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British Industrial History

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William Frost

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William (Bill) Frost (28 May 1848 – March 1935) was a Welsh amateur aviator, who, some believe, made a manned flight of considerable distance in a winged powered flying machine of his own design.

Frost was a carpenter who was born, died and lived most of his life in Saundersfoot, a village on the Pembrokeshire coast of South Wales. His father was John Frost and his mother Rebecca Frost.

Sometime in the 1890s he was taken with the idea of building a flying machine. Despite his poverty he managed to construct the "Frost Airship Glider", which seems, in principle, to have resembled a vertical takeoff airplane, with gas-filled tanks.

From the Patent description: "The flying machine is propelled into the air by two reversible fans revolving horizontally. When sufficient height is gained, wings are spread and tilted by means of a lever, causing the machine to float onward and downward. When low enough the lever is reversed causing it to rise upward and onward. When required to stop it the wings are tilted so as to hold against the wind or air and lowered by the reversible fans. The steering is done by a helm fitted to front of machine."

The patent seems to contradict itself slightly in the next paragraph which says, "The steering is done by a rudder at both ends."

Writer Byron Rogers, apparently relying on the book "A Pembrokeshire Pioneer" by Roscoe Howells, gives a description of the flying machine as "part balloon (gas cylinders gave it lift), part powered hang glider, foot-pedals operating helicopter-style blades."

Frost reportedly made a flight, presumably using these techniques, on or about 24 September 1896. Observers said the machine flew about 500 metres, then crashed into bushes, out-distancing the 120 feet in 12 seconds by the Wright brothers in their first powered flight, which did not feature a vertical takeoff. During the night following the flight, a violent storm destroyed and scattered the flying machine.

To Frost's misfortune, the event, apparently witnessed, was not recorded except in local memories. Although a poor working man, Frost applied for a patent which was accepted and registered in London on 25 October 1894 under number 1894-20431. Unable to pay renewal fees, he allowed the patent to lapse four years later.

He died without wealth or recognition in 1935

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