I have myself a poetical enthusiasm for pigs, and the paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings. But it is only men, especially wise men, who discuss whether pigs can fly; we have no particular proof that pigs ever discuss it.
— G.K. Chesterton. Fancies Versus Fads. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. (1923)
The first historically recorded flight of a pig took place on British soil, at Leysdown in Kent on November 4th, 1909. The pig was carried aloft by J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon, later the First Lord Brabazon of Tara, in his personal French-built Voisin aero plane.
The pig was placed into a wicker basket, which was in turn strapped to a wing strut of the aero plane. A hand-lettered sign attached to the basket read: ‘I am the first pig to fly.’ Brabazon purposefully carried the pig aloft, thereby disproving the long help opinion that ‘pigs can not fly.’
Brabazon learned to fly in France, where he purchased and brought back to England, his standard model Voisin aero plane in 1909. Once in England with his Voisin, he secured the second pilots license issued to a British subject on March 8, 1909 (the first was issued to Henry Farman, noted British aero plane pilot, designer and builder).
And then in May of 1909, Brabazon made a flight of 500 yards in his Voisin at Leysdown in Kent – officially recognized as the first flight by a British pilot in Britain. Once the operability of the Voisin was assured, Brabazon set a number of early flying records, including his personal ambition to prove that pigs really could fly.
Brabazon went on to a distinguished and eccentric career in British sport and Government. After further flying exploits and keeping company with the Wright Brothers and Charles Rolls (of Rolls Royce fame), he was Minister of Transport, and later Minister of Aircraft Production under Winston Churchill, and eventually elevated to the House of Lords where he took a seat as Lord Brabazon of Tara.
After the war, Brabazon was given the job of planning for post-war civil aviation in Britain. He chaired a British Cabinet committee that oversaw the building of a prototype aircraft – the Bristol 167 Brabazon – the largest plane ever built in Britain. The 167 performed poorly in initial trials, and lost economical feasibility as more efficient designs were concurrently developed. It never went into production. Afterward Brabazon, entered into private life and continued to distinguish himself as a racer of Belgian cars, an avid golfer, and, at the age of 70, he rode the fearsome Cresta bobsled run at St. Moritz.