4 November 1909 – Pigs can fly

On 4th November 1909, John Moore-Brabazon made a flight with a pig placed in a wastepaper basket attached to his aeroplane, to prove that ´pigs can fly´.

´When pigs fly´ is a common phrase in the English language used to describe an impossibility or putting circumstances in question, with an emphasis that they will never occur. It is used in various forms since the 17th century and, in addition, was also adopted by several other European languages.

Nevertheless, on 4th November 1909 at Leysdown in Kent, the impossible became a fact. On this day, John Moore-Brabazon, made a short flight around the Thames Estuary, carrying a very special ´passenger´ on board of his Short Brothers biplane.

Icarus II, as the passenger was called, was a piglet taken from a nearby pub. The young English aviator just tied a small wastepaper basket to a wing strut of the aeroplane, put the porcine aviation pioneer into the basket and finally performed a short, but historic flight.

According to the pilot and newspapers that reported the event, the first porcine aviator was calm and showed no stress during the flight. Shortly after, a picture of Icarus II sitting in the basket – with a funny note on it, saying ´I am the first pig to fly´- spread the English newspapers.

Icarus II, the pioneer of porcine aviation (photo: Wikipedia, Public Domain)

John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, the 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, was the English aristocrat and aviation pioneer. He was the first Englishman to fly heavier-then-air aircraft and the first person in the United Kingdom to receive an official pilot´s licence, issued by the Royal Aero Club.

John Moore-Brabazon made his first flight in France, yet in November 1908. On 2nd May 1909 he performed the first officially recognized aeroplane flight in England, done by the Englishman. His short, but rich flying career was marked by several other ´firsts´, earning John Moore-Brabazon a place in history of aviation.

Regrettably, in the middle of 1910, following the tragic aviation accident of his close friend, Moore-Brabazon gave up flying. Nevertheless, It was only a short break, as he returned to aviation with the outbreak of the Great War. Serving with the Royal Flying Corps and then the Royal Air Force, John Moore-Brabazon again made his place in the aviation history through his achievements in aerial photography and reconnaissance. Later, during the World War II, Moore-Brabazon was the British Minister of Transport and Minister of Aircraft Production.

The flight he performed in November of 1909, although being just a joke, did a lot for popularization of aviation and its advantages. It is usually recognized as the first cargo flight performed in the United Kingdom, as well as the first livestock cargo flight ever made. Not mentioning the beginning of porcine aviation, certainly.

Cover photo: John Moore-Brabazon and Icarus II (Wikipedia, Public Domain)