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From the Publisher
"Quest for Flight is the most refreshing thesis on the origins of flight associated with John J. Montgomery since the Columbia Pictures movie Gallant Journey in 1946. Craig S. Harwood and Gary B. Fogel, recognized experts in aviation history, have shown through their extraordinary research and detailed documentation that Montgomery refined his theories of flight long before the Wright Brothers. Readers of Quest for Flight will discover that John J. Montgomery is the true 'Father of the Aeroplane' and the first to fly--in California rather than the East. Quest for Flight acknowledges the efforts of many California pioneers, in addition to Montgomery, who experimented with flying machines in these early years of human flight. This important book will change society’s traditional views of American aviation history toward a more informed and objective version of 'the impossible art' of aerial navigation."—Milford Wayne Donaldson, State Historic Preservation Officer, Office of Historic Preservation, California Department of Parks and Recreation
"For nearly a century, with one exception, historians of aviation have only obliquely considered the origins of manned flight in the United States. No longer! Informed and vividly written, Quest for Flight revises the chronology of aviation in America decades prior to 1903 and, in terms of geography, locates its emergence on a far, far shore from Kitty Hawk." —Kevin Starr, author of the series, "Americans and the California Dream"
Harwood (a distant relative of John J. Montgomery) and Fogel (Wind and Wings: The History of Soaring in San Diego) effectively trace their subject's determined efforts in pioneering aerial navigation. Beginning with Montgomery's initial 1883 flights near San Diego, they chronicle his work through a series of ever-improved glider designs. These tests culminated in 1905 with successful controlled flights in northern California employing tandem-wing craft released from hot-air balloons. The authors also offer a fine exploration of Montgomery's crowded personal life and his interaction with air-minded peers; his nonaeronautical scientific projects; his continuing lack of sufficient research funds; and his inclination to protect his intellectual property with legal challenges; among other topics. Montgomery perished in a crash on October 31, 1911, at the age of 51. An epilog includes an account of his heirs' unsuccessful patent-infringement lawsuits against the Wright-Martin Corporation and the federal government. In 1946 Orville Wright supporters, according to Harwood and Fogel, engaged in a vindictive letter-writing campaign to stop production of a motion picture featuring the life of Montgomery; their efforts failed and Gallant Journey was produced.
VERDICT A solidly researched biography of a little-known turn-of-the century aerodynamicist and flyer compellingly framed against the broader tapestry of Western science and aviation. Highly recommended.—— John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland (for Library Journal)
“In this fascinating and well-researched work, authors Craig Harwood and Gary Fogel take on a significant challenge: revising the traditional narrative of U.S. aviation history and shifting its geographical origins from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the Otay Mountains of Southern California. As their research indicates, the ranks of the founding fathers of U.S. aviation should include a prominent place for their work's subject, California scientist John J. Montgomery, whose applied experiments with gliders during the 1880s and '90s, based on his observations of birds, stake a powerful claim for his inclusion alongside more famous early aviation pioneers like Glenn Curtiss and the Wright brothers. Well-written and containing many beautiful sketches, as well as previously unpublished photographs and diagrams, Quest for Flight should be read by anyone interested in the development of aviation in the United States in particular, and in California history in general. —Technology and Culture
“Montgomery’s pioneering work on gliders certainly was state-of-the-art, especially in the 1880s. The authors make a good argument for recognizing Montgomery as one of those who helped set the stage for the invention of powered, heavier than air flight and that California was an early location for some advanced aviation research.”—Western Historical Quarterly