Richard Pearse memorial

Richard Pearse, born 1877, near Temuka at Waitohi Flat is a local legend for his aviation engineering genius - and because we like to think he made the first flight in the world.

Legend of Richard Pearse

Legend has it that some time in March 1903, Richard Pearse got his aircraft into the air without the use of a ramp, catapult or some external launching aid and flew 50 yards before crashing into a hedge.

There is some dispute over the date of the flight. Some say it was in March 1904 (three months after the Wright Brothers flew).  Others say it was March 1902 (nearly two years prior to the Wright Brothers’ flight).  Others believe it was 1903. Whenever it happened, we know this local man was clever.

He invented a bicycle, a motorcycle, a hydro-electric power generator, mechanised farming equipment and a sound recording apparatus.

A memorial in his name

We've recognised the genius of Richard Pearse by erecting a memorial in his name. It's easy to find on Main Waitohi Road, just out of town. Our Timaru District Airport also bears his name.

How to get there
  • Drive north on State Highway 1 to Temuka.
  • Turn left onto Main Waitohi Road.
  • Prepare to slow down and stop at the memorial once you drive past Galbraith Road.
  • Look for a roadside memorial of an early aircraft.