In his autobiography Adventure with Fate, test pilot Harald Penrose records an undated meeting with a "remarkable old gentleman" at Burton Bradstock in Dorsetshire, England:

Directed to a decrepit house standing in long-neglected grounds I was taken through stark corridors to the library where a white-bearded figure wearing velvet smoking-jacket and skull cap was reading the Koran. 'Yes,' he replied to my enquiry. 'I used to launch tailless models there. That was before the Wrights flew. Would you like to see the relics?'

Hanging in the cobwebbed stable were half a dozen somewhat gull-like cobwebbed antique models, the biggest of which was a sesquiplane of about 8-ft span. 'What a coincidence!' I exclaimed. 'That one is almost identical with our latest Pterodactyl, even to the straight centre-section'.

'Perhaps that's because on of your designers came to see me,' he said. 'That was my last. It flew so well that I offered the design to the government in the Great War, but they weren't interested.'*

The Pterodactyl in question was the Mk.V, designed by G.T.R. Hill at Westland, whom Penrose also worked for. The old gentleman who flew his models before the Wrights (1903) does not appear to have been either of tailless pioneers J.W. Dunne or José Weiss, who both came later. So who might he have been?


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