Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken
gozz@gozz.com

Friday, December 17, 2004

Americans love revising history 

I always remember December 17th as it is Phil Barth's - my best friend in elementary school - birthday, and the anniversary of the Wright brother's Kitty Hawk flight.

Introductory comments aside, the Wrights made their "historic" flight at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903, 101 years ago today. "Historic", so goes American mythology.

In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers' invention, the "powered hot air balloon" was successfully flown for 5 miles. That was not heavier than air though. And they were French.

Otto Lilienthal of Germany made thousands of short flights in gliders in the 1870 and 1880s. These were not exactly "controlled" though - he didn't fly very far.

In 1883, John J. Montgomery successfully tested the first controlled heavier-than-air flight. San Diego's Montgomery Field is named after him, but that was not a powered flight - it was a glider. Montgomery was an American.

In 1887, Clement Ader flew a heavier than air powered machine for over 300 yards. He wasn't American though. Another frogman.

In 1897, Samuel Pierpont Langley (American) flew his heavier than air powered invention over 1000 yards. Langly AF Base is named after him.

Then in 1903, the Wright Brothers duplicated Langly's feat, but only flew 120 feet.

So, Orville and Wilbur's accomplishment may best be described as this: They were the first ...

For those who contest Langley's accomplishment as a vast and fraudulent conspiracy, NASA and the US Air Force are not on your side of the debate.

Here is Ader's machine:

bat plane
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