First in the Air: The story of John J. Montgomery’s Flight 19 years before Kitty Hawk

First in the Air: The story of John J. Montgomery’s Flight 19 years before Kitty Hawk

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by Jeff Smith
     
 

In 1883, twenty years before the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, John J. Montgomery, 26, ran with his “soaring machine” to the edge of a mesa. He stepped into the void, a wind off the Pacific Ocean lifted his wings, and he made the first controlled flight in America – at least 600 feet by some estimates.

As a child Montgomery had…  See more details below

Overview

In 1883, twenty years before the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, John J. Montgomery, 26, ran with his “soaring machine” to the edge of a mesa. He stepped into the void, a wind off the Pacific Ocean lifted his wings, and he made the first controlled flight in America – at least 600 feet by some estimates.

As a child Montgomery had studied birds, even scared his grandmother’s geese in the backyard to see how they flapped their wings when taking off. When he made the successful flight, one of several that day, Montgomery devoted the rest of his life to studying the “science of the bird.” The more he learned, and the more he became labeled a madman, the more he kept to himself, trying to maintain the utmost secrecy about his discoveries. Between 1883 and 1905, he filled hundreds of notebooks – “endless problems worked out to the feather-edge of an infinitesimal fraction” – and experimented with different models of gliders (he was the first to refer to a whole aircraft as an “aeroplane”).

In 1905, Montgomery finally took his inventions public at the University of Santa Clara, where he became professor of physics in 1896. Two attempts, performed by large audiences, failed so gravely that the ever-wary Montgomery suspected sabotage. “If I should be beaten by others in my problem, it would kill me,” he wrote several years earlier. He became convinced that those “others” had murder in their hearts. Montgomery went further inward.

In 1911, at a time when motorized planes flew in air shows, Montgomery stuck to his study of the glider. In October, after 55 successful flights in the foothills south of San Jose, his sleek monoplane made a bumpy landing. The crash didn’t look severe - the nose just flared upward before coming down – but it was.

Of Montgomery’s 1905 attempts, Alexander Graham Bell said” “All subsequent attempts in aviation must begin with the Montgomery machine.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940148443018
Publisher:
San Diego Reader Books
Publication date:
08/06/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
976 KB

Meet the Author

Jeff Smith is the senior writer at the San Diego Reader, where he has been the theater critic since 1980. He also writes a local history column, "Unforgettable." He has a Ph.D. in literature and critical theory from the University of California, Irvine, and wrote his doctoral dissertation on Shakespeare.

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First in the Air: The story of John J. Montgomery’s Flight 19 years before Kitty Hawk 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To fly