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The Wrong Stuff: Attempts at Flight Before (& After) the Wright Brothers

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This year, America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' history-making flight at Kitty Hawk. But for those other pioneers whose efforts to fly never got off the ground, there is no celebration. Plenty of people attempted flight before the Wright Brothers and failed. Many others came after the Wright Brothers, hoping they could do better, and also failed. Now aviation journalist Phil Scott gives these glorious (and often hilarious) failures their due in his new book, The Wrong Stuff? Attempts ...
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Overview

This year, America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' history-making flight at Kitty Hawk. But for those other pioneers whose efforts to fly never got off the ground, there is no celebration. Plenty of people attempted flight before the Wright Brothers and failed. Many others came after the Wright Brothers, hoping they could do better, and also failed. Now aviation journalist Phil Scott gives these glorious (and often hilarious) failures their due in his new book, The Wrong Stuff? Attempts at Flight Before (and After) the Wright Brothers.

With scores of photographs and a wry text, The Wrong Stuff? presents a veritable fleet of failed aircraft, ranging from the inventive to the outlandish to the just plain weird. Scott's dramatis personae include not just obscure inventors but also such celebrated figures as Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Hiram Maxim (inventor of the Maxim Machine Gun), Howard Hughes, and a distant relative of George Armstrong Custer whose luck with planes paralleled his ancestor's luck with Indians.

"For most of history," Scott writes, "people didn't have a clue how to fly. But still they tried, God love 'em." In the 1500s, Leonardo designed a pair of human powered wings. They were never constructed, which is just as well; according to his specs, they would have weighed more than 500 pounds. Subsequent centuries saw equally impractical devices, powered by everything from bicycles to steam engines, and Scott chronicles them all. There were human-driven helicopters and car-plane hybrids. There was the Aerial Steam Carriage, the Vertijet, the Flying Pancake, the Rotabuggy, the Fleep, the Pogo, and the Inflatoplane (yes, it's what you think: an inflatable airplane). There were early, rickety versions of the jet and the stealth plane. There were vehicles with two wings, three wings, seven wings, no wings. They were launched from hilltops, cliffs, horse-drawn carts, catapults, ramps and lakes. And they all had one thing in common.

They didn't work.

In The Wrong Stuff?, these inept inventions all rate an E for effort, and their hapless creators get a well-deserved moment in the sun.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760777978
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 3/30/2006
  • Pages: 220

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