Croydon Aircraft Co. Pither Replica
Colin Smith and his Croydon Aircraft Company team put Herbert Pither's design to a practical test. Colin was able to make working drawings from Otago Witness photographs, supplemented by specifications helpfully cited in newspaper reports.
He is confident the replica is as authentic as it is possible to be, given that there is no way of knowing what adjustments Pither made during testing.
Colin insisted the work be done from Pither's perspective, protecting against the inevitable influence of hindsight. Helpful suggestions by interested onlookers to improve the design have been firmly resisted, and the only conscious design concessions (like extra strengthening and temporarily fixing the all-flying tail plane in position) have been made for safety reasons.
The craft is heavier than Pither's, 500 lb (230kg) though with the same centre of balance, making it, if anything, less likely to fly at the 250 lb (113kg) power output Pither specified.
February 18, 2005, at Mandeville airfield, Southland saw the first flight of the replica monoplane under the hands of Jerry Chisum. While exact measures of its performance are still being analysed, pilot Jerry Chisum eased it through a series of low runs of about 100m along the airfield. The take off speed measured from a chase car as 70kmph.
Chisum rated the craft as surprisingly airworthy and controllable.
The Pither can be inspected at the Croydon hangar, Mandeville, but Colin has no plans for more flying in the meantime.
'We've proven it can do what Pither claimed, and exploring the extent of its limitations has never been part of the plan, and no more. We're not intending to do circuits or take it up to 100 feet. If we wanted it to do more, we'd build something that had done more."