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Second, the burner, difficult to maintain in the best of circumstances, refused to stay lit. No attempt to launch could be made until those problems were corrected by Langley and his assistants. Over the next six weeks, nine round trips were made between the Smithsonian and the houseboat, but all efforts to make the launcher work proved fruitless. Frustrated and desperate, in January Langley tried dropping the Aerodrome into a gentle breeze from an arm 25 feet above the water, hoping it would gain flying speed before it reached the river.

Its propellers whirled at maximum rpm as No. Throughout the winter and spring months of , work proceeded to complete No. Weighing 30 pounds, it was fitted with a new and more powerful single-cylinder steam engine. Trials resumed once again on October 7, , after the summer layoff. The crew practiced using a new launching system. The rebuilt No. Unlike previous attempts, the model launched perfectly, but then the wings twisted, plunging it into the water. Although it was late in the day, Aerodrome No. Again, the launching system worked perfectly, but as the Aerodrome left the rail, it nosed up steeply, slowed and then slid backward into the Potomac.

He thought he saw signs of progress for the first time. Over the next two months, Aerodromes No. The launcher continued to work well, but the models just would not fly. As Langley ordered, No. More modifications were in order, including a new system of guy wiring for No. The changes to No. Quantico flight testing began again in early May Three attempts using No.

The longest time aloft was only six seconds. After more than three years of intensive work, Langley was feeling pressure from many sources to show better results. His critics were becoming more vocal. Having exhausted all the available brainpower within the Smithsonian, Langley decided to conduct an outside search for technical help. He found Augustus Moore Herring.

Soon young Herring began to design, build and fly his own models by trial and error. Young Herring developed several new flying models. One was actually a full-sized glider that flew but would not support his weight. Instead, Herring was assigned a topic on marine steam engines. He produced many progressive flying models, several of which are described in the Aeronautical Annual for Otto Lilienthal, the German gliding master, had captivated the imaginations of newspaper and magazine readers around the world since Herring built three similar gliders.

Connected by short handles, they were manipulated by the pilot to assist with pitch control. Later, he suggested that those surfaces could also be used for lateral control, thus anticipating ailerons. Langley and Herring met in New York City on May 13, , and Herring showed him the Lilienthal-type machines and some of his rubber-band-powered models. They discussed construction techniques, control and stability, steam engines, propellers and a host of other aeronautical topics. Langley was impressed. Herring arrived in Washington late in the month. After a few days it became apparent that major problems existed between Langley and his staff.

Although he hired overseers such as Herring, it was obvious that Langley never really believed in delegating authority. Langley kept control by demanding that his employees work within their job descriptions—while he absorbed their ideas. Anyone who did not agree with his methods was dismissed. A frustrated Langley decided that all further testing should be terminated until Herring analyzed the problems and made changes where necessary.

The entire summer was set aside to address the situation. Unfortunately, Langley continued to exert his stifling domination on the Smithsonian team. For example, he suddenly required his signature on all drawings produced by Herring before they could be turned over to workmen. With the exception of Herring, Lilienthal was held in low regard by the workers in Washington. Langley believed that inherent stability was as important for manned flight as it was for free-flying models.

Lilienthal was adamant concerning the need for pilot control. Langley felt that flat planes performed almost as well as curved surfaces and were easier to construct. Lilienthal saw advantages in curved surfaces, including their ability to produce high lift-to-drag ratios.

Langley Collyer: The Mystery Hoarder of Harlem

And, of course, Langley believed that less energy was needed to fly fast than slow. Langley decided that the disrespectful Herring, the admirer of Lilienthal, was of no further use to him. Although it was late in November, he informed Herring that Aerodrome No. Recognizing that the secretary was forcing the issue by making unrealistic demands, Herring resigned. Langley postponed the tests. Herring was not finished with aeronautics, however. He headed for Chicago to work with Octave Chanute. Within months, he would design and fly the most successful and influential man-carrying glider of the 19th century.

