Phantoms of the Skies
It has been traditional to teach school children that Christopher Columbus discovered America, that Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly across the Atlantic, and that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Time has since taught us that the first Europeans to touch foot on the continent of North America were the Vikings and that Lindbergh was the 85th man to cross the Atlantic by air. Would it be any more remarkable to learn, then, that the Wright Brothers’ brief flight in December of 1903 may not have been the first successful flight of a manned, heavier-than-air powered machine?
This book tells the true story of aviation as it evolved from mankind’s first primitive attempts to fly to the remarkable successes of the early twentieth century in a non-technical and fun way, designed to impress upon the reader that the history of aviation is richer and more remarkable than they ever imagined. It is also a tribute to the men—and a few women—who laid the foundations that made not only Kitty Hawk possible, but Von Zeppelin’s great dirigibles a reality as well.
Most of the names and events mentioned in this book are known to only a handful of aviation enthusiasts and practically unknown to the general public, making this work an important recounting of the lost history of aviation that demands to be told. Some of it is controversial, parts of it are contentious, and some of it is even speculative—but all of it is a valuable insight into an era when men dared to dream great dreams and bet their lives on the results. Many times they paid dearly for such presumptuousness, but without their sacrifices, the safety and ease of air travel we enjoy today would not be possible.