Richard Pearse Memorial

Building or Location associated with significant engineers


Legend has it that Richard Pearse (1877-1953), a young farmer with no formal engineering training but with remarkable analytical aptitude and genius, built and flew a powered heavier than air plane on the 31 March 1903 at Waitohi in South Canterbury. This date is the sourse of debate. Pearse himself is recorded as saying that his first attempts were in 1904.

Using a home lathe, Pearse initially built a light weight 2 cylinder engine, with each cylinder double acting and fitted to a biplane of his own construction. His only help was from a local blacksmith and Mr Woods who built the first car to be constructed in New Zealand.

A memorial, including a replica of his first pane, is located on Waitohi Road. A later revolutionary plane which he was working on at his death is displayed in the MOTAT in Auckland.

See the attachment below for more information: Bill Pitt, 'Richard Pearse - pioneer aviator young engineer, inventor, genius'

Gordon Ogilvie, Riddle of Richard Pearse, Auckland, 2003
C. G. Rodliffe, Wings Over Waitohi, Auckland, 1997
C. G. Rodliffe, Richard Pearse: pioneer aviator, Auckland, 2003
'Pearse flew long after Wrights,', 24 April 2012 (accessed 14 May 2012)


Bill Pitt 'Richard Pearse' (513 KB).pdf


Main Waitohi Road, Waitohi, Canterbury


Access Info
When travelling along State Highway One take the westward turn-off immediately south of Temuka township (Waitohi Temuka Road). Follow this road through Waitohi township. Soon after the memorial can be seen in a lay-by on the north side of the road.

Nature of Engineering
New Zealand Innovations, Transport (Road, sea, air, incl vehicles)


Richard Pearse Memorial. Photograph courtesy of B. Pitt

(Click image to enlarge )

Lat: -44.2080 Long: 171.1232