"From the beginning of time man has thought of flight --- history records man's feeble attempts through the years --- wings of wax, gliders and now the airplane --- but can he be master of the air until he himself can fly?"
WILL EISNER, from the Black Condor, 1940 (see)
Although I had been known from a very early age to jump off one-story porches, garages, and roof tops with a bed sheet made into a parachute or flaring behind my back tied to my wrists and ankles a la Captain Midnight's glider chute on more than one occasion, my very, very first serious attempt to build a functional airplane-like craft that would carry me in flight was based almost exclusively on a glider I saw as a young boy in the 1947 black and white movie Tarzan and the Huntress.
As stated in the opening paragraph, well before the time of my first wayward flight so inspired by the glider as seen in Tarzan and the Huntress as shown above, I was already well on my way toward a fascination regarding the ability to fly, flying machines, giant flying creatures, giant feathers, et al, that seemed to dominate in later life, including the venerable World War II fighting machine, the P-40 Warhawk.
My uncle stated many times that he felt the reason for my fascination with flying and flying things went back to an incident that involved the fly over of a giant airborne object that I witnessed as a young boy. The object, of an unknown nature and an unknown origin and as large as a Zeppelin at over 800 feet in length, was seen by literally thousands of people along the coast of California barely three months into World War II. Known variously as the UFO Over L.A., The Battle of Los Angeles, etc., etc., or as I call it The Battle of Los Angeles: 1942 UFO. Even though the object was able to take over 1440 direct rounds of anti-aircraft fire and still escape unscathed, the incident is mostly forgotten now except by maybe myself and a few others. Actually, although the L.A. UFO no doubt had a major impact, I personally think what really capped my fascination regarding the ability to fly was born from a germ initiated from building, flying, and watching a glider-like paper flying toy with a penny in it's nose called the Flying Captain Marvel.
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As for the Tarzan glider, the day I came running home after seeing the movie all jacked up and pleading almost non-stop with my uncle to help me build a flying craft capable of carrying me, initially he just sort of played along. After seeing Tarzan and the Huntress himself he was sure for a duplicate glider to even come close to working, even though the movie showed Johnny Sheffield, the actor who played Boy, holding the glider it never showed him using the glider (only Cheetah) it was quite clear relative to Sheffield's weight the wingspan and wing width was wrong --- which would prove true even for me, being the ten year old boy I was and probably half Sheffield's weight. It was only after my uncle saw how serious I was that we began researching Leonardo Da Vinci, eventually moving to building a glider based on a design called the Lilienthal Type IX.
EARLY DA VINCI FLYER CIRCA 1490 AD
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On June 4, 1784 Madame Elisabeth Thible, a French opera singer, became the first woman to fly freely in an untethered balloon. The flight lasted 45 minutes with the balloon rising to a height of 8,500 feet, 20 minutes longer than her male counterparts at the time and three times higher. See:
WOMEN IN FLIGHT
LILIENTHAL FLYER CIRCA 1895
Under the guidance of my Uncle and a seemingly unlimited supply of money provided through the graciousness and wealth of my Stepmother, I researched and studied everything I could find on Leonardo and his flying machines. My uncle and I read magazine articles, scoured used books stores, went to libraries, talked to professors, and even obtained what initially became our working 'bible,' a copy of The Mechanical Investigations of Leonardo da Vinci written by Ivor B. Hart and published in 1925. Then, gathering all the info, we put about building our own machine by combining our 1948 ideas with Leonardo's fifteenth century ideas and Otto Lilienthal's 1895 ideas of some four-hundred years later.
THE WANDERLING'S FIRST FLIGHT USED A HAND-BUILT FLYING MACHINE FROM A LILIENTHAL DESIGN
Even though my uncle had stopped the design and construction of the flying machine we were working on because of some problems with my older brother, mainly inter-sibling rivalry, the stoppage, although it was only a minor blip in time, seemed like forever to me.
It wasn't long before my uncle discovered it wasn't worth all the effort he had to put forth to stop me, so not a whole lot of actual physical time elapsed before the two of us were back feet first into finishing it, with most of our difficulties in doing so stemming from stretching the fabric to a flight worthy satisfaction. Eventually we were able to complete the flyer to such a point we both felt it would actually work.
However, no real plans were set into motion to attempt a flight, and with no prospect in sight for doing so, one day, taking matters in my own hands and without my uncle's knowledge or approval, a friend of mine and I hauled it out of it's lair and up to the top of the second story apartments across the street, re the following:
"It was only a short time after returning from the desert during the summer of 1948 that I, just before school started and around age 10 or so, removed the flying machine my uncle and I built from the hanging position of it's construction lair and hauled it up to the rooftop of the second story building across the street. Then, holding onto the machine for dear life, I jumped off.
"At first the craft seemed easily able to maintain the same two-story height advantage over quite some distance. But then, partway into the flight, instead of continuing in the direction I wanted, it began tipping lower on the right and turning. Without ailerons or maneuverable rudder controls and with inexperienced over-correcting on my part creating an adverse yaw followed by a sudden stall, the ensuing results ended with a somewhat dramatic drop, crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house diagonally across the way."(source)
As far as the "lack of flight controls mechanisms," unknown to me or my uncle at the time we were building the flying machine, the design we used was based on a Lilienthal model known as Type IX (9). If you take a good look at the graphic just below this paragraph as well as the cigarette trading card that we used to help design and build the craft as found in Footnote , you will notice the wing on the right between the 5th and 8th rib, there appears to be what looks like some wrinkles in the fabric. That damage was part of the results of the Type IX crashing, and doing so under almost the exact circumstances as my flyer --- with the same outcome. Little did my uncle and I know, with the information we had at hand, that the design we were using had stalled and crashed when Lilienthal flew it for the first time. If we had known, we could either used another design or taken into consideration safeguards to ensure the same results would not happen to us, i.e., me. See:
LILIENTHAL GLIDER TYPE IX (TYPE 9)
TO READ ABOUT THE FLYING FRONTIERSMAN AND
HIS DA VINCI-LIKE FLYING MACHINE CLICK IMAGE.
Fifty or sixty years following the Flying Frontiersman's fictional flight in the Autumn of 1771 using a flying machine based on a design by Leonardo Da Vinci circa 1490 AD and Madame Elisabeth Thible's real life untethered balloon flight of June 4, 1784, Count Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, the inventor of the ultimate in lighter than air machines was born (1838-1917). On July 2, 1900, Zeppelin made the first flight with the LZ 1 in southern Germany. In comparison, the Wright brothers didn't make their first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft until December 17, 1903, two-and-a-half years after Zeppelin's maiden voyage.
ZEPPELINS: HIGH ALTITUDE WARSHIPS
THE HEIGHT CLIMBERS
LEONARDO DA VINCI: 500 YEARS TO SOON
FLYERS: BEFORE LEONARDO DA VINCI
THE FLYING MACHINE: CHINA 400 A.D.
FLYING MACHINE OF DIEGO MARIN AGUILERA, FLOWN IN 1793
THE WANDERLING'S JOURNEY
TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS
THE WASHOE ZEPHYR
THE BLACK CONDOR
THE ZEN MAN FLIES
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.