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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 July, 2003, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
First manned flight recreated
Sir Richard in the replica of the 1853 glider
A re-enactment of the first manned air flight has been carried out with Sir Richard Branson in the pilot's seat.

He was in a full-scale replica of Sir George Cayley's glider which took off from Brompton Dale, near Scarborough, in 1853.

Sir Richard, dressed in a 19th Century costume of a braid-trimmed coat and lace cravat, managed to get into the air for a few seconds after he was launched down the hill by a catapult.

He had said he wanted to be part of the 150th anniversary celebrations to "protect British aviation history."

Moments after touching down, he said: "That was fantastic. I can fly. That was exhilarating."

Workers at BAE Systems, in Brough, East Yorkshire, used original designs and modern materials to build the replica.

Cayley's glider was designed and flown 50 years before the Wright brothers took to the skies in America.

Sir George Cayley
Sir George Cayley's glider carried coachman John Appleby

When the Cayley Glider took its first flight he was aged 79, so his coachman John Appleby became the world's first pilot.

The craft flew for 153 metres before it crash-landed in a field.

Decendants of Sir George, and the coachman, were at Brompton Dale on Saturday to watch the re-enactment of the first flight.

On Sunday, the replica of Cayley's aircraft and the Wright flyer will be on display at the Yorkshire Air Museum.

Ian Wormald, chairman of the 150th anniversary committee, said: "Cayley made a vital contribution to the development of manned flight so we're delighted to be able to celebrate his achievements with such a varied programme of events."

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