Thursday, November 15, 2012

More on John Montgomery

One of the treasures of the Western Museum of Flight is the reproduction of a glider flown by John Montgomery in the 1880s.

I blogged about it in 2010 (and last week), but I'll mention it again because Craig Harwood and Gary B. Fogel have written Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West. Montgomery made the first  first flight in a glider twenty years before Kittyhawk--and his flight was in San Diego. (The Wright Brothers flew the world's first motorized aircraft.)

Fogel will be speaking about the book, the man, and the glider flight on November 17 at 11 am at the Western Museum of Flight, 3315 Airport Drive in Torrance. Free parking, and the talk is $5.

Montgomery's an interesting character--but why don't we know more about him?

Turns out he's been overlooked by historians and engineers for over a century. He worked in isolation, didn't seek publicity, and when he did finally go public with his work, he passed up the chance to work with aviation pioneers who would have supported and promoted him. Instead, he partnered up with the guy who developed early dirigibles--using Montgomery's work but cutting Montgomery out.

So in addition to a race/rivalry for patents and attention with the Wright Brothers, Montgomery was publicly waging other battles--all while carrying on his own research. The 20th century was not kind to him: his test pilot was killed, the San Francisco Earthquake intervened, then--just when Montgomery was nearing success--he got caught in a whirlwind and killed while testing out his own new glider. (The picture at left--from Wiki--was taken just before his death in 1911)

Quest for Flight, besides covering Montgomery, also goes into the contributions made toward flight in Southern California in the 19th century and the very early years of the 20th century.

(All this comes from a summary that the authors were kind enough to send me).

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