By the spring of , Langley and his team had not produced one successful flight. Then came the watery failure of Aerodrome No. Soon afterward, having instructed his staff to ready No.

By Fred Penzel, Ph.D.

As he stood alone watching the preparations, the nearly year-old scientist thought about his career and wondered what the future held. This time, Edward Chalmers Huffaker was responsible for launching the machine. Langley had still not appeared, and the curious were hoping for a glimpse of him, or failing that, his remains.

A stream of autos from as far away as New Jersey and Connecticut crawled by the building in a regular procession. The daily papers thirsted to know about the contents of the house, rumored for years to contain numerous grand pianos, a Model T, and a boat. Inspector Joseph Goldstein of the Tenth Division speculated that a thorough search of the entire house would occupy a police emergency squad for three weeks.

They were to begin work later that day, following an inspection by the Department of Housing and Buildings and the Board of Health. The strategy would be for police officers to begin with a search of the top floor, dumping the contents into the backyard. It was decided that the items removed would not be taken away until the Public Administrator or an heir of the Collyers gave approval.

A relative of the brothers, William Collyer of Yonkers, turned up at the house that day, relating to reporters that his mother and sister had visited the brothers in , and noted that the house, at that time, contained no furniture, but was already filled with quite a bit of debris. The clearing of the building began the next day on the 24th. This first stage of the operation, the clearing of the top floor, began that afternoon, headed by Inspector Goldstein.

After Mr. McMullen declared Langley missing at p. After climbing across, they broke open several skylights and a roof trapdoor, through which they entered the building. Once inside, they smashed windows in order to get some badly-needed ventilation. A large crowd, whose numbers now ran as high as 2, watched the spectacle from the street, windows, fire escapes, and rooftops, cheering each time a sizeable object was thrown into the yard below.

A team of sixteen men inspected each object as it was thrown out, looking for valuables and important papers to be saved. They found the walls lined with ceiling-to-floor bookcases containing over 2, dust-covered volumes, among them numerous books on the law and engineering. Reporters and a family member were allowed to have a look around, and among the newspapers and cardboard boxes there were as many as five pianos.

With much effort, the officers cleared a path to a stairway, but were unable to open up the stairway itself. While clearing this area, they stumbled on a generator, which may have been used to produce electricity. Aided by searchlights powered by a portable generator, they made out a mahogany mantelpiece containing a large cracked mirror resting against a wall, an old RCA radio in a corner, and a large pile of furniture covered with dust standing in the middle of the floor.

The windows were covered with a filthy green drapery. At this point, the search was ended for the day, with the police boarding up the windows, and piling the collected debris in a section of the yard surrounded by a tall iron fence. Langley had still not been found, but the police were determined to return and finish their search. The following morning at 10 a. It was now March 26th, with still no sign of the missing brother. The day was particularly windy, blowing some of the old newspapers down the street, where they were snatched up by the ever-present crowd as souvenirs.

The overwhelming mass of debris the police removed from the house consisted largely of old newspapers, cardboard boxes, magazines, and pieces of wood. Among the other assorted things uncovered that day included a nursery refrigerator, a beaded lampshade, a box of toy tops, and a toy airplane.

Collier Brothers Syndrome aka Collyer Brothers Syndrome

In the basement, they found the chassis of the fabled Model T Ford, thus confirming one rumor. Important documents and papers continued to turn up, and these were removed to the rd Street station. Any useless material that could be combustible was carted away in two truckloads by the Department of Sanitation, to be burned in its incinerators.

The first load weighed 6, pounds, and the second a bit less. In addition to discovering a further maze of tunnels, several new booby-traps were found, consisting of things such as cans, or large tree limbs as large as twenty inches in diameter , set to drop on unwary intruders. The police were becoming increasingly convinced that Langley was not to be found alive on the premises, but they were determined to continue their search of the entire house.

