Claude Moore-Brabazon – The Man Who Proved That Pigs Can Fly

The famous British retort that “pigs might fly” to any suggestion that seems ridiculous has been proved by British aviator Claude Moore-Brabazon (later First Lord Brabazon of Tara).

The first historically recorded flight of a pig took place on at Leysdown in Kent (Great Britain) on November 4th, 1909. With this flight, the aristocratic British aviator made porcine aviation a reality. He fixed a wicker basket to a wing strut of his Voisin biplane and carefully strapped a pig into it. The basket had a hand written sign “I am the first pig to fly”. Then he took bemused pig for a flight of about 3.7 miles from Shellbeach, the Short Brothers airfield at Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey.

Claude Moore Brabazon and the first pig to fly - Flight computer
Claude Moore-Brabazon and the first pig to fly

Brabazon was a sportsman of remarkable accomplishments, a scion of the British nobility whose family wealth enabled him to learn to fly and to posses his own gliders and airplanes. He has been attracted to aviation since his childhood. Brabazon learnt to fly in France at Issy-Les-Moulineaux near Paris. One of his early flights has been pictured for the first issue of Flight magazine, dated January 2, 1909.

He was the first Briton to fly in Britain. In April 1909, he took off from Shellbeach on the Isle of Sheppey in his Voisin-Farman aircraft to fly some 500 yards (450 m). On October 30, Brabazon won the £1.000 prize offered by the Daily Mail for the first closed circuit of a mile in a British airplane. For this venture he purchased a Short Brothers N02 airplane fitted with a 60-horse-power Green aero engine.

Brabazon was a prominent member of Britain’s Aero Club and the owner of the first pilot’s licence issued in the United Kingdom by Royal Aero Club on March 8, 1909.

Royal Aero Club License No. 1, issued to Claude Moore-Brabazon (RAF Museum)
Royal Aero Club License No. 1, issued to Claude Moore-Brabazon (photo RAF Museum)

In the First World War, Lord Brabazon had a leading roll in the development of aerial photography.

Claude Moore-Brabazon was the Minister of Transport, and later the Minister of Aircraft Production under Winston Churchill. He also lead the company with the Wright Brothers and Charles Rolls (of Rolls Royce fame).

After the Second World War, Lord Brabazon was hired to plan the post-war civil aviation in Britain. He was a chairman of British Cabinet committee which supervised the project of a passenger aircraft prototype – Bristol 167 Brabazon. That was the largest airplane ever built in Britain. The Bristol Brabazon was designed as a transatlantic airliner able to carry 100 passengers. It performed poorly and was killed of by the dawning of the jet age and more efficient designs developed at that time.

Bristol Brabazon
Bristol Brabazon

Afterward Brabazon retired and went into private life, he continued to distinguish himself as a racer of Belgian cars and a passionate golfer.

Lord Brabazon of Tara died in 1964.

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