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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Inventor claims first manned flight
A replica of Richard Pearse's plane
Attempts to fly the replica have so far proved unsuccessful
A Cornishman could have made the first manned flight - and not the Wright brothers in America - according to a group of historians.

The claim has been made by the group who come from New Zealand where farmer Richard Pearse settled after emigrating from Cornwall.

Pearse spent years constructing a plane out of bamboo wire and canvas in a workshop on his remote farm.

It is claimed his first public flight took place eight months before Orville and Wilbur Wright secured their place in history in December 1903.

Richard Pearse in his plane in 1903
Richard Pearse built the plane in a workshop on his remote farm
Historian Jeff Rodliffe said: "I think Richard Pearse was very reluctant to ever have anything publicised.

"It was only after he died that anything of his was discovered."

Enthusiasts are so keen to prove that Mr Pearse beat the Wright brothers in the race to fly that they have even tried to fly a replica of the Cornish inventor's plane themselves.

It has not proved too successful so far, but they plan to try again later this year after making a few adjustments.

In the meantime, the plane and the story of Mr Pearse are on display at a special exhibition at Flambards, near Helston.

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