard
Model of Stringfellow aircraft in Chard
The model was powered by a tiny 'steam engine' housed in the gondola below the wings. This engine, fired by a spirit lamp, had a cylinder with a diameter of ¾ inch and a stroke of 2 inches.
Complete with water and fuel, the engine weighed just under 6¾ lbs and drove two large propellers which rotated in opposite directions to give the machine lateral stability.

Exhibition 1868
Flyingmachine henson
Flyingmachine henson

Stringfellows model at the Great Exhibition
Stringfellows model at the Great Exhibition

Stringfellow demonstrated a steam-powered triplane at an exhibition arranged by the 'Aeronautical Society of Great Britain' (founded in 1866) at the Crystal Palace, London, in 1868. The plane was flown indoors from a wire unmanned at twenty miles per hour in front of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Sunderland. The exhibition gave world-wide exposure to gains in flight and the Tri-wing design influenced by Chanute.

Rear view of his plane
Rear view of his plane

Before he died 1883 Stringfellow had this to say
"Somebody must do better than I before we succeed with aerial navigation."

Chard Museum

Percy Pilcher 1899
Percy Pilcher
Percy Pilcher
Born16 January 1866
Died2 October 1899 | Age 33

Four years before the Wright brothers, Pilcher, born in Bath Somerset in 1866, had constructed his own tri-wing aeroplane. Pilcher had successfully flown several gliders and trialed his plane for powered flight.
Percy arranged for a demonstration of his powered flight to some dignitaries at Stanford Hall on 30th September in 1899, but sadly due to an engine failure, Pilcher, had to resort to flying his Hawk glider.
The demonstration did not go to plan and Percy was critically injured, robbing him, and the world, of the first manned powered flight. Percy died days later on the 2nd October 1899 before he could display his powered triplane.

Video of Pilcher in flight
Website dedicated to Pilcher

In 2003 Pilchers triplane was rebuilt to test whether it would have flown. The rebuilt plane flew successfully for 1 minute 25 seconds, 26 seconds longer than the Wright brothers managed 4 years later in 1903.
Watch a reconstruction of the Pilcher plane flying.

Richard Pearse 1903
Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse

As mentioned earlier, Richard Pearse single handed built a plane that he flew in New Zealand on the 31st March 1903. Many witnesses saw his plane stay airborne for many minutes and this was several months before the Wright brothers. Being so reserved he did not think his attempt would qualify as 'First powered flight' until the Wright brothers flight of 12 seconds was claimed as a first!

Richard Pearse Plane
Richard Pearse Plane

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse

He made several successful flights that are catalogued on Wiki
The emblem of Rule Britannia
In History
  • 21 September 1936.
    This month 87 years ago the world lost Frank Hornby
  • 01 September 1976.
    This month 47 years ago the world lost Percy Shaw
  • 10 September 1960.
    This month 63 years ago the world lost Harold Gillies
  • 01 September 1806.
    This month 217 years ago the world lost Edward Nairne
  • 21 September 1836.
    This month 187 years ago the world lost John Stafford Smith
  • 01 September 1846.
    This month 177 years ago the world lost Edwin Beard Budding
  • 25 September 1936.
    This month 87 years ago the world lost William Horlick
  • Christmas Cracker. 200 years ago 18/10/1823 Tom Smith was born
  • 17 September 1877.
    This month 146 years ago the world lost William Henry Fox Talbot
  • 28 September 1839.
    On this day 184 years ago John Lawson Johnston was born
  • 18 September 1938.
    This month 85 years ago the world lost William Fletcher
  • Marshall Amplification. 100 years ago 29/7/1923 Jim Marshall was born
  • 10 September 1938.
    This month 85 years ago the world lost Charles Cruft
  • 18 September 1967.
    This month 56 years ago the world lost John Cockcroft
  • 16 September 1890.
    This month 133 years ago the world lost Louis Le Prince
  • 50 years ago in 1973 The first stable LCD is announced to the world.
The emblem of Rule Britannia
Who Invented?
Who Discovered?
Who Created?
The History of..