Pilcher Triplane

Fllight pioneer Percy Pilcher is one of Britain’s unsung heroes. But for a fatal accident it is possible that he, rather than the celebrated Wright brothers, might have solved the riddle of powered, controlled, heavier-than -air flight. Inspired by Lilienthal, Pilcher built four gliders in 1895, the last of which, the Hawk, was the most successful. In 1897, working with engineer Walter Wilson, he decided to fit a small t wo-cylinder petrol engine in a glider for experiments with powered flight. Influenced by Chanute, the new machine was designed as a triplane. The engine was to be mounted high at the front, with a long driveshaft to a two-bladed pusher propeller behind the wings. Pilcher would have had problems controlling this machine as he depended on body-swinging, and had yet to try other methods such as rudders or elevators. In the event, the control issue was
never put to the test. A first attempt to fly the triplane was delayed when the engine’s crankshaft broke.
Meanwhile. Pilcher went ahead with a demonstration of his glider, the Hawk, at Stanford Park, near Rugby, on 30 September 1899. Tragically, the craft suffered a structural failure during a towed flight from level ground, and Pilcher subseqently died of his injuries on 2 October. His triplane was never flown.
In 2003, however, a full-size reproduction flew successfully, happily demonstrating that the design was indeed practical.

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