MANY people believe that the first inventor of a flying machine was Leonard De Vinci but his helicopter never flew.

Others are convinced that the Wright brothers were the pioneers of flight.

Dr John Ackroyd, a retired senior lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at Victoria University, Manchester put that perception right when he told members of Sale Probus club about Sir George Cayley (1773-1857) who devised a glider which actually flew.

Thought to have been born in the Paradise district of Scarborough, Cayley, 6th baronet, left a Board School to receive personal tuition from scientists George Walker, whose daughter he eventually married, and George Cadogan Morgan.

Dr Ackroyd showed Cayley’s original drawings leading to the first flight when, in 1849, a ten-year-old boy took off in a gliding machine, to be followed in 1853 by a flight tested successfully by Cayley’s Coachman.

Building up to these achievements, Cayley’s work covered the four subjects central to achieving flight – aerodynamics, flight dynamics including stability and control, structure and propulsion. He also developed a hot air engine and a gunpowder engine.

His genius was reflected in, among other things, his invention of a bicycle wheel, a caterpillar tractor and a mechanical hand for amputees.

* The next meeting, at Sale Conservative Club on February 6 at 2.15, will feature Ian Moss talking about the Cheshire Ring. For more information, contact John Wood on 0161 962 2837.