He estimated their worth to be in the six-figure range, not including the real estate they owned. Work continued on the 26th, much as it had the day before. The Emergency Squad began work at a. At efforts to clear the top floor resumed, with the searchers tossing large amounts of material from the windows. Relatives watching the operation from the street complained to the police that they were being less than careful in discarding things, and risked discarding items of value, as well as important papers.

This resulted in the officers being somewhat less energetic in clearing things out. One particular item that attracted attention was the discovery of a. This was turned over to the Police Ballistics Bureau. A report submitted to the Public Administrator of New York County by Deputy Chief Inspector Conrad Rothengast stated that it was believed that Langley Collyer was dead based upon the facts that the brother had never been away from his home for more than twenty-four hours, and that the death of Homer would certainly have been cause for him to have at least contacted his attorney or his relatives.

James A. Delahanty, was unable to appoint Francis J. While everyone in the case agreed that Langley Collyer was most likely dead, Mr. Delahanty felt that definite proof was required for such a move to be made. Various affidavits from such people as John R. McMullen and William Rodriguo were due to be submitted to Mr. As of the 27th, police searchers still had been unable to turn up any trace of the missing Langley, although they did turn up a cigar box containing three more revolvers, a sixteen-gauge shotgun, a.

By March 28th, the police were having their hands full following up on numerous tips they were receiving, concerning the whereabouts of the missing Langley. Officers were dispatched to the Borough Hall-Jay Street Station in Brooklyn after a conductor reportedly saw him board the subway there. They also searched a group of boarded-up summer hotels and bungalows in Asbury Park, New Jersey; a place where the brothers had spent time between and , and where it was thought Langley might be hiding. In the meantime, Surrogate Delahanty finally appointed Francis J. Following these appointments, police halted their intensive search for Langley in the Fifth Avenue home, and decided, instead, to begin shipping the contents to an unused school building at 67 Rivington Street on the 31st, where they would be inspected for valuables and important papers.

Items of obvious value were to go to this location, while things that were obviously trash would be removed by the Department of Sanitation. On the following day, Mr. Mulligan, as administrator, visited the city morgue to claim the body of Homer. Funeral arrangements were set for April 1st, to be held at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Queens, where the family owned a plot.

Police were still hard at work tracking down various leads. Their latest took them to New Jersey. She added that the man had subsequently boarded a bus headed for Atlantic City. Police in that city then proceeded to make a sweep of hotels and rooming houses. Police recommenced their search on the 31st as planned, beginning at in the morning. It appeared that they would be able to clear about one room per day, and there were an estimated twelve rooms in the building. The workforce at the house now consisted of two detectives and five laborers hired by Mr. Both were neighbors.

Seventeen cousins of the Collyers were also in attendance. John R. McMullen also attended, hoping that perhaps that Langley would appear at last. Said Mr. They sent out pictures of him to every New York City police precinct, and also to the police in eleven states. Efforts to clear the house were now in the second day. The detectives and laborers continued their methodical work.

Collyer's Mansion Conditions

By the end of that day, nineteen tons of trash and objects had been removed. The bulk of this came from the first floor hallway. The Department of Housing and Buildings, meanwhile, ruled that the house would eventually have to be repaired or demolished. By the 7th of April, workers had removed approximately tons of rubbish from the home, with twenty-two tons having been removed on that day alone.

Among the more interesting items found at that point were five violins that were to be sent for appraisal. It was estimated by the supervising detectives that it would take another week to ten days to clear out the structure. By that afternoon, about seventeen tons of material had been removed and loaded onto Department of Sanitation trucks. Shortly afterwards, a detective, Joseph Whitmore emerged from the building and asked reporters waiting on the scene to follow him. He led them to a corner drugstore. Police higher-ups, including Commissioner Arthur W. Wallander, soon arrived on the scene.

