Phil Taylor is a Weekend Herald and New Zealand Herald senior staff writer.

Pearse replica flight attempt must wait for another day

Aviation history will have to wait for another day after bad luck and ill health got in the way of an attempt to prove Timaru aviation pioneer Richard Pearse's plane was capable of flight.

An attempt to fly a replica of Pearse's plane at Mercury Bay Aero Club, Whitianga failed to get off the ground after the man who built it, 78 year-old Ivan Mudrovich, a retired automotive engineer, was flown to Auckland Hospital by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter after falling ill.

Former senior Air New Zealand pilot Neville Hay was to have been at the controls.

Mr Mudrovcich became ill about 11am, while in the process of putting new springs in the engine. Reports this evening indicated he was recovering.

Engineer Alan Booth (left) stands by the controls while test pilot Neville Hay (right) is pictured at Whitianga Airfield. Photo / Alan Gibson
Engineer Alan Booth (left) stands by the controls while test pilot Neville Hay (right) is pictured at Whitianga Airfield. Photo / Alan Gibson



He indicated before being flown to hospital that an attempt should go ahead if the engine could be tuned to the point that was possible. Alan Booth, an engineer and a supporter of the project, and Mr Hay, attempted to get the engine ready and got it started but could not tune it to get sufficient thrust for flight.

Mr Hay said the decision to make the attempt was made only because the engine had been running so well.

"Something has happened. Something is not adjusted correctly and we don't know what," Mr Hay said.

"We need Ivan to sort that out. It hasn't changed my view. If the engine runs well, it has the potential. Everything is there to make it fly except speed."

It has been a labour of love for Mr Mudrovcich who built it over 12 years from the small garage at his Kelston home. In West Auckland.

He began In 2004, building a copy of the engine before deciding to do his best to recreate the whole plane. The project was the mission he needed after feeling "low" following major heart surgery, he told the Herald. He and wife Janet, lived for years with parts from the project in their lounge and under their bed.

He believes that Pearse got off the ground - quite possibly before the Wright brothers in the United States in December 1903 - and he has no doubt that Pearse has not had his dues. He doesn't like the term genius, preferring to describe Pearce as "a clever bugger".

Test pilot Neville Hay pictured at Whitianga Airfield. Photo / Alan Gibson
Test pilot Neville Hay pictured at Whitianga Airfield. Photo / Alan Gibson



"I'm proud of it [the replica] ... I'm 100 years after him but he had nothing, he had steam engines. I have a lot of time for people who have ago, " Mr Mudrovcich told the Herald before he became ill.

Before the flight, pilot Neville Hay declared he was apprehensive rather than scared. Flying the replica is as far removed as possible from his career flying jumbo jets.

Though getting the replica airborne doesn't prove Pearse did it, or did it first, it would show that what he built was capable of flight, Mr Hay said.

"If we could do a bit of justice to Richard Pearce, we would like to - to show that flight is possible using Ivan's interpretation of the patent documents."

That mission will have to wait another day.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 03 Dec 2016 09:55:37 Processing Time: 472ms