Pilcher Beetle
Collection of Philip Jarrett
Pilcher in Flight
Collection of Philip Jarrett

via email from Tony Prentice, 11-29-03
     I have sent you an attachment which shows the first test flights of Pilchers triplane replica. It has been based on the drawings that you will find in Philip Jarrett's book and was built at Cranfield University. Bill Brooks of Pegasus Aviation was pilot and technical advisor. It was built for the BBC's Horizon programme being produced by TV6 film company.
     Flights on the day lasted about 10secs but the following week this was extended to 1min 25secs.
     Unfortunately Pilcher was killed flying the Hawk (1899) before he had had a chance to test his powered machine.It shows Pilchers concept was sound and given that it was 4 years before the Wright brothers flight he may well have developed the machine to achieve flight before them.
     If you would like to see a series of photographs taken by Tony which document the test flight, click on the title above.
     You can read the complete transcript of the program which was broadcast on the BBC's Horizon Programme on December 11, 2003. by clicking on the title above. On that page you will also find links to Programme Summary, Questions & Answers and Links. If the link should be obsolete, you can read the transcript by clicking on the title just below.

     If you search for "Percy Pilcher +aviation" using Google, (11-5-03), you will find about 202 links! On 8-29-06, the number of links had increased to about 512!!
     I was just, 8-28-06, alerted by Tony Prentice to a new one, built by Eric Littledike, which documents the dedication of a Monument to memorialize his contributions to aviation. It is described just below.
Percy Pilcher Monument

     "On June 17th 2006 at 12 Noon, a Monument to celebrate the life of British aviation pioneer Percy Pilcher was unveiled at his original flying site at Upper Austin Lodge (now a golf course) South of Eynsford in Kent."

     The quotation above introduces the purpose of this comprehensive website. It includes sections such as: Home, Pilcher, Gallery, Map, Sources, Links and Contact. The story of Pilcher and of the event itself are richly illustrated with numerous interesting photographs. You can access the homepage by clicking on the title above.


     This page on Carroll Gray's Flying Machines website offers a very complete resumé to the story of Percy Pilcher. He summarizes his activities and also offers a portrait of Pilcher, a photo of his Bat Glider from 1897 and the patent drawing for his powered "Hawk" glider, 1897. You can access this page by clicking on the title above.
     If you are not acquainted with the website, you should take the time to visit it and enjoy the many features. As the introduction states:
"Welcome to the Flying Machines web site. Before the Wright Brothers achieved the first successful heavier-than-air controlled flight on December 17, 1903, hundreds of women and men attempted to fly, in airships, gliders and aeroplanes, and many did go aloft in gas and hot-air balloons. This site documents a number of those pre-Wright attempts at heavier-than-air flight, as well as significant events and thoughts which contributed to the ultimate success of powered, heavier-than-air human flight."
     In addition to detailed entries for some 44 pioneer inventors and aviators, you can listen to a 1909 Edison Cylinder recording called, "Zeb Green's Airship, a unique experience. You can access the homepage by clicking on the title above or on:
Flying Machines

Another Icarus
Another Icarus: Percy Pilcher and the Quest for Flight
by Philip Jarrett
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1987;
ISBN 0-87474-556-X

"Four years before the Wright brothers' first, manned powered flight at Kitty Hawk, British aviation pioneer Percy Sinclair Pilcher had constructed and was planning to test his fifth glider--a triplane he intended to fit with an engine. Pilcher's trailblazing work was cut short when he perished during a glider demonstration in 1899.

Percy Pilcher died on October 30, 1899.
from Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee, April 7, 1911

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Flier,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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