The commissioner commended detectives Whitmore and Loughery for their work in the investigation. Thomas A. Gonzales, the medical examiner, spent a half hour examining the corpse. He estimated that Langley had been dead at least two weeks, and possibly as long as four, and that the cause of death was either starvation or suffocation.

The room, itself, was filled with piles of newspapers, books, old furniture and tin cans. The materials that had apparently trapped Langley were a suitcase, three metal bread boxes, and bundles of newspapers. One particularly unpleasant detail was that the numerous rats that infested the house had gnawed at his partially decomposed body. Jacob Iglitzen, who also happened to be the druggist from whose store the phone call had been placed, subsequently identified the body. Overall, the evidence appeared to indicate that Langley had been killed by falling debris, and that his invalid brother, Homer, died from dehydration and malnutrition.

Attorney McMullen, told the press that he planned to confer the next day with Joseph A. This finally laid to rest the popular notion that the brothers were multimillionaires. The next day, on April 10th, the medical examiner concluded that Langley Collyer had been smothered by the debris, which had collapsed upon him, and had been dead for at least a month before his brother, Homer. A funeral was held the next day on the 11th at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.

The Reverend Dr. Charles T. Bridgeman, the assistant pastor of Trinity Church presided. There were forty persons in attendance, including many cousins. The saga of Langley Collyer was not quite finished, however. Wagner, Jr. Mulligan, clear out the building, in order that the property could be surveyed. Findings would then be sent to the state Supreme Court so that the city could receive permission to demolish the building. Edward Lumbard signed the order for demolition. As a final chapter, the lot at the corner of th Street was publicly auctioned on March 1, By the middle of November , however, everything looked ready for a trial.

Aerodrome No. Immediately, two problems surfaced. First, in mild breezes, the model swung wildly below the launch cart, jeopardizing a smooth run down the launch rail. Second, the burner -- difficult to maintain in the best of circumstances -- refused to stay lit. No attempt to launch could be made until those problems were corrected by Langley and his assistants.

Over the next six weeks, nine round trips were made between the Smithsonian and the houseboat, but all efforts to make the launcher work proved fruitless. Samuel Langley builds Aerodrome No. In he succeeded in flying one. He continued to experiment by varying the configuration of the wings and by using different type propellers. He eventually constructed between thirty and forty different versions.

Langley hoped to launch a more advanced steam-powered model Aerodrome No. In , he decided that a launch into the wind would best be accomplished on water, an idea which was being independently developed in Germany by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Langley chose a site on the Potomac River near Quantico, Virginia.

He erected on a fishing scow 12' x 38' a storehouse topped by a four foot high platform. Several attempts with a spring-mounted launching apparatus failed; the following year Langley experimented with a catapult device. This time, however, the wing structure failed due to the weight of the aerodrome. Undaunted, Langley deduced that the aerodrome should have two sets of wings , each of equal area. Its propellers whirled at maximum rpm as Aerodrome No.

Another new Aerodrome was almost ready when Langley decided to concentrate his team's effort on the abortive flight tests with Aerodrome No. Throughout the winter and spring months of , work proceeded to complete Aerodrome No. Weighing 30 pounds, it was fitted with a new and more powerful single-cylinder steam engine. Powered by a gasoline engine, the "Great Aerodrome" [alt. Aerodrome A - Ed. On October 7, , the machine snagged on part of the launching mechanism and plunged into the Potomac like "a handful of mortar.

Fortunately, Langley's chief engineer and designated pilot, Charles Manly, was unhurt in both accidents. But these failures would continue to haunt Langley. For a full and detialed account of the Aerodrome story, read the full article here Edward Huffaker begins to work for Samuel Langley, designing wings for Langley's Aerodromes. Augustus Herring also works briefly for Langley, doing dynamics tests.

