Pilcher, Percy Sinclair

Pilcher, Percy Sinclair
b. 16 January 1867 Bath, England
d. 2 October 1899 Stanford Hall, Northamptonshire, England
English designer and glider aeronaut.
He was educated at HMS Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, from 1880 to 1882. He sailed on HMS Duke of Wellington, Agincourt, Northampton and other ships and resigned from the navy on 18 April 187 after seven years at sea. In June 1887 he was apprenticed at Randolph, Elder \& Co.'s shipyard at Govan, and was then an apprentice moulder at Cairn \& Co., Glasgow. For some time he "studied" at London University (though there is no official record of his doing so) while living with his sister at Phillbeck Gardens, South Kensington. In May 1890 he was working for John H.Biles, Manager of the Southampton Naval Works Ltd. Biles was later appointed Professor of Naval Architecture at Glasgow University with Pilcher as his Assistant Lecturer. In 1895 he was building his first glider, the Bat, which was built mainly of Riga pine and weighed 44 lb (20 kg). In succeeding months he travelled to Lichterfelde to study the gliders made by the German Lilienthal and built a further three machines, the Beetle, the Gull and the Hawk. In 1896 he applied for his only aeronautical patent, for "Improved flying and soaring machines", which was accepted on March 1897. In April 1896 he resigned his position at Glasgow University to become Assistant to Sir Hiram Maxim, who was also doing experiments with flying machines at his Nordenfeld Guns and Ammunition Co. Ltd at Crayford. He took up residence in Artillery Mansions, Victoria Street, later taken over by Vickers Ltd. Maxim had a hangar at Upper Lodge Farm, Austin Eynsford, Kent: using this, Pilcher reached a height of 12 ft (3.66m) in 1899 with a cable launch. He planned to build a 2 hp (1.5 kW) petrol engine In September 1899 he went to stay with Lord Braye at Stanford Hall, Northamptonshire, where many people came to see his flying machine, a triplane. The weather was far from ideal, windy and raining, but Pilcher would not disappoint them. A bracing wire broke, the tail collapsed and the pilot crashed to the ground suffering two broken legs and concussion. He did not regain consciousness and died the following day. He was buried in Brompton Cemetery.
1896, British patent no. 9144 "Improved flying and soaring machines".
Further Reading
P.Jarrett, 1987, Another Icarus. Percy Pilcher and the Quest for Flight, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
A.Welch and L.Welch, 1965, The Story of Gliding, London: John Murray.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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