New Zealand’s first controlled powered flight

9 February 1911

The Manurewa (Alexander Turnbull Library, MNZ-2066-1/4)

Pioneering aviator Vivian Walsh took to the skies over South Auckland to complete the first controlled powered flight recorded in New Zealand. He and his brother Leo had built their British-designed Howard Wright biplane from imported plans.

Watched by a small group of spectators at Glencora Park in Papakura, Vivian Walsh flew the Manurewa more than 350 m at a height of 20 m. The brothers went on to establish the influential New Zealand Flying School, with Vivian becoming the first New Zealander to obtain a pilot’s licence (see 13 July).

An earlier aviation pioneer, South Canterbury farmer Richard Pearse, had worked on ideas for powered flight from at least 1899. Sometime between 1902 and 1904, Pearse achieved ‘long hops’ in a flying machine he had constructed of bamboo, tubular steel, wire and canvas, but not the sustained, controlled flight that marked the advent of aviation. The Americans Wilbur and Orville Wright claimed that historic accomplishment in December 1903.

Community contributions

No comments have been posted about New Zealand’s first controlled powered flight

What do you know?