It was launched from a spring-actuated catapult mounted on top of a houseboat on the Potomac River near Quantico, Virginia. Two flights were made that afternoon, one of 1, m 3, ft and a second of m 2, ft , at a speed of approximately 25 miles per hour. On both occasions, the Aerodrome No. The wings and tail were wood-frame, covered with fine silk. The power plant was a single-cylinder, one-horsepower steam engine equipped with a double-action piston with a slide valve, and a flashtube boiler fired by a pressure burner that vaporized gasoline.

The engine drove twin propellers, centrally mounted between the front and rear sets of wings, through a system of shafts and bevel gears. The aircraft weighed approximately 11 kg On November 28, , another successful flight was made with a similar model, the Aerodrome No. It was flown a distance of approximately 1, m 4, ft. The Aerodrome No.

The original No. This time so little remained of the original aircraft that it was given the new designation of Aerodrome No. In appearance, the Aerodrome No. The No. The Wright brothers experiment with twisting wings, trying to deform the front edges. They can't come up with a device light enough or strong enough to control a glider in flight. May 30 - Wilbur Wright writes the Smithsonian asking for published materials on aeronautics. He is answered by Richard Rathbun , who sends four pamphlets and a list of other publications.

Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, constructed this quarter-scale model of the Aerodrome in It was one of seven such unmanned powered aircraft he built and flew at the turn of the century. Some had steam engines, others were gasoline powered. He used this model for balance studies when designing and constructing the full-scale, man-carrying Aerodrome A of The Quarter-Scale Aerodrome flew twice on June 18, , covering distances of feet 45 meters and feet 90 meters. Its final flight was in August 8, , when it traveled a distance of 1, feet meters also This exact scale miniature, known as the Quarter-scale Aerodrome , made two flights of 46 m ft and m ft on June 18, , powered by a one-and-a-half horsepower internal combustion engine designed and built by a New York inventor named Stephen M.

He tells Langley of the Wright's success. October 19 - Samuel Langley cables the Wrights, requesting information on their "special curved surfaces" and asking to come to Kitty Hawk. The Wrights decline. Chanute can't get them to talk to Langley. Manly , a co designer, at the controls. The machine snags on its launch mechanism and plunges into the Potomac River. November 8 - Samuel Langley asks the War Department for more money to rebuild and test his Aerodrome again. He gets it. December 8 - Samuel Langley tests his Aerodrome again. And again it fails and plunges into the Potomac River.

Charles Manly is almost drowned in the crash. Curtiss piloting the craft. Walcott provides a controversial statement that the tests thus far have shown that the late Secretary S. Langley had succeeded in building the first airplane capable of sustained free flight with a man. May 28 - In an attempt to nullify the legal decision of Curtiss vs. Wright, Glenn Curtiss "restores" the Langley Aerodrome and flies it from Lake Keuka ostensibly to prove the Aerodrome was the first airplane capable of manned flight.

In reality, Curtiss has made over 30 major modifications to the Aerodrome to make it airworthy. The flights have no effect on the patent litigation. This is the forerunner of NASA. Professor Samuel Pierpont Langley - , third Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was one of the first major aeronautical figures in the United States.

He started serious investigations in flight in with rubber band-powered models; however, their short and erratic performances led him to seek other types of propulsion. Unsuccessful experiments were conducted with engines powered by gunpowder, hot water fireless boiler , compressed air, electricity, and carbon dioxide. In Langley began experimenting with large tandem-winged models powered by steam engines, and on May 6, , his Aerodrome No.

Two flights were made during the afternoon, one of 3, feet and one of 2, feet. On both occasions the Aerodrome landed in the water, as planned, because, in order to save weight, it was not equipped with landing gear. A distinguished observer, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell , wrote about these flights in Nature on May 28, On the occasion referred to, the Aerodrome at a given signal, started from a platform about 20 feet above the water and rose at first directly in the face of the wind, moving at all times with remarkable steadiness, and subsequently swinging around in large curves of, perhaps, a hundred yards in diameter and continually ascending until its steam was exhausted, when at a lapse of about a minute and a half, and at a height which I judge to be between 80 and feet in the air, the wheels ceased turning, and the machine, deprived of the aid of its propellers, to my surprise did not fall but settled down so softly and gently that it touched the water without the least shock, and was in fact immediately ready for another trial.

