Virgin Commemorates First Manned Flight

Virgin Atlantic and the Royal Aeronautical Society are proud to announce plans to commemorate 100 Years of Flight by building a modern replica of the first aircraft to carry an adult.  Designed by British born Sir George Cayley, the Cayley glider was the first man-carrying aircraft, and flew 50 years before the Wright Brothers.
Whilst 2003 marks the centenary of the Wright brothers’ huge achievement in flying the first powered aircraft, it is also the 150th anniversary of the flight of Sir George Cayley’s glider over Brompton Dale in Yorkshire in 1853.  The replica will fly over Brompton Dale on 5 July 2003 and is being built with modern design techniques while staying true to the original illustrations.
The Cayley glider was designed by Sir George Cayley and took flight from Brompton Dale with George Cayley’s reluctant coachman as its passenger.  Sir George Cayley was born in 1773 and is widely recognised as the ‘Father of Aviation’ and a genius of science whose works in aeronautics pioneered the conquest of flight.  He was the first to establish the aerodynamic forces of flight - weight, lift, drag and thrust.  He identified their relationships and used this knowledge to design and build the Cayley glider.


Speaking at a Aviation Club of the UK luncheon, Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:


“I am very proud to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Cayley Flyer.  Along with 17 December 1903 when the Wright brothers first took flight, it is a significant milestone for the aviation industry and should be celebrated worldwide. 


“Rebuilding the glider with the Royal Aeronautical Society has really brought home to all of us what a pioneer Sir George Cayley was and how significant a role Britain has always played in aviation’s development.  I might even be sufficiently inspired to fly it myself - I suspect I am as well qualified as Cayley’s reluctant 19th Century coachman who flew the original glider in 1853.”
Brian Gill, Chairman of the Brough Branch, Royal Aeronautical Society commented
“The Brough Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society are very
pleased to be collaborating with Virgin Atlantic on the project to build
a modern replica of Sir George Cayley’s 1853 glider in
commemoration of 150 years of manned flight.  The support of
Virgin Atlantic is allowing the society and local volunteers to
re-create the pioneering spirit of Sir George in the county where his
historic work was carried out.”


The project is being sponsored by Virgin Atlantic and the glider is being built by the Heritage Group at the Brough Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society.  The flight of the replica is the centrepiece of a day of events to mark the achievements of Sir George Cayley, a Yorkshire born man who was the inspiration behind the Wright Brother’s flight in December 1903.
As part of this year’s celebrations, Virgin Atlantic is also sponsoring the quirky and unconventional annual ‘Bognor Birdman’ event in August.  The famous competition challenges individuals to achieve human powered flight from the end of the pier in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.
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