In the second trial, which followed directly, it repeated in nearly every respect the actions of the first except that the direction of its course was different. It ascended again in the face of the wind afterwards moving steadily and continually in large curves accompanied with a rising motion and a lateral advance. Its motion was, in fact, so steady that I think a glass of water on its surface would have remained unspilled. When the steam gave out again, it repeated for a second time the experience of the first trial when the steam had ceased, and settled gently and easily down.

What height it reached at this trial I cannot say, as I was not so favourably placed as in the first, but I had occasion to notice that this time its course took it over a wooded promontory, and I was relieved of some apprehension in seeing that it was already so high as to pass the tree tops by twenty or thirty feet. It reached the water one minute and thirty-one seconds from the time it started, at a measured distance of over feet from the point at which it rose. The Dominion of the Air by J. He constructed over thirty modifications of this model, and spent many months in trying from these to as certain what he terms the "laws of balancing leading to horizontal flight.

He next proceeded to steam-driven models in which for a time he found an insuperable difficulty in keeping down the weight, which, in practice, always exceeded his calculation; and it was not till the end of that he felt himself prepared for a fair trial. At this time he had prepared a model weighing between nine and ten pounds, and he needed only a suitable launching apparatus to be used over water.

The model would, like a bird, require an initial velocity imparted to it, and the discovery of a suitable apparatus gave him great trouble. For the rest the facilities for launching were supplied by a houseboat moored on the Potomac. Foiled again and again by many difficulties, it was not till after repeated failures and the lapse of many months, when, as the Professor himself puts it, hope was low, that success finally came.

It was in the early part of that a successful flight was accomplished in the presence of Dr. Bell, of telephone fame, and the following is a brief epitome of the account that this accomplished scientist contributed to the columns of Nature : "The flying machine, built, apparently, almost entirely of metal, was driven by an engine said to weigh, with fuel and water, about 25 lbs.

Starting from a platform about 20 feet high, the machine rose at first directly in the face of the wind, moving with great steadiness, and subsequently wheeling in large curves until steam was exhausted, when, from a height of 80 or feet, it shortly settled down. The experiment was then repeated with similar results. Its motion was so steady that a glass of water might have remained unspilled. The actual length of flight each time, which lasted for a minute and a half, exceeded half a mile, while the velocity was between twenty and twenty-five miles an hour in a course that was constantly taking it 'up hill.

Rivalries launched a controversy that left things up in the air for almost half a century By Frank Wicks - read the complete article here When we look back at the Wright Brothers' first flight, from our perspective it is a milestone in human history. The Wright Brothers were not the first aeronautical engineers in the United States. Technically, they weren't engineers at all by training or according to conventional credentials.

But they did what many pundits of their time declared impossible: get a man aloft in a heavier-than-air machine under its own power. In , the year before he was named secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, Langley traveled to Buffalo, N. He attended lectures on flight and would devote much of his remaining years to the challenge.

When he secured research funds, Langley began to measure how much power was required to lift a weight with a wing moving through the air. He used a technique for testing air foils that had been described 50 years earlier by Sir George Cayley. A wing could be attached to a foot-long arm rotating at up to 70 miles per hour on a horizontal plane. The lift and drag forces were difficult to measure. In an paper, "Experiments in Aerodynamics," Langley concluded the higher the speed, the lower the drag. This incorrect conclusion was accepted at the time and named Langley's Law. He experimented with models that used two wings in tandem with a propeller powered by a small steam engine.

Langley was joined by Alexander Graham Bell who, 20 years after he invented the telephone, said he was more interested in flight. Langley achieved a remarkably successful flight on May 16, , when his fifth model traveled 3, feet in a circular path at a speed of about 25 mph before running out of fuel. Langley and Bell were elated. The aircraft weighed 30 pounds and had a 7-foot wing span.

It was powered by a 1-hp steam engine with a boiler pressure of 90 psi driving the propeller at rpm. For the first time, a large model with a self-contained power plant had demonstrated heavier-than-air flight.

More of the Story

That was the year in which William McKinley was elected president, and he appointed the young Theodore Roosevelt assistant secretary of the Navy. When the war against Spain materialized after the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor, the United States suddenly became a world power. Langley solicited McKinley and Roosevelt for funds to construct a man-carrying flying machine for future military missions. Langley understood a practical machine that could carry a human over a significant distance could not be powered by steam engines.

It was still eight years before Henry Ford would introduce the Model T as the first mass-produced automobile, but gasoline engines were beginning to compete with steam and electric for the few customized cars that existed. Langley estimated that human flight would require an engine of at least 12 hp. In , his friend Robert Thurston, a Cornell engineering professor, introduced him to Charles Manly, who had graduated from Cornell as a mechanical engineer.

Manly went to work for Langley. He modified a 6-hp engine that had five rotating air-cooled cylinders and a fixed crankshaft to a radial engine with fixed cylinders and a rotating crankshaft. Next, he converted from air to water cooling by adding jackets to the cylinders. By June , he had nearly quadrupled the output to 22 hp. Manly increased displacement from to cubic inches, which required casting new cylinders and cooling jackets. He improved the ignition and carburetor.

By March , in static tests the lb.


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After 17 years, Langley's dream of powered human flight finally seemed attainable. The first manned flight, on Oct. Reporters, photo-graphers, and sightseers turned out in hopes of witnessing history. Manly, the pilot, had strapped a compass to his leg to aid in navigating a long flight. Manly took his place at the controls. The unmuffled engine was running smoothly.

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The launch signal was the firing of two rockets followed by two toots from a tugboat. A mechanic cut the holding cable. The catapult moved the plane forward. There was a roaring and grinding noise as the airship tumbled 16 feet into water. Manly was unhurt. Langley blamed a fouled launching mechanism.

They tried and failed again on December 8. On this launch, the nose angled up before the splashdown. This time, Manly barely survived and the aircraft was badly damaged. It is improbable that the necessary flying speed was achieved. Members of Congress and the press began to call it Langley's Folly. The government withdrew support. Langley had to abandon his dream and died in Many experts were skeptical that flight was even possible. Admiral George Melville, the Navy's chief engineer and a president of ASME, received acclaim for his vision of converting ship propulsion from reciprocating steam engines to the newly developed turbines.

When it came to the possibilities of human flight, the admiral was a skeptic who wrote with authority. He had written about flight in the December issue of North American Review that "a calm survey of natural phenomena leads the engineer to pronounce all confident prophecies for future success as wholly unwarranted, if not absurd.

The editorial predicted that a flying machine might take a million years of efforts by mathematicians and mechanicians.

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It actually took nine days after Langley's final failure. The flying machine that Wilbur and Orville Wright had developed with their own funds performed the epic feat on Dec. Attention was minimal. It was not reported by The New York Times. There were only five witnesses and a camera. The Wright Brothers logged air time in gliders before they tried a self-powered craft. Dan Tate left and E. Huffaker launched Wilbur Wright in The brothers' success immediately after Langley's well-funded failure was astonishing. Neither brother was a high school graduate. It was suggested that they stumbled into the sky almost by accident.

However, the revised view of present-day historians of science and technology is that Wilbur and Orville Wright were possibly the most remarkable scientific and engineering team in history.


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Their work has become a favored topic for engineering case studies. With the improved wing performance, Wilbur calculated that only 8 hp was required for level flight. In their bicycle shop during the winter and spring of , the brothers designed and built a workable lb. The cubic-inch engine contained four inline horizontal water-cooled cylinders with a 4-inch bore and stroke.